Do you know what I love about Toastmasters meetings? I love how you can always guarantee to hear someone say something interesting. I guess, this guarantee adheres to a simple theory related to group dynamics. A room filled with over 30 individuals is bound to have someone in it who is capable of saying something worth noting. Yesterday’s meeting at Amman International Toastmasters Club did not fail to confirm this theory to me, as I heard in it one speech that really got me thinking.
The speech was titled “Brainwashed” and was given by a new member in the club named Oje. For around seven minutes, Oje described how certain people in his life had unintentionally brainwashed him to adopt certain beliefs about money, life, abilities, and mainly one’s place in the society. He described how his mother used to say to him that certain things were for certain people and that they cannot afford them. He also spoke about his grandfather who told him that making money was hard. Then he spoke about several other incidents including his family, the priest in his community, and others that all revolve around this same idea of brainwashing or social conditioning. According to him, society basically influences our beliefs and especially those beliefs related to what we can or cannot do. The take home message from his talk was that such statements are false and that one should re-program his or her thinking to move from the mindset of “I can’t” to the mindset of “How can I.” You can get the gist of it, basically one should stop being brainwashed.
All Images are taken from AITC Toastmasters club
After that speech, I went home thinking about this idea and I realized that it does hit close to home. In our society, we do grow up hearing statements that may leave us brainwashed or pre-conditioned to believe certain things about life. We hear things about what career a girl can or cannot pursue and this fact leaves us brainwashed when we set out to choose a career. For example, many of us probably heard that studying medicine is not a good idea for girls, and that the girls who do study medicine end up single. Men in our society are often told that they need to buy property by the time you hit their mid-thirties. This statement usually comes with its twin statement that says that “In Jordan, you will never save money, and that you need to go to the Gulf to do that.”
We even hear more statements that affect how we evaluate others. These statements usually equate goodness with religion where all religious men and women are good and all atheists are bad. All religious people “fear God” so this automatically means that they won’t hurt others, while all atheists fear no one so they have no ethics. All these generalizations fall under the general stereotype that states that one’s level of goodness is directly proportional to his or her level of religious practice.
These Images are taken from AITC Toastmasters club
So, I can’t help but wonder what the deal is with those religious people who do hurt others, stab others in the back, or even steal money from others. And, what about the atheists who do good work for the community and who are involved in charities. What about the happily married female doctors, or the men and women who did become rich in Jordan. How did they do that? Because, according to our constant social conditioning they can’t be capable of doing or being any of the above.
Without us even realizing it, such statements infect our lives from a young age, so that we make excuses for the people who did not adhere to the social bounders our generations of brainwashing have set up. We say things like “The people who became rich in Jordan got lucky.” “. In our state of pre-conditioned thought we forget that not everyone who prays is good and not everyone who fears God is someone who refrains from hurting others. We forget that not everyone who drinks is bad and not everyone who made money did so because they were lucky, or because they had inherited a fortune.
Maybe, as this speaker said, we should pause and think about these things. After all, living in generalizations may limit our ambitions, dreams, hopes, and our possibilities. If we all believe a career in medicine is not good for a girl, then many ambitious girls would end up not following their true passions. If we all assume that everyone who is religious is good, then our disappointment would be too great when someone who prays behaves in a not so good way with us. If we believe we won’t be rich in Jordan, then we will only strive to be average.
Maybe we should wash our brains from all the social conditioning of past generations and maybe we should start to honestly believe that anything is possible and anyone should be given a chance. Maybe then, we can realize our true potentials.
All Images are taken from AITC Toastmasters club