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Why Do We Just Accept Things?

January 31, 2011

A couple days ago, I came across the photo below, taken from a wall in New York City. Under it was the caption, “Think about it, if only for a second.” So I did.

Photo by Andy Asimakis (2011)

I thought about it for several seconds. Then I went back to the photo and thought about it some more.

The things that we human beings will accept are absolutely amazing. On many occasions, large groups of people have managed to accept things that make people today think they must have been stupid or cowards. And people today accept things that, in the future, our descendants will probably regard the same way.

Acceptance is not all bad, of course. The world isn’t all roses and sunshine; humans do need to adapt, and before that can happen, we need to accept and absorb what is around us. No doubt, there have been some humans who had too much of a tendency to not accept the things around them, and they probably didn’t make much of a contribution to our gene pool.

But when it comes to our social environment, over-acceptingness can be a major point of weakness, and even a fatal flaw. “Doormat” is a pretty apt metaphor for one who consistently accepts too much. “Sheep” is another. Vast numbers of people have knowingly been led to horrible fates simply because they nodded their heads and submitted at the wrong moment. Those same people didn’t have much to contribute to the human gene pool.

Even for lesser situations than life-or-death, many people lack some mechanism that allows them to say “No” and to alter things when circumstances become unacceptable. So many times in our lives, especially for those of us in the lower socioeconomic tiers, we just say “Okay” and put up with whatever obstacle or injustice is put in our path.

Higher taxes? “Okay.” Big rent increase? “Okay.” Kicked out of one’s own home? “Okay.” That magic word okay lets us continue on the path of least resistance, even if it leads somewhere worse than the other path, where we’d have to say “No” and maybe fight our way through. Being obedient reduces conflict.

However, being obedient can often amount to surrendering our freedom. That’s what we are doing when someone tries to force something objectionable on us, and we just let it happen. Were we acting freely, we would not allow that objectionable thing, but we instead permit someone else to take control over our behavior. When there is an immediate threat to our safety or our lives, it makes some sense, but it happens much more often than that.

This supine attitude is behind nearly every successful infringement of our freedom. We just try to be good, obedient people, and it can easily result in some person or institution taking advantage of us—just like humans learned long ago to use shouting and the pounding of horse hooves to direct herds of livestock. We assume that the safe option is always the correct one, the option that will preserve our freedom and our security.

That is why we just accept things. Whether by conditioning or some innate quality, we lean toward the option that seems like it will keep us safe and free in the immediate situation, even if it won’t in the long term.

Is there a lesson in this? Maybe. Some people are just inherently cowards, and their responses will always be to accept the immediately safe choice, no matter the long-term consequences. But the majority of people fall somewhere between “coward” and “rebel without a cause,” and their responses can be guided with a little bit of foresight and will power.

Refusing to accept something—that is, resisting—often has the potential to land us in hot water. However, many of us need to learn and understand that taking the chance of landing in hot water is always better than foolishly sitting in warm, comfortable water while it is being boiled. Sometimes the correct option, the one that will keep us safe and free, is to resist.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. anothershamus permalink
    February 1, 2011 01:24

    We are programed by the corporate overlords, listen to these mp3s, One hour total of time well spent, and send TUC radio some cash for producing things like this!

    [audio src="" /]
    [audio src="" /]

  2. February 1, 2011 02:00

    The reasons why people universally tolerate the intolerable is because:

    a) the potential for pain=fear
    b) the potential for state sanctioned pain=fear
    c) resistance against the state without support=(fear+pain)=docile compliance
    d) docile compliance=absence of pain
    e) docile compliance+absence of pain=submission
    f) submission=relative comfort

    Human beings, for lack of a better word, are amazingly adaptable to the most horrendous conditions. Erich Fromm, The Sane Society

  3. February 1, 2011 02:14

    Very well put. Good writing.

  4. Amerikagulag permalink
    February 1, 2011 02:16

    Amerikan sheep will never stand up like Egyptians. They’ much rather watch it all on the television.

    • billy bob permalink
      February 1, 2011 06:46

      It only took egypt 30 years to stand up! Congratulations on getting off your keesters…..but that was the easy part….now y’all have TO DO SOMETHING besides screw up your hell hole even worse…..Call us when you all stop standing there with your hands out begging and no longer accept $1.3 BN in USA aid….in the mean time I’ll get my popcorn and watch the M-E fools and tools on my TV

  5. Amerikagulag permalink
    February 1, 2011 02:18

    Sorry, I should have included Tunesians and Iclanders, Greeks and Irish too. Seems the world is waking up in many corners. But not for the old USofA. They’re still being fed the pablum and bought off with toys and glitter.

    Dissolve the FED

    • February 1, 2011 09:50

      Declaration of Independence, 1776

      “…Prudence indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right; it is their duty to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred honor.”

  6. Ruben permalink
    February 1, 2011 04:36

    Good article. Have you read the following classic?

    Gustav Le Bon — “The Crowd, study of the popular mind”

    free ebook at:

    • February 1, 2011 04:49

      I haven’t read it, but from the summary I read, it looks like it’s worth the time.

  7. George A from Toronto permalink
    February 1, 2011 07:26

    On WRH,it was reported many times that Fluride in the drinking water makes folks DOCILE and Stupid –nice puppies

  8. Dave permalink
    February 1, 2011 07:48

    One of the reasons that we just accept things is fluoride.
    I have a bridge to sell to anyone that believes that the government puts that crap into our water “because they care about our teeth”.
    One of the early uses of fluoridation was to pacify concentration camp inmates, that should tell you something.
    Knowing how Washington works, the ADA (American Dental Association) would bribe congress NOT to put fluoride in the water so they would have more business!.

  9. chairdog permalink
    February 1, 2011 07:49

    I’ve often thought the only thing that will get Americans off of the couches and into the street will be something like what happened in Egypt. They’re less of a TV watching crowd than the US, but they use their Internet. And when the Internet was blocked, were forced to do more than write emails.

    Will it take something similarly drastic to get the American people moving? Should American freedom fighters make TV their first target?

  10. joeglas permalink
    February 1, 2011 08:50

    If anybody needs the pitchfork-and-scenario,its the so-called western democracies,particularily the US, which has been the zionist proxy war machine for decades.Billions for Israel,ditto for Egypt to guard the zionist entity,etc.If the Super Bowl was banned,then we might see mass outrage but as things stand, it looks like the devil has taken the proverbial hindmost and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for the ziozombi masses.

    • February 1, 2011 14:07

      That’s pessimistic but has some basis in truth. The only liberating force that once existed in America was labor unions. Hence the word, ‘once’.

  11. h5mind permalink
    February 1, 2011 11:47

    Don’t forget the always reliable standby of cognitive dissonance, which is the amazing ability to be directly confronted with some unspeakable evil and only manage see a puppy with a bow on its head or even nothing whatsoever..

  12. February 1, 2011 12:01

    They don’t have FLOURIDE in their water!!

  13. February 1, 2011 12:35

    U Sofa! Will you ever get out of it?Or else, just like the gemans you will have to live with guilt and shame of the whole people for half a century.

  14. The Patient One permalink
    February 1, 2011 12:54

    Don’t get mad… Get even :)

  15. ELLE permalink
    February 1, 2011 14:11

    Because we are simply stupid. Stop blaming the fluoride or anything else, we are stupid. Period.

  16. February 1, 2011 15:36

    I can’t believe Mubarak didn’t have floride added to the Egyptian water. I think America is just divided by extreems, and that keeps us from becoming a united protest movement. That’s too bad too because during Bush I was in the anti-war movement and that was a righteous cause, and before the Iraq invasion there were 50 million people all accross the world (including America regardless what the papers said), and that blows away anything the TV constantly reported for tea-party tea-party tea-party Glen Beck tea-party tea-party tea-party Sara Palin tea-party tea-party gatherings. Let’s get organized and stop these illegal wars, or how about we at least write or phone our Senators to voice our disapproval for the Egypt-style Internet kill-switch they are about to vote on. We’ve also got a forecloser crisis being used to prop up banks that should have collapsed, or at least become the people’s bitch for all our tax-dollars shovelled into them. Then there’s the unemployment rate being fixed by rewarding companies for hiring overseas, or the fact that if your under 55 your about to get screwed out of your Social Security. On the one hand Americans can loosse it all in a second and show Egypt how it’s really done. They’re unarmed over there in Egypt, but when you consider how armed and dangerous we are as Americans you can understand the floride. You get Americans as pissed off as Egypt is right now and people will get shot, hopefully the right people. Then again the TV tells me that I shouldn’t expect any Social Security when I’m older so I’m just gonna give up. I’m mad as hell and it’s ok, I’ll just keep on taking it.

  17. James B permalink
    February 1, 2011 18:17

    We live in an age when people think in ways that are “politically correct”. America has lost its critical thinking capacity. The education that most Americans recieve would be appropriately termed “indoctrination” because the reality of history’s impact and lessons have conveniently been omitted from the textbooks and evaporated from the teachers vocabulary.

    I once commented on another board that the day is coming that educating our children how to address and fix the problems of our world today will be tomorrows “domestic terrorist” because to resist the progression that we see and not question it or attempt to prevent it will become a crime against the state.

    You pose a very intelligent question. I only wished more people were so inquisitive.

  18. Tatiana Covington permalink
    February 1, 2011 22:35

    Why? It’s easiest.


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