Sometimes everyone around you will seem to have gone just a little bit mad. It is the state of the world, that, periodically, everyone suffers from delusions.
At times the delusions are obvious. For instance, if we suffer from hallucinations or voices, then the contrast with the rest of our experience is quite marked. We experience this every time we sleep and dream: we enter into a different world, and then when we wake, we realise that it is different from our waking life, and lacks the evidential basis that waking life appears to have. Therefore, we conclude that we have been deluded. We may attribute significant meanings to dreams, but we assert that they are not reality as we understand it.
At other times, the delusions are not very obvious. Look back to eras in history, and you will find that, periodically, groups of humans have departed from their common understandings, and entered into a different world, with different organisation. Just as with dreams, the bases of these worlds are unprovable. They may be founded on religions, or political ideologies, or charismatic individuals. What is common to them all, is that a large number of people realign themselves to an apparent ‘new reality’. Sometimes individuals wake up out of these alternative realities, and we know them as daring defectors.
SEEING FROM WITHIN
These alternative realities are very difficult to see from within. If you live inside a family, or a religious sect, or a political ideology, then it can be astonishingly hard to gain a clear perspective on what is happening. In particular, when we are within an ideology, we do not like to see its leaders as manipulative. We are trained to see them as great, and therefore resist the idea that a mass of people might be being conned, in order to maintain a deluded leadership. The abused child has to struggle to see the abusing parent as wrong. The enlisted follower has to struggle to see the harmful leadership as cruel.
Speaking out, at such times, can be almost impossible. Countries with repressive regimes, for example, place strong sanctions on speaking out. Facing the threat of torture, or years in jail, many pepople succumb to the pressure, and stay quiet. This is the down side of humans’ socially compliant nature.
The role of poets and writers, musicians and artists, can be to call out the absurdity of delusion and dysfunction. Through stories and other depictions, they can present to the eye, ear and mind what strange creatures we are, and how our apparent rationality is not grounded in any ultimately provable value system.
In a world in which no ideology can prove itself conclusively, we are bound to have period of time when humans become wayward. When they persecute each other for things that, at other times, seem innocuous. When they become socially constraining in ways that hurt a large number of individuals. At such times, we have a choice. We can go along with the majority, and take the line of least resistance, aligning ourselves with the safety of numbers. Or we can share alternative perspectives, helping humans to retain a degree of humility about their own narrow views.
We need our comedians, our artists, our poets, our writers. They give us freedom of thought. Without that, we are just narrow creatures, walking on a narrow path, without good reason. With or without good reason, we may as well live generously, and not try to tie everyone to a narrow viewpoInt, justified only by cultural force of numbers.
Some days, those around me seem to have lost their heads.
By force of majority, they put pressure on me, and try to fit me into their social world.
Abuse, repression, cruelty. They are sustained, not only by leaders, but by followers who stay silent.
Can I keep my independence of mind when all around me seem to have a different view?
Can I speak out, for those who are harmed unnecessarily, constrained carelessly, treated unkindly?
Do I have the courage to see clearly, when those around me are perhaps losing their clarity of vision, and have entered into a religious or political dreamworld?
Perhaps I can read more widely, listen more carefully, empathise more freely, live more fearlessly, care more widely.