A column by Linda Brugger of Twin Falls, Idaho.
Yup, we all do. In fact, that seems to be the main task of every living thing on the planet. Of course, human minds are complex, and we all own one; but other minds want to influence your mind. We become aware of that at birth.
When we are born, it seems that we have one thought. “I want to survive”. We must communicate our needs to do that. We demand, we are given. Until we are not. Another mind tells us that we can wait. You accept that as fact. Or not. The point is, we make up our mind by accepting or rejecting someone else’s thought. As our brain matures, we form our own thoughts from the facts we have accepted willingly or unwillingly. Since I am talking about political decisions, I will refrain from elaborating on the brain science behind that conclusion.
As humans, we at some historic time accepted the wisdom of group survival and gave some of the impulses of our mind over to those who could organize people into societies. We allowed ourselves to be governed by the thoughts of others, or we were the ones who governed. It is our human need for survival by cooperating with other minds, their skills, experience, and beliefs that produces the challenges of any political system.
Leaders have been chosen for demonstrated skill, by the myth of being God’s anointed, and by coercive power. Since coercion can produce resentment which hinders a group’s effectiveness, practical leaders had to develop the skill of public persuasion. Sometimes, like the Wizard of Oz, persuasion was by Smoke and Mirrors. Fortunate groups can select their leader by assessing their demonstrated ability. People who are part of a formal government are often put in place by a combination of the two methods.
In the United States, no one wants to vote for Smoke and Mirrors. We are aware of the need for effective government. We often disagree about what effective government is, but we vote for a person we believe will produce the government we want. The historic tension during elections has been between what various individuals, special interests (organizations and business), and political parties want government to do and those who oppose that government action. Adding to the mix, of course, is how much government costs and how it will be paid for.
How do we make up our mind? Voting knowledgeably on every elected office or issue is not easy. Sometimes we look for shortcuts instead of taking the time to research all sides of an issue. In fact, Political Science degrees are offered to people whose interest in life is giving you shortcuts to use for making decisions. Between elections, they spend time trying to figure out which government activities you care most about and selecting candidates and constructing slogans about those issues. Additionally, they will spend time and money convincing you to pay attention to their issue.
Going back to brain science for a minute, I need to point out that our brain is pre-wired to alert us to danger. Even when we are not conscious of it, our brain and body remain vigilant. When the body senses danger, it prepares to fight or run away. Emotionally, we convert those impulses to anger which motivates us to action. The easiest way for me to get you to follow me or to give me money for my cause is to make you fearful, convince you that I can take care of whatever it is, and ask for your action.
Consider two things.
1. An organization makes money fighting for a cause.
2. People contribute time and money when they want to right a wrong.
Political campaigns are usually about making things better or fighting to keep things from changing. Unfortunately, Smoke and Mirrors are employed to either create the problem or to make it appear worse than it is. The same technique makes simplistic answers show signs of solving a problem. Herbert Hoover ran on the slogan “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” in 1928. In 1929, we started the Great Depression. Beware the campaign (mind?) manager!