A blog of endless curiosity
I’ve been chatting with people this week about North Korea, for obvious reasons. Mostly we’ve been discussing the massive impact indoctrination into such a rigid and insular society would have on a psyche. Specifically I’ve been wondering what would happen if someone who had grown up in North Korea were magically transported by wormhole into any other place in the world. Culture shock, obviously, and a huge challenge to some deeply ingrained beliefs. And if they spent enough time in other societies and their understandings changed, would the breaking of indoctrination break a person?
So this is what I’ve been thinking about, and I’ve been wondering if the capability of humans to believe two opposing things simultaneously would be an element which would assist adaptation in this instance. It’s obviously not easy to have a belief challenged if it makes up a large percentage of your identity. It requires deep thought and a restructuring of your understanding about the world. But humans seem to be able to believe two opposing things to be true at the same time (whilst also seeming to find it necessary to think in binaries!). My dad, for example, loves the work of Richard Dawkins, and quotes it triumphantly at us when we’re discussing religion, to all intensive purposes identifies as an atheist, but still also seems to believe in God.
Paradoxes are everywhere. Small children will tell you, “It’s opposite day”, but should this be true, logic suggests that by saying so the child must mean it is a normal day. And there’s that famous cat in the box which is alive and dead simultaneously. (There’s a great list of paradoxes here). So does this ability create enough flexibility in our perception of reality to enable us to make a less traumatic leap from one set of beliefs to ones which are almost entirely opposite?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you’ve had an experience like this where you’ve had a belief challenged and have eventually come to believe something else to be true, but during the transition have held both to be simultaneously true? Or even if you currently hold paradoxical beliefs?
Also, if you’re at all interested in what’s happening in North Korea in terms of what’s driving their actions, what the possibilities for conflict are, and what uses posturing has on the international stage, check out ForeignPolicy.com here.
-Keep calm and believe in paradoxes! DS