Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Non-thought of Received Ideas

John Taylor Gatto once pointed out "what the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called the non-thought of received ideas."1 I've thought about this phrase considerably in the years since I first read about it. In this age of information excess, even our ideas are not our own.

It is evident that American attitudes toward politics and the principles of American Democracy are derived primarily from Television and Internet sources, mostly crafted at the hands of PR specialists or pundits who recycle the traditional party lines of major political or social groups of the day.

We wear other people's opinions like we wear fashion. While it's possible to feel strongly about such opinions, feelings do not make them ours. We must understand not only what we believe, but why. We own ideas through the process of thinking - even when those ideas originate somewhere else or coincide with the ideas of some other person.

Do we hold principles because of tradition? Because we "identify" with them? Because they resonate with us? Then we are a part of the non-thought of received ideas, simple threads in the tapestry of our culture.

Are we Free if we can't think for ourselves? Then what does it take to become Free?

The tiers of Liberty are independence, choice, and awareness. More on those later.



1. What Really Matters, by John Taylor Gatto, published in Natural Life Magazine, November/December 1994.

1 comment:

Jodi said...

Remember this quote? "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
- Thomas Jefferson