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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy

Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Conditioning (not at the gym dumbass)

     Funny how many people think they are so smart. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say "Advertising doesn't affect me" I would be a billionaire and they would still be totally wrong.

     Now my point is not about advertising, it's just an example of conditioning. It is merely planting a seed in your mind, which, depending upon your likes and dislikes, will either grow or flail, but once it's there, it's there. No different that what happens to you a zillion times a year with everything from news stories to speeches, to "scientific research", to partisan politics, conditioning of the human mind is a tried and true tactic, widely used to shape everything from consumer habits to societal thinking.

     The major breakthrough in the understanding of conditioning, of course, is Pavlov's Dog. Many will remember this from high school science classes. A quick summary of Pavlov's experiment in his attempt to prove that conditioning could be taught. His experiment basically started with him ringing a bell before feeding the animal. Eventually he started to ring the bell but delay giving the food while observing what happened with the dog after the bell was rung. Pavlov's "eureka moment" came when he observed that by ringing the bell, the dog reacted emotionally and physiologically as if it were time to eat. This was proven due to the fact when the bell was rung and food withheld, the dog would begin to salivate, the natural reaction of the body preparing for food intake (this is true in humans as well). I'm sure Pavlov would shudder to see where the results of his experiments have gone and how conditioning invades every square inch of our life.

     Let's talk about about conditioning. Lots of people own iPhones, for example. How many of them know why? How many could tell you how they even first because aware of the existince of something called an iPhone. Most of them will tell you they aren't affected by advertising. They'll never be able to tell you why they were among the first to try a new product, adopt a new style, get a popular haircut or always buy certain brands. But they will guarantee you they are not influenced by outside sources.

     Advertising is bad enough, but as the science of conditioning advances, it is creeping into every facet of society. One of the most unfortunate areas conditioning has come into play is in science. Scientists are human, and humans can be greedy. Just like cops and judges and politicians have allowed themselves to be bought off over the years, so to have a number of scientists. Yes there are groups of corporate interests who will pay big money to fund research that presents "their" viewpoint. Sad but true. If you think I am slinging you a line of bullshit, please explain to me the many hundreds, nay, thousands of studies showing the safety and benefits of smoking. I'm pretty sure most of us realize smoking isn't the world's healthiest activity, yet you can still find recent studies extolling the virtues of tobacco. Along with people who will swear they are right.

     Now we're seeing the same thing happening with climate change. The most legitimate research is being effectively challenged by funding of groups and individuals by large corporate and government interests who want you to think everything is normal, that humans aren't contributing to climate change and so on. There are people predisposed to believe them and just like it worked for decades with tobacco, it will sow enough of a seed in the minds of people who don't understand it to drag things on until we are forced to act when we've already reached a critical juncture, or worse, a precipice. I welcome those who would like to argue environment issues with me, I've been working on environmental issues for 30 years, I've held positions at the helm of groundbreaking citizen science organizations, I've spoken publicly in many forums to many people, I've taught children, I've run organizations to improve freshwater quality and I've sat on government panels. So if you want to talk environment, have at 'er.

     The last election was an exercise in conditioning, thanks to the tea party of Stephen Harper. Say the same things over and over and over and never deviate from the standard message and once people hear it enough many will believe it to be fact, from the sheer number of times they've been told. This tactic goes way back to the likes of Stalin, Kruschev, Mao, and yes especially Adolf Hitler. It's continuing, but suddenly failing in many countries with "President for life" guys, with the exception of Kim Jong-Il and a few others doing a fine job at conditioning their populations. If you don't think this is true, explain with many serious scandals, parliamentary problems, an absolutely failed management of the economy from top to bottom, the G8/G20 fiasco with millions on things in Tony Clement's riding, needed things like highway signs and outdoor toilets and gazebos that not a single leader ever saw, how anyone could vote for these organized criminals and hold their head up. How many idiots in the face of incontrovertiable proof of economic mismanagement would look you in the eye and tell you "Stephen Harper has handled the economy well". Plenty, I meet them.

     You have to be on your guard at all times. Fortunately we have available, at our fingertips a wealth of imformation, a deluge of knowledgable people we can contact through the internet, there are libraries and smartphones and so many ways to educate yourself before making up your mind on the surface of any single statement. Be skeptical and always remember that out there are a lot of special interests trying to make you their own Pavlov's Dog.

     There's always a bigger picture, keep it mind and you'll have a chance at finding truth in a lying society.

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