When I say the average person is a zombie I mean that the majority (greater than 50%) of the population are zombies…they are unaware that they are unaware. I went through a great deal of my life like this, never once questioning where my beliefs and assumptions about the world came from, oh I had ready made rationalizations and justifications for my beliefs, but not once did I stop and examine how I came to have these assumptions about the world and the resultant thoughts, feelings and behaviours that followed. So I am not writing this with any sense of inherent superiority to my fellow human apes. It took a radically life altering experience coupled with an incredibly powerful sense that something wasn’t right to help bring into my awareness the fact that I was completely unaware about all the assumptions and beliefs I held.
So there are two ways of looking at my claim that the majority of people are unaware of their own lack of awareness about their desires, motivations, feelings, and assumptions about the world. The skeptic would have to assert the opposite, that the majority of people are aware that they are unaware…I think this is a much more difficult hypothesis to support and as a corollary that a much more intuitively rational default position is that the majority of people are unaware of their lack of awareness. However, I’ll try and support my case.
If the majority of people were NOT zombies you would expect to see the following:
· Insatiable curiosity about the world
· Insatiable curiosity about the self
· Insatiable curiosity about their relationships and other people
· Recognition of cognitive dissonance as a learning opportunity
· Insatiable curiosity about other world views
· A high degree of psychotherapy would be prevalent, self-knowledge would be a top priority
· Most social conversations would be deeply meaningful and intimate, people would leave conversations feeling empowered and connected
· Consumerism, debt slavery and addiction would be very low as people would be able to balance and understand their life as it connects to deferred vs immediate gratification
· Mob scenes would be almost non-existent (Black Fridays, Political Rallies, Huge Sporting Events etc.) because individuals just wouldn’t get a charge out of losing their individuality.
Now let me address these points one by one:
- I do not see a great deal of curiosity about the world in people I’m surrounded by, most people I see around me consume and regurgitate media.
- Even fewer people are curious about themselves and their motivations and feelings. If you have ever heard someone say, “She made me mad” you are hearing lack of self-awareness.
- People I know in long-term relationships do not exhibit much curiosity about why the same patterns continue over and over again.
- I’ve noticed that most people don’t know what to do with cognitive dissonance. I’ve often experienced telling someone a rational argument or epistemology and you can see that it makes them uncomfortable because they recognize it as true and it conflicts with another belief they have. This is a common occurrence and is actually at the root of learning, but the key is what you do when you experience cognitive dissonance. A zombie addresses it by being dismissive, passive aggressive, judgmental, lashing out with ad hominems, attacking a strawman, evading or a number of other intellectually dishonest means. The living accept uncertainty, remain curious and open to reason and evidence, and ruminate on the matter.
- Maybe I’m going to the wrong places for social conversation, but most of the time I experience conversations about work, weather, physical activity, politics, the news, gossip or sports. I rarely experience intimate conversations, outside close friends, of deep meaning about the joy, sorrow, and suffering someone is experiencing. Never talked about are adverse childhood experiences or the practice of life affirming virtues for example.
Short, R. (1998). Learning in Relationship.
: Learning in Action Technologies, Inc. Bellevue, Washington