In coaching and counseling individuals through all kinds of situations and circumstances over many years, one thing I've noticed that comes up again and again is self-deception. Blindness to or denial of a limiting or damaging belief can have all sorts of negative repercussions in a person's life.
More simply stated: wrong information believed and acted upon produces poor-to-terrible results.
If this is true for individuals, it begs considering whether it's also true for cultures. Listening to the things people say and put forth in conversation reveals a lot about how they think and what they believe. Hearing the same things said enough times by enough people leads one to conclude that much of our culture has bought into particular beliefs as though they are obviously and comprehensively true.
So if incorrect beliefs lead to damaging behavior for individuals, it follows that they are just as destructive to cultures. As we hear the ever-increasing warning siren for the collapse of our American culture, we might do well to analyze anew commonly held "truths" that seem to be swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the greater majority of people - and - swallowed as such with nary a voice to the contrary. In other words, what "everybody" knows and accepts to be true might just not be quite as true as "everybody" seems to think.
What follows below is a brief list of several commonly held "truths" that, contrary to popular and unexamined opinion, are maybe not always true, and in some cases, not true at all.
1. Going to college is a good thing, and the automatic next step for a kid graduating from high school. Not necessarily. College isn't and shouldn't be for everyone. Many people have, do, and will continue to thrive in life without the official status of a college degree of any kind. Furthermore, college can be damaging in many ways (financially, for starters) and is, by no means, a universal "good."
2. Waiting until after completing college is the best time to get married. Again, not necessarily. I know countless couples who have wonderful marriages that began in or after high school, or even during college. While this may not be ideal for many depending upon a whole host of considerations, there are legitimate reasons an earlier start on marriage and parenthood may be a positive.
3. Waiting until you can afford kids is the intelligent way to plan a family. I should maybe just begin each of these explanations with a standard, "Not necessarily." Again, "affording" to have children is nearly a nonsensical concept. While children are unarguably one the most costly endeavors parents will ever experience, some things are so important as to be placed above financial considerations.
4. Government exists to solve problems for the people. There is no "not necessarily" to this one, but simply a "not." Our nation has absorbed a creeping assumption that government is it's nanny, that it not only should solve our issues, but that it actually can. Even a cursory reading of the founding documents reveal that the list of areas in which government was intended to operate was small, intentionally limited, and deemed almost a necessary evil. An abundance of historical examples exist in plain site to confirm the founders' beliefs that government was a monster needing to be chained within its few productive boundaries. We've flipped the coin all the way over on this one.
5. If the technology exists, we should automatically adopt it into our lives. I've been blasting away on this topic lately and thereby likely testing the patience of my three readers (whose indulgence I will continue to appreciate). Just because technology can do something doesn't mean that it necessarily should. We should be more discerning and attempt to understand both the benefits and drawbacks of new devices and technologies before wholesale incorporation of them into our lives and culture.
6. People with credentials are experts. It's time for another "not necessarily." The list of contrary examples is both enormous and often humorous. (The possible exception to this one is bloggers, who, well, let's face it, might just be infallible.)
7. Democracy is good. Somewhere along the way we have almost entirely lost the realization that our government was intended to be a "republic" and not a "democracy." The two types of government are radically different, and the founders considered democracy an evil as ugly as a lynch mob with sticks and clubs. However, this doesn't prevent people from saying that the United States is a democracy, or that the concept of a democracy is somehow good (e.g. former President George W. Bush boasting that the United States wished to "export democracy around the world." Sheesh.)
8. Politically correct is the correct way to be. In many ways, refuting this one isn't even controversial anymore. "Politically correct" has gotten so wacky that most people understand that if it's "politically correct," there's a good chance it's not Biblically correct, morally correct, or correct. It's a sliding scale moved by whom?
9. The government should be the only one to issue money to the citizens. Leaving the government as the only issuer and controller of the money supply is like assigning the fox to the hen house. Privatized money with commercial interests competing for customers would work to keep stranglehold power out of the hands of government. As Patrick Henry said, "The junction of the sword and the purse . . . are the ingredients of despotism." But we've been conditioned to not even realize that government doesn't have to be the one in charge of issuing or controlling money in any way.
10. You have your truth and I have mine. This is logically impossible. What most people mean when they consider this is "preferences," such as "I like the New England Patriots the best." It's perfectly legit for me to hold that "preference" or opinion, while you instead like the New York Giants the best. These are preferences, and my preference does nothing to negate yours, and visa versa. This is all fine. However, if we move the conversation into a discussion of "truths," such as which team is the best, then there are concrete measurements for such things which are absolute. The NY Giants recently defeated the New England Patriots in the Superbowl, thereby proving to the world that they are definably the best (much to my chagrin, I might add). There is only one "best," and in this example it is measurable and therefore absolute. In the same way, what is true in the world is absolute, and immovable and unyielding to anyone's opinion.
11. You can afford something if you can afford the payments. This one was likely propagated by those who stand to gain from people requiring credit, however, the jig is up on this one too. People are awakening more and more to the enslaving dangers of credit for consumption.
12. You need two incomes to make it these days. It might feel like it, but this one isn't strictly true either. It's a matter of priorities. I know of couples who have cut back in ways many would find extreme just to make it on one income, thereby proving that it all comes down to the definition of "make it." If "make it" means a consumptive, materialistic, "keeping up with the Jones's" lifestyle, then that's one thing. But if it means doing with less material trappings for the sake of other priorities, it can and is being done. (Nobody is saying it's easy, though.)
13. Electing the right political party will make all the difference. During election season especially, we're sold this one as an absolute truth. "If only the blue team wins we'll be saved!" "No! If only the red team wins we'll be saved!" Hmmm. I wonder if there's a puppet master behind the scenes working hard to get us distracted by the show out front? Because we seem to get more of the same (at different rates of speed, perhaps) no matter which color gets elected.
14. The news reports the facts. If you've ever had occasion to be on the "inside" of a story and witness how things get distorted (not merely from bias, but even with honest mistakes, details lost in the translation, etc.) you know firsthand that you can't believe everything you read or hear. This one is not new. But yet, how many people leap to hysterics because they "heard it on (fill in the blank) that so-and-so said or did such-and-such?"
15. Television and movies are harmless entertainment. This may have been true at one time (maybe, a long long time ago when people moved in jerky motions and didn't speak on screen), but today's entertainment is an ongoing social indoctrination program. It shocks me how undiscerning many people can be when it comes to what they put in front of their (and, don't get me started, their children's) eyes and ears. Everything you watch, listen to, and take in has an effect.
I know what I am saying here is controversial. I could probably argue most of the above statements from both sides, and there are certainly exceptions and intelligent counterpoints to many of them. But the key is this: when a culture blindly adopts so many half, partial, or non-truths without any critical thinking or contrarian consideration, that culture is sick indeed. In fact, so infected, if left unchecked by independent thought, such a culture cannot long endure.
Sadly, this list is only a partial one. Can you think of other "truths" we swallow without hardly a contrary thought?
Why do you think critical, independent thinking is apparently so rare in the cases above? Or isn't it?