Enlightened or brainwashed? Depends on your perspective

BY BILL HORNER III, Publisher
Posted 2/28/20

“Well, I guess the brain-washing class is over now.”

It was a throw-away comment, but more than a week later I’m still mulling it.

It was uttered on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday as a group …

The News + Record is worth reading!

We’re all about Chatham County, and we welcome you to our site. You can view up to 3 stories each month, then registration is required.

Please sign in below if you have an account. If not, please register here to get an account and an additional 7 stories each month. It’s easy and takes just a minute.

Our staff works hard to bring good journalism, writing and story-telling to Chatham County. HELP US! You can get the News + Record mailed to you weekly by subscribing here.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Enlightened or brainwashed? Depends on your perspective

Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.

Posted

“Well, I guess the brain-washing class is over now.”

It was a throw-away comment, but more than a week later I’m still mulling it.

It was uttered on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday as a group of us walked out of Pittsboro’s Ag Center. We were part of a crowd of more than 200 who’d just listened to a two-hour panel discussion about the Civil War which featured three history professors and a sweeping look at narratives that elucidated the war and its aftermath — a presentation featuring documented facts and perspectives which, I have to say, changed a few of the long-held notions I had about the war and how we collectively remember it.

I’d attended “The Civil War Today” discussion, which was sponsored by Chatham For All and Abundance NC, because I was curious. I have more than a passing interest in the Civil War (a fact to which shelves of Civil War-related books in my library will attest), plus I’m endlessly curious about history. Besides, the session was originally billed as “A House Divided,” and that highly piqued my curiosity — a “house divided” is the notion that was always the foundational basis of my interest in that great conflict. Division. Brother vs. brother. Familial fragmentation. A united nation torn asunder.

The warring Twitter accounts of its time, only with bullets.

Some things haven’t changed, obviously, as anyone who’s spent any Saturday in Pittsboro lately can attest. I didn’t see who made the “brain-washing class” comment, but it came from one the small handful of Confederate flag-wavers gathered near the entrance to the Ag Center who were there to put on a show and, as one of them told me, “exercise my First Amendment rights.”

I’m all about the First Amendment, but freedom of speech works best when proclaimed without a mocking, caustic tone.

What bothered me most was that I was quite certain the disdainful man who made the “brain-washing” remark wouldn’t have said or believed that — had he only taken a couple of hours out of his day to listen in on the discussion we’d just heard. To condemn something without examining it is pretty short-sighted, and the sincere nature of the presentations — and the listeners —told me we were all taking it pretty seriously.

Of course, I realize he was probably thinking something along the same lines as he watched us file out of the Ag Center: “If these elitist idiots would only get educated,” I envisioned him reflecting about us, “they’d be standing out here with us, bearing their own flags.”

So which of us were brain-washed? And which of us were enlightened and self-aware?

I read a blog post this week that made an interesting claim: there’s so much hate and unhappiness in the world, author Brene Brown says, because people lack self-awareness. The post went on to claim:

• We all experience pains and traumas of one kind or another as children, leaving us vulnerable and afraid.

• To protect ourselves, we develop “emotional armor” in the form of psychological defense mechanisms. We use sarcasm, for example, to avoid being vulnerable.

• Even though these defense mechanisms may have been useful at a young age, by the time we reach adulthood, their side effects are seriously sabotaging our lives in the form of broken relationships, addictions, narcissism and even violence.

• These unhelpful behaviors persist and grow because we don’t see them. And so we plod along in a daze of unhappy denial, continuing to make ourselves and the people around us miserable.

“Fundamentally,” Nick Wignall wrote in the post, “self-awareness isn’t a trait you’re born with; it’s a set of habits you can learn to cultivate.”

Or learn not to.

The key? Simple, says Wignall. To grow self-awareness, you must:

• Listen more than you talk

• Be curious about your own mind

• Look for your emotional blind spots

• Ask for feedback frequently (and take it well)

• Take time to reflect on your values

My friend Bob Pearson reminds us, “It’s not possible to lecture someone into a different understanding.” The “Today” panel discussion — aside from being far from a lecture — was partly about thinking about how we think, about examining how we examine. The flag-waver needed that, but so did I.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment