This is a post with questions and musings. If you want answers or opinions, try a talking head show.
I watched the women from the FLDS compound on The Today Show. I see photos of them out of their element in the newspaper. My thoughts run something like this (unedited and a more than a little judgmental):
- They are all so similar in styling and mannerisms. Little House on the Stepford Prairie.
- They look vacant, robotic. Who holds the remote control?
- Their lifestyle is bizarre and they don’t even know it.
- They are brainwashed by their leaders.
And then I stop myself.
Am I any different?
- I make a point to fit in to my tribe.
- I am often on auto-pilot. I follow the rules and question them not too often.
- My lifestyle does not seem bizarre to me.
- Am I brainwashed by my society? (and by this I don’t mean me, specifically, but all of us)
Sure, my community of mainstream-America is much larger than the FLDS one, but does size give legitimacy to enculturation?
Perhaps groups and brainwashing go together. To assimilate into a group, an individual must surrender some of her own values to the group’s values. We know that a shared value is not necessarily a moral value — if it were, we would not have had institutions such as slavery.
When I studied political philosophy, my professor likened “culture” to a Petri dish. You know, like a throat culture. Oh, how I detested it when the doctor triggered my gag reflex with a swab and then deposited any collected micro-organisms into a dish full of some sort of goo. In this culture the little buggers would grow.
I envision myself growing in a giant Petri dish, surrounded by my culture. I live it, breathe it, observe it, develop in it, and cannot imagine being outside it. My every thought I think is filtered through the lens of the dish. I am incapable, most of the time, of seeing from outside the dish, because my usual level of consciousness doesn’t offer that perspective.
So do I have any right to judge these women? If I had been planted in their Petri dish, would I be any different?
Given the same circumstances, would you? Really?