3.b.9 – The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?

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March 25, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?

In the industrialized world the Liberal thought reported big victories on ancient traditions, but also big losses with the emergence of the great dictatorships of the twentieth century; the legal protection of freedom of thought, however, is now established with intensity and geographical spread never seen before, and this leads us to believe that there are more specific obstacles to that freedom. But we have seen how the legal freedom, if not accompanied by an effective capacity, is only a false freedom; we also examined how the freedom of thinking, as intellectual ability, can be severely limited by the cultural context in which we live and obscurantist traditions, either ancient and recent, religious and political, are not yet completely disappeared and new ones may develop; we have found that obscurantism is a cultural product of natural human inclinations, it grafts on the innate defense mechanisms and it can always spread again with new shapes, especially if there are situations of social instability that stimulate these mechanisms.
There are also new and insidious dangers lurking: the progress of psychology, spurred by trade and commercial needs, has produced highly effective techniques of persuasion, so that they could be real instruments for the control and manipulation of the mind.
From decades psychology is used with success both in forms of commercial advertising and in political propaganda, but new techniques are much more dangerous and the success of the sadly known pyramid or multilevel sales companies leaves no doubt on this point.
These psychological gimmicks are tools designed to affect our choices, they allow, wisely dosing truth and falsehood, to drive the thinking through dialogue or images, exploiting our natural attitude to identify ourselves in a story, to follow an argument that is presented to us and remaining influences by it; all this is done voluntarily by our unconscious and is therefore impossible, for us, to notice what is happening. To give an idea of the power of these new tools, we can list two characteristics they have:
– even the few people who, at a later time, understand by themselves to have been manipulated, in similar situations are again the victims of these new scams to which is very difficult to resist, being based on instinctive reactions
– often the direct manipulator, the one with whom we are talking, is unaware of what is actually doing, and he was the first to undergo a training course based on these techniques, was convinced that was doing good to the customers and then acts with perfect naturalness, unknowingly applying the techniques of manipulation as if he was under hypnosis. It is obvious that we cannot say we are free, if our choices are not. We do not know the next frontier of human persuasion, but we know that huge amounts of money are invested to develop increasingly effective techniques, with which affecting our behavior making us  become more and  more like perfect puppets.
It is important to note that these techniques of mental plagiarism, unlike traditional social conditioning, are not based on long periods of education directed to children, do not exploit sentiments of obscurantism or intolerance and are not a simple product of blind cultural evolution; they are the result of fully aware scientific studies, they are like sophisticated weapons available to anyone able to use them.
The development of adequate defenses from these weapons is a problem of immediate urgency, to be addressed obviously starting by a thorough study since the ordinary citizen is completely helpless.
The right and freedom of thought are the basis of freedom of action that is essential to develop and to appreciate life, they should be strenuously defended, but to do so we must be aware that today, because of the influence of media and of modern psychological weapons, are more threatened than ever, despite all victories on their old enemies.
Furthermore in the modern world, the freedom of thought in all its forms is even more precious than in the past because it is the necessary prerequisite to the cultural adaptation of which there is such need.

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1 Comment to “3.b.9 – The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?”

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