Title Pattern Text
Civic Ignorance
Social Imagination and Civic Intelligence Program

Civic ignorance describes how well a group or person ignores the civic ideas, problems, or solutions of those surrounding them. The need to solve problems intelligently and taking account of all solutions is cast away in favor of the quick, the easy, and the brutal. Maybe the problem will just go away? Critics of this should be marginalized, ignored or otherwise disabled or destroyed.


Much can be achieved through dominance and submission by using violence. If the subject cannot be subdued psychologically through fear, then injury can be inflicted. If injury is not enough, then the subject can ultimately be eliminated by murder. This is ultimately the underlying threat of violence.

Environmental Degradation

The natural environment; including but not limited to soil, water, air, flora, and fauna, has a natural balance. Through pollution, over usage, and lack of stewardship, the balance is broken causing the natural networks that sustain life on this planet to suffer.


Quality of life is ultimately measured by on the acquisition and display of material goods. At the heart of consumerism is the thought that the “good life” can be purchased. Consumerism also contains a set of standards through which people can be judged based on material wealth.

Semantic Manipulation

Certain words, phrases, or ideas become taboo in societies due to their negative definitions.  When these definitions prevent governments or corporations from their goals, they may sidestep the problem by redefining words to manipulate the public into accepting something they otherwise would not accept.


Fundamentalism is a term for a range of rigid and extreme beliefs.  Fundamentalism is found all over the world.  It's often religious when one group's gods and laws are absolutely true and all others are absolutely false.  Some typical characteristics are: exclusionism, strict adherence to certain doctrines, an acceptance of violence, xenophobia, and a belief in the end of the world.  Fundamentalism -- and not just the religious kind -- is fundamental for perpetuating worldwide turmoil.

Compartmentalized Knowledge

Knowledge is effectively compartmentalized (or put into "compartments") when different people not only have access to certain types of knowledge but are actually denied formally or via social norms or personal preferences from going beyond their allowable sphere.  Academics often do this to draw boundaries around their own disciplines, thus preventing perceived encroachment and interdisciplinary research.

Distorting History

The historical record can be altered by teaching events that did not happen, altering events that did happen, or omitting events altogether.  Over time, knowledge of the truth will die with those who witnessed it, and the alternate version will be universally accepted as true.

Dumbing Down

The general population cannot understand complex issues and may even be confused into conflict by certain controversial topics.  This can be avoided if topics are dumbed down into easily understood emotionally charged debates that cannot be easily argued with.

Forbidden Knowledge

This is the industrial strength version of Compartmentalization of Knowledge anti-pattern.  This occurs when knowing or pursuing some knowledge is actually denied to a certain group of people under the threat of penalty, as when the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) being told they can't study guns as a "Public health issue."


Sometimes information is kept secret from citizens.  This is useful when hiding corruption, money laundering, vote buying, tax evasion, etc.  With opacity in place, over the years elite business and governments can distance themselves further and further away from any controls on them.

Hidden Agendas

Society expects its leaders to keep their agendas transparent and in line with the agenda of the groups they represent, however, this is rarely the case.  Those in power often have agendas that aren't in line with the public's expectations of them, and for this reason they may choose to keep these agendas hidden.

Corruption and Fraud

Corruption and fraud are, in this context, when an entity in power does things that are dishonest or contrary to commonly accepted ethics and laws.  This generally involves bribes or intimidation behind the scene.  Profit and power are usually the driving force behind such actions.  Go figure.

Social Darwinism

Some people are just weaker than others and have less power or opportunity to take power.  The idea of Social Darwinism is that it is natural that these people fail, and that society shouldn't feel responsible for taking care of these people.  Basically, it's a dog eat dog world.


This is the adherence to certain beliefs proven to be untrue -- or refusing to accept as truth something that has been proven to be true.  Denialism can be motivated by religious beliefs, self-interest, or as a defense mechanism out of fear or discomfort.  Inculcating knee-jerk distrust for particular people or groups is often a useful part of denialism.

Eye for an Eye — Retribution

Equivalent exchange by way of exact behavior.  This is the idea that, "doing unto others the same as has been done unto you," is the true balance of justice.  This approach, diligently adhered to, motivates a perpetual cycle of violence.  An eye for an eye doesn't leave the whole world blind, just people who go around poking out other people's eyes!

Cultural Imperialism

This is the way in which powerful cultures present their culture as the most acceptable lifestyle, and condemn the cultural practices of others.  Some cultural nuances are acceptable, but if it contradicts the values of the dominant culture, those ideals must be eliminated.


This is the belief that your country of choice is bar none, hands down, the best country in the world.  No other country comes close and your country's interests are more important than all other country's interests...combined.  Without the violence and intimidation that accompanies this anti-pattern, the people and groups who employ it would seem a lot more humorous.

Education, Inc.

The Privatization of education helps reverse the idea of high quality free education that potentially undergirds a truly democratic way of life.  Privatizing education can reinforce the division of society into haves and have-nots.  It can support elite instruction on the one hand and cheap, possibly online training on the other augmented of course with a non-stop barrage of standardized testing.  It can erode the role of dedicated teachers and substitute with business goals and software.

Criminalizing Poverty

Poverty can be one of the most dangerous things to the stability of a society.  It is especially dangerous to those in power if poverty is viewed as being a failure of the system.  If the poverty stricken are viewed as being personally responsible for their state however, then it is seen as their fault and not those in positions of power.