Us, Them, and Me

“I” am powerful. “We” are dangerous.

If someone has an agenda, such as a politician or an actor, the worst way to build a following would be to sit  down, one-on-one with another individual and lay out the idea in a logical format. Why? The listener would examine the proposal, critically evaluate its merits and reach a logical conclusion as to its intellectual merit.

On the other hand, if the proponent presents the idea to a group–the larger the better–inevitably there will be some who agree with it. When these people express their support through cheers or chants, more will pick up the emotion and join in. Eventually, few will be silent.

Unfortunately, one of the easiest emotions to stir up in people is irrational hate.

The same people who had welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, turned up at his illegal overnight kangaroo court with cries of “Crucify Him!”

In America, there has often been the idea, spoken loudly, that, “The only good [Insert group here] is a dead [and here].”

My advice to you is “Never let go of yourself. The individual is better equipped to make decisions than any group.”

In George Orwell’s novel 1984 he spoke of “groupthink,” in which all, or at least most, of the members of a group accept an idea because the group does, not because they have made a conscious and deliberate decision that it is what they believe. There is another term for this–mob mentality.

Perhaps the idea is best expressed in the movie Men in Black: 

Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they’ve ever “known” has been proven to be wrong. A thousand years ago everybody knew as a fact, that the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on it. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

Logic Is Hard

It is very easy to limit one’s views to those that one already believes. It is hard to entertain ideas that are in contrast to one’s own. It is an unfortunate–and uncomfortable–fact that all progress for humankind is obstructed by the status quo, but instead dependent upon the ability to entertain ideas that are radically different from one’s accepted notions.

If our preconceived notions were perfect, limiting our viewpoint would be fine. On the other hand we–as humans–are not capable of perfection, so our preconceived notions are, therefore, invariably flawed.

Unless we make an intentionally conscious effort to try to be open to other viewpoints, we remain stuck in one spot–intellectually, culturally, and spiritually.

Our self-imposed intellectual limitations are embarrassing. If an advanced alien species were to view our interaction, they would be well within their rights to either isolate us from the rest of the universe, destroy this planet, or at least remove the human infestation for the benefit of all.

I, Diogenes, died many centuries ago, so I am not at risk. How about you?