The more you're trapped in a system, the more you stand up for it.

Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept, and Corrupt Systems?

This probably works for bad marriages too.

Says Kay: "If you want to understand how to get social change to happen, you need to understand the conditions that make people resist change and what makes them open to acknowledging that change might be a necessity."

So, it appears, freedom is good for critical thinking. People who aren't forced to be dependent on a system are better able to question it.

The scariest part to me was

The less control people feel over their own lives, the more they endorse systems and leaders that offer a sense of order.

Where "sense of order" implies, I take it, authoritarian order.

Can we articulate a secular Partnership-oriented sense of order and security, which encourages people to think for themselves instead of submission? I personally feel grounded this way, but it's not always easy to articulate to people accustomed to thinking in hierarchical terms.

Tags: entrapment and apostasy

Views: 74

Replies to This Discussion

A corollary, perhaps:

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours.
-- Richard Bach.

"When we feel we can't escape a system, we adapt. That includes feeling okay about things we might otherwise consider undesirable. The authors note one study in which participants were told that men's salaries in their country are 20% higher than women's. Rather than implicate an unfair system, those who felt they couldn't emigrate chalked up the wage gap to innate differences between the sexes. "You'd think that when people are stuck with a system, they'd want to change it more," says Kay. But in fact, the more stuck they are, the more likely are they to explain away its shortcomings."

"The research on system justification can enlighten those who are frustrated when people don't rise up in what would seem their own best interests. Says Kay: "If you want to understand how to get social change to happen, you need to understand the conditions that make people resist change and what makes them open to acknowledging that change might be a necessity."


So how do we go about making social change if people are feeling powerless to change the status quo? It looks like they conclude that people just explain away the problems and do nothing to solve them.

It looks like they conclude that people just explain away the problems and do nothing to solve them.

Pretty much. I guess empowerment, such as the Occupy movement and having social media like AN, where you're supported, are a necessary step. It implies that just the existence of a women's shelter, for example, would enable abused women in the area to acknowledge their abuse to themselves.

It makes me wonder if the availability of secular social alternatives to religious events and meetings helps people who feel isolated to question religion.

I think just having a group of folks express their powerlessness and frustration with the status quo makes it easier for others to realize they have similar feelings, and/or to express them. I'm thinking about a study where teenagers who heard someone else in a group say they were atheist made it more likely they'd say that too. But if they feel like the only one, they're more likely to be silent.

If a group also has some idea of how change might occur, that's likely also important to folks realizing that change is needed.

Yes, Ruth and Steph, people who feel helpless and hopeless may explain away their problems and do nothing to solve them.

Another strategy is to distract oneself by compartmentalizing oneself, find other ways to not feel helpless or hopeless.  Battered children often either excel at school or become a class clown or the class bully.  Coping strategies help feelings of pain, shame, guilt, hopelessness and helplessness in the short run but fail to solve and change underlying problems.  

Experienced and skilled teachers may see through the behaviors and attitudes and may find underlying causes.  

I feel kind of uncomfortable about sayiing this, but I think we have to begin with children.  Teach them that nobody can tell them what to think or believe.  Dan barker has written a freethought book for children that stresses the idea that their thoughts are their own.

In Robert A. Heinlein's juvenile novels (written in the late 1940s and early '50s) he subtly tells his readers things that boil down to, "Make up your own mind.  Before you make up your mind, think it through.  Before you think about it, get the facts.  Or as many as you can.") 

I sincerely regret that I didn't start reading his books till I was in my early 20s, and the first one I read was Stranger in a Strange Land.  I was so taken with it (a satire on religion and sex) that I got my hands on as many of his novels and story collections as I could.  I think he helped me grow up (I was definitely a "late bloomer.") 

I fell in love with his words, and finally wrote him a fan letter in 1972, and to my complete astonishment, he answered it himself!  I still have the letter...the hard copy, and I also scannned it onto my hard drive.  I was in touch with him and his wife, Ginny, till a few months before she died in 2003.  They were both highly intelligent, compassionate, and wise.  (Intelligence is not always indicative of wisdom.)

I miss them as much as I miss my own parents.

Anyroad, teaching critical thinking as early as possible is absolutely vital.  "Don't believe something just because somebody older than you are tells you it's true.  Or because it's in your textbooks.  Check it out for yourself."

Heinlein was formative for my teenage mental development.

Wow.  I felt the same way about Heinlein during my teens and early 20s.  I still think he is up there with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Hal Clement as one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the 20th century.

I always told my daughter when she was growing up until about 8 years old when she questioned why I was asking her to do something (or more often not to do something) that it was because "My Word Is Law".  I then went into a bit of a giggling fit and she then responded, "I want to take this up with my lawyer" (in this case her Mom :) ). We then discussed the real reasons for why she should do what I asked in each case.

When she got a bit older, I made this attitude more explicit and told her she should never respect or obey someone just because they demanded it.   Respect has to be earned.  Including her respect for me.   I believe that demanding unquestioning obedience from your kid at any point in her life is a form of child abuse and ultimately increases the danger that she will fall into a cult in later years.   Same goes for boys, of course.

sk8eycat, I agree wholeheartedly, start with children!  When I was growing up and when I raised my children, the highest value of our family and culture was obedience, not critical thinking. It wasn't until I had a few years of teaching under my hat that I realized the difference.  A group of us teachers started implementing critical thinking in our classrooms and I am so glad we did. 

Teaching for critical thinking often makes for a disorderly classroom, but there is nothing wrong with disorder if it comes because of debate, negotiation, collaboration, and finding common ground.  When the noise settles and spit balls are cleaned up, we have students able to defend their position in ways different than those who learned to give back to the teacher what he/she gave out, or who followed the "rules".  

Thanks for sharing your experience with Heinlein; I have not read him.  I like learning of your story of corresponding with him and the effect he and his wife had on you. OH! the joy of connecting with people!  The internet surely has the potential to expand one's options in life.

I ordered "Stranger in a strange land" from our library; thanks

Joan, when you're done with Stranger, pick up Job: A Comedy of Justice.  It goes after literalist religion in places like nothing else I've read does ... and it's a fun read, to boot!

Thanks, Loren, you have given me good feedback before and I will read "Job ... ". It isn't in the library, but can get it. 

OMNerves, YES!  The first time I read JOB.... I nearly fell out of bed laughing at the post-rapture scenes...the big "fly-by" and the Heavenly bureaucracy, and everything. Wonderful sarcastic satire!

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