American Cargo Cult (an observation)

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by arglebargle, Feb 8, 2009.

  1. arglebargle

    arglebargle Well-Known Member

    5,231 Messages
    274 Likes Received
    A friend ran across this. It's made me stop and think more than a few times. An interesting take to reflect on in the ongoing arguements....

    "Principles of the American Cargo Cult

    I wrote these principles after reflecting on the content of contemporary newspapers and broadcast media and why that content disquieted me. I saw that I was not disturbed so much by what was written or said as I was by what is not. The tacit assumptions underlying most popular content reflect a worldview that is orthogonal to reality in many ways. By reflecting this skewed weltanschauung, the media reinforces and propagates it.

    I call this worldview the American Cargo Cult, after the real New Guinea cargo cults that arose after the second world war. There are four main points, each of which has several elaborating assumptions. I really do think that most Americans believe these things at a deep level, and that these misbeliefs constantly underlie bad arguments in public debate.

    I. Ignorance is innocence
    Complicated explanations are suspect
    The world is simple, and there must be a simple explanation for everything.

    Certainty is strength, doubt is weakness
    Admitting alternatives is undermining one's own belief.
    Changing one's mind means one has wasted the time spent holding the prior opinion.

    Your opinion matters as much as anyone else's
    When a person has studied a topic, he has no more real knowledge than you do, just a hidden agenda.

    The herd should be followed

    The contemplative lemming gets trampled
    Popular beliefs must be true.
    No bad idea can survive.
    People are generally smart.
    Even if a popular belief doesn't pan out, at least you'll be in the same boat as everyone else.

    II. Causality is selectable
    All interconnection is apparent
    Otherwise, complicated explanations would be necessary.

    The end supports the explanation of the means
    A successful person's explanation of the means of his success is highly credible by the very fact of his success.

    You can succeed by emulating the purported behavior of successful people
    This is the key to the cargo cult. To enjoy the success of another, just mimic the rituals he claims to follow.
    Your idol gets the blame if things don't work out, not you.

    You have a right to your share
    You get to define your share.
    Your share is the least you will accept without crying injustice.
    Celebrate getting more than your share.

    III. It's not your fault
    If it's good for you, it's good
    Society is everyone else.

    Good intentions suffice
    You can always apologize.

    There is no long term
    Don't miss an opportunity.

    Consequences are things that happen to others
    Only you can hold yourself accountable. Don't let others make you do that.
    If somebody starts the blame game, you can still win it.
    There are evil people and institutions, and surely one of them is more responsible than you are.

    You are not the problem
    An ugly image means a bad mirror.

    IV. Death is unnatural
    You're special
    Bad things shouldn't happen to you.

    Pain is wrong
    Life should not hurt.
    It's a Whiffle World.

    Tragedy is a synonym for calamity
    Bad things are never consequences of one's own action or inaction.

    There will be justice
    Bad people get punished.
    You, however, will be forgiven."
  2. ScipioCowboy

    ScipioCowboy More than meets the eye.

    16,578 Messages
    4,146 Likes Received
    The folly of this type of analysis is its excessive ambiguity and self-contradiction.

    The article begins by roundly condemning simplistic explanations and non-expert opinions. Then, in a dizzying display of contradictory logic, the article proceeds to lay out a series of crass, oversimplified generalizations about the American mindset while providing absolutely no corroborating argumentation or any details about the author's own expertise or credentials in making such an assessment.

    Given the author's disdain for non-expert opinions, one would think he would at least explain why his opinions are worthy of our regard.

    Furthermore, the premises within the articles are so ambiguous that they could apply in a myriad of places and situations. It's akin to a fortune teller who gives vague readings. There may be truth in it but only because it casts such a large net.
  3. ThaBigP

    ThaBigP New Member

    2,062 Messages
    0 Likes Received
    One *might* conclude, however, that circular logic and self-contradiction is par for the course in cult-like thinking. ;)
  4. arglebargle

    arglebargle Well-Known Member

    5,231 Messages
    274 Likes Received
    Most of my experiances with fortune tellers points to the good ones being extremely capable cold readers, with a very finely tuned feel for the pyschology of their client. But that's a different story....

    If it had been just a few points, perhaps oversimplified would be accurate.... but these don't seem simplistic to me.

    I might be arguing, but he's not arguing. He just put out a piece.

    What about the simplistic explanations and non-expert opinions bit draws your ire? What parts did you think did not fit in with American society and media nowadays?
  5. ScipioCowboy

    ScipioCowboy More than meets the eye.

    16,578 Messages
    4,146 Likes Received
    Nothing has drawn my ire. I'm merely giving my assessment of the author's opinions.

    Personally, I have no problem with simplistic explanations and non-expert opinions as long as they're insightful and logically consistent (rather than contradictory). Similarly, I readily embrace complex explanations and expert long as they exhibit insight and consistency. In my opinion, good ideas are not limited to a select group of people nor do they need to be conveyed in a certain rigid form.

    In my opinion, the premises and criticisms within the article are contradictory and over-generalized. On one hand, the article criticizes simplistic explanations and non-expert opinions. Then, on the other hand, it offers a set of simplistic opinions with seemingly no expert basis.

    Although there are instances in which the author's criticisms apply to Americans, there's also a myriad of instances in which they don't. For instance, the author laments the American tendency to "follow the herd." However, the US clearly wasn't "following the herd" when it invaded Iraq; most nations were and still are opposed to our policy.

    The author's implication that Americans fail to accept consequences is equally specious. We have a long, established history of prizing self-reliance and assuming responsibility (even when we're not at fault). In fact, our belief in personal responsibilities is the very reason socialism has made very few inroads here. One might contend that we assume too much responsibility for world happenings.

    Furthermore, although Americans may believe they hold a special place in the word, very few believe that "bad things shouldn't happen to them" or that "pain" will never befall them. And American views of justice are hardly so fatalistic. Our foreign policy is a testament to this.

    We can find instances in which the author's premises apply to America, and many instance in which they don't. We would probably find a similar trend if we applied them to another country. They simply lack the requisite cohesiveness and specificity to provide substantive, constructive criticism.

Share This Page