Pressure to Conform

Are our peers always a font of wisdom and good advice?

Pressure is defined as force per unit area and when the force from a group, or a group of peers, is directed at a single individual that creates a lot of pressure on the individual. Only the individual is aware of it, whilst each member of the group is oblivious. Their actions are lost in the crowd.

In science peer review is seen as the gold standard. If something has been peer-reviewed it has more kudos. I myself have doubts about this practice because implicit in this process is a normative force for conformity. But it is common and widely accepted practice.

If we don’t like the mores and ethos of a society, we are forced by carrot and stick in the direction of these. That fear of missing out is the stick of exclusion, the carrot is of acceptance and being Kool and the Gang. It is by this simple method that a lot of peer pressure is applied.

We may be largely unaware of our own efforts in getting people to conform and comply. We may be lost in the crowd of people so doing. We may apply the tut-tut-tut machine gun ourselves to anyone who has the audacity to err from the norm.

So here is a very simple question:

Have I ever pressurized anyone to conform?

Why did I do that?

The Age of Vicarious

Rather than living in The Age of Aquarius we are in fact living in The Age of Vicarious. The dawning of this age has been swift and never before have we been able to live our lives so vicariously through the portrayal of the lives of others. We can wait with bated breath for the latest snippet from our favourite celebrity on the internet, we can play games on computers, we can watch people fuck, we can watch “reality” TV and mainline soap opera. We can watch food porn, travel porn and house buying porn. We can stalk our friends on Facebook.

This is where we as a humanity are at, The Age of Vicarious.

This is ersatz, it is not real. But we are so deeply immersed in this that I wonder what it is doing to us. Before long we will have no need for a body, simply a human computer interface which is soft wired into our brains. We can then sit and have endless stuff fed down optical fibres direct into our cortex. We can live entirely vicariously safe in our electronic mobility device, a device which we can operate with our brain alone.

Having cued this up:

What percentage of my life is lived vicariously?

Do I perhaps need to reduce this percentage?

Or is everything just dandy?

Saccharine Mind

“Sodium saccharin (benzoic sulfimide) is an artificial sweetener with effectively no food energy that is about 300–400 times as sweet as sucrose but has a bitter or metallic aftertaste, especially at high concentrations. It is used to sweeten products such as drinks, candies, cookies, and medicines.


Saccharin derives its name from the word “saccharine”, meaning “sugary”. The word saccharine is used figuratively, often in a derogative sense, to describe something “unpleasantly over-polite” or “overly sweet”. Both words are derived from the Greek word σάκχαρον (sakcharon) meaning “gravel”. Related, saccharose is an obsolete name for sucrose (table sugar).”

Saccharine mind is that aspect of mind which is gooey, mushy, overly idealistic and a diversion from reality. It diverts the mind away from what it needs to be looking at and can come with much cooing. It is overly gushing and may ignore any underbelly, any aftertaste. As a rule of thumb people do not want to jolted out of saccharine mind. If you do this you can be seen as a kill-joy, a Grinch or someone who pisses on the fire. The bubble of reverie is burst, and people don’t like this. This is because people often prefer illusion to reality, reality can be inconvenient.

At the moment saccharine mind is being fed here in the UK. There is plenty to feed it; a royal baby, a royal wedding, the London marathon and Prince Charles and the Commonwealth. People are bigging him and Camilla up, to take over. We should all go, “ooh, isn’t it wonderful a new baby.” If you don’t do that you are a spoilsport. People forget that just like any other family, this one too has hardship and conflict. Saccharine mind does not want to see the bigger picture, it likes the gooey, the sweet and the artificial.

It is often an escape from reality, a form of comfort and a diversion. Saccharine mind suggests everything is hunky-dory even when it may not be.

Having cued this up:

Am I prone to saccharine mind?

Do I not like people to burst the bubble of saccharine mind?

If they do this, are they mean and nasty?

Open Minded Quotes

By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.

Richard Dawkins

Beware: open-mindedness will often say, ‘Everything is permissible except a sharp opinion.’

Criss Jami

Always hear others out and remain open-minded; the day you think you know everything is the day you have the most yet to learn.

A.J. Darkholme

The problem with open-mindedness is that it can become empty-mindedness.

Christopher Hitchens

A man who believes everything can be explained by science is just as ignorant as someone who believes everything can be explained by religion.

Zack W. Van

The degree to which your mind is open now will determine the limitations, or lack of them, on your ideas in the future.

Stewart Stafford

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

Albert Einstein

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.

Isaac Asimov

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.

Frank Zappa

It is never too late to give up your prejudices.

Henry David Thoreau

They are ill discoverers that think there is no land when they can see nothing but sea.

Francis Bacon

Science at its best is an open-minded method of inquiry, not a belief system.

Rupert Sheldrake

I have found that children are the most open-minded of all my audiences. They are not set in their ways. They are open to ideas.

Ziggy Marley

How Visionary are You?

Some place value in imagination and vision, others prefer pragmatism and structure. We all have our own self-perception and maybe a self-image. We can have a view of the world which is very self-centred, or we might be much more inclusive. We cannot however share precisely that which occurs in the mind of another. Some are better at big picture thinking than others. And if you look at various training manuals, people might say that vision is important for strategy and planning. But how far does vision go? What might be deemed visionary by some is mundane and next-step to others.

There is a real problem if you see things which others do not as yet see. You can be seen as a dreamer and/or a loony-tune. There are many politicians who might like to deem themselves visionary but who are incremental. If we are striving to be objective, then genuine big-picture vision is needed. That way we see the whole and not just the part, or a microscope view of the part even. It is possible to be very insular yet imagine oneself not to be.

Being visionary can lead directly to termination of life. There is historical precedent for this. Although we might say we need vision, what we mean is something just a little ahead of where we are now. Vision sees interconnectivity in time and space. Strategy may be much more local.

As an exercise in self-perception:

Have a think about people, either living or historical, who you might deem to be visionary.

Now you have some kind of scale, some upper limit. Award the most visionary person a ten out of ten.

Now on this scale of zero to ten, how visionary are you?

How reliable is your self-perception?

Stoner or Head?

Every since I can remember I have been interested in altered states of perception. I figured out at an early age that I had something of an imagination and could run images in my head, in my mind. I tend to visualize as opposed to verbalize. All it took was some seed image and I could then make up visions and pictures. These would be three-dimensional and sometimes more.

When I was a student I first encountered the difference between a stoner and a head. A stoner is someone who wants to escape, get stoned and otherwise fucked up. A head is someone who is experimenting with the experience and investigating it. There are a lot more stoners than heads.

Altered states of perception can come from recreational drugs, prescribed drugs, shamanic drumming, martial arts zones, meditation, chanting, real life danger and quantum mechanics. But dreaming is my very favourite. I can be fully awake when dreaming, conscious of what I am doing and even “think” in the dream. I can get up for a piss and then start the dream back up, reboot it. It is all about the experience. If one lets go of the concrete world, one can have a different experience. But there needs to be control otherwise you will find your self sectioned under the mental health act. One has to know which state one is in, when and for how long.

Experimenting with visualization and altered states enables one to construct visions. One can go places.

Having cued this up:

Do you like to escape or to experience?

Are you a stoner or a head?


Paranoid by Black Sabbath

Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind
people think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time
All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy
Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify

Can you help me occupy my brain?
Oh yeah

I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find
I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind

Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry
Happiness I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal

And so as you hear these words telling you now of my state
I tell you to enjoy life I wish I could but it’s too late