I think about writing this post now and then and back off, as it is much like lecturing the tides. Nonetheless, it does no harm to discuss things as they really are. The way things “ought to be” is a life on a different planet. We have to live on this one.
People are herd animals, or more politely, tribal beings. We value belonging far more than any other psychic reward. Consequently, there is very little interest in knowing anything that does not settle well with mainstream views. For most people, not belonging is too painful to endure. So they only know what the group knows. (How else do you explain religions?)
People have layers. The outer shell claims to think, read, explore. That’s a false front. Most people do none of those things. There are layers beneath the public self, and there is the “self” that our leaders speak to. They know we don’t read. They know when we enter the voting booth, for example, that we haven’t done anything more than view a few TV commercials and don’t even know the names on the down-ballot. They also know to flatter our phony selves while dealing seriously with the one hidden from view.
This is the essence of advertising, public relations, politics, and propaganda – the knowledge that people do not think, evaluate evidence, explore, or use critical thought. For example, even as your brain might tell you that what is happening to the left here is physically impossible, the leaders and the group tell you it really happened. The group rules. Reality is cast aside. It does not matter.
Some of us are different. In a comment in a prior post, I recalled an event wherein I participated in group ridicule of some kids that were exhibiting nonconformist behavior.* I remember feeling revulsion at my behavior even at that time, in high school, when peer pressure was very high. (Why else would I remember it now?) I also was a very bad Boy Scout, to the point where the group leader finally took me aside to tell me “We don’t talk like that here.” (We were asked to come up with a game to play during a meeting. I had suggested “Ring around the Rosie.”) I lasted all of six months in that group. What a waste of my parents’ money to buy a uniform!
Am I different from most people? Yes. Am I better? Please consult the opening paragraph above. I am merely describing reality.
That does not matter. The larger point, the one I wrestle with is this: Is there any point to knowing what I know, of being different?
The answer is not satisfying, but must suffice: Individuals can make a difference. But it is hard, and along the way, we have to somehow work the herd to our own advantage. This skill is called “politics.” I do not know how to do that. I refuse to pretend to be something I am not merely to win the favor of a group. That is demeaning.
*John Bragg, if you ever by chance read this, even though you don’t know I was part of that group, please accept my sincere apologies.