Bookcase: “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside” Doris Lessing on Fighting Groupthink

Doris Lessing with 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature (IBI Times)

This post follows up on my last post about Doris Lessing’s treatise against groupthink.   It also follows up on my previous list of recommended books.  I chose them (and there will be more!) to help us “piece together what exactly is going on in our brains and in our relationships that seem to be producing the delusional state our society is in.”

It’s critical that we stand athwart the march to groupthink and shout “Stop!”  The more of us who do this as individuals, the better.  And in fact, Lessing noted that it is the Individual — not the group — who changes history.  Here is a wonderful quote in which Lessing expects that systems allowing independent thought will win in the end over those who don’t — because of the power of the individual over the group:

“In the long term, I think the race will go to the democracies, the flexible societies.  I know that if one looks around the world at the moment, this may seem a rather over-optimistic view . . .  But is it my belief that it is always the individual, in the long run, who will set the tone, provide the real development in a society.

Looking back, I see what a great influence an individual may have, even an apparently obscure person, living a small, quiet life.  It is individuals who change societies, give birth to ideas, who, standing out against tides of opinion, and change them. This is as true in open societies as it is in oppressive societies, but of course the casualty rate in the closed societies is higher.  Everything that has ever happened to me has taught me to value the individual, the person who cultivates and preserves her or his own ways of thinking, who stands out against group thinking, group pressures.  Or who, conforming no more than is necessary to group pressures, quietly preserves individual thinking and development. . . .

“It is my belief that an intelligent and forward-looking society would do everything possible to produce such individuals, instead of, as happens very often, suppressing them.  But if governments, if cultures, don’t encourage their production, then individuals and groups can and should.”

You’ll find so much to think about in this little 77-page guidebook about why we must oppose groupthink.  Lessing writes about how brainwashing works.  She is astonished that there is virtually no information available to the public and schools about the mechanics of group psychology — to help us build awareness of how it works within us.  She concludes the reason is that it’s the sort of knowledge that would make it more difficult for elites to gain mass compliance.

I’ll end on a very politically incorrect quote from Lessing’s words, which she wrote 30 years ago:

“ . . . we are living in a time when the great over-simplifiers are very powerful – Communism, fundamentalist Islam.”

Order “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside” by midnight tonight!

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