I have no idea where this should go or whether its even appropriate for the board. Thought that came to me as part of another thread, and I figured I'd just put it out there and step in the poop.
Thought experiment: Suppose you are a fly on the wall, and you hear a member of the Church of Scientology's Sea Organization say something along these lines to a new recruit coming in for training:
"I believe, 'We Come Back'. We are part of an ancient organization that once tried to save the Earth and failed, and I think we are going to play an important role in the eventual redemption of humanity."
We know certain things about this organization. We know there are billion year contracts, low wages, various forms of social control, etc. There are many accounts of ex-members in the Church and ex-Sea Org members like Paul Haggis, John Brousseau, and others, that suggest it's an exploitative situation, and it's an exploitative organization. There is also evidence that any opinions counter to the organization's views can have very real negative consequences for people in the organization (and without) that express them. There is also the context here where we would probably assume that part of what the person saying this is trying to do is convince the new recruit. In short, we have a lot of reason to doubt the person believes what they are saying.
But, let's also assume they mean it. They may be living in a socially constructed reality and effectively brainwashed. But, they believe the Church of Scientology's teachings. They found that it helped them recover from some horrors that happened to them before convertion to the religion/cult, or they just accepted what they have been told from birth, maybe because they don't know any better. Maybe it is Stockholm syndrome.
Does there come a point where levels of exploitation get so high that it is impossible to believe the person being exploited anymore - where the observers perception of reality trumps the experience and the attitudes of the person actually having the experience? How far do you take it? For example:
1. How far do we linguistically parse what they are saying so that we can convince ourselves that, deep down, they agree with us about their situation, despite what it looks what they are saying on the surface is in direct opposition to our view?
2. What happens when we start lowering down the exploitation, say to the level of Jehovah's Witnesses, AAA baseball or any other example you care to think of?
Note: Please exclude porn from this discussion, since turning this thread into Porn Princess thread #3 is not my intent, and it's best if we just keep that as explicitly off-topic. If you want to talk porn, you know where to find those threads.
3. How do we avoid the trap of soft paternalism - which means, to me, basically believing that our opinions about reality are better than other people's opinions without having a real basis for making that claim? At the extremes, it is the difference between this Sea Org example (which, at least, is defensible) and say, people asserting that all liberals/conservatives are ignorant fucktards deluded by MSM or Fox News (which mostly, isn't).