When a new truth comes to the fore against an established belief, it is not immediately accepted. This should not necessarily be seen as a lamentable thing. After all, until we can actually ascertain whether something is true or not, accepting any idea presented as automatically valid would result in stagnation and confusion (which is pretty much what we have with relativism).
However, when we talk about beliefs in the human realm, we mostly talk about blatant falsehoods (religion and statism being the two obvious examples). So when we talk about the process of integration of a new truth, we’re usually talking about a welcome relief from an oppressive mental sclerosis. This, unfortunately, is the lot of progress and innovators, at all levels.
When we look back at history, as well as current events, it is clear that there are four general stages through which truths must go through before they are accepted.
Note that different segments of a population can be at different stages towards the same idea. Fundamentalist Christians are at stage 2 towards atheism, while the population in general (depending on the country) is at stage 3. The state can also embrace something for co-optation purposes, such as science, or reject something to expand its power, such as drug use. In most cases, the population at large may have varying degrees of acceptance as well.
Stage 1- Non-Confront.
“It does not exist, it cannot exist, don’t talk about it.”
“Non-confront” means to refuse to look at something or acknowledge it. This is the domain of “Political Correctness”, of censorship, of “the proper”. My choice of this unusual expression is deliberate. Stage 1 is not just ignoring but rather an active refusal to acknowledge existence, either by the rationalization that the dominant paradigm is universal, or through the rationalization that the truth in question actually does not exist, or through the process of censoring any discussion of the truth.
These goals are accomplished through propaganda which hammers in the dominant belief as “the proper model”. “Educational videos” of the fifties and sixties are a good example of this, but education in general can serve this role of narrowing of vision.
With or without such models, peer pressure usually takes care of rebellious individuals. Children and teenagers usually identify with these models, and adults seek to perpetuate them, especially “parents”. For adults, ideas can be silenced by making them taboo, or simply “not talked about in polite company”. Rather than acknowledge a painful truth about someone, which would trigger a stage 2 response, one simply does not talk about it. I expect that some atheists living in Christian families experience this, as well as most anarchists. Many people cannot deal with non-belief, and therefore simply ignore it. “We’re right, no one can reasonably disagree, so let’s just forget about it.”
Stage 2- Aggression.
“It exists and is a threat to our way of life. It must be eradicated.”
This is the nasty part. When a truth starts to upset the dominant paradigm and can no longer be ignored, it must be suppressed, overtly or covertly. This is the perpetual stage of the fundamentalist, the dictator, the statist, who lashes out at everything and tries to suppress other ways of life.
The most obvious way to do this is to outright torture and kill your opponents. Not really the most efficient way to go about at it, because it creates martyrs and reinforces the victim complex. Besides, murder being partially illegal, this avenue is usually problematic.
Usually an idea can be more effectively suppressed by attacking the idea itself, not its proponents (while the proponents can change, the idea itself changes much more slowly). One method you can use is to make it illegal. There are still old “American” laws in the book against atheists and homosexuals, a remnant of that strategy. As the illegality of a truth persists, statists will rationalize its illegality by looking at the black market situation that then exists. With black markets come violence, unsafe practices, clandestine hierarchies, and other unsavory consequences, that can be then used in propaganda in order to justify even more repression. So it is, to a certain extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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