If we had a time machine and went back to the birth of a current Fox News conservative and stolen that baby Tea Partier from the hospital and given it to a very liberal family to raise, would that Republican from our time line grow up to be a Democrat in the altered time line?
In other words, are such basic personality traits as conservative and liberal come from being taught, or are they in the genes?
We know things like racism is learned. David McCullough in this new book The Greater Journey talks about Charles Sumner who was studying in Paris in 1838 and encountered some black students. He was surprised that they were treated no differently for their color and they acted and dressed no differently. This made him realize that how Americans treated blacks in America and how they acted were due to the education of each.
We know that religion is learned. It’s amazing that so many people stake so much importance on something they received from the randomness of birth. Any child moved from one culture to another will grow up believing whatever religion they are taught. In fact, nearly everything one believes comes from what one is taught. And few people challenge the beliefs of their childhood.
You would think that people would grow up, go off to college, examine all the beliefs from around the world and then pick out the ones they like best. That usually doesn’t happen.
Then we have biology. What aspects of our personality come hardwired? A large part of sexuality for one thing, but not all of it. It’s rather amusing that some people believe that homosexuality is something taught and when they assume their religion is immutable. Training a gay guy to be sexually attracted to women is as likely training a horny male heterosexual teen not to think of naked women. Most sexual beliefs are hard wired. Sure, certain kinks in the drive can be trained by society, but if you’re a guy obsessed with T&A or a gal who falls for alpha males, you’re pretty much born with it.
Interesting enough, your attitudes about sexual morality can be trained. We know this several ways. Adults change their attitudes all the time with training, but we also know people raised in different parts of the world have different attitudes about sex. We also know if we transplant children from one culture to another their attitudes will change. Attitudes towards gays have significantly changed in recent decades because of social education.
Once you realize that the beliefs you hold most dear are taught to you then you can free yourself of cultural programming and start to reprogram yourself.
When I was a teen I realized I ate what I ate because that’s how I was raised. As an experiment I became a vegetarian. When I was very young, before I was a teen, my mother tried hard to make me religious, and my Air Force dad tried hard to make me a pro-military Republican. I tried to be what they wanted, but then I read too many books and realized I could be what I wanted.
If you hate blacks and gays, it’s because you were trained to hate them. If you see all kinds of sins in the world, it’s because you were trained to see them. Anyone who wants to be truly free must examine where their beliefs come from.
I recently read Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne, about the Comanche Indians. The Comanches like to take captives. They would torture and kill adult male enemies, and they would rape and enslave grown women, but they would raise captive children like their own, even if they were white, black, from another Indian tribe or any other race. Captive children who grew up with the Comanches often loved their new way of life and would do anything not to be recaptured. The most famous of these was Cynthia Ann Parker. This really illustrates just how much of our beliefs are taught to us. And it showed how smart the Comanches were because they knew they couldn’t retrain adults.
Religion, eating habits, philosophical beliefs, sexual morality, passions, hatreds, xenophobia – all are not relevant to the facts of reality. They are clothes you can dress up in and change just as easily. What’s important are to learn what’s real – aspects of reality that doesn’t change.
Too many people are looking at the 2012 political campaigns not because of what’s real, but because of things they were taught to believe.
Just remember, if you were taught to believe something, you could have been taught to believe something else. If you are a Christian, you could have just as easily been a Muslim if you were born in a different location on our globe. What’s truly valuable is what’s true no matter when or where you are born, and the same truth applies to all people.
JWH – 9/5/11