Discernment

Fooling Yourself, Part 2

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Groupthink and Collective Self-Deception

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Winston Smith lives in a world completely controlled by the government, personified by the moniker, “Big Brother.” Everyone is conditioned to believe exactly what Big Brother says is true. Winston, along with many others, spends his life manipulating history and documents so that Big Brother is always right, and has always been right, even when Big Brother changes his mind. Big Brother controls public thought through the promotion of “doublethink” and “newspeak.” In this way “thought crime” (disagreement) is prevented, and Big Brother retains absolute control, keeping people in constant ignorance and denial of the truth. By the practice of “groupthink” everyone is pressured into agreeing with whatever Big Brother proclaims.

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Compartment Rich, Discernment Poor

Note: This article was originally published at SI on November 8, 2006.
stainlesssteel.jpg“Mom, are you sure this is a Bible thing, or is it just an old thing?” As I sat with my son downloading previews of music he was asking me to evaluate, I suddenly yearned for the days when the only song in his musical repertoire that even faintly raised my eyebrow was one that involved a rather raucous garden escape by Peter Rabbit. Everyone needs an inquisitive, stratton_boxes.jpgstatus quo-examining teenager in his home. Teens are so adept at poking around in our neatly arranged boxes of rejection and asking those challenging questions about the items that interest them. It can be quite irritating at times, and I confess the inconvenience of it all has far too often driven me to seal the container shut and shoo away the grubby little paws that are daring to rummage through items I have proudly rejected for half a century.

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Compartment Rich, Discernment Poor

“Mom, are you sure this is a Bible thing, or is it just an old thing?” As I sat with my son downloading previews of music he was asking me to evaluate, I suddenly yearned for the days when the only song in his musical repertoire that even faintly raised my eyebrow was one that involved a rather raucous garden escape by Peter Rabbit. Everyone needs an inquisitive, status quo-examining teenager in his home. Teens are so adept at poking around in our neatly arranged boxes of rejection and asking those challenging questions about the items that interest them. It can be quite irritating at times, and I confess the inconvenience of it all has far too often driven me to seal the container shut and shoo away the grubby little paws that are daring to rummage through items I have proudly rejected for half a century.

I am just lazy enough to engage in some hefty, white-knuckled clinging to the convenience that boxes and labels offer. I thrive on organization, but since I’m not naturally neat enough to achieve it on my own, I tend to rely heavily on baskets and bins. I possess a “contained chaos” kind of style. As long as things look neat and orderly, my conscience usually finds soothing just enough to enjoy a few good patronizing pats on the back from that annoyingly virtuous woman of my dreams.

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