Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thought Reform and Cultures - Part 2

After writing the previous post, I decided to make some additions and clarifications.

When I write that the Soviet communist government did not use "classic brain-washing," I mean that they did not use the same set of brain-washing techniques as were used in China and were described by Lifton. "Classic brain-washing" was a Chinese idea. In the Soviet Union, some elements of it were used, but not the whole set.

Of course, I do not consider the Soviet Union as a free society. However, I do not consider it as really brain-washing or thought-reforming. In my own experience, my involvement in the religious cult affected me much more and I consider that this group does use strong thought reform, but the techniques used in the Soviet Union were much weaker.

If we consider thought reform as "black" and freedom of mind as "white," there are many "gray shades" between them. I would put the Soviet Union as very "dark gray," but not "black."

On the other hand, there is really a question whether "pure white" is possible because any person is under social influence, but its degree may be different. Dictator countries have a high degree of the social influence. Democratic countries have a less degree. However, it is impossible to avoid the social influence completely. Every society has a language, culture, ethics, laws. These things affect people's mentality. They direct and restrict people's way of thinking to some extent. However, no society is possible without these things. Otherwise, people will not be able to communicate and there will be chaos.

Since cultural background affects people's mentality and their concept of freedom, it may also affect their evaluation of freedom or non-freedom in other cultures. When two people from different background evaluate the same society, one of them may think that it is free while the other may consider that it is dictatorship.

Anti-cult professionals admit that there is no strict definition of mind control / thought reform because there are many opinions there. It seems that there is no exact definition of freedom of mind either because it depends on a person's cultural background as well as his or her own opinions.

In the previous post, I gave an example of the two freedom-like people which are Americans and Chechens. Both have different concepts of freedom. Another example of freedom-like people are Circassians. Circassians used to be the biggest nation in the Northern Caucasus and they lived in that territory for thousands years. In 18th and 19th centuries, Russia tried to occupy the Northern Caucasus. Many Northern Caucasus nations, including Circassians and Chechens, resisted Russia. Both Circassians and Chechens strongly resisted Russia and paid a great price for it: more than 90 percent of their total population (including elderly men, women, and children) were killed. However, Circassians paid a greater price. They practically lost their motherland. They lost more than 90 percent of their territory and most of the survived Circassians had to leave their motherland for Turkey. Until now, most Circassians live in Turkey and in other countries, only a small part of them lives in their original territory which now belongs to Russia.

So, Circassians are also very freedom-like people. In 19th century, many Western people made remarks on their pursuit for freedom. Even Boris Yeltsin, the first President of Russia, told about Russian-Circassian war in 1763-1864: "Circassian people's unprecedented struggle for their freedom that lasted for one hundred years caused the whole world's respect and admiration. It was the war not only for their survival on their motherland, but also for the preservation of their original culture, the best traits of their national character."

On the other hand, Circassians have a very strict national ethics and etiquette and they very highly regard this part of their culture. They say that what makes them Circassians is their national ethics and etiquette. In the Circassian language, the same word means "Circassian" and "courteous." The word for the Circassian ethics literally means "Circassian-ness." Their code of ethics and etiquette is very strict. For example, according to it, a son was required to stand in his father's presence and could not sit down (I am not sure if they still keep this rule). There was a case when a young Circassian was deadly wounded and stayed in bed. His father came to visit his dying son. The son stood up and his friends helped him to stand because he was very sick. Eventually, his father left because he realized that it was very hard for his son to stand, but he would not sit down or lay down in his presence.

There are many other rules in their national code that are hard to observe. It is very strict and it does restricts Circassians' behavior very much. However, at the same time, they are very freedom-like people and they are ready to fight for their personal freedom. But, obviously, their concept of the personal freedom is very different from the Western concept.

So, Americans, Chechens, and Circassians have different concepts about freedom, even though all of them are freedom-like. Other nations and other cultures have other concepts about freedom. There is no one and unique concept, fitting all the nations and cultures.

1 comment:

Oneperson said...

I've really enjoyed these 2 entries Lom.

Funny, today on a private Ning site, I was just writing about the concepts and ambiguity of the words "cult" and "free will."

I heard a few years ago the term "self will." I realize it is just semantics, but I like the term better. Our "self" is not fully by choice. That is, we have no say in our genetics, where we are born, where we grow up, and other stuff that I'd have to think about longer. There is so much that forms the "self." And then there are our stages of life and experiences. All of that plays into choices.

Cheers,
~carol :-)