Intellectual Security from Hartnell's blog

For the past twenty-two chapters I've been saying that you are sovereign. You're the absolute final judge of the worth of information you receive; you're the one who decides every one of your actions; you're the person who determines what is right and wrong for you. 


That's the simple reality of it. But many people don't want that responsibility—even though they can't possibly discard it. And so they hope to be handed a ready-made philosophy of life. Such a person wants someone else to guarantee that he's right—no matter what happens. 


You are responsible, because you will experience the consequences of your own acts, and those consequences are the final judge of whether you've been right or wrong. They provide a verdict from which there is no appeal.


The insecure individual hopes somehow to bypass that verdict. He looks for away to believe he's right, no matter what consequences he experiences. 


He looks for a source of "truth" that he can believe in. When he finds it, he accepts it totally. He feels that this gives him the security to know that he's right,and he prefers that kind of security to the need to rely upon his own ability.


The philosophy he finds usually contains three basic ingredients. They are moral rightness, a leader, and an enemy. These ingredients arm him with an assurance that allows him to disregard the test of consequences. 


The sense of moral rightness permits him to believe that he's right no matter what the consequences he receives in life. He settles for whatever happiness he gains from knowing he's adhered strictly to the code. He "knows" he was right in what he did—righter than his successful, wealthy, peaceful, joyous neighbor.


Such a philosophy will usually have a leader to give the individual the confidence that he doesn't have in himself. If questions or doubts arise, the leader can set them to rest. The insecure individual may feel, "I can't tell what is right, but he says it's right—and he must know."


It always seems necessary, too, for the philosophy to have an enemy. That provides a ready-made explanation for any bad consequences that may occur. 


Since the philosophy is usually expressed in terms of "moral truths," the battle with the enemy becomes a moral one. "We" (the good guys) are moral and "they"(the enemy) are immoral. 


The moralistic overtones create an evangelical fervor. The enemy isn't pictured as a group of misguided individuals who don't understand things as well as "we" do. Instead, "they" know what they're doing and know that it's wrong. They're acting deliberately; they're "evil."


This eliminates the need for the moralist to be tolerant or understanding of anyone whose interests conflict with his. Instead, he can be aggressive, violent, nasty, vitriolic, outraged—because he's dealing with someone who is immoral and thus not deserving of benevolence. It's an ideal way to relieve the pent-up frustrations that come from having to bear the bad consequences that might come from living by the philosophy. 


So the insecure individual looks outside himself for intellectual security. He hopes to find a philosophy that will guarantee him moral rightness, a leader to compensate for his lack of confidence, and an enemy to justify whatever goes wrong. Unfortunately, he lives in a fool's paradise. He still has to deal with the world and with the consequences of his own actions.


Meanwhile, the individual who recognizes his own sovereignty considers the consequences of his actions to be the only standard of right and wrong. He knows that he's capable of seeing those consequences and reacting to them as necessary. He can change any course of action that doesn't work; he can handle change and surprises as they occur. He can deal with whatever comes.


He would feel insecure only if he had to act in accordance with someone else's judgment. He would be genuinely afraid if someone else's decisions were determining his future.


He knows that the future is uncertain. But he's willing to be vigilant—to check the results of his actions. And he's willing to be honest—to acknowledge any mistakes and correct them immediately.


He's found the only kind of intellectual security that makes sense—reliance upon his own sovereignty.


--Excerpt from "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne




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Anna
Oct 24 '15
I would add one more thing to that - a tribal instinct. Apart from insecurity and the fear of freedom it's another motivation to join cults, dogmatize philosophies, obey the leaders and stigmatize enemies. This instinct is very primal, we've always been tribal animals. Prehistoric humans had no chances of survival if left alone so they formed tribes to hunt, protect themselves from predators and rival hostile tribes and care for the young ones. Rejection by the tribe was a death sentence. All the psychological experiments and studies show that there is a strong pressure to conform to the group and obey the authority. We are simply programmed by evolution to seek other people's acceptance. While it's possible to resist other people's influence, it comes at the price of emotional discomfort.

This tribal instinct has plenty of advantages: it motivates people to cooperate and to form societies. The progress of civilization wouldn't be possible if people didn't cooperate with each other. There are some side-effects though and these are the ones you listed. This need to belong to something greater than yourself is often used by the religious leaders, politicians or regime dictators to enslave people and make them obedient in the name of security or some ideal. It's enough to tap into that primal tribal instinct and the fear of rejection stemming from it. It's all pushed into the unconscious as people often delude themselves that they are "free-thinking individuals." This is why propaganda is so effective though it's irrational, it's because it appeals to the primal and unconscious instincts and emotions.

The dogmas, rules and codes are used to strengthen the cohesion of the group. Us vs Them rhetoric serves as the method of coercion; making adherents to avoid certain behaviors and personality traits. These behaviors and personality traits are associated with "Them", the enemies, the other, who are worse than Us. Then, these sinful, vile ignoble or... (insert any other denigrating adjective here) are contrasted with glorified Us. They are bad, we are good. They are sinful, we are virtuous. They are primitive and stupid, we are civilized, the pinnacle of evolution etc. Thus, black and white picture is created, simplified, exaggerated and fallacious so that you know how to behave and what behaviors to avoid so that you are not judged as being one of "Them" and in consequence rejected by the tribe.

Unfortunately, you can also observe it in Satanic circles. All these disputes who is a true Satanist and who is a fake one come from that shared tribal mentality.
I would add one more thing to that - a tribal instinct. Apart from insecurity and the fear of freedom it's another motivation to join cults, dogmatize philosophies, obey the leaders and stigmatize ene...See more
Hartnell
Oct 24 '15
I'd agree that that we're social creatures but having a 'tribal instinct'? I'm not so sure anymore. For one, how do you know -- from your own personal first-hand experience of yourself that you have such an instinct? If you can answer that (I can't) it would help me understand what you're talking about if you also answered this question: what can I do to observe the tribal instinct in myself for myself?

I'm not saying that we don't have social instincts, only that I don't know what you mean by the term "tribal instinct". A person can be a social person part of the time and a loner another part of the time. There is no overriding instinctual need for some people, myself included, to "belong to something greater than myself." On the other hand, I'm intellectually aware of it because I like to hack systems as a hobby. (Damned black boxes!)

The psychological experiments which I'm aware of don't absolutely prove that everyone does things like change their belief that they observed something as the group did instead of trusting their own eyes (Ash Conformity). They only show that somebunall people do this under certain set conditions while a smaller group do not. These experiments do not factor in all the relevant factors and tend to observe only measurable behavior in a way only a little less exacting than B.F. Skinner. What I'm trying to say is that these experiments describe behavior which isn't demonstrated to be universal and that the theory regarding the motivations and psychological processes underlying the behaviors are not adequate to explain both the observed behavior which appears to show the theory to be valid while also explaining those cases that didn't.

I think that it's possible for anyone to rely on the herd to think for you. This is a result of suspending one's own independent thought processes in favor of accepting the judgement of the herd in their place. Whether it's because someone doesn't believe they're smart enough to come to useful and accurate judgements for themselves on their own (ala Ayn Rand's second handers) or that they believe that someone else is exceptionally gifted (or a prophet) -- no one can make the same quality of decisions for the individual than he, himself can. When decision-making is left to the group, the decisions are "one-size fits all" because the individuality of the person and their life isn't considered. Sure, when someone attempts to adjust themselves and their lives fit a "one-size fits all" belief system rather than changing their beliefs according to themselves the group becomes more cohesive only because they become more homogenous.

I'm sure I missed something. If it was something important, let me know and I'll address it directly.
I'd agree that that we're social creatures but having a 'tribal instinct'? I'm not so sure anymore. For one, how do you know -- from your own personal first-hand experience of yourself that you have s...See more
Anna
Oct 26 '15
Tribalism is connected to Us vs Them rhetoric. It could be observed in the case of the Nazi Germany but we can see its subtler forms. It's simply viewing the people in terms of extreme opposites, creating white and black picture without recognizing all shades of grey, constantly contrasting ourselves with those who are not like us. Take Islam terrorists, for example, glorifying themselves, their culture and their religion and denigrating the Western world. Or less drastic Christian example; we are virtuous, they are sinners or even the never ending disputes who is a true Satanist. So you have the Church of Satan members thinking other Satanists are pseudo-Satanists or the division of Satanists into sinister (true) ones and mundane (fake) ones propagated by the ONA.Tribalism is connected to Us vs Them rhetoric. It could be observed in the case of the Nazi Germany but we can see its subtler forms. It's simply viewing the people in terms of extreme opposites, crea...See more
Hartnell
Oct 26 '15
Then what you refer to as tribalism is what happens when the boundaries of a person's identity are compromised by a group identity. It's not an instinct, but a consequence of a transient psychological state. Heh ;) It's the dipswitch setting for 'dipshit'.Then what you refer to as tribalism is what happens when the boundaries of a person's identity are compromised by a group identity. It's not an instinct, but a consequence of a transient psychological...See more
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By Hartnell
Added Oct 24 '15

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