In Joost Meerloo’s analysis of false confessions and totalitarian regimes, The Rape of the Mind, he coins a phrase for the ‘dumbing down’ of critical resistance – menticide. “In the totalitarian regime,” he wrote, “the doubting, inquisitive, and imaginative mind has to be suppressed. The totalitarian slave is only allowed to memorise, to salivate when the bell rings.”
Neolithic man had a similar problem dealing with his livestock. Homo sapiens’ success has relied not insignificantly on cattle – their dairy, meat, leather and manure. Yet the cow’s ancestor, the auroch, was quite a different beast. It was fast, aggressive and dangerous – hardly conducive to be corralled into predictable channels of behaviour. So, about 10,500 years ago, man started to deliberately breed the most docile aurochs for domestication.
The key word here is docile, which comes from the Latin docere, meaning “to teach” (as does, say, ‘doctorate’ and ‘document’). Being docile means being compliant and following commands, which means submitting to a system of thought.
Whereas animals, however, typically need to be bred to have a higher level of reasoning to be taught commands, human beings, already being quite smart, need to be dumbed down. You won’t disobey an order if you lack the cognitive ability to question it. This is particularly pertinent to the smooth running of a modern world system which relies on millions of individual souls, each with their own nuanced life history and perspective, thinking and acting in the same way.
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