Back in 2005 I exercised, for the very first time, my right to vote. It is one of those privileges afforded to me living in a democratic country that I have all too often taken for granted. I didn’t really know what I was doing or why I was voting aside from the fact that my Grandmother had been a long running member of the Labour Party and so it just seemed the logical thing to put my vote that way.
During the 2010 General Election I was in Australia and didn’t feel as though it was important enough to me at the time. Moving on to the 2015 election and my vote for Labour was this time based on Ed Miliband’s promise to improve the standard of Adult Education which was of high importance to me given that that has been my area of work in recent years.
Next we had the Brexit referendum to decide on and my vote to ‘Remain’ was based on meeting an middle aged Austrian woman in a nearby town that I was working in. She was quite distressed by the whole situation and felt as though she was becoming unwelcome in a country that she had lived in for many, many years. Adding to that that I am a big proponent of free movement, it was an all round good choice for me to be a ‘Remainer’.
Politics is something that I had never really taken all that seriously. I have always complained about this, that or the other given that I went through a phase of being somewhat of a conspiracy theorist. My dislike of too much authority gave rise to a solid and unquestioned belief in anything that laid contrary to conventional wisdom.
In the election last year I did something different. My vote was based on a bigger picture on what I thought was best. It was also based on my own individual value system. I voted Conservative. Something that I cannot see changing as a result of having developed more self-awareness in recent times.
Whilst messing about on dating apps I found an high number of females state in their profile such things as “No Brexiteers”, “No Trump supporters” and “No Tories”. Well I didn’t vote Brexit so that was a big ‘phew’ moment, thank heavens. I don’t really follow what goes on with Trump so I can’t really comment. It was the last one that tripped me up. I voted for a Tory government recently.
I was met with a sense of shame. As if I had done something bad. There was a cognitive dissonance going on whereby I wanted to think one thing but instead felt that I should be thinking another. This is a conflict that I have experienced time and again throughout my life and especially in the years that I have been self employed.
Being self employed struck fear right through me because I was all alone in the big wide world to fend for myself. Therefore I had to learn from business books and wealth building principles. I fell in love with personal growth yet there was a nagging socialist residing in my brain telling me that I shouldn’t go for it because rich and successful people are evil and greedy and that capitalism creates poverty.
Of course, I had no evidence of any of this. I still have just a modest understanding of capitalism yet I understand some of the principles that stem from it. The idea is to aim to build a bigger pie so that more people get bigger slices. Yes, capitalism has its faults I am sure. Not everything can be de-regulated to the point where we have anarchy. Yet it was Anarchy that I was after in the first place as a result of my disdain for authority.
I would be making out that I was a socialist whilst learning more and more about the capabilities of humans. And we have this free will and free market to do, to a large extent, what we want to do in life. The problem isn’t the ‘system’, like I had spent so many years thinking. The problem lies in the imdividual not believing in their own potential. Which I completely understand. I’ve been there and am still digging my way out of that bear trap.
In the midst of believing in socialism, whilst harbouring my fantasies of capitalism on the down low, I found myself being drawn towards content that would support that belief. Things like Russell Brand’s ‘Trews’ videos on YouTube for example. Anything I could find that would provide me with information confirming my belief that ‘the system’ screws people over and I was completely hooked. The subjective stranglehold of confirmation bias well and truly at play.
Trying to figure out how I was going to survive in this world by myself meant that I would need to actually learn stuff. I haven’t stopped in the last seven years. It has been very full on and takes up most of my time. At the risk of sounding quite defeatist, I am not entirely sure what I have to show for it. I certainly feel a little wiser and a tad more confident in myself, it has to be said. What has only recently dawned on me, however, is that I was looking for answers so badly that I was learning what to think instead of how to think.
Having immersed myself in critical thinking and objective reasoning lately I am starting to see how I let so much information control my brain without ever questioning any of it. Listening idly to people’s opinions and accepting them as true because either I didn’t know any better or I was too afraid to share my own views. I feared being attacked and put in my place or humiliated in some way.
Therefore I would force myself to think that they were right. My confirmation bias became worse. I have spent so much time watching videos of news interviews, debates and documentaries that are presented with a socialist undercurrent that I have actually become afraid of society in some way. I have become a lot more isolated and reclusive because I fear showing myself and who I really am now that I am becoming more self-aware. I have yet to develop the courage to stand up for who I am.
There seems to be race wars, gender wars, wars between the rich and the poor. Everywhere I was looking I was seeing division. Brexit is another example of division. As a kid I never even noticed a divide of any kind. Even the social circles in school had some kind of respect for one another. There is something deeper at play here I feel.
I don’t think that I am entirely convinced that I have become more isolated and reclusive as a result of seeking out all this footage of division. I think my confirmation bias is seeking out the footage for me. The confirmation bias of that that I am lonely and therefore I need reasons and evidence to back up why I should be feeling lonely.
Loneliness has been something that I have found difficultly to accept of myself given that I often have people around me. I have family and a group of mates as examples. My loneliness stems as a result of feeling different from the people around me. I am surrounded by socialism which isn’t a bad ideology as such, I just don’t resonate with it as much as most people. I once heard a saying or a quote that sometimes the loneliest place can be within a crowd.
My mum once told me that I was the least bigoted person she knew because I grew up with mates that lived in council flats and others that lived in near enough mansions. I never really took any notice of that as a kid. If you were able to play out with me then I couldn’t care less about any of that stuff. There will always be people out there that can frustrate me for whatever reason but I feel that I have only ever had people’s best interests at heart and only ever want for people to see the possibilities within themselves. I have been worried for too long that people won’t see that side of me anymore if they also know that I voted Conservative and endorse capitalism.
For the last week I have stopped watching my favourite TV shows, which are mainly comedies, football and movies. I am gradually limiting the amount of information and distractions that enter my brain as I delve further and further down the rabbit hole that is my mind. As addictive as it is to watch news interviews of politicians, I can’t help but think that it is not doing me any good as the media carries a huge bias and doesn’t present things objectively.
By giving those things up I have certainly noticed a difference in clarity of thought and it is allowing me more time and opportunity to sift through information with a critical eye and attempt separate fact from fiction. This is really improving my anxiety levels no end and I feel that I am beginning to create some kind of order out of the chaos that ensued when I first went self employed.
There are more distractions to give up as I continue to pursue my minimalistic ways and even greater clarity will arise, no doubt. It is one thing to challenge and question the accepted norms of society and to think objectively. It is a whole other thing to question the deep rooted beliefs of one’s own psyche. Therefore it is a great to have some new critical thinking tools at my disposal in order to question their validity.