So in an odd turn of events, my mom has unblocked me on Facebook, allowed me to follow her (she knows I do), and now she posts some things publicly, presumably for my benefit. (Or I could just be really presumptuous, you know? But I doubt that.) Today, she posted a link to a video called “My Parents Brainwashed Me“. Basically it’s a teen’s free-verse poem about people telling him he is a Jew because his parents brainwashed him, not because that’s what he actually believes. It was a little bit triggering to listen to, because I could really identify with that…because when it came down to it, I only believed in the Christian god because my parents…well, brainwashed me into it. The real test is, if he were separated from his parents and researched everything for himself.
His response to people who say he was just brainwashed is to say…Yes. Yes, he was brainwashed into being respectful and kind. Yes, he was brainwashed into this and that. Stuff that sounds good. I don’t think he actually ended up saying if he were brainwashed into Judaism, but the big problem is…he confused brainwashing with teaching. There is a huge difference. But if you are someone listening to the things he was “brainwashed” into, you might find yourself agreeing that those are good things to be “brainwashed” into. But I’ll explain why this video is harmful and misguided.
I wrote about brainwashing in Brainwashing Part 1 and Part 2. In Part 2, I gave a list of brainwashing techniques and how my family implemented those techniques, probably unknowingly, even though they bragged on a regular basis about how they brainwashed us. Brainwashing is completely different from teaching. Brainwashing relies on negative pressure and a cult-like mentality: hold yourself and your beliefs as the only right way, not allow anyone to question or even consider questioning, and give severe consequences for mistakes. Teaching someone is guiding, not brainwashing. When you take piano lessons, you’re not being brainwashed, you’re being taught. When you learn a new job, you’re not being brainwashed, you’re being taught. Brainwashing is what happens in cults and cult-like environments like cloistered homeschool families who eschew any outside contact if they don’t share the same beliefs. Brainwashing stunts emotional growth. Brainwashing is a way to keep someone tied to you. It’s a way to keep people loyal and under your control. All of those are nothing like teaching.
My dad liked to say brainwashing was good (just like the video says) because he was brainwashing us into “good” things…just like the video says. Whether or not the things the boy in the video talked about are good, brainwashing is not good, and chances are he was not brainwashed into those things, but taught them.
It really bothers me when people throw around words like “brainwashing” without knowing the actual meaning. When people use words like that lightly, it serves to cheapen the word for people who have actually been in those situations. People joke about brainwashing, but until they actually have experienced it, they should keep their mouths shut. Brainwashing is no joke.