Susceptibility to Structuralism’s Manipulation of Self-Preservation

I like to think I’m too smart to be manipulated.  I have a Master’s Degree.  I’m an avid reader and writer.  Critical and creative thinking is my business.  Then I attend one of those Hollywood productions (of the better variety, like Life of Pi), and despite my knowledge of all those structural techniques I still find myself being moved, with the simple use of music and cinematography.  What?!  No.  Not me.

Jongen_S216a_Bouc_émissaire-_ScapegoatDoes that make us susceptible?  I don’t know…maybe.  Where it becomes dangerous is on the sociopolitical landscape.  I ask myself this questions from time to time:  How can people stay narrow minded?  If I’m in a grumpy mood, I might think people just don’t have the intelligence to witness dynamics in the macro.  On an average day, I think people don’t have access to an educational system to give them opportunity to think critically about their social situations.  But in an age when you can gather an Associates Degree education on any subject through the use of  YouTube, then that theory goes out the window.  Then if you also consider how pop culture continuously offers people opportunities to think critically about serious issues.  It starts to seem like people are choosing to be susceptible.

Nothing we do is that simple.  It’d be great if we could just end there.  There is something resonate about thinking, “People are inherently smart enough to broaden their intellectual perspective, but choose to stay susceptible,” and in a certain sense it’s true but there’s a little more to it.

Your existence is dependent on being accepted by a certain group of people.  If the majority of the people in your family and circle of friends are racist, homophobic, domineering, and destructive, then in order for you to survive you must accommodate those values so as to retain connection to the people who have shown you love and support your entire life.  Yeah, ideally we would be brave and do the work to change those family members, but most people are not thinking about bravery, people think about survival.

imagesIIC2Z909Self-preservation will dictate that you will conform to your surroundings.  We see this all the time.  A woman stays in a relationship with a guy who has a lower intelligence and she will keep herself dumb.  Why?  For love.  We’re social animals and need connections with other people.  Unless you have Aspersers Syndrome like me and are socially inept, then you’re going to conform.

People are choosing susceptibility out of survival.  In our society, you really have to work to stay ignorant, you have to work hard to dehumanize entire groups.

So outside of self-preservation, why would we spend so much energy on justifying the most negative parts of ourselves?  At this point, Girard’s theory of the memesis makes the most sense.  Largely, it makes sense to me because it coincides with my ideas of self preservation and modalities of collectives staying unified.

I’m not going to break down Girard in it’s entirety.  You’ll have to do that work, but in short Girard posits individuals and groups mimic desire and desire creates conflict between individuals and groups (mimetic rivalry) attempting to satisfy the same desire.  This goes beyond resources.  It rolls over into abundance as well.  I would even argue mimesis is more intense in abundance.  Maybe mimesis doesn’t even start until human populations reach abundance.  But I should save that argument for another nerdy post.  Oh, yeah, in short…  To calm the conflict (the problems of conflict), we create a scapegoat.  So we place all the blame on something, someone, somebody, some people, anything that will unify the group who were fighting amongst themselves.  We sacrifice the scapegoat and then we worship the scapegoat.

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I’m going to take Girard one step further.  I don’t think it’s only desire that triggers the scapegoat mechanism.  Yes, desire creates conflict (I’ll  give him that).  But it’s the stress triggered by the conflict that triggers the scapegoat mechanism in people.  So I argue that stress is the primary trigger for scapegoating.  But more or less, stress will keep us narrow minded.  It forces us into a position to find a scapegoat (i.e., racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.).  All this is archaic, but we do it everyday.  Remember how I started this post?  With the Hollywood structuralism comment?  Yeah, it’s the same deal.

When you get stressed at work, what do you do?  Do you reflect on your own inadequacies?  Make adjustments?  Move forward?  Maybe if your degree is in psychology, but for most of us we find someone else in the office to blame.  We see this all the time as well.  There are changes at the office, and then all the workers panic, and then one person starts getting bullied more so than others in the group.  Said individual starts to consider changing jobs.  They quit.  Then you rehearse who that person was and what they were like and how you didn’t like them over and over and over and over and over and over, you keep talking about the poor fool you sacrificed and sent into the wilderness.  Yup, you were made into a social dupe by one simple structural technique:  stress.

Does that mean you’re keeping yourself susceptible? Or you are not intelligent enough to see through the veil?  No.  That’s not the case.  You’ve been played by those who structure society in the same way Hollywood structures movies.  Play the right music, show the right cinematography, and like magic:  You follow.

26 comments

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  1. azephyrrose

    Not at all; it makes perfect sense. I can only speak from my own experience, but I think it is absolutely essential to take control and pour good into yourself (as a person or a people) instead of waiting for someone else to do it. Like you said, if we wait for someone else, it limits us to what they think is possible and keeps us from growing. But if we pour into ourselves, we are in control of the size and shape (and level of achievement) of our vessel.

    But I think that’s also what keeps us (me) in victimhood sometimes: we are afraid to be responsible for what we put out into the world. To say it another way, in some aspects it is easier to be a passenger than the driver; easier to ride in the back seat than be holding the map or the steering wheel.

    Ha, sorry. I tend to communicate in metaphor. It helps me make sense of the world to find the ways different things are the same (and vice-versa). Please let me know if you’d like me to say it a different way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • azephyrrose

      Another thought: It’s important for people(s) who have experienced victimhood to recognize their own value – and be able to tell others about it in a non-aggressive way. I think that’s where personal power comes from; quiet confidence in one’s own intrinsic value and abilities. In other words, when you step out of being a victim and into your own power, other people can recognize and acknowledge it without being threatened by it.

      I read in a blog today (and I’m sure I won’t say it as well as she did) that the best way to combat prejudice and bigotry is to BECOME what you want them to believe about you. Embody the best version of yourself. Prove them wrong at every opportunity so that you – and the rest of the world – can see it plainly. The original post pertains to women and responding to sexism, but I think the idea about BECOMING is powerful no matter who is being discriminated against. If you’d like to read it, the blog is TheUsedLife. For some reason, I can’t figure out how to link it.

      *sigh* It’s getting late; I may be rambling. Please forgive me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • ohokeaho

      Hi AZ. It can be difficult to be accountable. I think it’s an important step to make. It allows us to give freedom to not only ourselves but to the people we love the most. We allow them to take responsibility for their lives and also to be aware of the goodness they create and how it’s all their own and they are powerful beings and should be aware of the power they manifest. We give our power over to other people all too often. Ultimately it diminishes our own awareness of how we affect the world around us. If I can be dismissive and say, “It’s not my fault my father abused me,” then I’m not acknowledging the fact that I’m continuing the abuse. Similarly, if I say I do good things because of somebody else or something else made me do the good thing, then I’m not fully realizing that I’m a good person and that the goodness comes from within me, not something else. Or not exclusively something else. I’m an extension of my community, but ultimately I’m an individual who has his own actions. Those actions reflect back on myself and my community. Therefore I’m not only accountable for myself but I’m accountable for the people around me, and I’ll fully realize that accountability when I accept everything negative and everything positive is something I “choose” to manifest moment to moment.

      Now I”m the one rambling. Thank you, AZ, for stimulating my mind again today.

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      • azephyrrose

        My pleasure (and ditto), Oscar 🙂 That’s what internet friends are for, eh?

        Yes! TOTALLY agree about giving away our power. If we give away responsibility for the negative, we lose the opportunity to own the positive.

        I like very much that you chose the word “accountable”. It’s a much more interpersonal concept than “responsible”. I think maybe we are accountable FOR ourselves and accountable TO our community (family, friends, neighborhood, coworkers, cultural group, etc.) because we ultimately have no control over the choices of others. A slight distinction for sure, but it’s been important to me as I get my head sorted out. Though it felt horribly callous at the time, I’ve been in a situation a few years ago where I had to admit that I had no control over another person’s choice of whether they lived or died. Almost drove myself crazy with worry. And while I didn’t abandon this person in any sense of the word, I did have to give myself permission to not be accountable FOR their life as well as my own. (Sorry for shouting. I wish I could do italics in a comment!)

        And I also really like what you said about actions being a result of our choices in each moment. I’ve been working on meditation as a form of conscious/subconscious shame fighting, and that ties in nicely! Each choice is a new instance, each moment belongs to itself. We have a new chance for positive accountability every time.

        I was just thinking that rambling can also be defined as a walk. I’m enjoying the exercise 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. azephyrrose

    Hot dang, Oscar! This was scorching in the best way.

    As someone currently struggling to escape from/broaden my mind beyond the norms I’ve personally experienced (including victimhood as a “norm” and subsequent avoidance of both the situation and myself), this is especially powerful because it calls me out on a very deep level and brings me to some very helpful conclusions. And I really liked your statement about scapegoating being a result particularly of stress.

    Love your perspective and that you are willing to challenge us. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ohokeaho

      Thank you, AZ. It’s fantastic the post gave you insight. I often contemplate victimhood, and largely because as Native American people we are in the process of attempting to help our people out of the state of victimhood. Not that we should not recognize being victimized, but that we as Native people should not be wallowing in victimhood because it’ll only allow for a certain level of achievement. Yes, we can weaponize our victimhood, as in “Look what you did to me!” But ultimately it is more empowering to say, “Look what I’m doing for myself,” and step away from the binding contention that keeps people on opposites sides of a bridge. It’s more important to bridge the divide, and we can do so when we step away from victimhood and take control of our future.

      I hope that makes sense. Please let me know if I need to clarify myself. I don’t mean to misrepresent myself.

      Liked by 1 person

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