When I started the A to Z this year I switched my topic from a focused topic to a the far-ranging exploration of thoughts, feelings, and ideas that zip around in my head as something more than a fleeting thought.
I think it is most appropriate to wrap up this a to z writing challenge by looking at a fascination or interest, something for which we feel a zeal, and how a love of something can take over a person and become an evil obsession. How does this happen? What institutions encourage this? Is this transformation that comes from within a person naturally, or one that invades a person from the outside?
As a student of human culture I am intrigued by popular culture and how small group ideas incorporate into the broader culture. My master’s thesis was in this topical area. I looked at how medical institutions incorporated alternative birthing practices into medical birthing centers and delivery suites. My thesis looked at how a behavior, such as home birth, that threatens an established practice can be dissembled and parts of the practice can diffuse the felt need for the subculture practice by placing the most visible parts of the alternative behaviors into the institutional practices. Benefit need not be gained, but it should be believed.
Decades later, I believe I was right. Maternal mortality in the U.S. has risen dramatical from the time I researched and wrote my thesis.
The Centers for Disease Control reported 0.41 deaths per 100,000 legal abortions between 2013–18 and that the maternal mortality rate was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.
Beliefs about life and death are of course fueled by zeal. But Zealotry does not belong here. No one wins through a zealot’s stance. The Zealots of the bible were violent revolutionaries who fought against Roman occupation. Roman governors and army returned and killed the zealots.
So much for zealotry being a strategy for success.
The transformation of passion into intolerance can be invisible to those internal to the process. This relates to self-awareness. Milton Bennett, Ph.D. in a self-published document, later included in E. Dunbar’s edited volume, Indoctrinated to Hate, posits that the conditions for suppression of self-reflexive consciousness are easily manipulated by leader who demand uncritical acquiescence to authority. Any person who has ever taken an Introduction to Psychology course in college knows about how Stanley Milgram’s experiment in the 1950s showed how people can become hateful, punishing beings in a short time span.
It is impossible to argue with any form of “true believers.” Blind obedience is just that. Logic does not enter into the creation of their reality.
All we can do as individuals is support civil governance that excludes forcing belief onto individuals. We can also look for people we know who are zealous and offer them unconditional love so as to counter any other calls to indoctrination they may be experiencing.