As an author, artist, and speaker, one of my grandiose ambitions in life is to make some kind of contribution towards making the world a better place. I don’t mean band-aid fixes either. I mean making real systemic changes.
While I have had a fair number of small successes, I have found that making broad changes is vexingly difficult. And so, instead of trying to make change by the standard approaches of offering criticism or new ideas, I am pondering the science of change-ology generally, and here is the big discovery:
The real issue is the prevalence of . . . delusionism.
Delusionism– that is, the terribly common tendency to believe things that just aren’t true– is generally impervious to logic.
One can make all the logical arguments in the world, and they have actually been made, but they all result in the identical feeling-superior-to-those who-disagree-but-nothing-ever-changes result. They are ineffective because we have a delusion that logic is an effective approach to dealing with delusionism.
We all like to think the problem lies in the delusions of others, but with the possible exception of Mr. Spock, every human being is delusional. Using myself as an example, as a child I thought Santa Claus existed and was capable of amazing feats that transcended the laws of physics. You may call that childlike innocence, but it’s not; it’s delusionalism.
And just as we use the delusion of Santa Claus to make kids behave better, adults are quite susceptible to it as well. Many a person has been convicted because a witness was totally convinced they had seen them in their apt that night, when in fact that witness was totally delusional. “Fake News” is all about telling us an appealing delusion that serves the teller’s purpose.
The United States Constitution recognizes delusionalism, and tries to keep us honest by allowing freedom of the press. But it can only do so much. Delusionalism can overwhelm even the best written legal documents.
Delusionalism is rampant and here to stay. It is this inherent flaw in our biological design that we must recognize and be aware of. Merely making contemptous judgements of others in its grasp IS NOT EFFECTIVE if you truly want to make actual changes. In fact, thinking that making logical arguments against their beliefs will be effective is itself delusional. (Although doing so does serve the delusion that one is inherently superior to another group– yet another popular delusion.)
Delusionalism has to be treated like water-born diseases such as cholera. We are all susceptible to it, it can’t be entirely prevented, but we can make sure the water supply is clean enough so it doesn’t get out of hand and destroy us all.
Anyway, if you seek real change, it is my contention that the quickest path forward is to recognize how trauma, fear, ignorance, and anxiety, as well as corruption of social and legal institutions, can exacerbate the tendencies towards delusionalism, the same way contaminated water spreads disease. If you do not reduce delusionism first, all the other tools you have– like, say, logic– simply will not work.
When people are damaged, frightened, lonely, abandoned, or the waterways of their communication get contaminated with vitriol, they start to imagine grandiose alternate realities in order to cope with their actual existence. People who are given too much power can be taken up in grand delusions as well.
Debunking the delusional fantasies of others has proven to be almost totally ineffective, so the fix lies elsewhere, upstream, in the systemic problems that lead to emotional and physical trauma . . . that lead to heightened delusionalism in the first place.
There will always be demagogues, i.e., people who benefit mightily from the delusionalism of others, so like fighting cholera, it will be a long and never-ending battle. But we are suffering from delusionalism on a grand scale here, and if we do not face it and fix it, it will be, as it has been for so many others, the cause of our destruction.