Have You Been Brainwashed?

Brainwashing is a term that nowadays gets used a lot, and in a wide variety of contexts. But what does it actually mean?
It was coined for the first time by the journalist Eduard Hunter in 1950 to describe “techniques used by the Chinese communists to subvert the the loyalty of American prisoners captured in Korea […] It involves physical coercion: imprisonment, food and sleep deprivation, and sometimes torture”.
The goal was to get the Americans to a point where they would follow the rules and do as they were told effortlessly, making them more prone to become lasting servants.

Today, fortunately, there’s (still) no major wars going on, nor physical abuses of any kind whatsoever. The brainwashing part, with all the appropriate adjustments, is still there though. Different tools took old practices’ place, reminding us on a daily basis of what, as society’s members, we’re supposed to do. The most abused ones are:

1. Media. TV shows, advertising, radio and magazines among many. What do they have in common? They try to illustrate extreme examples of how our lives should look. 
On one hand, there’s the typical middle-aged man who works at the same job for a lifetime, living paycheck-to-paycheck and below his means for what it seems like eternity. On the other hand, we encounter “role models”, those six-packed dudes who live in mansions with garages full of sports cars and a new wife every now and then. I’m not judging it (even though the latter set-up is a lot more appealing than the first), but it’s another extreme nonetheless. 
Through these frames, society basically tells us that, unlike the poor imprisoned Americans in the 50s, we have a choice. 
Still, we can only pick one lifestyle out of the two described above. 
And, since most of us will never conceive in his/her own mind of the possibility of becoming widely successful in any regard, we’ll settle for the first option, which seems way more doable.

2. Religion. Let’s point it out: I’m Christian, and I’ve decided to become one during a tough period of my life in which I was encountering a lot of bad things all at once. By questioning myself and my whole existence, I felt a need to think about things in perspective and therefore I found myself spending way more time in spiritual activities which helped and still help me out a lot. 
At the same time, I try to maintain my fair dose of objectivity and impartiality, recognizing not only the fact that not everything we were told about religion is morally right(God asking Isaac to sacrifice his son without an apparently worthy motive still doesn’t sound great to me), but also that good deeds, thoughts and intentions can be spreaded out to the world without necessarily going to church every sunday morning. To summarize the latest, you’re not purer or a better son of God just because you‘re a churchgoer.
Finally, I’ve never seen christian parents raising buddhists kids, nor am I sure I will ever see it. Basically, through religion, we are confined by the environments and circumstances we grow up in, and in most cases, we’re therefore not allowed to see “the other side” of things. This severely limits our vision towards the world, and forces us to fit in regardless of our natural tendencies and thinking patterns. Is that brainwashing enough?

3. Education. Beside skills I’ve learned on my own, I also have a 3-year degree. Should anyone compare my degree to that of an high-schooler, there’d be no much difference. Based on a piece of paper, in the current marketplace I’d be just as valuable: the only difference is that my mind is inflated with way more worthless notions about politics and law. 
Education can be a powerful weapon only under specific circumstances: if you want to be a doctor, an engineer, an attorney or an architect, then take that path, no question about it. But other than that, my advice would be that of seeking more practical and valuable education outside of a four-wall room: please don’t enroll into any university program. And if you think that “university makes you smarter”, I’m here to tell you that personal erudition is obsolete and overhyped, and by the way, it doesn’t pay your bills. 
What can you bring to the table? What you’re good at? What can you do that others can’t?
School doesn’t teach you how to bet on your strengths. It doesn’t cater to your specific requests. It just puts you on the same level as your classmates, without taking into consideration a simple and obvious truth: 
we’re all different.

4. Money. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the saying “Money is the root of all evil”. It’s just non-sense. And by the way, I’m nowhere near to “rich”. 
Our world today is filled with ads, commercial breaks and all kinds of you-can’t-miss-out-on-this crap. Their message is always the same: buy, buy, buy
We learn to be consumers before producers; actually, we only learn the former. But the more we buy and base our lives off of material things, the more we get to the conclusion that the satisfaction that stems from having those things doesn’t last for long. Novelty wears off. So we end up feeling miserable and eventually start to despite money.

Money is not the root of all evil, but it can be. 
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can. 
Money doesn’t buy inner peace, but it can. 

Just consider this statistic:
According to multiple studies, about 70% of all lottery winners end up going broke and filing for bankruptcy.

And before anyone starts saying “You see? Money doesn’t buy happiness!” let’s point something out. Money can buy a lot of great stuff: autonomy, freedom, security, to name a few. 
But if your spending habits are not in check, you better be ready for eternal poverty, because you’ll never be rich in any regard. 
Money can buy happiness if you’re self-disciplined enough not to spend every dime you have into worthless and low-ROI stuff. I’m pretty sure that all of those lottery winners spent their money on a nicer house, expensive clothes and a string of other things they would have never had the priviledge to buy with their previous salaries. 
More money, more spending. A recipe for eternal debt. 
In a nutshell, the more you use your money to get into debt, the more you’ll have to work to pay off the debt, and the less freedom and likelihood of ever being financially stable you’ll have. 
On the other hand, if you maintain your basic expenses while simultaneously increasing your economic output, you’ll gain more and more solidity, which will translate into more freedom and less worryness about the future. 
I know it’s easier said than done, but personal finance is definitely a skill worth possessing, and it can make all the difference in the world if properly mastered. 
They don’t teach it in school, though.

Bottom line: question everything. How you spend your time, what you read, the programs you watch, your religion, your beliefs, and everything in between. Assess your whole existence.
Do you feel like a simple cog?
Do you feel like your ability to make a difference has somehow been hindered?
Would you swap your life with someone else’s?

If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of the above, then you may need to change.

Take an honest look at your life and understand where you feel like your thought pattern has been influenced the most. Acknowledge society’s typical behaviors and disassociate yourself from the rest of the pack by making the conscious and deliberate decision to stop feeding false and incorrect beliefs (if you want more practical help, here’s my two cents: stop watching the news). 
Remember that as long as you’re doing what everybody else is doing, you’ll get what everybody else is getting. Use your self-awareness to get out of the so called “rat-race”. Learn to think and speak indipendently and from a place of authenticity. It’s called “your” life for a reason, after all.

The person who asks a question is a fool for a minute, but the person who does not ask is a fool for life.” (Confucius)