We can only truly act in our self-interest when we are responding appropriately to objective truth, not belief. Belief has no boundaries, no limits, and is founded on hope. Truth is finite—with immoveable boundaries and absolute limits—and is founded on scientific fact. Those of us who assume belief is synonymous with truth undermine the gift of modern human consciousness. Beliefs appeal to our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our patriotism, and often our dissatisfaction, rather than objective reality and truth.

Everyone in a particular, culturally specific social entity—such as a family or a nation—encodes similar attitudes, prejudices, and other cultural similarities, even though they view themselves as being special and unique. American Indian tribes, before the taint of European culture, used an expression that essentially translated as “We are the people.” By default, this statement characterized everyone else as some form of “non-person.” People everywhere in the world encode prejudices and similarly competitive attitudes in regard to their participation in politics, schools, religions, sports, countries, and nations.

Encoding, which is an entirely unconscious process, allowed our early ancestors to pass on their life-living skills wordlessly to their children, in the process enhancing the survival of the human race. But these skills came at an appalling price. Humans moved from harmonizing with nature to controlling everything, including nature, their children, and themselves. As children we encode the fears, doubts, and insecurities of our parents and communities—particularly strongly held views, such as racial and religious prejudices. Our encodings also include phobias, such as the fear of death, heights, and spiders; and methods of control, such as lying, manipulation, fraud, deception, deceit, cruelty, and genocide; as well as other behavioral devices.

With the tantalizing bait of belief, faith, and hope, humans often abandon their genetic survival instincts and confuse what is in fact their true, objective self-interest for their perceived self-interest. Deeply embedded in the genetics of every animal, including human beings, are the drives to survive and reproduce; yet many cultural practices around the world undermine these core truths. There are innumerable examples, from snake charming to demoting and shaming women—or even the contemporary example, of terrorists driven to destroy themselves along with as many other people as possible, sincerely believing they are acting out of self-interest.

The truth is that acts of terrorism are committed by people who are satisfying the fear, hate, and prejudice they encoded and assimilated from their families during the first few years of their lives by eliminating the source of their hatred. There is also an encoded belief for many, such as the members of ISIS in the present-day Middle East, that through their acts of terrorism they will glorify themselves in the present and at the moment of death instantly enter a carefully crafted paradise. Later in life, training camps do not need to instill a terrorist’s feelings of fear and hatred, as these feelings were previously encoded; all that is necessary to enroll a terrorist is to inflame the earlier encodings.

Such deep feelings can only be changed by addressing them as encodings. Thereby, substituting truth for belief. Fortunately, violent, hateful encodings—like all other kinds of encodings—can be identified and dissipated using the same transforming gift that undermines us in the first place: the modern human mind and consciousness.

Breaking free from our encodings entails launching a campaign to change our allegiance to beauty, harmony, and a love for truth, thus making the truth seem more sacred, noble, and uplifting to us than our previously cherished beliefs. Think of the cultural encoding that was prevalent, and particularly highlighted in movies in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, that smoking cigarettes was practiced by people who were sophisticated, successful, and glamorous. After an intense advertising campaign to demonstrate the truth of how damaging tobacco is to our lungs, cigarette smoking is now looked upon almost as a disease. Or in any event, as a shameful act of self-abuse.

In fact, human survival and well-being can only be manifested when we act in our own self-interests founded on truth. Our highest ideals—peace on earth, the elimination of poverty, and the establishment of an environment where all of us can pursue our individual happiness and well-being—will only be fully realized when every person’s survival and self-interest is founded on truth.

Author's Bio: 

KENDRICK MERCER is a historian, philosopher, and consultant. He has provided more than fifty years of coaching to thousands of people who have noted the transformational power of his business and personal development advice. His extensive knowledge of history, anthropology, evolution, psychology, and science has helped numerous corporate CEOs, presidents, and executives, as well as entrepreneurs, independent business owners, and more.

Mercer graduated from Willamette University in 1958 with a major in history. He went on to earn a Doctorate of Jurisprudence in 1961 from Willamette University Law School, and passed the Oregon State Bar, standing fourteenth in a field of 400 participants, and joined a law firm in Oregon. For more information, please visit www.kendrickmercer.com and connect with Mercer on Twitter and Instagram.

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