Religion has often been acknowledged as a powerful means of social control. It operates at that level by telling the individual to ignore societal problems and concentrate on one’s salvation and afterlife. Slaves and the poor were taught that they would get their just rewards in Heaven, and that it was futile to try to overturn an economic system established by God himself (and which, in the case of slavery, Jesus supported as well).
Compounding this is the belief that the end of the world is nigh, which lets believers hand-wave problems by stating that, since the end is coming, everything will soon be made anew anyhow and there’s no point in thinking about anything but going to Heaven. Other thought-stopping beliefs include the belief that rulers are appointed by God, that the last will be the first (but only after they die), that the material body and the material world are corrupt, and so on.
New Age ideology provides another example of ego-centric social control. It is a fundamental tenet of the New Age that you directly and personally “attract” everything that happens to you, good or bad. It is a corollary of this, and a major tenet of New Age ideologies as well as most of its seductive nature, that in some fashion you can make good things happen to you simply by changing your thoughts. Anyone who follows these tenets, like those of Christianity, cannot fail to collapse into his ego and bury his head in the sand about anything that happens in the outside world.
Despite being modernized and “progressive” in outlook, the New Age is actually a very conservative belief system. Like their fellow conservatives, New Agers believe that other people’s suffering are their own fault, that there’s no reason to want to change institutions when it is the person that must change, and that negative thoughts/doubt are to be feared because they lead to “Hell.”
Large-group awareness cults are also in that same framework of collapsing the individual into his ego. They brainwash people to think of themselves only and to abandon all existing relationships and commitments so they can find the perfect mate, the perfect friends, the perfect job, and so on. This uniformly results in a total meltdown of the individual, but to the benefit of the cult which rakes in money and commitment.
In more modern times, consumerism has taken the place of religion, and this is the case in the social control aspect as well, the only difference being that it does not provide a dogma for the individual to latch onto. That dogma is usually provided by identity politics and social roles- what one must consume, how one must consume, and how one must look and act while consuming. Consumerism only provides the drive to consume and, more abstractly, to consider one’s material possessions as a sign of status, worth and even purpose. The lack of desire to look at social or personal problems is strengthened by the fact that becoming “successful”- and thus being able to consume more- entails supporting the capital-democratic system that makes “success” possible. Any criticism of this system becomes near-impossible because it turns into a criticism of one’s own sense of self. This is why many deluded working class fools treat capital-democracy as nothing less than a religion, in the hopes of some day becoming one of its priests.
The end result of all these attempts to collapse the individual into his little personal bubble is that the individual becomes obsessed about himself and gives up being concerned or acting on anything around him. He enters into a “I can’t change anything but myself” mindset and belittles other people for being “losers” or “wasting their time.” They obsess about becoming powerful and controlling some grandiose metaphysical state of being, and neglect their actual physical and social environment.
Of course, ego-centric collapse is not the only form of social control. Another major one is the manichean worldview, that is to say, “us” versus “them.” By getting the individual to identify with a group, and hate its enemies, the leaders of that group can direct people’s beliefs and energies for their own interests. This is an obvious mechanism.
But the two mechanisms are actually related. The desired result of the “us” versus “them” mechanism is that the “us” becomes part of the person’s identity. If that is accomplished, then any ego-centric collapse will include these “us” identities as well. So that, for instance, a person who is both a Christian and identifies as American will collapse into, say, a belief that the United States must follow God’s laws. Or a New Ager who identifies as a woman may argue that women should “think positive” in order to progress and never dwell on the shortcomings of prominent female figures or feminist agendas. You get the idea.
This relationship between both mechanism extends the reach of social control. It is not only that the individual is collapsed into himself, but also that he wishes all of his society, or other group, to collapse into itself too, just like him! In essence, the group is now part to his ego, and when he collapses into his ego he is psychologically including the group in that process.
But, even though it does, superficially, involve people other than the individual himself (although he does not see them as individuals in their own rights), it still does not permit any awareness of social or personal problems. Remember that according to these ideologies, the individual is directly and personally responsible for everything that happens to him. No matter what solution is proposed, it entails cajoling or coercing individuals into falling in line, just like the individual is coercing himself to fall into line. The way they treat others is merely the equivalent of the way they want to treat themselves. Because he has repressed his true self, he seeks to repress all other true selves.
Because everyone is responsible for what happens to them, according to this ideology, oppressed people deserve to be oppressed and have brought it down upon themselves, which in practice means that the weak deserve to be beaten down. This ties back to the “might makes right” principle, and can only lead to the deep and rapid degeneration of a society. Poor people deserve to be poor, jailed people deserve to be in jail, sick people deserve to be sick, depressed people deserve to be depressed, and so on.
But if we apply this to all social problems, we can only come to the conclusion that there is in fact no such thing as a social problem, only defective people who may even be conspiring to keep society down so they can take advantage of the services given to them for their ills, once again a conservative principle. The obvious solution is to keep those people out of our society, or to punish them for daring to be weak. So you get the insanity in our society of punishing the weak for daring to be weak.
“Illegal immigration” is a great example of this: destitute people, who have no power, are said to be so powerful that they can hurt the economy of a whole country, and thus are very dangerous and must be punished. But it is clear to anyone who has the real power to hurt the economy, and does so on a daily basis. It is not a migrant labourer from Jalisco state that has that power. Forget that nonsense!
So the result of indoctrinating people with this combination of ego-centric collapse and the manichean worldview is that we reject the notion that social change is necessary to deal with social problems, and we keep reducing the issue to an individual one. Either it is an individual crime or an individual need. Democracy and capitalism can never be blamed, for they are the untouchable dogmas through which one hopes to be successful.
I also think that this has a lot to do with why people are suspicious of individuals who do not display a lot of emotion. I suppose individuals who do display a lot of emotion may be assumed to be more self-absorbed, and by extension more centered on their ego and more likely to be followers. Likewise, there may be a tendency to try to make children more self-absorbed and less concerned with others, at least when we look at schools which force children to deal with counselors after any tragedy or crisis, which must surely ego-collapse children to a certain degree.
The 9/11 events have also been a great occasion for the media to absorb people into the past. It seems to me that harping on tragedies long after the emotional impact is gone must serve some function of ego-collapse as well. After all, it is true that people who are collapsed on themselves do have that tendency to harp on the past. It’s not healthy for the individual and I don’t imagine it’s healthy for a society either.