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Society, through various influences, has the ability to control the knowledge and behaviour of an individual within that society. Discuss using examples.

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Introduction

Candidate Name: Aisha Jakhura Centre Number: 0960 Candidate Number: 005 Society, through various influences, has the ability to control the knowledge and behaviour of an individual within that society. Discuss using examples. When we hear hoof beats, what do we think of? Do we ever think of a zebra? A majority of people would not think of a zebra, but have the tendency to consider a more 'normal' or common animal such as a horse. Why is this? It serves to illustrate just how our minds work because we usually do everything the way we've always done it, the way we have always been taught to do it. In this essay I am going to attempt to investigate how we perceive reality and how we gain the knowledge to accomplish this. I will mainly focus on the role of society in shaping the knowledge of an individual particularly in relation with moral behaviour. What is society? In the Oxford dictionary society is defined as 'an organized community, the system of living in this' whereas an individual is described as 'single, separate, one person considered separately'. Society is a collection of individuals and therefore an empowered body, having greater authority and control over any one single individual within that society. It is very ironic for individuals often resent society for this imposing influence yet this supremacy has only been maintained owing to the contribution of each individual - without the people within it, there would be no such thing as a society. ...read more.

Middle

Even magazines were banned, an example being 'Focus on Africa' simply because it analysed various countries in Africa, including Malawi and Dr Banda did not want any facts about the country to be exposed to public view. This is evidently an extreme form of control exerted upon people to administer their sources of knowledge. In this case Dr Banda used his position of strong political power in society to limit the amount of knowledge they were exposed to. This would ensure that their beliefs would not adapt to those of certain authors, but always remain entrenched in the same traditional customs that Dr Banda had the ability to control people with. But is this always the case? One would argue that in economically more developed countries there is more freedom of speech and the individual has many liberties at his/her fingertips. Others say that even all around the world people, no matter how limited their knowledge or education might be, can overpower any external influences with the strength of their innate behaviour/beliefs. It has been proven that morality is a form of instinctive belief - it is just there and always has been there. People argue that morality can only be taught up to a certain extent i.e. parents teaching their children to be kind and helpful towards old people, but then it is the individual's responsibility to then decide what their own moral beliefs are in accordance with what they are taught. ...read more.

Conclusion

As Milgram says: "With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe" Although this study did not include a large sample of the population, it nevertheless underlines the extent to which moral behaviour is a social, not an individual issue. When considering the lack of morality of people we often resort to explanations that depend on individual characteristics. However an individual is merely a tool of society. Psychological studies as the one I described above illustrate that it is easy to set up situations in which most of us behave worse than we could have thought possible, out of conformity, fear of what others might think, loss of individual identity to others or obedience to authority. It is this simple to control behaviour of individuals and consequently society does this incessantly. Society can manipulate in many ways the knowledge it presents to individuals through all channels and also predict how people will interpret this knowledge and respond to it including their moral behaviour. Therefore it has the capability to shape an individual. However even though society has this power one can argue that there are individuals strong enough to stand up to conventional societal doctrines. However these are a minority, as it seems many people appreciate the value of society and will always conform to it. Yet knowledge is transient and perhaps with changing knowledge, our ingrained values and beliefs will also change. ...read more.

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