Don't trust people who tell you what to think--especially if you agree with them.
Does this really need explaining? Apparently in today's culture it does. I'm not sure what happened to the anti-establishment movement of the late 1960's--I guess its proponents became the establishment. The thing is, if you agree with the ideas and laws of authorities who tell you how to think, it's pretty easy for them to impose them on you. Maybe you can tell yourself that if you agree with them, nothing is being imposed on you. That is not true. What has been imposed on you is that the authorities can tell you what to think.
I am speaking about cultural pressure. I'm not primarily talking about the government or making a political statement, although it applies there as well, due to the ability to enforce cultural pressure by force of law. I am speaking of our natural discomfort with being an outcast, and our natural human tendency to want to be ruled, and then to think that giving in to these inclinations somehow makes us more independent. This is because it is a relief to pass off responsibility to someone else. We don't like taking responsibility for the outcomes of our actions, especially when the outcome is becoming a social and cultural outcast. Humans like to belong, even if that comes at the cost of abandoning any chance for a life with meaning, and that is the deadly result of cultural pressure. This is true of friends, movements, or people you don't know and who don't actually care about you as anything but a tool to advance an agenda.
Perhaps, as I said, you agree with a particular cultural agenda. Perhaps you believe that it should become a new moral code that everyone ought to follow, a replacement of outdated ideas. There's a time to reject outdated ideas, but unless it's done on a level that no one else can control, it's meaningless even if you like the outcome. It wasn't your outcome, and therefore you can't take moral credit. It was imposed on you.
The tricky part is, if you abdicate responsibility, and pass the ball to some cultural or political authority with whom you agree, it makes it very easy for them to impose something on you with which you do not agree. That can be unpleasant. But the worst part is that due to an unconscious fear of not belonging, you begin to agree with things you would have thought insane before you gave someone else the authority to tell you how to think. Slowly the individual is nearly indistinguishable from the group, and the group is the invention of those who use it to gain power.
The desire to gain power over others is another natural tendency. And here, I'm really speaking very little about government. People say this about government in a meaningless sense, referring to how much they dislike a particular political figure. Ironically, this is often due to the mindless comfort that comes from letting others tell us how to think.
The real danger is a soft power grab by cultural forces (which is to say, the invisible group identity to which you belong). It's dangerous because it's hard to see, if you think that somehow you're a part of the decision-making process. But you can't be part of a decision making process if you've abandoned the personal responsibility of the individual to 1) make decisions, 2) live with the outcomes, and 3) move forward with this in the face of events (or actions of others) outside your control. You can't be part of any meaningful group unless you are first an individual who finds no identity in being part of the group. Otherwise, you are a sucker for the power grab, and like a frog in a frying pan, you never saw it coming. It wasn't enforced by law or government, but sadly, by your own permission, which you mistook for a decision.
This is especially sad if you're proud of that, which is why communism and fascism are so tragic. Claiming to act for the masses, those who want to rule over you (just as you would, if you were the one with power) manipulate cultural forces with propaganda to even increase your existing fear of being an outcast. Do you know how many war deaths are the result of this sort of thing in the 20th century alone? I would even go so far as to say that there are very few murders at all that don't result from this phenomenon. What if gang members chose to think for themselves? That's where most of your gun deaths come from in the USA, outside of suicides.
So don't wear the Ché t-shirt. Be an individual instead, and take personal responsibility for your actions and their consequences. Anyway, you bought it from some entrepreneur who is laughing all the way to the bank, and Ché would be rolling in his grave, if he had cared about people like you in the first place. Everything he fought and killed for denies the primacy of the individual, and even denies the concept, so he couldn't have cared about you in any meaningful sense. No one can truly love you if you don't exist as an individual--they can't even respect you. Read up on Ché. And don't excuse his murders, war, bloodlust, and power grabs, just because other leaders were worse. Would you excuse the murder of your family because Hitler was worse than the guy who broke into your home?
We should all think about our discomfort with taking personal responsibility, and our fear of being an outcast. They are such powerful urges that we are willing to give our very mind and will to very bad people and cultural forces that will destroy us. On the topic of personal responsibility, search the blog using that tag.
“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary...a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
-Ernesto "Ché" Guevara
Tengo una remera del Ché, y no sé por qué [I have a Ché t-shirt, and I don't know why]
-Popular Argentine saying