the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world
THE SEMI-REGULAR DOGMATIC, 7
What’s the difference between ‘education’ and ‘indoctrination’? The distinction made in the ordinary dialect claims to be one of procedure but in fact is only one of content. The imparting of doctrine (teaching) for the purpose of instilling beliefs is practiced by all societies, and must be; but somehow when schools and prisons in enemy societies do this, we piously speak of ‘indoctrination’, and contrast that to what our pupils and inmates get -- the good stuff. The prosecutorial/judicial system is referred to not as ‘punishment’ or ‘retribution’ but as ‘justice’ and ‘corrections’. And, it goes without saying, our children go to state-run schools to be ‘educated’.
The distinction is nonsense, of course. This is all indoctrination. I prefer to use the leftover word ‘education’ for the process in which an individual studies and learns on its own, but that does not matter. The point is to maintain a consistent concept of indoctrination. It differs from persuasion in that it is used on persons without preconceived notions; it is an attempt to “fill an empty vessel”.
Those who are so successfully indoctrinated that they are later unwilling to challenge the doctrine, even in the face of obvious inconsistencies or impressive arguments for opposing beliefs, are ‘doctrinaire’. (Clearly I would not consider that synonymous with ‘dogmatic’.) Probably the most important part of any acceptable doctrine is a rejection of the doctrinaire attitude. If young persons can be indoctrinated to question what they have been told, at least there is a chance that any other flaws in the doctrine will not be perpetuated throughout the generations.
Since there must be indoctrination to some extent, it is fundamentally crucial that the right doctrine be found. It must be practically perfect. It should be simple and well thought-out. It should extend only into matters where it is necessary to have some opinion.
It is absolutely imperative that we indoctrinate all persons identically. There must be no difference based on physical characteristics, not even sex. Males and females must be taught the same things, and the same things must be expected of them. The only acceptable place for sexual discrimination as a doctrine is in reproduction.
Biological parents should get no special privileges in the lives of children. No person may be subjected to rule, not even a very young one; no person has a right to claim sole responsibility for doctrine, not even one who bore the prospective subject of indoctrination in its body. Indoctrination, like persuasion, is the responsibility of all. Of course, I have said I don’t believe in societies whose members don’t agree even on basic principles; certainly a society that intends to persist over generations must keep a consensus on the content of the allowable indoctrination.
There are, to reiterate, three basic principles which should be instilled into children: reason, respect, and frankness. Reason means considering the comparative advantages and disadvantages of courses of action, and selecting the course which maximizes the former and minimizes the latter; if truly instilled, it will encourage a reevaluation of the doctrine itself. Respect means treating all things as formidable and worthy of fair consideration; it is a substitute on the one hand for reverence, holding certain things sacred and untouchable, and on the other hand for fear, an irrational reaction to supposed danger. Frankness means saying what you think and doing what you say; it leads to honesty, which leads to trust, which leads to peace.
Compassion and cooperation are useful things in a society, but they are not necessary and should not be the goals of indoctrination. Compassion may follow from trust and respect, and cooperation is a reasonable attitude. In any case they would probably develop in children living in an environment of compassion and cooperation. Children are rather impressionable. If not, they could not be indoctrinated.
Care should be taken not to destroy in children what most of them seem to have to begin with -- a wondrous sense of love, happiness, enthusiasm, curiosity. Of course, they must be made skeptical, or they will suffer, because the world outside of the society will not be any better for all of the encouraging internal aspects. But contrast that with cynicism, which is not simple wariness but a reaction to a shattering of trust. All persons should make themselves worthy of trust, though, not just those around children.
It is a belief of mine that all persons behave in what they think is a just manner; no one intentionally does something “wrong”. If we can find a common notion of justice, the problem of unjust behavior will disappear. And my theory is that persons who grow up in a just society will be just themselves. If these just persons then leave the society, justice will be spread. I think we can only hope that it will spread gradually. There are too many doctrinaires in the world, and too few open-minded thinkers. As such, the task of building a just world will depend mostly on indoctrination.
My ideal society, incidentally, can be relatively easily described. It is a fellowship of individuals, few in number, who know and trust each other. Regardless of age or sex or talent or physique, every person has the same relationship with every other person. Roughly it is that of siblings in the modern nuclear family. Deep concern and compassion, but no deference and no expectation of deference. A sense that each is its own person. And certainly no favoritism, no mother-child or husband-wife relationships. Of course, these cannot be suppressed, and it would be counterproductive to argue against close relationships. The problem is exclusion. It is quite possible to have more than one close relationship; why place a limit? But persons who grow up witnessing exclusive or “special” relationships will likely form their own, and gradually these will be thought to be the norm. Eventually, that could lead to a labelling of certain abnormal relationships as immoral, which would be a mistake.
The fellowship cooperates in labor and shares in benefits. Help is given where needed; the responsibility for caring for those unable to care for themselves, particularly the very young, is held in common. Advice is given unsolicited and in liberal amounts. Harmless activities are tolerated but not necessarily condoned. If there is amusement, all fellows are welcome but not pressured to take part. Individual tastes are accommodated, except where they concern the disposal of necessary resources, which concerns all and therefore must be decided by all.
The fellowship is not homogenous by any means. To the contrary, its fellows are of diverse characters and aptitudes, and it takes advantage of this by letting each person contribute in the way it best can. And so, finally, let it be said: from each according to its ability, to each according to its need. This, of course, is a communist slogan, and the fellowship, by some definitions, is a commune. Do I follow disproven and outdated ideologies? No. “The collapse of communism” is a fiction. The systems of the world which use or have used “communism” in self-reference are just barely disguised fascism coupled with megalomaniacal industrialization, and I will not take the blame for their having appropriated an ideal, which capitalists encouraged because it made them look like democrats. My objection to private property is as an anarchist and a realist. I am also a communist, but I want small, simple, voluntary communes. Certainly the oligarchies of the world are closer to the Yankee ochlocracy than to my fellowship; I have no desire to dominate others, but I’ll be damned by an autocratic god if this country’s electorate has no desire to dominate me.
© BISHOP FORD
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