The one problem with blogs is that we do not revise and correct what we write. An idea comes into our head, and we write it down, without being able to correct, revise or find faults with the idea. But then again, that takes a lot of time and perhaps, it is beneficial to not revise so we can gauge the true thinking of those around us since most peoples opinions and ideas are not as well thought out as they should be and blogs act as a meter of mass mentality.
Today I’d like to examine the subject of being institutionalized. Most people associate this word with prisoners who cannot adapt to society since they have become too accustomed to life in jail. In the dictionary, Institutionalized as an adjective is defined as, “Given the character of an institution or incorporated into a structured and usually well-established system.”
Therefore, are not most people inherently institutionalized if they have not spent much time outside of their own city, culture, or nation? It is very difficult for most people to adapt to a new culture and country if they have spent most of their life in only one culture. They are accustomed to the structure and mentality of their native land and therefore, couldn’t we say that this is a limitation which impedes most people from becoming a true intellectual since they can only understand, or see one side?
Perhaps, the most valuable aspect of living abroad is the freedom which comes of breaking out of the institution of our native society. We become too accustomed to the standard and have not even conceived that our standard might not be the most optimal. For example, most people have credit cards and rack up huge debts due to their own greed. Now that President Bush is trying to do away with declaring bankruptcy and perhaps the return of “debtors prison” people are outraged. I do not like this new plan, but shouldn’t people not get themselves too far into debt in the first place due to overuse of the credit card? They should have been aware that credit card interest is exuberant but got themselves into it anyway because it is normal in Western society to have credit cards and they have been institutionalized but cannot see the harm credit cards can cause.
Another example is the war in Iraq. About half of Americans support the war even though the justification for the war was dishonest. The President stated that there might be WMD in Iraq based on information from the CIA. When this proved to be untrue the people still placed their faith in the President and said he simply got bad information. This is very naïve in my opinion and their understanding of just how vast and powerful the CIA is. They should give the CIA more credit and understand that if the CIA wants information they will find it. For something as dire as invading another country the information should be spot on, or “a slam dunk.” Yet even as the justification proved to be untrue, people are so institutionalized which causes too much faith to be put in the President that they will defend his decision when all evidence points to the contrary. Also, the President tried to say that Iraq was tied to Al-Qaeda which has been refuted by top officials and eventually proven false, yet people still hold their faith. The truth is, people must simply guess as to who is telling the truth and neither side really knows and most simply take a leap of faith in believing one side or the other.
A common justification that most of the disillusioned offer is “We have to fight terrorism abroad then fight it at home.” This again is simply repeating a catch-phrase from one they have put all their faith in. In my opinion, it should be restated, “We have to fight poverty abroad, before we have to fight the effects at home.”
For the first time, I saw students in madrassas reading their texts obsessively bowing, becoming brainwashed and indoctrinated with the religious teachings. Instead of bombing these places, assassinating their leaders and so forth, we should help these counties become economically stable so that they can attend state schools and not learn to blow themselves up. Since they have no alternative for schooling, extremist religion has filled this void, and teach these otherwise innocent people to become terrorists. What we are seeing today in the form of terrorism, is in fact the result of western colonialism and the plundering of poor countries for their own benefit. These countries were left impoverished and there is no way for the population to get an education. The extremists have taken advantage of this and have turned these places into terrorist mills.
Yet, the current administration in America has indoctrinated half of the population into believing that we must blow up these places to stop terrorism which is flawed thinking. If I were born in one of these countries, and the only school to attend was an extremist one, then I would have to option but to attend this school in hopes of bettering myself. Then I might get drafted into “terrorism” get killed, and my siblings would then hate America and become terrorists themselves. Why is it that half of America cannot see this? It is because they are institutionalized into putting too much faith in their leaders. They are like children following their teachers who teach bad material. They chant, “Support America!” Yet, what is America? It is supposed to be a democracy where all points of view are welcome and should have room to be debated. What the Bush administration has done is vilify all ideas or information contrary to their agenda. In a way, they resemble communist China in suppressing all other points of view.
America is an ensemble of people from different cultures and different ideas. Bush does not constitute America, he simply has the control of the reigns of power at present. Should all out war come about in America, many will have to fight not because they believe in the cause, but simply because the “institution” called America has declared war, and America being the only institution they know, will have to fight weather it is right or wrong. Living in Vietnam has taught me this lesson. I have learned the history of Vietnam and read from books from both sides. What I learned is that the poor Vietnamese have been conquered so many times throughout history, and kept weak and impoverished by the Chinese and French. Americas involvement is stated that it was fighting “Communism” but most people do not understand what “Communism” is. If one reads the teachings of Ho Chi Minh and take a look at the constitution of Vietnam it is ironic to see that it was modeled after the American one and states that people should be free. From what I have read, Ho Chi Minh was not out to enslave his people but set them free from the foreign invaders, to unify them and make them strong. After the defeat of the colonialist French, Vietnam was supposed to be reunited but America did not want this for fear of “Communism.”
Perhaps, it is true that the political classes and elite in America did have a true fear of communism since it would not come in the form of a big monster or invading forces, but from the people if it were to take hold. The people in America were brainwashed or “institutionalized” to simply see communism as a dirty word. As I examine the political landscape of America and Vietnam, I see America as a place where two competing factions Republicans and Democrats vie for power. Perhaps this keeps a balance and a balance is good, although it is extremely unbalanced at present. In the communist country, only one party holds power and can use it for bad (China, Soviet Union) or good which Vietnam is currently doing in opening their economy. Vietnam still has a long way to go, but does a plurality of political parties, instead of only one ensure a better society and that parties and the people that make up these parties will not abuse power? Is it true two parties are better than only one? There are so many questions and my understanding is still very limited and I can say that I really do not know. I can say however, that a student from any country will believe the teachings of whatever school of thought they come from and therefore become indoctrinated or institutionalized.
Switching gears and going back to the idea of institutionalism, it is very hard to break out of the mold if one has been in it too long. The only way to get out is to travel and live abroad. But still, simply living abroad does not break the bonds of institutionalism. Most ex-pats, simply move abroad, but slip into another institution within the ex-pat community. Most of them have not learned the language which is the door to understanding a culture. They also associate only with other ex-pats and never really come to truly understand their host culture. Most are simply an indoctrinated person who refuses to honestly examine and ponder the teachings in the foreign land. They are like a prisoner who has been released, but still prefers the comfort the walls of prison provide. Without them they feel vulnerable, weak, and exposed. It is the same for people on the extreme right and left in America. They have put their faith in an ideology, and should they even consider the other side, they will feel un-intelligent, weak, and wrong, which humans are not developed enough to tread a path of uncertainty even if it would enlighten them.