Hubris. A great and interesting human capacity we all share (and that I’ve spoken about before here) that is responsible for 94% of all downfalls.*
And one of the ‘best’ hubristic follies we pursue is the belief that “I’m not human.” Not literally – at least, usually not literally – but more along this flavour: “Other people might be tricked, or swindled, or taken in, but I can’t be. Other people might be susceptible to advertising, or social media, or disinformation campaigns, or the addictive ways companies manipulate the base of our brain stem, but not me. I’m too smart/careful/clever/advanced/enlightened for that. I’m better than them.”**
Of course, that is not only not true, but that very arrogant certainly makes us all the more susceptible to all of that… because when we’re certain it can’t/won’t be happening to us we are totally not present and miss all the signs that it is indeed happening, or, even better, that would warn us away before it starts.
It’s like one of my former roomates, who prided themselves on being a pretty good manipulator. Putting aside the oddity of being proud about that kind of thing, the ‘joke’ was that instead, they themselves were often manipulated. And they didn’t realize it. To someone more skilled at manipulation (again, not something to be proud of) they were an easy target, and someone aware of their manipulative attempts could diffuse it to no advantage, again without them realizing it. Like my theory of the Tai Chi Push Hands Skill Differential Exponential Experience Factor, all that bluster of certainty only got them into way more trouble than they could feel. They found themselves on the floor without even realizing they were there, let alone how they got there.
We are bombarded with missives and messages every day, both genuine and manipulative. And for the latter, both directly with unscrupulous intent and indirectly through algorithmic chicanery that is designed only to hook our limbic brain and keep our attention hooked (for the purposes of making money). And through this time of shelter in place we’re even more exposed. To walk blindly forward like we are an unassailable fortress is just inviting all sorts of opportunities to render ourselves fools (and to maybe let the whole world know it). Just like “I am human, therefore I have biases”, “I am human, therefore I am capable of being tricked, hoodwinked, and hijacked to ill intent.”
By keeping ourselves mindful and cautious, we can avoid being hooked, avoid spreading it far and wide, avoid harming ourselves and our wellbeing (financial, emotional, relatedness, etc), and avoid destroying the very structures, institutions, communities, and families we hold dear.
* Note, not a real statistic, but that doesn’t necessarily make the notion entirely untrue…
** Where ‘them’ in this sense is used pejoratively.