It is an old debate if what is real is a product of our imagination or, on the contrary, of our empirical experience.
Can our imagination produce Reality? Yes, if it comes from Curiosity. Based on science: with the hypothesis, experimentation, and constant improvement of theories, after demonstrating a theory based on empirical experience, we discover that what we have imagined has a place in the natural world.
Can the metaphysical constructions like religion and faith-based theories, without empirical proof, be taken literally as part of our Reality? Not in the twenty-first century, please. The fact that I have concluded to write about this topic worries me. I find that the vast majority of our social constructions today are defined by the forces that argue stronger than ever, that belief systems are the only truth that has value in the era of globalization, economic recession, global pandemic,
Our societies evolve and develop more complex and integrated relations. Unfortunately, we live in the present day this unnecessary debate created by old structural orders of power. These powers have built their dominance using the metaphysical constructions, belief systems as uncontested realities. They have done it by educating the principle that personal opinion and Belief when shared with others, holds the basis of the natural world.
Thanks to an interconnected world, information technology advancements have challenged power structures and confront them with the river of evidence and scientific finding. On many occasions, the evidence is disputing the foundations of these structures. Forcing what was before inconceivable: to justify their existence.
As we demand answers to justify why we have to believe in something, why we pay taxes, why we have to submit to a political system, a nation-state or a supranational agreement; we are also thinking in better ways to phase a globalized world, correct climate change, enable political reform, that can serve the evolution of our species.
However, these structures cannot cope with the necessary change and shift in the social organization, allocation of power, and transformation of our societies for the positive evolution of our human relations. It seems that the increase of indoctrination is equal to the number of evidence we master to obtain.
Let us see a political example that uses a targeted policy mixed with a national identity belief system. The second amendment of the American constitution states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” These lines are interpreted as the possibility to own and use weapons individually, not as a collective to defend the State. In my opinion, based on the United States, leading the statistics on mass public shootings, there should be a clear interpretation of the law. Tackle the relaxed laws that enable access to weapons, the lack of regulation of ownership registration, types of guns available, and background checks. However, it is taken to the realm of what is Right by lobbyists and interest groups, forging a public opinion. These claim that the American Constitution allows them to have no oversight of their access to any gun and the use of these because being American implies the Right to bear arms. The argument is a mental trap, making the national identity and bearing arms co-dependent when it does not have to be. The resulting political polarization towards gun ownership interpretation regulation is a motive of deep division used in the political debate with animosity. It is quite often mixed with freedom of expression and religion.
Another example is the justification of Repression by a regime. Based on the Belief of the ultimate position that the law is above the rights and freedoms. The Spanish constitution, born from a dictatorship transitioned to a Kingdom, is currently interpreted by most political parties and the judiciary to be above the international law. It especially concerns the subject of self-determination and freedom of expression.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says: “All peoples have the Right of self-determination. By that Right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Spain is supposed to abide by international laws it has signed. However, politicians and the judiciary are denying the Right of self-determination to the Catalans, the Basques and other Iberian peninsula minorities. Their goal is to perpetuate a nation-estate created by the violent monarchic despotism and the dictatorial regime of the twenty century. In a nutshell, the law is above the will of the people. The critical question is: what comes first? Is it Reality that creates the law that protects and guarantees rights, freedoms and provides order, or is the law that produces the rights and freedoms? It is another mental trap, a perverse one that takes away the people’s will from shaping and making the law and reverses politics’ natural order.
As a result, in the name of the state integrity, Spanish regime powers justify the beating of peaceful protests and the persecution of political opposition, the jailing of dissidents and the prohibition of the opposition. The Repression backed by all state powers will not resolve political problems by political means. Consequently, Spain has shown it is not a full democracy but a judiciary-monarchic kingdom whose regime does not understand the principle of ‘separation of power.’
The direct result of elevating belief systems and granting them the role of truthful premises has resulted in the involution of democracy, denial of human rights to the powerless minority, the deliberate perversion of the law and the potential destruction of an evolved and better future.
We have arrived at the typing point of this old debate. We have not overcome the classical belief systems, their modus operandi of indoctrination, extended in the political landscape. In essence, we let Belief become the maximum axiom that guides our world. We have given Belief a significance that is equal or above Reality. Belief is telling us what is right according to its sustaining doctrines. We are in a paradigm, a confrontation between what is Right – as per a Belief doctrine- or Real.
We need to break away from Belief in our political associations to liberate us from this destructive and unnecessary dichotomy.
We know that current political organizations, along with churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, will continue their effort to make Belief the basis of all human relations. However, the individual has an opportunity, with access to information, to change this paradigm.
We need to demand the evidence to justify the doctrines that dominate our lives.
Suppose we observe that Belief doctrines are not based on the natural world and understand that their survival is based on fear, tradition and ancient social structures. In that case, we can expose them, and if these are against evidence and empirical experience on human relations, why wouldn’t we want to change things? Wouldn’t it be better for our metaphysical constructs to be aligned with the shape of our social relations, the model of our ambitions, scientific discoveries, and the evolution of our species?
Belief based doctrines can only survive through mental traps, self-evident scenarios that give a false sense of certainty. A powerful mental trap is the denial of the antagonist. The systematic rejection of the opposite’s information includes the silence of the dissident and the critical voice’s avoidance.
Religion uses this mental trap demonizing any opposition. For centuries, science was the victim of this mental trap. Galileo was condemned for demonstrating the Reality in the natural world: the Earth revolves around the sun; consequently, it is not the centre of the universe. Christianity could not assimilate the truth and preferred to shut it down.
We are doing the same in politics. We are demonizing our antagonists. We are emphasizing the differences and not compromising at all. Polarizing our societies and creating outbursts of hate because we justify our politics in Belief systems’ mental traps.
Such a divide can become dangerous. We have two examples of global scale, climate change and the COVID19 pandemic. Science shows us our impact on the planet, accelerating climate change due to human interaction. Science is also showing us how isolation and wearing masks is contributing to slow the pandemic and protect the most vulnerable. However, those who deny climate change, those who refuse to wear masks, find themselves justified, protected in their cocoon of self-justification. They are armed with the arguments of anti-scientific opinion to protect themselves from evidence. Consolidating this type of justification and allow people to modify their world based on being Right as per their Belief makes us vulnerable to the real world and its consequences. The farther away we get from creating optimal change to make our societies, families, communities better. We will waste time on conspiracy theories. We will lose time to advance what can make a difference, scientific research, math, arts, and philosophy.
Social Media plays a significant role in perpetuating mental traps, as it has become the primary source of information. It targets our instincts to keep us engaged, indexing us as consumers and political animals with its artificial intelligence. It is giving us the comfort to validate our views without a chance for critical analysis. Social Media is the comfort zone of our intellectual position. By avoiding the hard work that requires critical thinking, it makes us weak, unable to discern for ourselves and converts us into easy targets for manipulation. The organizations that can pay their access to our data reach us in scale. They share their discourse, recruiting us to become members of their flock.
The scandal of Cambridge Analytica demonstrated that we had developed an engine for the acquisition of power based on Reality’s perception.
Addicted to online validation, we are continuously fed with messages by the powers of corporations and governments. Traditional Media has been polarized. We are bombarded with Fake News. We are responsible; it has always been up to us to discern what the facts are to the best of our abilities.
It takes effort to analyze, and that takes time. In the meantime, the power structures automate the information and have created an engine to indoctrinate us. It is used to spread rumours as truths, misinformation versus facts, and showcase the appearance of Reality that shapes public opinion. Consequently, it affects our power of decision, guiding our vote’s direction, consumption, and all in support of the agents that manage power.
Nevertheless, there is a flaw in the system, Reality is way more diverse and complex than the media we consume, the polarization is trying to guide us one way or another when we can choose our way, each one of us is a potential thinker, doer, influencer. Social Media also democratizes information. It cannot contain a new message at first. We can overload the system with our diversity; we can confuse the data with our silence; we can take advantage of it. Furthermore, we can do it by exercising one of the marvellous outcomes of human evolution: Curiosity.
Access to information online can provide us with the evidence we need to test our belief systems, check the doctrines, and listen to the opposite side. All it takes is for us to formulate questions.
If we are curious, we can turn the tables to the attempts of manipulation. Curiosity gives us the creative spark that allows us to think critically, form our own opinion and come to terms with the Reality we see in the natural world. When we are curious, we can question Belief without fear because Curiosity does not imply our investigation’s outcome. Curiosity has helped us evolve as species from dominating fire, creating tools, building shelters, organizing our tribes, cultivating our crops to understanding our surroundings and predicting the weather. Curiosity gave us wings, took us to the oceans’ depth, and is taking us to the stars.
Our evolved brain can be curious and contribute significantly to destroying the dichotomy between Right and Real.
No technology has encapsulated Curiosity because technology is the product of Curiosity. Our evolved ape brain is such a remarkable organ. It still provides us with the ability to continue evolving, improving our social connections, sharing our emotions and intellectual findings. Curiosity is still the core of our advancement and progression, and we should recognize it.
To end with the power structures that use Belief as the foundation, we need to foment Curiosity. Then we will be able to eliminate the perverse dichotomy and change the result because we will be Right by being Real.
Curiosity, the scientific method, and the reconciliation of our metaphysical constructions in symphony with the natural world’s discoveries should be the path forward. We will be able to overcome the conflicts we currently have, from Climate change to our democracies’ strength.
A wide range of topics that we spend hours arguing today could be resolve by being a little more prompt to validation through evidence. We can recognize humility that enables us to change and the assurance that the change is a strength, not a weakness.
It takes the will to use our critical thinking to our values, not just use it with our opposite, which has no merit.
So let us be Real.