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Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge Is Power

I’m writing this on the Winter Solstice, feeling optimistic about the sunlight increasing, day by day, incrementally. All natural progressions and cycles move at their individual paces. Human cycles move naturally and not at our command. Consciousness grows from physical senses yet we think our minds are separate. We all start helpless and naked in different environments, some friendlier and fairer than others.

OK. I am among the plurality of US voters disappointed because while my candidate received over two million more votes than her opponent, she lost. In a tripartite government of checks and balances, it seems that one branch should be truly elected by the people themselves. The president-elect complained that the system was rigged but, once victorious, says he no longer cares because he won. The president-elect is a commercial deal maker who, in a 60 Minutes interview just following the election, admitted that he used extreme, strong language during his campaign to get people to follow him, and, that it worked. He campaigned to “drain the swamp” in Washington D.C. and in his victory tour, explains to his supporters, how he came to embrace that phrase. He was, at first, unsure if he liked the term “drain the swamp,” yet, the more he said “drain the swamp,” the better it sounded to him. “Drain the swamp” played well with his followers at his rallies, so he went with the slogan. A video of President-elect Trump describing this campaign stratagem is available online courtesy of “The Daily Show.”

One of the first socio-political, psychologically oriented books I read was Vance Packard’s “The Hidden Persuaders,” a book about how advertising works. Elsewhere, I learned that subliminal imagery might brainwash movie goers into buying extra popcorn. I read this information as I watched TV shows where intense dramatic arcs that in real time might span weeks resolved themselves, always satisfactorily, within one hour episodes. It never sunk in that unreality was sinking in.

Well before I gave myself permission to consider the unreality of anything, I was working full time, going to college at night and trying to be the sort of modern and responsible woman I thought I was supposed to be. It is only recently that remembered that I once wanted to be a journalist like Mary McGrory. Sadly, the president-elect disparages journalists and he suggests he will limit journalists’ access to him. He prefers to communicate through Twitter, which provides him with an unchallengeable bully pulpit. The president-elect uses media well. Through “The Apprentice,” TV taught viewers that Donald Trump fires incompetents.

TV sells.

For thousands of years, many people lived in extended families with multiple generations under one roof, tent or duplex. Perfect? No. During the happy days of post- WWII prosperity, good paying manufacturing jobs supported a shift toward the suddenly “traditional,” suburban two-parent nuclear families featured in the sit-coms and daytime dramas financed by consumer product advertising. Not perfect either. Vulnerable people became disconnected from family, community, each other and often themselves. Life lessons long handed down through interaction with nature, oral teaching and then literacy are now eclipsed by ever-shrinking nuggets of information devoid of any historical or social context. Awareness of the continuum of nature, history, cultural change and our own changing relationship to all of it is good information to have.

I have been disconnected, through trauma and brain trauma, from awareness of people, places and events from my early life. I have heard, more than once, that is was better for me not to know or remember those things that I did not remember and did not know. This I do know: systems and dynamics that hurt you once might hurt you again. What we learn from history, we can apply to today. Reading and re-reading science and history books, as I am lucky to like to do, has given me a wealth of information to ponder during the nice long walks that the neuroscience books tell me will facilitate the neurogenesis and good circulation that should keep me healthier longer.

Change is inevitable yet we all fear the unknown tomorrow. Candidates often quell discontent, uncertainty and fear with appeals to nostalgia. Nostalgia taps positive emotions connected to an idealized unchangeable yesterday. In the short run, emotions outshout higher level brain function every time. Loud shouts trigger the brain’s primal amygdala far quicker than reasoned discourse, and men’s voices boom louder than women’s. Physically powerful males loom larger than powerful females in a visual world where male imagery has come to define power itself. Gender based stereotypes sell.

Today, it is what it is.

I wish us all a healthy, safe, conscious, aware new year.

Debra Merryweather