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    Intentional Claus
    By Brian Taylor | December 5th 2010 09:21 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Brian Taylor is a writer of philosophy and a social critic. He can be reached at facebook.com/brianctaylor He blogs at anti-socialengineering.com...

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    Near the end of my book, Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self, I discuss twenty-two interesting intentions. Some of these intentions had, as their sole purpose, a control beside which other, more pressing, relevant intentions could be measured. Such is it that I came to discuss Santa Claus.

    Merry Christmas.

    Intention: If you're good, Santa Claus will bring you a Christmas Present.

    I'm not intentionally being silly. This examination will demonstrate the relevance of point of view and the power of contemplation. I need you to remember back to the innocence of your childhood, when you believed in things like Santa Claus. (If you are unfamiliar with the cultural phenomenon of Santa, he is an amalgam of northern European father figures used to symbolize the habit of ending the year by giving a gift. It started out as a simple sharing of the harvest bounty. Gradually, with commercial tweaking, he became the jolly fat guy who magically delivers Christmas presents, if you behave.)


    Basically, I need you to imagine that you are a small child again, and see this intention of “be good for a reward,” from that point of view.  First, there are multiple intentions in this paradigm. We require some reduction. There is the obvious if/then statement: If we are good then Santa brings gifts. We can presume we know what it means to be good. (Surely, we will be told.) Then we must believe in Santa Claus and further believe that he will bring gifts, provided that we are good. Stated in such a way, it seems clear that the main goal, the Prior Intention, is to have us “be good.”

    “Being good” is what is going to cause the Claus to cough up the gift. How does Santa do this? (Remember, we're a child again.) How does he know if we've been bad or good, for goodness' sake? How does he make it around the whole planet on one night? There are a great many questions that must be answered for this intention to work. In order to answer these questions, an elaborate story develops. When we are a small child, we cannot see how the “Santa” paradigm is almost entirely forced. As adults we can't help but see it. If we are taking part in the charade, playing the parent role of Claus accomplice, then we have no choice but to follow it to its end. (We must know the story because the questions it raises are inevitable.)

    So, what of this apparently background belief in Santa Claus? If the intention was “believe in Santa Claus,” how would we answer our follow-up question, “why?” I don't think it's fair to say that the Santa Clause paradigm, taken as a whole, has as its prior intention that we “behave ourselves.” Parents, even those taking great pains to put force behind the intention, don't keep their kids in line, year-round, with threats of Santa skipping their home on December 25th.

    The Santa intention is perpetuated because we find it fun and cute to trick our children into becoming consumers and seeking objects as rewards. Of course, as kids, we wouldn't understand why these fabrications are manipulated into our little heads. If we're lucky, we might be intrigued when we find out they were and take it from there.

    As a child, we have a pretty strong draw to the whole idea of Santa Claus, his gift giving and the idea of good behaviour being rewarded. (Engineered as it may be...)

    - To the child, the intention is clear. It is believe that if there is good behaviour, Santa will provide a Christmas gift. The force can be determined to be registered by asking the child, “Will you get a present if you're behaviour is bad?” If the child answers “No,” he or she understands the force of the “if/then” statement.

    - To the child, this intention is highly evaluatable. Questions can be answered by simply sticking to the story. The child, not knowing any better, will believe tales of magic and mystery, to a point. There is however, a very real opportunity to accidentally, or otherwise discover that your parents are Santa Claus. Eventually, the truth will become known anyway as a product of time.

    – Again, as before, because the child can simply accept everything the parent says, the associations needed for this intention to work simply stack up. Thus, to the child, it is logical that Santa can deliver a present to all the good boys and girls in one night, because he has a magical sleigh with flying reindeer, etc. It makes perfect sense to the child, because they don't understand they are receiving what is probably their first lesson in hyper-reality. There are still some emotions bound to paradigm, in fact, without them it is unlikely that the paradigm could subsist. (The unemotional Christmas tale, explaining the magic and mystery as matter of fact, does conjure up comedic images.)

    Now, for a moment, forget about the child's point of view. What if we consider the Santa paradigm as adults, presently? There remains some inability to know for certain that I won't
    get a gift if I'm a really good 38 year old man, so we cannot say that the intention is entirely forced. I must help it on its way and perhaps someone will “play Santa” to me, as I do to others. Perhaps that is all Santa is. It remains slightly mysterious, in its ability to continue on as an intention despite the limited audience and seemingly rather nefarious purposes. (The gift giving, Christmas, Holiday paradigm is not being judged here, the packaging, branding, distribution and directionality of it.) The intention is attached to many more emotional associations than logical ones, much like the childish version of me.

    Yet, in my “adult” point of view, I cannot entirely dismiss the logic of being rewarded for good behaviour. This also adds to the mystery. I have very little desire to “play ball” with this conspiracy any longer, my kids are too old. However, it is much too daunting a task for me to interfere with anyone else who wishes to perpetuate the intention. I'm not here to poop in anyone's stocking, I'm far too lazy.

    Finally, the difference between the child finding the intention very nearly perfectly eudaemonic, and the adult finding it a much closer to hyper-manipulation, is that the adult contemplates the paradigm from the outside. The adult has the option of not believing everything the intention asks us to take for granted. The child who hasn't yet learned to do so, must as part of their maturation, eventually come to master these skills. Perhaps there is a sociological reason for the Santa Claus myth. It does provide for recognizing the need for detached self observation. An adult knows the intentions and its reductions are forced, unreal paradigms, regardless of the motivations of the Engineers who put them there.

    Either as a vehicle for the Christmas tradition of gift giving or as a moral compass embodied to reward you, Santa Claus and the power he has over you is directly proportional to your point of view. The child, given the intention and every association it needs to exist, given the incentive to accept and desire the intention, is forced into belief.

    The child is programmed to think happy thoughts about these associations and does so quite willingly. The adult, having been exposed to the cold realities of the harsh world, already knows what Santa really is, perhaps only begrudgingly plays along to avoid the risk of possible ridicule. At any rate, the adult has come out of the cave and has seen the puppet show. Thus are the distinctions made between that which we believe in and that which we choose to believe in.

    There are intentions held by people that, as they consider them incompletely or incorrectly, render them plausible asinnocently and ignorantly as children contemplating Santa Claus. I'd further suggest that the longer and deeper modernity pushes the manipulated self into hyper-reality, the more we will become like the children contemplating Santa. We will just believe whatever we are told. On a great many subjects, we must take the word of an authority figure for which we may not be able to determine any validity.

    In cases of this nature, we again are not unlike the children contemplating Santa Claus. Let's learn from this lesson and not make the same mistakes we made as children, nor perpetuate the types of things that lead to confusion. I'm not saying get rid of Santa, I'm saying Santa is just as fun when he is make believe, like Bambi or Transformers and your kids can be taught that being good is its own reward. This, I feel, is the mean presented to us in this very real opportunity. We have the chance to have our children take part in the paradigm without forcing it upon them and at the same time teaching them a valuable philosophy that will only serve them as well as it does us, for much more dangerous ideas.

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    People live in an uncertain world with incomplete knowledge and unpredictable events all around.  They imagine that they want to be able to control the world, because to do so suggests that we can predict events and remove some of the uncertainty.  If we can control it sufficiently, then we can make things more comfortable and manageable because we can't be surprised by the unexpected. 

    As we've discussed before, virtually every human belief system is based upon the notion of a controlling power (whether it be religious or technological), the point of which is to make us feel safe and reassured.  Most horror movies offer the entertainment of capitalizing on unpredictability to scare us.  We certainly know something is going to happen, but the movie producers always try to surprise us with the unexpected, thereby playing on that fundamental fear.

    With that as a backdrop, it's little wonder that people will accept reassurance in most circumstances (even from untrustworthy sources) because to acknowledge the reality in which they exist, gives rise to fear and uncertainty. 

    I've always viewed the Santa Claus story as an early exercise in a child's belief system (kind of like an exercise).  It isn't nearly sophisticated enough to hold up to real scrutiny, but it does teach the child the concept of believing in something without any particular evidence because of the parent's authority.  I don't mean that to sound sinister, because this is precisely what is expected, regardless of what is being taught, so it isn't intended to imply something negative.

    It becomes a kind of "trick" we play on children, and we realize they're growing up and maturing when they no longer believe it.  From this point on, in a child's life, the beliefs presented will become stronger and be ready for integration to form the future adult.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I have spent the past months deliberating about my knowledge of this world and what is truth and what is not. I have discovered that by using the Santa Claus paradigm i have been able to explain mainstream thinking and i agree with the author's views of how and why, but i would like to expand the idea much further. In my mind the Santa Claus paradigm consists of three main stages: the first as described above; the second stage is when as the child becomes older, and through his own personal observation or by snide remarks from older children or less comforting adults begins to question the validity of Santa ( how does he fit through the chimney? how is he able to deliver all the gifts in one night ? and others as such these ) but refuses to totally disregard the notion of his non existance as there still prevails the faint chance, and fearing the "wrath" to become exempt in something he has always believed in from first memories, still blindly follows in the charade.
    The third stage of course, is the final acceptance of Santa's existance as a fairytale - deemed only as an friendly warning to the naughty needing guidance.

    On a personal note - please be free to substitute Santa's namein for anyone else's

    Gerhard Adam
    You might want to be careful about terms like "truth", since that is a quite difficult concept to put into any perspective.  I, personally prefer to consider "truth" only within the context of deception, whereas a better definition should reflect on accuracy or completeness. 

    Just as an example, consider something simple like the value for pi.  It's "truth" can never be established since it is an infinitely large irrational number.  Therefore any representation of it cannot be "true", however it can certainly be considered with respect to its accuracy or usefulness.

    The remaining part of your discussion really relates to the whole issue of a belief system, wherein we acquire an initial set of "beliefs" from a trusted source, we may experience skepticism or dissatisfaction with our current belief status, and then redefine or acquire a new belief system based on new information.
    http://www.science20.com/gerhard_adam/luxury_belief
    Mundus vult decipi
    What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.