Before the expression was hijacked by certain obscene contemporary rock performers, on a permanent high from substance abuse, it used to mean “drunk”, as in DUI, “Driving Under the Influence” of alcohol. But outside the context of intoxication caused by drugs or drink, the phrase has multiple applications. We are all under the influence of elements (including THE elements, the weather) of all sorts. The following is a non-exhaustive list of factors which come randomly to mind :
– advertising (including the subliminal variety) which information technology has been able to personalize according to the preferences we reveal in our computer-recorded purchases; even our behavior captured by hidden cameras along with the time we spend in given supermarket aisles, allows the marketing and merchandizing mavens to modify the display of products most likely to influence our buying choices
– education and nurture by parents, siblings and, importantly, teachers, not only in madrassas but in our own public and private schools
– relationships with spouses and sexual partners as well as with colleagues and superiors in the work-place
– peer-pressure and example,
– the weather, including the intensity of natural light (Winter with its limited sunshine is often the cause of depression)
– our health, physical and mental, notably our digestion, hang-ups and phobias. (Life, they say, is fine, but it all depends on the … liver.)
– the media, movies, literature and the cultural environment we live in.
Besides all these influences and others you could add, there is the most pernicious of all : that of religion, churches and sects. As with many of the others, we often remain unconscious of just how powerful it is. It makes sense for believers to examine the sources of their faith and the hopes and fears it instills in them, to examine as objectively as possible why they believe and to recognize that they have been under the influence of the opium of the people. Professionals are sometimes employed by families to “deprogram” adolescents and young adults from the influence of the Moonies, Scientologists or other sects that have brainwashed them. This Blog, I hope, will help less extreme victims of the exploitation of credulity to recognize the influences that have blinded their vision and restricted their freedom. Recognizing the reasons for religious belief, like the causes of drug and alcohol addiction, can be the first step towards liberation and independence.