Friday, May 20, 2011

Force, coercion and manipulation

In thinking about the idea of forcing people back to heaven, versus inviting or enticing them, I wanted to outline the various ways it could be accomplished. However, before I can begin to talk about how it could be accomplished, I need to outline the ideas and behaviors that would make up such control mechanisms.

What are the various forms of control over people and how are they manifest?

Based in my experience, control can be exercised in one of several ways:

1. Physical force. This would be causing another to engage in a behavior because one party is physically controlling another to do something. An example of this would be if I hold your arm and drag you up the stairs to bed while you are crying because you don't want to go to bed. The circumstances necessary for this kind of control to exist are one party being physically stronger than the party being controlled and the controlled party allowing, to some extent, themselves to be controlled physically (or not being able to understand, willing to obey, things to that point that it would necessitate the control being administered).

My children often either run up the stairs on their own or try to run away from me when they suspect I am getting to the point that I am ready to drag them upstairs to bed. The reality is, however, this kind of force is only necessary (and remotely practicable) when children are large enough to walk on their own but young enough to feel the need to disobey their parents. When children become physically able to resist such force, it usually becomes ineffective.

Physical force is also justified when attempting to correct children because their behavior being engaged in may harm them. Like pulling their hand away from a campfire, for example. Physical force is never justified when it is solely intended to cause injury to another. The only exception to this, in my opinion, is when having some form of injury is risked in order to prevent some other, more severe, injury. For example, pushing someone out of the way of an oncoming car, may result in some injury, but it would be caused in order to prevent being hit by an oncoming car. It is presumed, however, that physical force is rarely justified among persons who have the ability to think and act for themselves because they are not in a state where the care of another is necessary. Children are said to be in the care, custody and control of their parents or guardians. In other words, parents are the only one's who are allowed to utilize physical force for correctional/instructional/disciplinary purposes. I suppose a very long debate could be started over the kinds of physical force that are allowed to take place by parents with their children (or those that have been placed in responsibility for children by their parents), but I am not prepared to try to outline all of that.

2. Threat of physical force or inflicting injury. This would be control that is exercised by threatening that if a particular behavior is not engaged in, then the person fears that they will experience physical pain or injury that will be inflicted by the one exerting the control over another. The circumstances necessary for this kind of control are one party having the physical ability, weapons or resources to carry out this injury or harm to a party that does not have the physical ability, weapons or resources to protect their self.

I do this all the time with my kids. I say, "You better eat your peas or you will get a spanking." I don't really say this, by the way, I only threaten to spank for much more severe disobedience, like talking back.

This is a form of control that is utilized by parents with their children all time, even though we may not be aware of it. The threat of physical injury is a very real concern for little people who are at the mercy of big people around them. Many times parents may be threatening physical injury and not even realize that they are doing it. For example, sometimes, just getting angry, yelling or moving quickly towards a little person can cause the fear of physical injury for the little person and cause them to alter their behavior.

I have even experienced this misunderstood fear on the part of others first hand. I used to live next door to a lady that was kind of paranoid. She was a single, fully grown, woman that lived alone. She lived in a house that overlooked the road leading up to it and she insisted that no plants or fence be placed in her backyard because she always wanted to be able to see the road to make sure her ex-husband wasn't on his way to "get" her. I assume she feared that he would come and inflict physical violence on her - which fear I am not discounting, because apparently when leaving a physically abusive relationship, is when people are at the highest risk of being killed by their abusive partner - however what she did one day did lead me to believe she was kind of paranoid. One day I was working in my yard on a warm sunny day. I had been working on some landscaping for a couple of hours and had gotten some sun. I was red in the face, apparently, and my two year old son wandered over into her back yard (because there was no fence) to chase a cat that was on her back porch. I yelled over to my son to come back over to our side of the property. My son didn't immediately respond so I started to walk over to retrieve him. Eventually he wandered back over to our property and we all continued about our business. The next day the police showed up at our door. They said they had received a complaint from our neighbor who said I was all red in the face in her backyard carrying a shovel and yelling. She was afraid I was digging up, and taking my anger out on, some weeds in her back yard and thought I was coming for her next, I guess (she never pulled her weeds, so I could have easily gotten very upset that I had to look at them all the time). The police said they were sorry to bother us, but said they had to make sure I was not a real threat and get our side of the story. I could not believe that she would call the police on me! Needless to say, we were not on much speaking terms after that.

My neighbor apparently felt threatened by me being red-faced, yelling over to my son and carrying a shovel. I feel bad that some people live in such fear that a slight misunderstanding causes them to feel the need to call the police. I guess I cannot discount people, or their bad experiences with physical harm being inflicted by another, but I do think it can get to a point of being unjustifiably paranoid. This further illustrates that sometimes the threat of harm can be interpreted to one person where no threat to someone else is evident. It makes me wonder what can be done when one party is constantly accusing the other of threatening physical violence when that is not their intent and no physical violence has ever been committed?

Threats of violence as a means to control others can be used by so many different parties in so many situations. It can be used by children against their parents, parents against children, spouses against each other, neighbors against each other, communities and, most visibly, countries against each other. As to the merits of this form of threatening to inflict injury to control others, I am also not prepared to write about that. What I will say, however, is that the threat of physical violence as a means to control should diminish as people show that they have no intention, or ability, to carry out the threat.

3. Threatening to inflict physical injury on oneself if a certain behavior is not engaged in. We would say this is pretty foolish because it is based on the assumption that if someone we care about hurts their self the other party will care enough to not let that happen. Sometimes this is a pretty big assumption. Usually when someone hurts their body intentionally, I just laugh. Of course, the laughter becomes more awkward the more it becomes evident they might be causing such injury to their person that it could threaten their life. However, even at that point, I sometimes just can't stop laughing.

On my mission, we were with our zone leaders going to a members house for dinner and, on our way into the house, my zone leaders companion found a fire ant hill. Where I served my mission in south Texas there are a lot of fire ants. We all joked about how these fire ants could literally cause a lot of pain if someone were to be bitten by them. So this Elder says, "I'll stick my arm on the ant hill, and see how long I can keep it there, and see what happens." Of course, after a while, the ants came out and started climbing on his arm and biting him. About 2 or 3 seconds after he put his arm on the ant hill, I started laughing uncontrollably. It turns out, he started to experience an allergic reaction to the ant bites and had to be rushed to the hospital. It was sometime on the way to the hospital that I finally stopped laughing...even though I couldn't help but let out a little chuckle every now and again when I thought about how stupid a move it was that he made.

4. Emotional manipulation. This is when one party attempts to make an appeal to the emotional center (or response) of another person to move them to engage in a behavior. I think forms of emotional manipulation are extremely numerous. Suffice it to say that it involves attempting to arouse an emotion in one party and then telling them that the emotion they are feeling is evidence that they should engage in a certain behavior. Threat of violence and threat of violence to oneself, are forms of emotional manipulation because the fear of harm is the emotion that is utilized to invite a behavior that would otherwise not have been engaged in by the other party.

Aside from fear (which I think is the most common tool of emotional manipulation), other forms of emotional manipulation may involve; security, love, lust, compassion, conformity, sadness, sexual arousal, conviction and dependency.

What I think it all comes down to is everybody is potentially motivated (ergo controlled) by either fear or pleasure. We either fear something bad will happen if we do or don't do something or we do or don't do things because we think it will bring us pleasure.

I wonder which of these methods Satan would have used in his great plan of no-choice to bring us all back into God's presence?

Physical force? At that point we would have basically been robots being physically controlled by another entity. I wonder if we would have ever been able to resist such a force? What would have happened then? Would we eventually become so conditioned in certain behaviors/actions, that the force could eventually stop and we would not be able to act in a manner that worked against the will of the force because it became engrained in our being? A lot like muscle conditioning and ingrained memories allow us to engage in certain behaviors without even thinking about them (like riding a bike, for example). Large elephants can be restrained by a tiny chain that they could easily break. How is this possible, you may ask. Well, it starts when the elephant is a baby and it is chained up. At first the elephant tries to break free, but once it realizes it is of no use, it gives up and never tries to break free again. This is a form of control through conditioning of physical force. That may have been a good plan for us too. Tell us that it isn't possible to break free of a behavior or belief for long enough and, after a while, people will stop trying.

How about the threat of physical force, harm, injury or death? This would be a fear based form of control. We would comply because we would fear death or some other form of physical pain or injury as a consequence. We would be told repeatedly that we should comply or else. We might be subjected to seeing or hearing others having the physical pain or injury inflicted on them so that we become convinced of the power of the controlling entity to administer such a punishment on us. And as long as the controlling entity maintains the power to administer such judgments/punishments, we would remain in compliance because it would remain in our best interests to do so in order to avoid the pain or suffering. I also think this form of control could be very effective on us as human beings.

What about Satan threatening to harm himself if we did not comply? I don't think this form of control would be very effective...if we placed Satan in a position that is equivalent to how most people see him today. However, what if he were promoted to being equivalent in status to a world leader or Jesus? Would we work to avoid allowing pain to come to (or feeling the need to inflict pain on himself) if we highly revered his character? Maybe to a point, but our sympathies, I think, would quickly wane as the threat of harming himself continued. We might get to a point where we would welcome the threat of violence towards himself being carried out so we could be rid of him. This would quickly be seen as selfish and would therefore not be effective for very long. This probably would not be a good form of control for us.

This brings us to emotional manipulation. I believe emotional manipulation would be an excellent form of control to be exercised by Satan to keep us in control. He would constantly be appealing to our emotions to get us to do his will. He would constantly be telling us how the emotional response he just elicited in us was clearly an indicator that we should follow him. He would point out that the emotional response is the ultimate indicator of truth for us and that our emotions should be relied on in every case (that is, as long as they are used in a manner that remains in conformity with his agenda). He would tell us to ignore any emotional response that is received outside of the controlled emotions elicited inside his programming because these are obviously deceptions designed by his enemy to distract us or lead us astray. Any emotional independence would be highly discouraged because emotional dependency would be the only way maintain control. Subjects would be told that within their group is the only place such heart-warming emotions are able to be experienced and that seeking for them outside the group setting is a waste of time because they are never experienced.

The tools of emotional control would also need to be implemented throughout a large group of God's children. For that reason, the emotional control would need to be implemented throughout some sort of organization. A strictly hierarchical organization would likely be utilized. Peer pressure would be used to encourage conformity to the "correctness" of behavior by God's children. People would be told about all the bad things that will happen to them if they ever decided to leave the group, however, since leaving or not participating would simply be absolutely prohibited, these appeals to our emotions elicited when thinking about being separated from the group would be absolutely essential. Basically, no one would be permitted to leave, but they might be made afraid to leave by constantly being reminded about how miserable anyone is that ever decided to leave the group. The reasons for leaving would be considered irrelevant. The misery and, almost certain, loneliness of those that leave the group would be the constant mantra of the believers...err, I mean, subjects.

Of course, as part of that emotional manipulation, fear conditioning would be utilized to try and ingrain a fear of seeking information that originates outside the group-think standards of information. Satan's subjects would be told that to seek information from outside Satan's organization would be tantamount to heresy and would be strictly forbidden. Those enticed by such outside information would quickly be discovered because everyone would be taught to turn in those that are guilty of being exposed to, or searching out, such things. Subjects would be told that all other sources of information originating outside the group are false and are only designed to deceive and misinform. Any possible consideration of such information would quickly be dispelled by accusing the author of the information of attempting to lead others astray.

In addition, emotional control would be exercised by telling us our bodies are something to be ashamed of and that our body represents an enemy to the will of our noble leader. Simply because anything that is not directly controllable through fear or some other form of emotional manipulation (like our body) is a threat to the power of the leader and needs to be quickly put in its place as something to be feared and placed under strict and constant supervision for any deviant behaviors. Deviant behaviors would be quickly made out to be bad, forbidden and quickly dealt with through some form of punishment (or fear of punishment).

Anyway, I think you get the idea of what things would be like if Satan's plan had won the day in the pre-existence and one, or all, of the above forms of control were utilized to keep us in line and force us to return to God's all knowing and all loving presence. Thank goodness Satan is not our ruler and our God today. I can only imagine how terrible the world would be if that were the case.

P.S. My thanks to the Stake Presidents blog for my inspiration on these thoughts found here.

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