Before Coffee: Programming

April 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

I woke up this morning thinking about a quote I saw on the internet. I don’t know who said it and can’t remember the exact wording, but it’s an idea that I’ve thought about often in the two weeks or so since I first saw it.

It said (more or less) that the first reaction you have to something is how you’re programmed to respond—by society, the media, your parents, the world at large. And that’s sometimes a good thing (i.e., “If there’s a hungry bear, then I should run.”), but most often it’s not. Or, at the very least, it’s not who you truly are. It’s not authentic.

It’s the second reaction—the one you have moments or hours or days later, when you’re kicking yourself and wondering “why did I say that?”—that’s the authentic, non-programmed reaction.

At least, that’s how I interpret the quote I can barely even remember.

It fascinates me, though, and I think it has some merit. I see evidence of it in myself—in my knee-jerk reactions, the things I say without thinking, the thoughts that cross my mind in certain situations. I don’t like these reactions, quips, and thoughts. I feel bad about having or saying them. And I don’t like feeling bad about myself.

But changing the programming isn’t easy, I’ve found. Mostly because I don’t even recognize that I’m programmed most of the time, and I don’t want to recognize it. I want to believe that I’m my own man, self-made and free-thinking.

But I’m increasingly aware that I’m not. I’m trying to be, but I’ve got decades of bad programming to overcome, and new code being input every day. Programming that says I shouldn’t trust those people because of the church they go to. Programming that says I should fear those people because of the color of their skin. Programming that says I shouldn’t vote for that candidate because he isn’t in the right political party. That those people are the way they are because they’re lazy, and those people aren’t having sex the right way, and that those people don’t wear the right clothes, and therefore I should dismiss them, maybe even despise them. That guy there? He’s an asshole. Why? Well, just look at him.

I have to constantly question my first reaction, even if it makes me feel good on some level. Even if I have an excuse, like the older woman who, after I called her on making a racist comment, said, “I’m not racist; it’s just how they are.” And when I said, no, that’s textbook racism, she replied, “Well, I can’t help it. It’s just the way I was raised.”

Our first reaction is how we’re programmed to think. It’s an interesting, and perhaps even frightening, idea. Because if it’s true, then we don’t need the machines to take over and chuck is in the Matrix; we’ve already created it ourselves.






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