"Behind ideological totalism lies the ever-present humant quest for the omnipotent guide — for the supernatural force, political party, philosophical ideas, great leader, or precise science — that will bring ultimate solidarity to all men and eliminate the terror of death and nothingness."
Lawrence is quoting social scientist Robert Jay Lifton here, from his work explaining how Chinese Communists were able to brainwash American prisoners into following their ideology. I'd never heard of Lifton before, and a quick peek at this page has me wanting to read more about him. But that quote in particular has so much packed into it, doesn't it? It seems to apply to much more than just the Orwellian techniques of the Communists. It applies to almost any belief structure that promises solutions in exchange for allegiance. The quote makes me want to look into myself more deeply: am I looking for a superhero? Do I turn my brain off at the promise of "ultimate solidarity?" Certainly I can get excited about movements, philosophies, ideas, leaders.
The word "brainwashing" can be applied too liberally — you can call anyone who believes stuff you don't believe "brainwashed." And some social scientists (according to Lawrence) don't even believe brainwashing exists. But ad hominem attacks aside, it seems pretty clear to me that mind control really does exist, and it's not that difficult to implement. I don't even think you need "terror of death and nothingness" to ready minds for indoctrination. I think you need just a little uncertainty, and a promise of simple answers.
What do you think?