What you can’t expect from your government

We cannot expect a government to say to children: “You are going to have a life in a world full of mass movements, both religious and political, mass ideas, mass cultures (..). You are going to be pressured through all you life to join mass movements, and if you can resist this, you will be, every day, under pressure from various types of groups, often of your closest friends, to conform to them.

It will seem many times in you life that there is no point in holding out against these pressure, that you are not strong enough. But you are going to be taught how to examine these mass ideas, these apparently irresistible pressures, taught how to think for yourself, and to choose for yourself.

You will be taught to read history, so as to learn how short-lived ideas are, how apparently the most irresistible and persuasive ideas can, and do, vanish overnight.

You will be taught how to read literature, which is the study of mankind itself, as so to understand the development of people and peoples. Literature is a branch of anthropology, a branch of history: and we will make sure that you will know how to judge an idea from the point of view of long-term human memory (..).

To these studies will be added those new branches of information, the sciences of psychology, social psychology, sociology and so on, so that you may understand your own behavior, and the behavior of the group which will be, all your life, both your comfort and your enemy, both your support and your greatest temptation, since to disagree with your friends — you group animal — will always be painful.

You will be taught that no matter how much you have to conform outwardly — because the world you are going to live in often punishes unconformity with death — to keep your own being alive inwardly, your own judgment, your own thought…”

Doris Lessing, “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside”