They are the BIG THREE questions we begin to ask in childhood and continue to ask into old age. Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?
Well, perhaps you have made some progress in finding your own answers to these questions, and if so, I congratulate you. It is a tough slog to dig out one’s true identity and to then honor it by bravely embracing it. It is the toughest chore on Earth.
I have no wish to dissuade your answers either. But I do suggest adding one more question to your list. If, after being satisfied with your answers, you find yourself still ill at ease in life, as if something is missing, then ask this: What or who influenced me to be the way I am?
Most of us will initially find a quick answer to that question. We will point to one or both parents, a minister, a teacher, a commanding officer, a kindly relative, or someone else we believe influenced us above everyone else. In most cases, this person or persons will have been role models, mentors, heroes or other inspirational types who urged us to be the best we can be.
But take it one step further with one more question: Were they, were you, brainwashed?
A compelling case for such a scenario was made 15 years ago by a controversial, frustrating, fascinating and provocative BBC documentary entitled, “Century of Self.” And, oh my! If you want to refine your answers, then you gotta’ watch this!
Here’s the synopsis of the Four-Part series as presented by the BBC:
“Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.”
Before you even finish Part One, “Happiness Machines,” you may begin to wonder if your answers to the BIG THREE were written by you, or perhaps by Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, the consummate marketing, public relations and propaganda guru who helped steer his uncle’s theories into the closely controlled, frenzied consumer society of today. In Freud and Bernays time (1920s), various interpretations of their work helped to inspire the rise of the Nazi party, consumerism, the birth of public relations and the infancy of corporations and political institutions as the prime manipulators and puppet masters of public opinion and individual identity. It is easy to see this influence gaining power in today’s society as, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court has come to recognize corporations as people. Later installments will explain how Bernays’ principles reached across time to help Bill Clinton, among others, get elected— and why the gambit is still working today in the moneyed elite’s tightly controlled 2016 presidential primaries across the country.
Here is a quote from Bernays’ book, aptly named, Propaganda:
“THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
“We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.”
One could nearly read that as if Bernays is writing a negative critique of the profession he founded. But he isn’t. He’s stating it as fact and as an introduction for how the elite can jump on his bandwagon to gain further control of people’s minds.
Starting to feel a sudden chill in the ol’ ego?
The only downside I see to the documentary is an absence of any mention of how the world’s various religions follow the same blueprint for establishing “market share.” But I think it’s clear. Churches may or may not follow Divine rules, but for sure they all follow Bernays rules.
So when it comes to finding the self, this is a series worth watching, and to then ask those Big Three questions again in your search for the authentic you. I’m betting your answers will change from what they used to be!
Aho & Namaste,
PS: By the way, I have an idea of who you are, and once you dig down beneath the layers, you may find, and in fact I hope you do find, agreement with me. You are much more and much less than what you think you are!
1.) Here are some earlier thoughts about finding yourself, beginning with enlightenment (blog post, Nov. 13, 2013), walking the warrior’s wheel (post, Dec. 5, 2013), and connecting with Mother Earth. Also, I expanded this essay on my newest blog with a list of suggested activities for how to begin breaking through the propaganda barrier.
2.) Link to the documentary, “Century of Self”: http://freedocumentaries.org/documentary/bbc-the-century-of-the-self-happiness-machines-season-1-episode-1