Beware the Secret Weapon of Desensitisation: Repetition

February 15 , 2020
By Etenat Awol ( Etenat Awol can be reached at )

It is fascinating how conditioned human beings can become to accepting their fate. This becomes possible through constant propaganda, which in the long term shapes our views in a certain way. Through repetition, the way we think and act can be carefully determined. That is the secret weapon in political and social re-engineering, as well as smart marketing.

The media has the power to implant ideas in people and sets an agenda that gets the public speaking about it non-stop. The influence of repetition on designing the mind brings multi-disciplinary subjects to an agreement. Media theorists, psychologists and philosophers understand and state that the mind as a tool can be redesigned through repetition.

What it does is that it enchants the brain to fall into a pattern by creating familiarity through a certain subject matter. This creates a situation where we no longer recognise what is odd or out of place. It normalises what has been presented and makes what is strange suspect. After a certain period of time, people come to believe that whatever has been repeated has been the case all along.

It is exactly for this reason that we have come to make light of matters that would have terrified us a while ago. It would not be out of place to find memes on social media these days that make fun of grief. To some, it seems like we are dealing with our problems by laughing at them. But what is actually happening is that we are being desensitised, failing to recognise the horror that lies within.

Step by step we lose our sincerity and all our senses fade out. We used to speak out, identify problems and empathise with our fellow citizens. Suddenly, we happen to have become used to tragedies and, with the exception of a few incidents, accepted as the natural state of things without even realising it.

Normalisation is nothing other than the side effect of repetition. This constant recurrence throws away the tendency to be scared about something unusual. We instead resign to silence and inaction. It puts us in a state of being unscarred by the danger surrounding us, unsurprised by the catastrophe of everyday life.

Such a state lays the foundation for individual destruction. What ties us together can be demolished, especially as we lose our moral compass and critical discussions are not had. In failing to be awed, we become conformists.

We are in danger of becoming desensitised in the digital age, where every particular narrative is cradled in constant occurrences. What people get to see is not what is most honest but what has already been viewed many times.

As we are constantly liking and sharing posts, do we care about what we are spreading? Does the situation bother us? Do we mean it, or do we do it as a routine? How diverse are the groups of people that we follow, and how much of an effort do we put into expanding our horizons and challenging long-held views?

In a nation whose citizens are afflicted by doubt and insecurity, and a government that can barely address the security situation, citizens can feel underwhelmed. And in engaging, through memes or criticisms, on social media, we may feel that we are resisting. But we are merely venting our anger and hopelessness.

The constant lawlessness makes us believe somehow that this is an inevitable phenomenon. We are drowning in cynicism. Yet, we are trying to breathe normally, as if what is happening around us is the normal state of nature. With every horrible thing we hear these days, we forget how bad they are and move on with our weary life. Until we wake up from this reverie, we will never escape. We will never resist.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 15,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1033]

Etenat Awol can be reached at

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