Brainwashing is a major moral dilemma, and is an issue that needs to be explored deeper. In the short film California Reich (which is often shown in many introductory psychology classes), this issue is dealt with fervently. It is often implied in both macrocosms and microcosms of society that brainwashing is a negative psychological experience. More specifically, the brainwashing that is evident in this film is very much negative. Ultimately, brainwashing in any shape or form (some of which will be mentioned later in this article) is a problem. As human beings, we should have the right (no matter where we are) to think for ourselves and conclude on what we want to believe, and should never force anyone to think how we do; even if we feel deep in our hearts that what we know is true.
It is important for good critical thinkers to empathize with other cultures, religions, and viewpoints all around. In many ways, I feel as a whole prior classes I have been in did not look to empathize with the mother (and other family members) in the film because what they heard from her were hate filled words that ultimately seemed like she was trying to manipulate her son into thinking in the same way as herself. For those unaware of this film, the particular scene I am referencing is one where a white-supremisist mother is discussing with her son and family their blatent racism and prejudice against black people.
However, while it was obvious that her words were filled with hate, is this the only example and condition in which brainwashing occurs? Is it only brainwashing when a person is being taught hate? Or does brainwashing occur, at least on some level, if something is being taught to a child which many other individuals perform? In light of these questions, I feel it is important for everyone to step back for a moment and empathize with the mother as her culture, potential upbringing, and surroundings could have easily played a role in her brainwashing of her child towards hate-filled ideologies.
I believe it is important for everyone to encourage critical dialogue on this topic (and on any other, for that matter). The primary reason I asked the questions in the previous paragraph are due to my own upbringing (and many other individuals I have known). I grew up in a religious household, and now looking back on my past life I am beginning to wonder, was it brainwashing? According to many definitions of the term "brainwashing", I am compelled to say "yes." It can be defined as such: "The application of a concentrated means of persuasion, such as an advertising campaign or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation" (answers.com/topic/brainwashing). When my parents constantly told me to pray, to read the Bible, to go to church, and so on; it is evident this consistent force of behaviors is indicative of some level of brainwashing behavior.
In the past several years I have been waning from religion to where I am now at a point where I can only conclude that I know nothing. I have made no decision on religion/spirituality, but am searching for answers. I have settled at atheism because I see no concrete evidence of any alternative walks of life. I cannot stress the importance of critical thinking, questioning, listening, and talking with each other enough. It is vital to keep the gateways of communication open between people, even if they do not see eye to eye. In a way, I do not feel brainwashing (especially for adults) would be a very big problem if everyone was actively engaged in a critical thinking process.
Ultimately, in regards to brainwashing, it is important for every individual person to think independently. I am not attempting to write off my childhood religious upbringing necessarily as a bad thing for everyone (or even myself), but I do feel it is important for people to always be asking questions and come to a conclusion for themselves. It is not right for anyone to force their beliefs on another person just because they feel it is the "right" way. That would inherently be walking along the path laid out by Plato in "The Allegory of the Cave." To extend this thought, I have a major problem with parents forcing their belief system on their young, impressionable children. While I can understand why parents do this, and continue to empathize as I am sure most parents are only attempting to give their child the best. However, I feel forcing belief on someone (especially children) is an issue that goes beyond psychology and into realms of philosophy. Returning to the previously mentioned "Allegory of the Cave" one can see how Plato's idea is very fervently similar to the notion of brainwashing.
The enlightened one forced the unenlightened to see their idea of the truth, but by doing so he takes away the freedom for the unenlightened one to make a decision for himself. We can empathize with the situation of both individuals in this scenario very easily, which is why the "Allegory" still remains a heated topic of controversial discussion in many philosophy courses. How we come to "know" the truth is ultimately the topic for discussion, because pure truth seemingly does not exist with many topics of philosophical and spiritual discussion. Truth is often subjective, so to force a subjective truth on another individual leads to undeniable concerns related to human rights. The nature of philosophy itself is to consistently ask questions, so to consider that one viewpoint is any better than another; especially without substantial and extraordinary evidence in many cases, is simply fallicious. If parents are teaching their children anything spiritual or philosophical, they should attempt to show their children many different viewpoints and never force one on their impressionable minds. Thinking independently allows each individual to come to their own conclusions and ultimately feel better about the decisions they make.