Chapter II Continued
We Are Belief-Making and Belief-Consuming
As children, we called it "make
believe." People encouraged us to be imaginative
and creative, to fantasize and enjoy. Then, as we
aged, the guidance changed. Grow up! Be realistic!
"Making believe" became the more serious
game of "making beliefs": judging, drawing
conclusions, deciding what's good and bad, right and
wrong. All our emotions and behaviors then follow
from the beliefs we create.
Parents, priests, teachers, corporate
executives and politicians compete busily to teach
us or sell us beliefs so that they can influence our
feelings and behavior. They know, and we soon learn,
that winning the games of power, both personal and
political, depends on what we choose to believe. Nobel
Prize winners, homemakers, army generals, secretaries,
physicians, truck drivers, lawyers, masons, journalists,
carpenters, advertising executives, have this in common:
they operate from their beliefs. How they vote; what
sort of army they support, if any; what purchases
they make; where they live; whom they marry; what
clothes they wear all flow from their beliefs.
A rather inventive and sophisticated
example of belief peddling can be seen in the new
and ever-evolving language of warfare. The military
industrial complex seeks favorable public opinion
in order to encourage congressional support for its
products and activities. In recent years, it has been
restructuring and reconstituting reality by using
new buzzwords, intent on molding beliefs which would
support its aims. The following phrases and word combinations
come from various governmental reports and announcements
dealing with military preparation and actions.
At first glance, a "re-entry
vehicle" could appear inviting. We might anticipate
a people or cargo carrier that always returns home.
Not so! One example, among many, of a "re-entry
vehicle" is a nine-megaton nuclear warhead. Army
personnel now refer to "collateral damage"
during military operations. This has no relation to
disturbing lawns and shrubs at roadside. "Collateral
damage" refers to the killing of civilians. Sending
"Peacemakers" to other countries might gain
wide support prior to the public's realizing "Peacemakers"
are MX missiles. "Violence processor" has
become the high-tech label for a fully equipped combat
Encountering the ingenious term "environmental
adjustment," we might imagine a unique ecological
thrust healthful to plants (and possibly chiropractic
in nature!). However, this phrase means destroying
an entire geographic area with a toxic chemical defoliant.
Of all the fanciful images that military
belief-makers have tried to create, none seems more
paradoxical and intriguing than the phrase used to
describe peace. In their obvious effort to sell military
vigilance, they refer to peace among nations as "permanent
These propagandists (as all of us
are for what we believe) try to harness our preferences
and prejudices to their interests by employing a marketing
strategy still in it's infancy.
We can understand immediately the
power of beliefs in the political arena and the marketplace,
yet we do not readily apply that same clarity to ourselves.
We function much like absorbing sponges, acquiring
beliefs uncritically at a dizzying pace in order to
take care of ourselves in the best way possible. The
onslaught of beliefs has become so steady in our culture
that often we ingest beliefs and repeat them to others
without question or review. "This is the best
country in the world." "We have a right
to free speech." "Death is inevitable."
"College prepares you for life." "Life
is a series of ups and downs." "Feelings
are like instincts; they just come upon you."
"Nothing lasts forever." "Good health
is often a matter of good genes and good luck."
To question beliefs like the one's
listed above does not necessarily mean they are erroneous
or invalid. However, inquiry opens the door to understanding
more fully why we believe what we do and whether or
not we want to continue believing it. Do the beliefs
we hold serve us? Do they empower us or lead us to
feel impotent? Do they lead to happiness or unhappiness?
Frequently, we reformulate what other
people say - the beliefs they sell - into conclusions
or beliefs about ourselves. The avalanche of commentaries
begins in childhood:
- "Be seen but not heard." (Conclusion:
What I say doesn't matter.)
- "I know better than you." (Conclusion:
I'm not intelligent enough to know.)
- "You are too young to understand. (Conclusion:
When I get older, I'll get smarter - I hope.)
- "Don't question what I say; just listen."
(.Conclusion: Other people's statements are more
important than my own.)
- "You make me unhappy." (Conclusion:
I have the power to cause unhappiness in others.)
- "If you loved me, you'd keep your room neat."
(Conclusion: If I don't do what my mother wants,
it means I don't love her.)
- "Take the medicine or you won't get better."
(Conclusion: Outside intervention is the only thing
that will save me; I have nothing to do with my
Once childhood and adolescence give
way to the more mature years, then the messages appear
to change, or do they?
- "If you loved me, you'd be more caring or
sexually active." (Conclusion: I still have
to do what people want in order to prove I love
- "You'll never understand me." (Conclusion:
It's not okay to disagree and have my own opinions.)
- "You make me furious!" (Conclusion:
I cause what others feel.)
- "Can't you do it right?" (Conclusion:
I'm ill-equipped; there must be something wrong
- "You can't expect to be healthy forever."
(Conclusion: I have no control - disease and sickness
2 Continued »»