Dramatized Thinking Vocabulary – How to Make Sense of the World

In an earlier post, we wrote about Thinking in a Social Dynamic Context, mentioning some researchers on conformity anyone who is interested in Thinkibility must know: Solomon Asch, Irving Janis, Stanley Milgram Philip and Zimbardo.

 

In this post, we will explore the theme of conformity and social dynamics in a more dramatic and impact full way, mentioning the books and movies you must know if you want to defend yourself against manipulation.

Animal Farm

 

Orwell originally wrote a preface complaining about British self-censorship and how the British people were suppressing criticism of the USSR, their World War II ally:

The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary… Things are kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervenes but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact

In the preface of a 1947 Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, he explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries”.

In our blog post  Intelligent Gossip at the Water-cooler, we mentioned Daniel Kahneman, who argues that to become a good thinker we need to acquire a large set of diagnostic labels to identify thinking errors, like those that are available for physicians.

Useful vocabulary to describe thinking in a social dynamic context

The next expressions can be used to indicate how simply political dogma can be turned into malleable propaganda.:

  • All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. The ultimate example of the pigs’ systematic abuse of logic and language to control their underlings’ clothes utterly senseless content in a seemingly plausible linguistic form. Although the first clause implies that all animals are equal to one another, it does not state this claim overtly. Thus, it is possible to misread the word “equal” as a relative term rather than an absolute one, meaning that there can be different degrees of “equal”-ness, just as there can be different degrees of colourfulness, for example (more colourful, less colourful). Once such a misreading has taken place, it becomes no more absurd to say “more equal” than to say “more colourful.” By small, almost imperceptible steps like these, the core ideals of Animal Farm—and any human nation—gradually become corrupted.
  • “Four legs good, two legs bad! Orwell portrays this expression as one example of how the elite class abuses language to control the lower classes. Although the slogan seems to help the animals achieve their goal at first, enabling them to clarify in their minds the principles that they support, it soon becomes a meaningless sound bleated by the sheep (“two legs baa-d”), serving no purpose other than to drown out dissenting opinion. By the end of the novel, as the propagandistic needs of the leadership change, the pigs alter the chant to the similar-sounding but completely antithetical “Four legs good, two legs better.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four

 

Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. The novel is set in the year 1984 when most of the world population have become victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation.

We have here some of it derived from 1984 to get some grip on the social dynamical context on modern life as it is defined by the Internet.

Useful vocabulary to describe thinking in a social dynamic context

  • Big Brother. “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.
  • Doublethink. Orwell, doublethink is: To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word—doublethink—involved the use of doublethink
  • Thoughtcrim In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions but also the thoughts of its subjects. Thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. Every movement, reflex, facial expression, and a reaction is measured by a system used by the Thought Police. The “Thought Police” is responsible for enforcement of ideological correctness.
  • Newspeak. The purpose of Newspeak was thought control by not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of the party but to make all other modes of thought impossible. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words.
  • Telescreens. Telescreens are devices which operate as both televisions, security cameras and microphones. Telescreens are used by the ruling Party in the totalitarian fictional State of Oceania to keep its subjects under constant surveillance, thus eliminating the chance of secret conspiracies against Oceania. All members of the Inner Party (nomenklatura) and Outer Party(middle-class) have telescreens in their homes, but the proles(lower-class) are not typically monitored as they are unimportant to the Party, assuming that they would never rebel on their own, and therefore does not find a need to monitor their daily lives.
  • Room 101. Such is the purported omniscience of the state in the society of Nineteen Eighty-Four that even a citizen’s nightmares are known to the Party. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. Room 101 is the basement torture chamber, in which the Party attempts to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia, with the object of breaking down their resistance.
  • 2 + 2 = 5. The phrase “two plus two equals five” (“2 + 2 = 5”) is a slogan is used as an example of an obviously false dogma that one may be required to believe. Orwell’s protagonist, Winston Smith, uses the phrase to wonder if the State might declare “two plus two equals five” as a fact; he ponders whether, if everybody believes it, that makes it true.
  • Memory hole. A memory hole is any mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records, such as from a website or other archive, particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened.

 Wild Wild Country

 

Wild Wild Country is a Netflix documentary series about the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), his one-time personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers in the Rajneeshpuram community located in Wasco County, Oregon. In our opinion, it is worth watching because it reflects perfectly the concepts of Animal Farm and Ninety Eighty-four but now its consequences in reality: The 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack and the 1985 Rajneeshee assassination plot.

The Trial (Der Prozess) and The Castle (Der Sloss)

 

The Trial is a novel written by Franz Kafka between 1914 and 1915 and published posthumously in 1925. It tells the story of Josef K., a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader. In a polical and sociological sense, it demonstrates the mechanisms of an autonomous and inhuman bureaucracy and of a lack of civil rights, in where the protagonist wanders through a labyrinth that seems to be designed to make him fail or even seems to have no relation to him at all.

The Castle is a 1926 novel by Franz Kafka. In it, a protagonist known only as K. arrives in a village and struggles to gain access to the mysterious authorities who govern it from a castle. The Castle is often understood to be about alienation, unresponsive bureaucracy, the frustration of trying to conduct business with non-transparent, seemingly arbitrary controlling systems, and the futile pursuit of an unobtainable goal.

Useful vocabulary to describe thinking in a social dynamic context

  • Double bind. A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa) so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of the response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.
  • Paradox  A paradox is a statement that, despite apparently sound reasoning from true premises, leads to an apparently self-contradictory or logically unacceptable conclusion. A paradox involves contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persists over time.

Brave New World

 

Brave New World is a dystopian novel written in 1931 by English author Aldous Huxley and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that are combined to make a utopian society that goes challenged only by a single outsider.

Useful vocabulary to describe thinking in a social dynamic context

Brave New World. If someone ironically refers to a brave new world, they are talking about a new and optimistic situation or system resulting from major societal or technological change but actually is a hypothetical future society in being variously dehumanized and disorienting.

In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.

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In our post A Repertoire of Concepts we argued that “thinking boxes” or concepts help us to make sense of the world. If we don’t have enough thinking categories available, we can’t make proper sense of what is happening, nor could we imagine other possibilities. In that case, we can’t see what the mind lacks in its repertoire of concepts. For new concepts and Thinkibility vocabulary, we do not have to turn to scientific texts, there are a lot of concepts to find in literature as well.

See also related posts:

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One thought on “Dramatized Thinking Vocabulary – How to Make Sense of the World

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  1. The Matrix

    The movie depicts a dystopian future in which reality, as perceived by most humans, is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population

    The famous scene is that with the red pill and the blue pill. Take the red pill and you will hear the raw, painful, relevant truth. Take the blue pill and you will remain blissfully ignorant: you have no idea what, who or where you are, but because of that you have fewer worries.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix

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