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20220409 – Collective Illusions




This book is about conformity and the human tendency to comply with authority in fear of short-term punishment even at the cost of losing long-term benefits. The idea is to look at the process of such compliance that usually includes lying, accommodation to dominant ideas and powerful leaders even if one does not believe these ideas and despises these leaders. The author also suggests using some specific tools to overcome this problem. These include asking questions such as “why we do it this way?” and rejecting living by the lie. Finally, the essential tool in overcoming illusions is maintaining congruence of one’s personality, actions, and behavior.    



Everything here is pretty much nice, meaningful, and even somewhat helpful, especially concerning empirical research results. It would be wonderful if “the living in truth” would not be so detrimental to one’s health in typical situations of totalitarian societies like the USSR and even semi-totalitarian groups as American Academy today. People read Solzhenitsyn and have no clue how unusual is his case, not because he was a great writer, but because he survived. The noncompliance with dominant opinions and behaviors always has a cost, which could be very steep. If one to survive, it is essential to keep the balance between maintaining congruence of one’s personality and continuing existence of one’s body. It is not for nothing that the same people that were heroic revolutionaries before the Russian revolution when they were fighting czar’s political police – Okhranka became scared and highly compliant non-heroes with Stalin’s NKVD. It was not easy, but it was heroic to go on hunger strike when newspapers promoted, and many people admired one’s heroism. And the hunger strike is entirely different thing when nobody cares about it, while one is already starving to death anyway. In short, always consider the price and your readiness to pay it.     

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