the three reactions to kool-aid

From Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind:

"Although consciousness is a patchwork of competing and often contradictory tendencies, the left brain ignores inconsistencies and papers over obvious gaps in order to give us a smooth sense of a single 'I'."

In most realms of human life, there is a status quo and there is a relationship that individual people have with the status quo. The status quo often has much room for improvement. But enough people have busted their asses and worked hard for the status quo to exist, so they aren't going to let the status quo change so easily. These people are probably awesome, and they probably were the status quo changers once upon a time. That's the thing with "the way things are done"-- even when the way things are done change, they find equilibrium at a new set of ways that things are done.

To protect "the way things are done," the guardians concoct a Kool-Aid: a sweet syrupy drink that is largely water and sugar. This Kool-Aid is offered as a way to help newcomers cope with the inevitable "Why are things done this way?"

"Well, you know, it is what it is, but all we can do is work hard and hope for the best and <insert Kool-Aid here>"

The Kool-Aid is a narrative ploy used to redirect questions and turn them into sermonizing about mission, ideology, and other things that are tough to argue against.

The manner in which one responds to the presence of Kool-Aid is everything. It breaks down like this:

The Three Reactions to Kool-Aid

  1. Drink the Kool Aid
  2. Reject the Kool Aid
  3. Wonder why there is a Kool Aid to begin with

First option: you drink the Kool-Aid. You drink it deeply. It's so sweet and delicious. You buy into the story that is being peddled because you hope that it's correct. Sometimes it is; most times it isn't. The world is rarely simple enough to distill into a tasty beverage, hence why the Kool-Aid is so packed with sugar.

Second option: you reject the Kool-Aid. You spit it out, storm off, and reject anything associated with this Kool-Aid.

Third option: you wonder why Kool-Aid is being peddled in the first place. 

Why are people buying into Trump's rhetoric? Why are people buying Bernie's rhetoric? Why are people telling us that Hillary is more realistic? What is the motivation behind all these different forms of peddling in the first place?

You can ask the same types of pointed questions to Kool-Aid distributors in medicine, tech, education, economics, law, basically any part of life that involves "right" and "wrong" of any sort.

The danger with drinking the Kool-Aid is the same with drinking actual Kool-Aid: the more you drink, the more your body depends on it (Have you every tried cutting all sugar out of your diet? Sugar withdrawal is a real thing.)

The danger with fully rejecting the Kool-Aid is that you become an angsty, tough-to-talk-to bystander.

The danger with questioning the Kool-Aid is that you make enemies on both sides of the fence. After all, by merely questioning it, you legitimize the claims of both the drinkers and the rejecters.

At any given moment, there are probably at least 5 different Kool-Aids a person is actively drinking, rejecting, or wondering about the history/ingredients of. I think these roughly break down into the categories of life that your mind spends most of its time in:

  • Career: the sweet, delicious Kool-Aid of a regular paycheck, a suit, and a pat on the back
  • Society: the exotic Kool-Aid of "making a difference" 
  • Education: the school-sponsored Kool-Aid (t-shirt, lanyard, and bottle opener come for free!)
  • Family: the "make you proud", well-adjusted Kool-Aid
  • Existence: the "bearded man in the sky" Kool-Aid

Here's a potential rule of thumb: your Kool-Aid flavor of choice correlates with how you like your coffee/tea. I'm a sucker for unsweetened iced coffee with a splash of soy milk. My parents are suckers for sugary, milky, cardamom chai. My most enlightened friends don't drink caffeine.