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What is a cargo cult, how it manifests itself in our life and how it hinders us
What is a cargo cult, how it manifests itself in our life and how it hinders us

How are the beliefs of the islanders of Melanesia related to the belief that all good things will happen by themselves.

What is a cargo cult, how it manifests itself in our life and how it hinders us
What is a cargo cult, how it manifests itself in our life and how it hinders us

What is a cargo cult and how did it appear

The existence of cargo cults has been known since the end of the 19th century. But the most widespread they were Airplane worshipers. National Geographic Russia during World War II, when battles between US and Japanese troops took place in the Pacific. The Melanesian Islands A group of islands in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Australia. - Approx. The author then housed a huge number of military bases and airports through which weapons, supplies, clothing and other goods were delivered. Some of these things went to the indigenous inhabitants of these islands - as guides. Many of them had never seen stew, factory clothes, or folding knives before.

Cargo cult was widespread in Melanesia
Cargo cult was widespread in Melanesia

The islanders, unable to explain the origin of these things other than by a manifestation of a miracle, began to believe in the magical power of technology and other objects - airplanes, airports, tarpaulin tents, radio towers. According to their views, the "aliens" had a special connection with the spirits of their ancestors, for which they undeservedly received "gifts" from them, delivered from heaven.

New Zealand planes on a pacific island
New Zealand planes on a pacific island

When the war ended, the flow of things from the civilized world stopped. And the natives decided that by copying the manners and buildings of strangers, they would be able to win over the spirits, and the Airplane Worshipers became. National Geographic Russia imitate the behavior of the military. They marked "runways", built life-size copies of planes from coconut trees and straw, made "headphones" from halves of coconuts and "guns" from sticks, walked in formation, painted the inscriptions USA and the Order on themselves. They did all this in the hope that they would also be able to receive the "heavenly gifts."

The natives believed that the planes of the Americans and the Japanese were made of the same palms and straw, and that the magic of spirits helped them fly, with which strangers had learned to negotiate better.

This phenomenon is called the cargo cult (literally "cargo cult") - the religion of airplane worshipers. Today, similar beliefs are the Cult of John Froome, Tom Navi, the worship of Prince Philip, the husband of Elizabeth II, and a few more similar ones. - Approx. the author. survived only on the islands of Vanuatu and in some regions of Papua New Guinea.

How the cargo cult manifests itself in the life of modern people

At first glance, a modern civilized person and the Papuans, who believe in the messages of their ancestors from heaven, have nothing in common. But it is not so. Here are some examples of how a cargo cult or something similar to it occurs in our life.

In science

A 1974 speech by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman to students at California Institute of Technology gave rise to a new meaning of the term "cargo cult." Feynman called "the science of airplane worshipers" the research of some scientists who only imitate scientific work, but in fact are pseudoscience. He especially noted concepts with unrepeatable results in experimental conditions. In particular, psychologists got from the physicist.

Psychologist Tomasz Witkowski is coming up with similar ideas today. In his book Psychology Out of the Way: The Cargo Cult in Science and Therapy, he exposes many unscientific psychological practices such as NLP, psychoanalysis, or educational kinesiology.

Thus, after Feynman's speech, the term "cargo cult" spread What is a cargo cult, or How "airplane worshipers" harm science and society. Theory & Practice. on many things that were not originally related to him. So, for example, they began to call computer programs in which there is code that is unnecessary for their work, but successfully operates in other software. A cargo design is a mockup that lacks the intended functionality: for example, a non-working smartphone, for which only a concept of use was invented.

In politics

We can find similarities with the naive beliefs of the islanders in political life. Thus, political scientist Ekaterina Shulman used the concept of "reverse cargo cult". With this term, she dubbed the situation when politicians try to copy the public institutions of other countries, without understanding why they work there. More often than not, Shulman believes, such borrowings become only a superficial imitation. However, they either do not work, or function much worse than the original. Because of this, the substitution of concepts often occurs: officials declare concepts to be false and claim that they do not work not only in their country, but also anywhere else.

For example, democracy is established in a third world country. But it exists only on paper: there is no real political struggle, and the power is retained by a narrow ruling elite. In response to accusations of undemocraticism, the rulers say that democracy does not work in the West either, so their country is building its own version.

In everyday life

In everyday life, a cargo cult can be called a manifestation of magical thinking. It can be expressed both in belief in pseudopsychological concepts and social stereotypes, and in joining sects, in trusting astrologers, psychics, supporters of alternative medicine and other charlatans.

This also includes blind copying of someone else's success, the manner of judging success based on external signs - focusing on luxury and wealth, and not on real actions and achievements. In this form, a person's actions are similar to pseudoscientific NLP practices.

Also, a cargo cult can be called a situation when a person copies the external signs of belonging to a subculture, but is not interested in its ideological content. For example, wears a leather jacket and comb a mohawk pretending to be a punk, but knows nothing about anarchy, DIY and Straight Edge.

Why is the cargo cult dangerous?

The Americans, from the point of view of the islanders, were not doing anything useful. National Geographic Russia: did not hunt, did not keep pigs and did not grow corn. Therefore, it is not surprising that the natives stopped working and began to copy the mysterious rituals of the military, who received food, clothing, tools and weapons from the sky "just like that." And the followers of the cult of John Froome, obeying his "prophecy", got rid of the money of white people, slaughtered livestock, ate up their reserves and almost brought the situation on the island of Tanna to disaster.

Modern man, led by false beliefs, makes similar mistakes. The belief that someone also has “straw and dung planes”, just that they are better at pretending to fly, is not constructive in itself. It can lead to unwarranted pride, false feelings of control or belief in luck, denial of logical connections, and rejection of actions that run counter to fictional taboos.

A break with reality in favor of a fabulous belief in a "bright future" that will come by itself, limits our thinking and does not allow us to take advantage of the full range of opportunities. So, buying a new iPhone is unlikely to bring you closer to the Forbes list, and refresher courses or mastering a new high-paying profession can really improve your financial situation.

How not to become an "airplane worshiper"

A cargo cult is inherently a thinking error, so you need to deal with it in the same way as with other cognitive distortions.

The simplest Nepryakhin N. Anatomy of delusions: A big book on critical thinking. M. 2020. the means of their control - to know about these features of thinking as much as possible. When you are aware that you cannot always assess the situation correctly, then you are more critical of your beliefs and more likely to find a cognitive error.

A good help in this will be the concept of thinking outlined by Daniel Kahneman in Think Slow … Decide Fast. According to her, a person has two modes of assessing the situation: system 1 and system 2. System 1 is to see two stripes and immediately say that one of them is longer. System 2 - take a ruler and measure.

How to keep a cargo cult out of your life: be more critical
How to keep a cargo cult out of your life: be more critical

Also, the following N. Nepryakhin will help you not to become an airplane worshiper. Anatomy of delusions: A big book on critical thinking. M. 2020. tips:

  1. Be skeptical first about yourself and only then about others.
  2. Think about how you spontaneously make decisions and whether they are based on system 1.
  3. Don't take on faith the first thing that comes to mind.
  4. Listen to those who see the world differently than you do.

Don't be fooled by delusion.

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