All Is Well E17: Acculturation as Brainwashing

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from E17

It’s great how Mingyu (or the CC translator) chose “brainwashed” here, because that’s what piety is, a cultural expectation that gets drilled into you while your brain is in a formative state, that’s enforced through social pressure and shame. “Brainwashing” as we think of it is just rapid re-acculturation—to a new hierarchy, a new set of values, a new set of social obligations and beliefs and norms. Because it often takes place in adult life, when individuals are less plastic, it can require drugging, fasting, sexual manipulation, and other mind-altering techniques.

And the family—the family famously brainwashes. In traditional societies, “the village” raises the child but in modern society, parents—alongside but primary to the school system—are the right hand of acculturation. They are the strongest predictor of politics, the strongest predictor of career path. And this means you can get a Wolf Pack or Dogtooth in the mix, by design. Family as cult. Family as subculture. Family as religion. Which is to say, there is no being a person without having been brainwashed. We come into the world as individuals, which is to say amorphous, and are synchronized into, which is to say molded by, a set of shared if-then scripts.

And when we have problems—problems with ourselves, problems with other people—a lot of what we’re up against is the limitations of our language, which is to say the limitations of the brainwashing. The things it lied about, the things we were lied to about—in little ways, by people we’ve known and loved, either to protect us, or to protect themselves, or to protect others. And all the gaps, the old maxims which do not apply, and the new situation for there is no maxim.

Whatever the cause, it goes like this: you trip on—hence outta—the set of assumptions which failed to see a coming curb. Since it’s painful, you may be motivated not to experience something like it again. This project may require a complete re-theorization of the real. The way in science one bad prediction leads to a paradigm shift across a field.

Which implies, of course, what we already knew: that we need language, second-hand knowledge, passed-down heuristics, models to mimic, representation—that these things are simultaneously the source of all our powers and the source of all of our limitations, and this is not paradoxical because power is defined by limits the same way limits are defined by power. It’s just what they say about language, it’s just what they say about appearances—sure, they deceive, but you’ve gotta get your info somewhere. All capacities are bounded, and you can choose to see the capacity or the bounding, it’s a matter of orientation.

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