Mob Mentality

There is a phenomenon in which people who normally know and adhere to their values change when in the company of an emotionally charged group. Over the past millennia, I’ve seen it far too often. Call it “peer pressure”, “groupthink”, or “mob mentality”, it doesn’t matter.

Since most people in your time are not scholars of history, I won’t use an obscure example, but one with which most of you are familiar. Nevertheless, the same interaction has recurred time after time–the living do not learn, so it is up to those of us who are gone to explain.

In an ancient land with no BBC, no cable, no wi-fi, a man approaches a village. A murmur passes through the crowd. “This is the ONE that we’ve been waiting for! He is the one!”

The people run together and a crowd forms and welcomes him. “Hail to our hope! Hail to our future! Hail to military victory!”

But it is not Alexander, or Caesar, Hitler, or Stalin. It is an itinerant teacher who has asked for nothing; who has accepted only a place to sleep and a shared meal.

As he approaches, the people line the streets.

“You are what we’ve prayed for! You are the best–Holy, Holy, Holy (holiest, the third order of holy). We wave palms over your head! We lay our cloaks for you to walk over. You are THE one.”

A few days later, in the middle of the night, a kangaroo court is held to condemn the same man to death. The mob, this time, cries “Crucify him.”

Was it the same people?

Think.

 

 

Fact and Fiction

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams

If something is a reasonably accurate representation of reality, it is a fact. As humans, we’re incapable of observing, remembering, and then stating any event with 100 percent accuracy, even though most people try.

However, if you tell a lie, that’s what it is.

If you repeatedly tell a lie, it remains a lie.

If you get a million people to repeat your lie, it still remains a lie. It does not become a fact.

You may be able to kiss a frog and have it become a prince, but a lie is a lie is a lie.

It’s not a difficult concept, so why do so many people find it impossible to understand?

Are You Being Targeted?

I’m glad I died long before humans and computers began consorting. I never claimed victory in my search for an honest man–although, then again, was I honest when I said I was searching?

In any case, in your time, Facebook, video games, Twitter, and the computer thingie du jour draw you in like flies to a jar of honey. Even worse, you go willingly. Pity.

What if they worked together–or are working together? Google and Amazon know what you want. Facebook knows almost everything else.

But, what if one of the search engines or bots (they’re really the same) tracked your ability–or inability–to separate fact from fiction? If you readily believe the various conspiracy theories without adequate facts to support that belief?

There would be lots of money to be made by selling lists of such people to advertisers, scam artists, and (of course) all of the Nigerian Princes who are trying to get their inheritance.

Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault. Fool me three times and I’m an easy target.

Hey! This magic potion will make you rich!

Politics Explained

I swear, I never get any peace and quiet. It had been a long day, walking through town with my lamp lit, telling anyone foolish enough to ask why that, “I’m searching for an honest man.” What a load of rubbish–but they continue to buy it.

Eventually, I made my way home to my sewer, crawled in, tuned out the cockroaches and rats, and closed my eyes. Immediately, some ignoramus (assuming that he was in fact, ignorant, rather than stupid) shook me and demanded an answer to his question.

“What is politics?” he asked.

I stared at him with the best malevolent look I could muster. He was undeterred. When I realized that my scowl would not get rid of him, I figured that the next best way was to give him some cryptic answer. Perhaps then he’d leave.

“Do you believe politics is more like chess or poker?” I asked him. He stammered and admitted that he did not know.

“It’s like both,” I told him. “It’s a long range game, but a long range game in which bluffing and cheating are not only allowed, but encouraged.”

He looked more puzzled as he walked away than he had when he had approached.

He’ll never understand politics.

I understand politics, so I went back to sleep.

Decivilization

Death and destruction has always been fascinating–for observers, not participants. Crucifixion, hanging–especially when accompanied by drawing and quartering, and beheadings of any type have always been crowd pleasers. The brutality of man against man could draw a crowd, amuse it, and leave it calling for more.

In your twentieth century, there was the term “like watching a train wreck.” It’s nigh on impossible for anyone to turn away because a train wreck is factually as well as literally, extraordinary.

I understand that. I may not approve, but I understand it. The observers don’t set out with the intent of seeing carnage, but happen to be there when it does.

On the other hand, when Facebook (which I also do not understand) has to remove 1.5 million–MILLION–videos showing the slaughter of people trying to pray in New Zealand, I’m astounded. Actually, I’m disgusted. A man who lived in a sewer and treated others the way I did is not easily disgusted.

In the millennia from my time to yours, it would be reasonable to expect to see some small amount of societal progress. Instead, people in the twenty-first century can easily put Emperors Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula to shame.

Corruption

Over the millennia, I’ve seen kingdoms and nations rise and fall. Some nations are created by Divine edict, by military conquest, by discovery, or even the will of the people. However, most tend to die by the same method.

They rot from within.

The wars you’ve seen recently–Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam–were all failed or failing states. They either were already corrupt, or ripe for corruption. That’s not only how nations fall, it’s why nations fall.

Through corrupt means, the elites enrich themselves at the expense of the general populace. As the gap widens between the haves and the have-nots, the people become divided. The division may be political, religious, or philosophical, but most often it’s economic. The wider the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the population, the more likely it will devolve into destruction.

Hitler came to power because the German people were economically desperate due to reparations from the First World War. Hitler was an outsider–a non-elite–who was viewed as a possible savior. Lenin was also an outsider viewed as the solution to Russia’s problems. The Nazis and the Communists each set conditions for a division within their country.

Who will be next? There are a number of likely candidates. What’s your guess?