Dec 072017

You will handle the following in your own good way!

In “The Golden Notebook“, author Doris Lessing writes:


“The other thing taught from the start is to distrust one’s own judgement.  Children are taught submission to authority, how to search for other people’s opinions and decisions, and how to quote and comply.

As in the political sphere, the child is taught that he is free, a democrat, with a free will and a free mind, lives in a free country, makes his own decisions.  At the same time he is a prisoner of the assumptions and dogmas of his time, which he does not question, because he has never been told they exist.  By the time a young person has reached the age when he has to choose (we still take it for granted that a choice is inevitable) between the arts, sciences and trades, he often chooses the arts because he feels that here is humanity, freedom, choice.  He does not know that he is already moulded by a system:  he does not know that the choice itself is the result of a false dichotomy rooted in the heart of our culture.  Those who do sense this, and who don’t wish to subject themselves to further moulding, tend to leave, in a half unconscious, instinctive attempt to find work where they won’t be divided against themselves.  With all our institutions, from the police force to academia, from medicine to politics, we give little attention to the people who leave – that process of elimination that goes on all the time and which excludes, very early, those likely to be original and reforming, leaving those attracted to a thing because that is what they are already like.  A young policeman leaves the Force saying he doesn’t like what he has to do.  A young teacher leaves teaching, her idealism snubbed.  This social mechanism goes almost unnoticed – yet it is as powerful as any in keeping our institutions rigid and oppressive.

… .  these are people whose whole education  has been just that – to look outside themselves for their opinions, to adapt themselves to authority figures, to ‘received opinion’ – a marvelously revealing phrase.

It may be that there is no other way of educating people.  Possibly, but I don’t believe it.  In the meantime it would be a help at least  to describe things properly, to call things by their right names.  Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this:

‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated.  We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination.  We are sorry, but it is the best we can do.  What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture.  The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be.  You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors.  It is a self-perpetuating system.  Those of you who are more robust and individual than others, will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself – educating your own judgement.  Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’

… picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag – and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement.  Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty – and vice versa.  Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.   Remember that for all the books we have in print, are as many that have never reached print, have never been written down – even now, in this age of compulsive reverence for the written work, history, even social ethic, are taught by means of stories, and the people who have been conditioned into thinking only in terms of what is written – and unfortunately nearly all the products of our educational system can do no more than this – are missing what is before their eyes.  For storytellers and wise men, black historians, medicine men:  it is a verbal history, still kept safe from the white man and his predations.  Everywhere, if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down.  So never let the printed page be your master.  Above all, you should know that the fact that you have to spend one year, or two years, on one book, or one author means that you are badly taught – you should have been taught to read your way from one sympathy to another, you should be learning to follow your own intuitive feeling about what you need:  that is what you should have been developing, not the way to quote from other people.’


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I thought the above might be helpful in understanding yourself.  From my observations of the world, people are born a certain way – you don’t get to choose which way.  Understand and accept and be grateful for who you are.  As you probably know by now,  you were not made to fit nicely into “the system”.  You could say, “Why me?!  Why couldn’t I have been one of those who is content with sitting in their place, doing what they are told, doing what they are expected to do?”  The answer is that you are strong – physically, mentally and psychologically – for a reason.  You HAVE to be those things in order to stick-handle your way through the game, one foot in the system, the other outside.



  2 Responses to “Children are moulded, “The Golden Notebook”, Doris Lessing”

  1. so lovely (& timely for me!) to have seen this. thanks for posting it!! 🙂

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