The Other Virus: Learned Helplessness

Compliance leading to our downfall.

Reblogged from peckford42.wordpress.com

What is a culture of compliance, and ever-shifting rules, doing to us?

MAY 17, 2021|12:01 AM

PETER VAN BUREN

Why would any American allow the government to deny him a final goodbye to the person who raised him? Why would anyone allow grandma to die untouched in a hospital room without fighting back? In the post-vaccination era, why don’t people remove their masks? Learned helplessness, employed as a control tool.

Learned helplessness is well documented. It takes place when an individual believes he continuously faces a negative, uncontrollable situation and stops trying to improve his circumstances, even when he has the ability to do so. Discovering the loss of control elicits a passive reaction to a harmful situation. Psychologists call this a maladaptive response, characterized by avoidance of challenges and the collapse of problem-solving when obstacles arise. You give up trying to fight back

An example may help: You must keep up with ever-changing mask and other hygiene theater rules, many of which make no sense (mask in the gym, but not the pool; mask when going to the restaurant toilet but not at your table; NYC hotels are closed while Vegas casinos are open; Disney California closed while Disney Florida was open) and comply.

You could push back, but you have been made afraid at a core level (forget about yourself rascal, you’re going to kill grandma if you don’t do what we say) and so you just give in. Once upon a time we were told a vaccine would end it all, yet the restrictions remain largely in place. You’re left believing nothing will fix this. Helpless to resist, you comply, “out of an abundance of caution.”

American psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven Maier created the term “learned helplessness” in 1967. They were studying animal behavior by delivering electric shocks to dogs (it was a simpler time). Dogs who learned they couldn’t escape the shock simply stopped trying, even after the scientists removed a barrier and the dog could have jumped away.

Learned helplessness has three main features: a passive response to trauma, disbelief that trauma can be controlled, and stress.

Example: You are being stalked by a killer disease which often has no outward symptoms. There is nothing you can do but hide inside and buy things from Amazon. The government failed to stop the virus initially, failed to warn you, failed to supply ventilators and PPE gear, and failed to produce a vaccine quickly enough. You may die. You may kill your family members along the way. You have lost your job by government decree and are forced to survive on unemployment and the odd stimulus check—manufactured dependence. It is all very real: WebMD saw a 251 percent increase in searches for anxiety this April.

Americans, with their cult-like devotion to victimhood, are primed for learned helplessness. Your problems are because you’re a POC, or fat, or on some spectrum. You are not responsible, can’t fix something so systemic, and best do what you are told.

The way out is to allow people to make decisions and choices on their own. This therapy is used with victims of learned helplessness such as hostages. During their confinement all the important decisions of their life, and most of the minor ones, were made by their captors. Upon release, many hostages fear things as simple as a meal choice and need to be coaxed out of helplessness one micro-choice at a time.

Example: You cannot choose where to stand, so follow the marks on the floor. Ignore the research saying three feet apart is as useful or useless as six feet apart. Don’t think about why the rules are the same inside a narrow hallway and outsidein the fresh air but don’t apply at all on airplanes.

Kin to learned helplessness are enforcers. Suddenly your waitress transitions from someone serving you into someone ordering you to wear a mask, sit alone, eat outside, etc. Flight attendants morph from delivering drinks to holding the power to have security haul you to jail for unmasking when not actively eating. Companies once run by entrepreneurs are today controlled by the harassment-stalking undead from HR. We’ve become a republic of hall monitors. And there it is. The wrong people are in charge.

One of the better examples of learned helplessness is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a great book made into an impressive movie starring a lean Jack Nicholson. Nurse Ratched cows a group of mentally ill men into complete learned helplessness, encouraging them to rat each other out for small offenses, and to follow her every order no matter how absurd. The kicker comes near the end when we learn all of the men (except Nicholson) are free to leave the hospital at any time. They just…can’t.

It is amazing how fast people stepped into the Nurse Ratched role. Within moments of COVID’s arrival in the national conscience, officials like California’s Gavin Newsom, and New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Bill De Blasio raced to assume fat emergency powers. They spent not one moment assessing the impact of their decisions to lock down against the effects of the lock down. They ignored information questioning the value of lock down. 

They turned topsy-turvy the idea that in a free society the burden of proof is on those who would restrict freedom and not on those who resist such restrictions.

They were aided in manufacturing learned helplessness by the most sophisticated propaganda operation ever created. Already engorged with the coin of three years of fake news, the legacy media saw the value of a new crisis in working toward their two real goals: making as much money as possible garnering clicks, and defeating Donald Trump. Previous shows—Russiagate, with a hat tip to 9/11 when Americans demanded fewer freedoms to feel safer—illustrated the way. On a 24/7 basis Americans were injected with the message: You are helpless and Donald “COVID” Trump will kill you; your only hope is to comply fully with the people at CNN who are administering the electric shocks.

Truth is useless to propagandists, actually a threat. 

Look at what turned out to be false (in addition to Russiagate): We never ran out of ventilators or PPE or nurses or ICU beds or morgues. Masks are not needed outdoors. We did in fact develop a vaccine, several for that matter, in less than a year. Almost everyone who died was elderly or had serious comorbidities (a distinct class) but we salivated over “new case numbers” as the primary metric anyway because they went up so much faster. When people questioned the real-world view against the media portrayal, they were told about “asymptomatic COVID” or shunned as hoaxers. Everyone makes mistakes. But just as with Russiagate, all the media mistakes swung one way.

It worked. Condo boards boarded up their gyms. Restaurants forced diners to eat outside in the rain. Entire industries, such as tourism and hospitality, disappeared overnight. New groups were shoved into poverty and unemployment. Children were denied education, criminals released from jails. People were told not to hug their loved ones or celebrate birthdays or attend church. We were told to fear our neighbors as potential carriers.

Every time dissenting information popped up—Florida opening its beaches for Spring Break, for example—the media rushed in to declare everyone was going to die. Texas was declared dead, South Dakota was declared dead, and Americans believed it all even when reports of survivors started drifting out of Disney World.

Americans are not comfortable accepting that their lives being manipulated at this level, the way for example many Russians assume it to be so. We tend to dismiss such things as conspiracy theories and make an Oliver Stone joke. 

But ask yourself how many of the temporary security and surveillance measures enacted after 9/11 are still controlling our lives almost 20 years later. Is the terror threat still so real the FBI needs to monitor our social media in bulk? Was it ever?

Nothing here is to say vaccines don’t work, or are themselves dangerous. That’s another debate. 

This is about the politics of mass control. Add up the “doesn’t really make sense but we do it anyway” COVID rules and try to make sense of them. Why would otherwise smart leaders implement such rules, for example in New York’s case, purposely impoverishing a city or seeking to defund the police in the midst of triple digit rises in crime? Every time your answer is, “it just doesn’t make sense,” consider a scenario beyond coincidence where it would make sense, however out there that might be. It might be the most important thing you can do.

Then look out the window. Remember “15 days to flatten the curve?” With no voting or debate, a system based on a medical procedure capable of controlling our travel, which businesses we can visit, which hotels we can stay in, what jobswe can hold, what education we can access, at which point it is no more “voluntary” than breathing, was put into place. We no longer need to ask what is going to happen. 

Remember the real question is always why.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi PeopleHooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Perc

Featured image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Genesis 12: The Call of Abram

Earnest Examination

This series is presented as an honest, sincere look into the study of the Bible with my own personal theories, opinions, comments and that of others’ insights and research into what the verses could mean. I cannot claim one way or another that everything that I am stating is fact and the true meaning of what is meant in these verses.

To lay it out in a way that I can manage, I have highlighted the texts of verses that I either don’t understand or have a comment or question about in yellow. And the comments I’ve left beneath it will be of a smaller font and using brown text.

I would love it if you’d join me in this journey and if you have any insights and/or knowledge of these chapters/verses etc., please feel free to share with me and the other readers. Any chance to get a clearer understanding of the Bible and Jesus Christ would be welcomed with open arms.

Version used is from biblestudytools.com (NKJV) Genesis 12

The Call of Abram

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This verse seems like a contradiction to me. First it says that “I will bless those who bless you”, and then, “I will curse him who curses you”, yet in the very next section it states, “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” …Doesn’t the last part of the sentence cancel out the first portion? Unless EVERYONE blesses Abram, then not all of the families on earth will be blessed. So this sounds a little confusing to me.
4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.
6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.
7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

Abram in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.
11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.
12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.
I don’t understand the customs of each nation, but it’s interesting that Abram’s first instinct is that the Egyptians will kill him presumably to steal his wife from him. It’s also interesting to note that Abram is very well aware of his wife’s beauty, and it’s for this reason that he feels as if he would be looked at in hostility by the Egyptians simply for being the husband of a “beautiful” woman.
It’s also very telling that even during the birth of all the nations, that physical looks has so much influence on people’s lives. No one can help how they are born and what physical features they’re born with (or can they…?) so to automatically judge someone based on their looks seems like such a strange concept to me. Of course, if one were inclined to believe that to be born with physical beauty is a ‘blessing from the gods’ or good karma, etc. then I can see why people would feel as if “beautiful” people are blessed – but as we can see in today’s society, this is most certainly NOT TRUE, as even some of the most beautiful people are corrupted to the core. So it all boils down to what is aesthetically pleasing in someone’s eyes, and that they could ultimately care less what kind of personality the person has, as long as they’re beautiful.
This is, of course, not speaking for everyone, but just a mentality that some people hold.

13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”
Was this plan strictly coming from Abram? Was he going with his gut instinct? It seemed to work well, in the end, but it would be nice to know where this intuition came from. A voice outside of his own being? His own conscience? The Lord Himself? Well, it’s probably not the Lord since if it was so, then that would imply that the Lord directly told Abram to lie, and that’s not righteous or holy, correct? God is Truth, so it wouldn’t make sense for Him to guide someone else into lying.
14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.
15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.
16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
Wow, so just because someone’s ‘sibling’ is BEAUTIFUL, they get to be treated like a “king” just to remain in good standing with the person they potentially want to pursue relationships with. Is that really what natural selection dictates? Do we not care what character a person has, but instead put all (most?) of our emphasis on looks?
17 But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
So… I have a bone to pick with our Lord. It is apparent that the Lord can dictate to whom He sends curses and plagues down into. He aimed deliberately for Pharaoh’s kingdom and his house, all because Abram lied to the Pharaoh about Sarai being his sister instead of his wife and that Pharaoh made an honest mistake. According to this account. So here’s the clueless Pharaoh, not even realizing why he’s being plagued (and I’m not stating that the Pharaoh is completely innocent in this dealing, by the way, because like Abram stated, perhaps they really would have killed him if they had known right away that he was Sarai’s husband) and it makes me wonder how much the Pharaoh believes in the same Lord that Abram does.
So my problem with this ordeal is that for God to initiate this very targeted attack on the Pharaoh for picking on His blessed family, it implies that God can do this to whomever He wants, whenever He wants, and for whatever reason He wants. So to still allow incredibly evil acts to run rampant instead of ‘smiting’ or sending down plagues against corrupted individuals, when they do TRULY awful things, is a very severe oversight and the reason for a lot of people not believing in God. I went through this very same phase when I was younger, thinking that if God exists, how could He allow such evil to continue? Of course, we don’t know all the mysteries and plans involved in this strange world and in our lives, and that ‘free will’ plays a huge part in the way our world is run, but for an almighty God to literally send plagues to an Egyptian ruler simply because he was misled in believing that a particular woman is single, meanwhile millions of kids are starving to death and being sold/trafficked to truly horrendous people – the comparison doesn’t even make sense.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?
19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.”

Even though lying is technically wrong, and satan himself is called Father of Lies, I’m wondering if there is truly a distinction between lying to manipulatively deceive someone, and lying for ‘the better good’. Abram’s lie was to protect himself because he knew, somehow, that he would be on the chopping block if the Egyptians realized that he was Sarai’s husband. And in so doing, he was also protecting Sarai from being kidnapped, essentially, to an unknown life that she may not be accustomed to or appreciate. So it does bring up the question if it’s ever okay to lie.
Some people bring up the fact that one of the 10 commandments is “Thou shall not lie”, but that’s not exactly what it says or implies. The actual commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”. Meaning we shouldn’t slander or lie about our neighbor’s (fellow peoples) deeds. However, since Jesus Christ is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, it goes without saying that probably the best way to maintain righteousness is to stay in Truth. After all, if Abram was already being looked out for by God Himself, then Abram very well could have told the truth that he is Sarai’s husband, and no matter what the Egyptians tried to do to him, it wouldn’t pan out for them anyway.

20 So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.

This was a very interesting look into the relationship between God and Abram, and how much the Lord really did to protect Abram and Sarai from possible subjugation of the Egyptians. It does bring up to question though if God still works this way on a personal level like He did back in these biblical times. And if He is working this way, perhaps many of us just don’t know about it.

As usual, I want to reiterate that some of my thoughts and theories may be way off base, and I also research some other things on the side as well to try and get a broader understanding of what I’m reading, so please bear with me, or, even better, if you have insights that bring more light to these verses, please let me know.

I enjoy bouncing off theories and theology off of each other and love to hear other people’s perspectives on things. Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!

Fact checking is extremely important. I want to reiterate not to take everything at face value; no matter what you read, where you read it from, or who you hear it from. And to be clear, do not rely on “fact checking” websites to give you accurate information either. These are just as likely, (if not even more likely…), to feed false information and false debunking accounts to manipulate the reader. Please take everything into consideration before adhering to a certain narrative – and always keep your mind open to other possibilities.

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Featured image by Gnattyone from Pixabay