A Sideways View · Japan · The Comfort Zone

A Sideways Look At Information Control.

Those of you who have understood the things I spoke about in my series on the subconscious will at least be aware of the secrets that lie behind control.

Whomsoever wishes to control will do so because they know that they are correct. I will explain: someone wishing to control does so because they know no better. Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it? But I assure you, it is not. If a person knows no better, how can they truly know their limitations? Those you can only learn if you are ready and willing to listen to what the world around you is trying to say.

Which cannot happen if you are going to tell them what to do. People who control are by definition, unwilling to listen – and here I am not talking about the commonplace listening abilities: the thumping pop song and the siren call of the confidence trickster. All of those things speak of the things a person is happy to hear; what then of the things they do not find so comfortable to listen to?

The only thing they will listen to that they do not want to hear is the fire alarm. When your stomach feels queasy it is for a good reason: something you ate was not good for you. The reasoning of the ‘comfort zone’ is that anything that upsets you is bad. Shutting up unpleasant noises and unpleasant ideas is entirely reasonable. At least, on the basis of such thinking as this.

There is a problem here, and it is one that is extremely subtle: if the person controlling their environment so that it is comfortable, they might be damaging it for others. Just because it is comfortable for you does not mean it is so for everyone: I am European and I sleep with soft pillows; the Japanese traditionally sleep with wooden ones. I’ve slept on hard surfaces, used hard things to rest my head on – usually when camping – and I can tell you that it’s not as bad as it sounds. For a European to tell the Japanese to use soft pillows would be to impose your own ideas on their own view of comfort.

It’s not a clear cut example, but it was the first that came to mind. Differing eating cultures, such as the Thais, who fry up locusts or something equally inedible. That was something I never quite got used to as a kid; it didn’t trouble the Thais because those that liked them simply enjoyed the crunchiness and the taste – and weren’t troubled by any unpleasant associations in my mind.

I will add that I would happily eat anything else they cook, and I didn’t travel back to Thailand to eat pizzas or to gobble fish and chips. I spent my time enjoying the local delicacies – omitting one dish, as you might imagine.

But there is a point here: the person who controls will do so out of what I have come to call their ‘comfort zone’. That is to say, everything that they feel is nice and that they feel secure with. No doubt for the European this means air conditioning, to keep the temperature at an agreeable level. For me, sleeping without an air conditioner is normal – for any other European who didn’t grow up in a country where the temperature is regularly in the upper nineties Fahrenheit it’s unbearable.

We are all different, we all have different needs and the most human thing anybody can do is to allow the other to meet their needs. This implies two things, firstly that the individual is not going to start controlling the other – and secondly, that they are prepared to accept that others have a voice at all.

It is very easy to say such things and mean them with the fullness of one’s heart. There is often a point at which it stops… and that is where a person begins to control the situation. They will do so because the other makes them feel uncomfortable. Anything is better than feeling uncomfortable, and for them it is quite reasonable – if you accept the physical reaction of one’s stomach as the guide to one’s life. The key issue here is one of awareness. If one feels something to be so repugnant that no person in their sane mind could possibly want this, then it is entirely reasonable to stop them.

Witness my own repugnance at the thought of eating those insects.

This doesn’t mean all Thais eat the things, it does mean that it is part of their culture. It can’t be part of a European culture because you simply don’t get insects that large here. Not at least, outside the zoo.

Thus the quandary: our repugnance is not theirs. Yet one’s own personal repugnances over-rule anybody else because that’s what repugnance is there to do. No thinking, and certainly no consideration required.

The point I want to make here is that there is a world outside the comfort zone, and this is where the problems begin: it’s not a nice journey, and it’s not meant to be. It takes a lot of courage to accept that one is wrong, and that kind of courage is not the kind that sees soldiers going over the top only to be mown down with a machine gun. That kind of courage is what might be called physical courage; it would be vastly more difficult for the soldier at Verdun to accept that the Germans were trying to shoot him for precisely the same reasons that he was trying to kill them. But that is the paradox of war, it is a matter of two cultures that can’t agree that the other has the right to behave as it has done for a millennium.

Accepting that someone else is correct in their thinking is not easy, and it is not meant to be. It implies that you have considered their ways of thinking, and that in and of itself implies that one has considered not just the positive side to one’s own way of thinking, but that which is not so healthy.

That is to say, one has considered why one finds fried locusts repugnant when others are happily munching on them. Not that such a realization tempted me to come close to the things, but it did allow me to accept that they wanted to…

People who control things are not going to have that experience, and they will not have that experience because they have not examined the reasons why they feel repugnance. Nor will they: repugnance is there to keep them safe, isn’t it? And yes, in certain obvious circumstances that is true but the main point of this post is to state that there are clear qualitative differences between a physical repugnance and an emotional one. Nor is it something where one can give clear cut instructions as in the physical realm: our emotional lives – if they exist at all – are uniquely individual and the repugnances equally diverse. The key here is not the diversity, but the ground rules: what you as an individual need in order to feel comfortable and safe, but also to realize that this is a place that exists in order that we might travel outside it. In the way we go to work each morning and return to our lovely cosy homes in the evening, tired and ready for the ultimate in comfort zones, sleep.

And you guessed it, we all need to sleep. Well, at least if we are reasonably healthy.

So what about these people who want to control? All they are saying is that they want to remain inside their comfort zones and not allow anybody else to interfere with them. The problem here is that in not being able to accept anything that does not agree with them implies that anybody who does not agree with them is, by definition, wrong.

Thus they will have every right to correct the other person, because they are inherently wrong.

Note that there is no consideration needed here; the needs of the other are clear cut in that the bearer of the comfort zone is correct and everybody else is wrong. I will not side-track to the nature of power; that would take us too far from the core of this post, and I am a past master at side-tracking in my arguments. The point I wish to establish is that if a person wishes to control the information that others are allowed to see, that, in and of itself will show you the boundaries of their comfort zone.

Take enough time, enough care and consideration in looking at the information they want you to see, and you will be able to compare it with reality. Reality is the same for all of us, where we differ is in how we perceive it. What is relevant here is that we identify our own point of view with regards to the totality that is the reality that surrounds us. Someone who restricts information will cast a shadow, and the shape of that shadow will tell you who they are. In this instance, since their thinking is limited to the two-dimensional, the analogy is exact.

The key to knowing what they want is that they will actually tell you! The snag is that you can only find out by making mistakes, and the art is not to make a mistake that upsets them to the degree that they want to drop bombs on you. Small mistakes will bring minor censure and that censure will tell you where their limitations lie.

That will tell you what they want, it will tell you what pleases them the most. It is why propagandists believe their own propaganda: it is literally what they want to hear. As importantly, everything else is wrong.

If you wanted an essay on how the Japanese have extracted so much technology from the Americans over the years, it is because they worked out what the Americans wanted to hear. Whatever might (or might not be) happening in Japan is to the Japanese propagandist, irrelevant. He knows what pleases the American mind, and he will give it to them.

The brilliance of this move is that the American is so happy with what they hear! They are so happy that they would never in a million years think that they were being told things that they wanted to hear.

After all, aren’t Americans always right? 😉


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