How we get indoctrinated
by Azly Rahman
To understand how our consciousness is constantly being fragmented, and how the self is constantly deconstructed and reconstructed, and how ‘truth’ is an ever-changing ‘construct’ based on the intended and unintended designs of forces of economic and cultural production, we must understand what ‘indoctrination’ means.
A doctrine is a set of concepts produced from a particular point of view that is then packaged by the believers into a regime of truth that is then propagated via enabling technologies. Indoctrination then is a process of enforcing the doctrine that contains ‘truth-force’.
The believers of a doctrine often use the state apparatuses (the branches of government, the media, and the educational sector) to further promote the doctrine. Intellectuals that become promoters of ideology become the ‘intelligentsia’. Hence, at every epoch of human progress the intelligentsia is produced through whatever kind of political state that is established.
Let us look closer at how ‘truth-force’ works in the process of indoctrination. How might this force become brutish and violent in the way it shackles the human mind? How might ignorance be multiplied and becomes hegemonic?
There are many ways ‘truth-force’ can be funneled into the minds of the people for example, through education and the means of modern communication. Let us list some examples on how religion and education becomes tools of indoctrination.
Truth-force and theocracy
The producers of truth may tell the people anything that may strike fear in their hearts, strip them off the necessity to think and to philosophsise.
“It is better to be feared that to be loved,” said Machiavelli.
The poor, ignorant, and the meek, as well as the sure and confused among us will all be saved in this grand design of the production of truth.
Why do we need to follow this and that law of the theocratic state when we sense that there is something oppressive about it? Why do we need to surrender our individuality to the dictates of a few theocratic leaders who came into power through a successful production, promotion, and propagation of the ‘truth-force’?
Must we continue to roll the rock up the hill and imagine ourselves happy, as the Algerian thinker Albert Camus (photo) might say?
Especially in the poorest Malay states, the government takes ownership of religion. Religion becomes an institution and its followers become institutionalised. It becomes the religion of the state (a theocracy) and not of the common person.
A religion of the state is an anti-thesis to the philosophy of human liberation. It crushes the notion that the human self is a kingdom unto itself, and that one is given the freedom to know oneself through the philosophical inquiry of what he/she believes in. The state will rob the human self of the necessity to find his/her own meaning in what he/she believes.
The theocratic state will have the urge to go to war in the name of jihad, crusade, or in the name of the doctrine of ‘detachment’ as embodied in the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna in the ‘Bhagavad-Gita’.
The believers in a theocratic state live in a tight regime of truth. Higher truths become unattainable because the free will and freedom to philosophise is weakened and slowly destroyed.
Philosophy, the enterprise and exercise to sharpen the mind of people, is never made to flourish, whereas what is needed in any religion is the reconstruction of the structure of the belief system through Reason and the Philosophical quest.
In a theocracy, people become afraid to think. Because, to question and to think means to subvert one's belief system. It is better to have all of the answers than some of the questions, say these people.
There is the fear of being drawn into polemics as well as into the complexities of things that make authoritarianism the best alternative. It is this feeling that makes those in power produce more and more ‘truth-polices’.
We must begin to become scientists and philosophers that will inquire into the practice and the future of theocratic states. We must engineer a ‘renaissance’ in the practice of statehood.
Let us begin to turn our citizens into makers of their own history.
It is not only the theocratic state that lives and breathes the regimes of ‘truth-force’. Public universities, too, have their own philosophy of statehood and strategies of statecraft. In the language of international relations, borrowing from John Lewis Gaddis, the universities have their “strategies of containment in cold wars that are happening in their backyards”.
Public universities are producing public one-dimensional beings trapped in their own logic bubbles. University leaders operate on the idea that all ideas must point to the dictates of the State. In this environment of intellectualism, one loses hope of the creation of more ‘committed’ or, borrowing from Gramsci, “organic” intellectuals that will become the beacons of hope for a multi-cultural generation of thinkers.
The theme of this Shakespearian-like theatre of the absurd playing at these universities is this: ‘It is Not that I love Philosophy less, but I love Brutal Politics more’.
Public universities become a mini ‘police state’. Any dissenting view must be crushed. Each question, each doubt, and each deflecting view must, at all cost, be neutralised to fit the thinking of the ‘philosophy of the university’. Each university lecturer or professor must be given guidelines of what truth to believe in and to funnel into the minds of the students and which truth must be avoided.
Each academician must be monitored closely in the style and conviction of the American senator-witch-hunter of the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy. Each student who questions the government of the university and the government of the day must be suspended or removed.
The university student lives in a universe of comfort and they are made to fear to speak of newer realities, to explore and to think, and to innovate and to question assumptions. There is a prevalent corruption of the ‘philosophy of the university itself’.
In all mission statements of the university or in any sensible, safe, and sound learning institution from the tabika and tadika (kindergartens) to post-graduate programmes, we pledge to create ‘open-minded’ citizens who will live a progressive life but in reality we are afraid to carry out that mission.
We are trapped in the language we use. We are now incarcerated in our own prison-house of language.
The world of the university student has become a world of higher order vocational education. Professors may have contributed to the design of this kind of world - this utopia called university. Professors act as though they have all of the answers, all the truth there is. They impose their beliefs, however faulty these beliefs may be.
But this is understandable as there is no such culture as the culture of ‘challenging a professor’. To these educators, to ‘teach’ is, following the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, “to bank” into the students the truths the latter will consume, but never to teach them to question. Never teach them the most profound of all questions: on human freedom and the quest for meaning.
Is this the confidence we put in our public educational institutions? The word ‘public’ and its correlation ‘res public’ and its transmutation ‘republic’ should be powerful enough to make us understand that the universities do not belong to the state or the Vice-Chancellors, but belong fundamentally to the aspirations of the peoples whose philosophies are superior to the state and its apparatuses.
We must return the deeply Politicised and Policed Universities to the deeply-rooted tradition of the university as a world of study of the “arts and sciences of the free man and woman”. We must educate our public universities of the meaning of progressive education if we wish our children to enter learning institutions that call themselves ‘world class’.
‘World class-ism’ has its foundation in deep inquiry and total respect for the intellect. It does not give the licence for university administrators to expel students and academician for their dissenting views.
We must cultivate critical thinking. We must teach our students to question taken-for-granted assumptions we live by, using the proper tools of scientific, philosophical, and ethical reasoning.
"Dissent", as an American statesman-philosopher once said, “is the highest form of patriotism”.
This is what embodies the thinking of many a great Malaysian philosopher-statesman such as Onn Jaafar.
We must engineer a ‘renaissance’ of our public educational institutions. Let us begin to set the universities free.