The Most Important Lesson I Learned While Running A Freethought Foundation

in freethought •  3 years ago  (edited)

8 years ago, this day, I founded Cyprus Freethinkers, a foundation that was aimed to help people think critically. Since then I came to slowly realize one absolute truth about the human condition. This is rather a personal story so take everything with a grain of salt. The point is the message.

At the beginning the nature of the Cyprus Freethinkers (CFT) was aimed to tackle the vices of religion and nationalism since that was the strongest element that seemed to hold the status-quo of my country together. Science was hold as a dear weapon against the two. I shifted the nature of CFT towards that spectrum myself and even appointed some people to help me administer the massive amounts of debates that were generated. I was open to suggestions and recommendations for getting CFT formally organized. This proved to be the biggest mistake, but it was a very rewarding one.

Slowly, it became apparent that religion and nationalism were not the main problem. Instead, It was one simple notion. Groupism. When I realized this, I tried to emphasize the philosophy of individuality, anarchy, liberty and capitalism but even those whom I appointed, seemed to be enjoying the groupie-activism nature that CFT was shaping into. I had no idea that 5 out of 7 admins were coming from the ranks of the country's political left. Slowly they were becoming the exact thing they were fighting.

Due to the nature and history of marxist philosophy, they took neo-atheism way too seriously, and tried to shift the entire nature of the group towards that spectrum, calling it "humanitarianism" (as if everybody else were inhumane). They found some excuses about the nature of "hate speech", formed a coup and tried to take over CFT while I was abroad. They declared that they wanted to form a council with hierarchies, the very thing that we agreed will never happen. A couple of members saw it as an opportunity to awaken a career out of it and thus borrowed the idea of atheism, threw themselves in front of the TV and started playing smart asses in front of old ladies that had one foot inside the grave.

It was my mistake since before I left, I pressured two of them to take my place for the TV appearance. I was not able to make it due to my studies abroad. Instead of atheism being discussed as an anthropological concept, like I advised them, they choose to preach it as an end to itself, while the narrative of "humanism" and cultural marxism were being attached next to it. Surprise, surprise. CFT became the very thing it was supposed to fight. People though were cheering, the numbers of CFT were soaring — much like they were cheering me at the first couple of years. The reason was simple. Most people didn't have the balls to stand for themselves in a country that was heavily religious and nationalistic. [ FYI, I never respected anyone who was cheering for me and rest assured neither is anyone else. The only difference is that they will never tell you.]

I couldn't do much other than slowly get back the group from them and let them go their own way. Perhaps if I was more manipulative and diplomatic I could make a political career out of it as well but that was not never my intention. I am way too blunt for my own good sometimes and I rather prefer to stay this way. I believe that individualism is the first and foremost quality a human should have. I also acknowledge that most people, a solid 90% based on my experience, do not want to take responsibility, do not want to be individuals and rather want to blend in and sway their way through the masses. Fortunes and careers are mainly build on mass stupidity, superficial connections and luck.

I understood that CFT would never gain massive numbers solely relying on the individualist philosophy and that was a good thing. Instead it would gather few people that prefer to stand alone, form opinions and then leave if they saw that there was nothing else to gain. I am pretty happy the course it has taken so far. It has demonstrated that neither religion nor nationalism are the main problems of this world. They never were. The most important hurdle a human is called to overcome is to be able to stand alone, avoiding temptations of "leadership", "fame", "satisfying the masses". All these create the very spine of religion and nationalism. Think about it. A group forms so they can go against another group. A leader is needed to guide a group of people. These notions are obsolete when people stand as individuals.

For those who have been around CFT for while, look back and remember where some "celebrities" of today started, what they took advantage and how the very things they were against turned out to be their greater weapons for their careers. I am not sure yet if honesty, individualism and tough love are the way to go in life even if I chose to honor these qualities myself. If you want to be rich, successful and famous then blend in, lie, manipulate and use the masses in a way they will never understand. It is pretty easy to do if you ask me. Politicians, actors, promoters of "all things nice" and other influencers are doing this everyday and obtain thousands of followers and friends. You rather have to if you want to make it big.

Remember, the more people you have following you the more you have to dilute yourself to satisfy every single one. The more you dilute and over-generalize ,the more you become yet another religion, a dogma that appeals to numbers. Your followers become your fuel and you start treating them like assets so they can maintain your fame.

It all comes down to who one chooses to be. It always reminds the scene from the Matrix, where Cypher chooses to live the dream, munching the juicy stake, instead of going through the harshness of reality. Maybe freethought requires a bit of masochism since groupism does create safe illusions as history has demonstrated plenty of times. Maybe those of us who have chosen that path are comfortable being alone, keeping it real even if it is hard, instead of being nourished by the masses. If anything, take this with you: Trouble begins when people start agreeing with you, not the other way around.

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You are one of my favorite writers and thinkers on Steemit. Always a pleasure to read your stuff. You seem original with your ideas, and don't follow trends.

I have also found similar thoughts.

I've noticed that I often go against whatever group I'm in. I just get surrounded by certain ideas enough to find flaws in them.

That's why I don't really consider myself a libertarian or anything like that, even though it's the closest to my ideas. I just think that even if the ideology is one of individualism, people still become sheep within the movement.

Even libertarianism has its own celebrities that the sheep will follow, and whose phrases and punclines the sheep repeat like parrots.

I doubt all of them have ever really given those catchphrases any substantial thought. Some have, I'm sure. But there are lot of bandwagoners.

And what you wrote is true in politics, as well: this is why politics rarely, if ever work out, since politicians need to please the masses, and that always requires compromising your values and whatnot.

Good post.

Indeed. One more thing I noticed is that people group together because of some other, irrelevant issues that mainly have to do with personal shortcomings. Externalizing and shifting the blame to others is rather easy.

Thank you for your support.

individuality, anarchy, liberty and capitalism

I'm not sure you should include capitalism in that list if you want to avoid groupthink. It seems to me that some aspects of capitalism are as much a choice based on groupthink as some aspects of any other economic model. Let's agree to disagree there, as I am not sure.

I prefer cooperation over competition to achieve goals, yet I instinctively avoid groups where everybody has the same opinion on everything like the plague. This poses some interesting problems for myself I haven't solved yet, in the sense that I like cooperating within a group, but I tend to retreat when such a group becomes overly organised and develops this strange compulsory consensus on everything. It also makes me wonder why I don't see this degeneration of groups in my group of friends or in most engineering project groups I have been involved in, but do see it almost everywhere else.

End of musing, no answers to offer 8-).

And this:

Tribalism leads to the "belief in authority" as @larkenrose calls it. What I wonder is to what extent we can escape our physical nature. We are a tribal, social species. We have evolved as such from the whites of our eyes to our use of language. How do we go beyond our hardware to use new software, new thinking, to support individuality and freedom? At the same time, there is strength in numbers. Forming groups has value in the "wisdom of the crowd" perspective. Consensus has value for peace.

I think it will take something mechanical, change or substitute of our very basic nature to escape from this. For example virtual reality can attain this.

As for consensus I find it silly. Consensus is elaborate democracy. Groups will still follow and either directly or indirectly the stronger groups will coerce the weaker ones.

I also think technology will change us. Some argue it's the technology of fire and cooking which made us human to begin with.

Speaking of technology, the blockchain is, to me, one of the most incredible technologies we've ever created becuase it gives us consensus without gatekeepers or centralized clearing houses. Without consensus, economics and property couldn't exist. As I said, consensus is required for peace. The corrupt, primitive, irrational, tribalistic things people do to manufacture consensus is worthy of ridicule, but not the concept of consensus itself (IMO). There's very little big "T" truth outside of math. Most of what we "know" comes from a collection of stories we tell ourselves and have some level of consensus on (even rules of logic, the meaning of words, etc).

There is value in tribalism. At some point that means tolerance and ingroup given to people who value autonomy as highest ideal, and being intolerant of those who don't. Otherwise there's no point. One simple human ideal to aspire to, with a heroic, classical narrative rather than escaping oppression narrative, whatever imperfect systems best achieve that go from there.

I like the idea of starting a revolution in a small, relatively forgotten and impoverished country, as fantastical as that is. It's better than starting communitarian bunkers from scratch somewhere flashy like America and potentially being seen as the latest Jonestown or become a space to attract drifters, punks, and evaders of the law.