From Hipster Beards to Tiki Torches

Sometimes I wonder about the critical thinking skills of our era.  We are taught in school rote behavior.  Regurgitate, bell rings, regurgitate, bell rings, regurgitate, bell rings.  In that form of habitualization, we stop thinking for ourselves.  You become even more aware of this tactic after you read “Social Class and School Knowledge” by Jean Anyon.   Having had dropped out of school after the sixth grade I wonder how that impacted my ability to think critically about the world around me and its role in my nonconformity.  I’m comfortable on the periphery.  From this vantage point I find it odd how quickly our society went from hipster beards to tiki torches.

Tiki TorchesI’ve been thinking a lot about identity formation recently.  The first thing I think of when I encounter someone with destructive behavior are modalities of self preservation.  I remind myself people are social animals and will protect their source of psychological safety at all cost. Example:  If daddy makes me feel safe and daddy is a racist then I’ll be a racist so I stay comfortable (Remember I’m always talking about the rule and not the exception).

Recently, I’ve started to think more about identity and how and why conformists would latch onto destructive behavioral traits.  We can explain away such behavior through archaism and say, “Hate filled people have lizard minds and operate from only the oldest parts of their brains,” meaning they are not evolved.  I’m not going to rehearse a full lesson on the different hemispheres of the brain.  If you’d like a broader explanation of what I’m meaning you can search “reptilian brain psychology” and you’ll discover a lot of resources on the topic.

So to categorize certain people as “not being evolved” feels over simplified and reductive.  It might satisfy our egos to say something like that, but I think there’s more to it.

Often when we run into society wide racism we wonder about the silent majority.  Why aren’t they speaking up?  How can they passively sit by and allow their relatives and community members to be monsters?  To answer these questions, I’m moving myself past the self-preservation explanation.  When I started thinking about identity I started where I had last left off, which was that identity was a rigid and fixed thing.  I came to this conclusion through acknowledging it takes repeated narratives running through our minds and reinforcement by our social network, like family, friends, church, etc., to fix our identities; where we become so rigid in who we are that we psychologically never bend and will only break under pressure.

Recently, I’ve been considering if our identities are malleable.  Maybe even fluid altogether.  With the recent serge of hatred across the planet, and especially in the United States, it’s easy to see how fluid our identities are or have become and maybe always have been.

Hipster beardSo how can the silent majority move from hipster beards under Obama to tiki torches under Trump?  How can we all of a sudden, almost overnight, start hearing more racist language at work?  I do believe Girard’s scapegoat mechanism in culture formation is at play, but I also believe our identities have shifted because we are habitulaized through rote behavior and conformity to do what “daddy does.”  Not to sound patriarchal, but in our current era it is patriarchy that controls us.

Train TracksI want to believe we have the critical thinking skills to not be so easily swayed by media and political figures.  Can we think for ourselves?  Can we deduce what is ultimately self destructive?  Is the silent majority a bunch of cowards?  Or are they mindless sheep standing on the train tracks?

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(Cited:  Images were borrowed from Pixaby, Pexels, and Flicr)


  1. I believe the truth is a little simpler and a little more frightening. There is a large population that still hold hateful beliefs. Not because they are lead or lack the ability to think for themselves, but because they are struggling, angry, frightened and full of mistrust. Trace the back grounds of hateful people. You will likely find a powerful resistance to all forms of change. Change feels uncertain . People who don’t feel safe will never embrace what feels uncertain. Will not open their minds to it because they are preoccupied with fight of flight.
    It is sad, and wrong and totally human nature.
    In effort to change the work for the better we have made it unacceptable for people to speak openly about their prejudices. This, in my opinion has been problematic. It does not stop people from maintaining their attitudes. It just drives them underground. Deep in the bowels of dark and angry conversation. Where there is no discourse. Only commiseration.
    We mistook the quiet for success. Until there came to be a sense of permission. When powerful people behave in a condoning manner the haters rear up. Unafraid, unshackled, unchanged.

    We need to consider how to effect growth, not silence. We need to look at what will foster a sense of security, and stability. Give people time and motivation to think outside of fear. Step into a sense of stability, common goodness and mutual respect.
    Free the minds to think…And i believe the good in people will deliver.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said. I can’t agree with you more. There needs to be an open dialogue where people can speak about their misunderstandings. If we only had some type of rules of engagement where the beginnings of dialogue aren’t overtaken by hate speech. There are people who are ready to change, and there are people who are locked in their identities and can’t shift out of them. Unfortunately, the hate filled people often steal the dialogue and use it as opportunity to fuel the fire. This happens on both sides.

      I often wonder if people can have an identity outside the contention. It’s almost as if they need the hostility to feel as though they matter and exist. I wonder if people took away their hate, across the board, if they would know what to do with themselves. Those of us who have moved beyond needing the contention to matter know there is a different way to exist, to communicate, but there are so many people across the planet who seem to need the fight. It keeps both sides intact. We need a new identity, a new personality, that will show us there is another side. People need to be lead. I think there will always be individuals who gain energy off of hate and negativity, but if we can get the majority to buy into an identity that is in a constant state of healing then we may be able to get somewhere. You’re right in that we need discourse. We need to be talking with each other and opening up. I think we’ll see a lot of common ground and be able to appreciate difference (rather than erase it).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. …and sometimes it’s the lovers who actually start the fight. “How dare you!? How could you!?” We shut people down and shut them up thinking we are righteous. But we are mistaken. Especially if using our opinions to justify rudeness.
        “I am disturbed by your comments, help me understand why you would say something so hateful”…there is no permission to hate. Only permission to speak. Permission to be seen as an equal. Invitation to conversation.

        I think you have an excellent point. Some people need conflict. Others simply do not know how to navigate in between right and wrong. The spaces where true learning happen.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Not to sound patriarchal, but in our current era it is patriarchy that controls us.”
    I concur with your analysis, our current era is controlled by patriarchy, Here is a perfect example, my niece, generation millennium has always been very open and accepting of others, her father is a racist. Over the past year my niece has become a Trump supporter. When I asked her what happened she told me he threatened to stop paying for her college and disown her if she continued to speak out against Trump. Then she went through a list of reason of how Trump is really not a racist. First and foremost, she loves her father, second, he has convinced her Trump is not a racist! Prime example of patriarchal.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Quite true. They also withhold a ton of information especially when it comes to history. Don’t even get me started on how media can be so coded when it comes to prejudicial connotations. I wish more people would become aware of this stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a subtle but very overt psychology to the inadequacy game the media plays. Tear you down and then build you back up in their image. I agree. Wish more people had some real critical thinking skills.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly. Whenever I would bring this up to some people including some friends, they think I’m over-analyzing which is frustrating. I’ve studied some of that stuff in my free time with some non-fiction, watched and reviewed some documentaries, and I’ve lived through a lot of it since I’m a minority myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. i think you hit the nail on the head in that first paragraph — I think we are taught in K-12 to NOT think critically — and this is on purpose. The powers that be benefit if don’t questions about our place in society and such.

    Liked by 4 people

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