In this week’s spotlight I wish to discuss the nature of indoctrination. Webster defines indoctrination this way: the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. Now when I say indoctrination, most people will think of matters religious or political, but I want to extend the conversation to all of those issues that we have culturally inherited.
Think, for example, about your attitude toward animals. Our culture favors some animals over others. For example, dogs, cats, and horses typically escape a turn at the dinner table as the main course, while pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats fail to enjoy the same nonsusceptibility. Ask yourself why? What makes these animals so different?
While our culture has its favorites, other cultures favor different animals. The cow is often worshipped in India, the horse is a dinner treat in much of Europe, dogs are a main course in China, etc. So, the real question is something more specific: What makes an animal special in one culture and dinner in another? In other words, are we somehow willfully blind about the animals we choose to favor and those we choose to abuse?
There are farming methods and killing markets in foreign lands that most Americans find reprehensible. Wet markets in China are just one such example. That said, when you actually see how animals are slaughtered in the States, it’s hard to criticize the slaughtering in other countries.
When we go to the supermarket, we buy packaged meat. It has typically been color enriched so it’s more inviting. We pick it up in a dry cellophane package and never do we see labels on these packages showing the actual animal that died for our diet. Of course, if you were reminded of what you were killing to have dinner, you might hesitate about buying that cut of meat.
When you suggest that vegetarianism and veganism are a healthy alternative to meat eating, any number of people will rush in to challenge you. And when you ask them for hard data to support their claims—invariably their answer is second hand and poorly supported. When you offer the hard data from a number of different studies, they are deaf and fall back on the need for protein.
Well protein is available from a number of sources other than meat but again, most are not aware of that fact. Indeed, here is evidence of just how indoctrinated we may have become. The American Beef Council argues that you’re not a man if you don’t eat beef. We grow up expecting hotdogs and hamburgers as treats at the park or the ballgame. Many I have spoken to have asked simple questions that reveal this problem such as, “But then what do I barbeque on the 4th?”
In other words, our indoctrination regarding just this subject illustrates the extent to which we are influenced. Everything from our recreation to the view we hold of ourselves is shaped by our cultural indoctrination.
Pause, Think, Reconsider
I would suggest that you take a moment every day to examine your own practices and beliefs, and discover just what it is that you know for yourself and separate that from what you have been indoctrinated to accept.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
Thanks for the read,