Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Man or Sheep?

Some years ago I was active in the local political scene where I lived in the UK. One of the first activities that I took part in was knocking on doors to canvas votes for my party.

It was an illuminating experience. I was given a number of streets in a very upmarket part of the constituency. Here houses were valued at maybe a $1,000,000 or more, remember this was over 15 years ago... Sitting cheek by jowl these identical Georgian style homes were occupied by high wage earners, business owners, professionals. The success stories in the community. As I walked up and down the streets I was struck by the uniformity of everything and I was shocked. In each driveway sat a similar make of car, in most cases a BMW or Mercedes. Most were black or dark blue, the then fashionable colour. Each porch was filled with a planted urn or hanging basket with similar flowers blooming magnificently.

Knocking on the substantial hardwood doors the view as they were swung open was scarily similar. A pastel fitted carpet, brass and glass furnishings.I ended the day in a thoughtful frame of mind as I pondered why these 'achievers' were so pack like in their desire for conformity. After all if judged on a material level these were the success stories of my community and yet there was a barren sterility in their display of wealth. Why?

It made me think about the 'flock like' mentality of being a human being.You are no doubt familiar with the scenario of group think, it happens everywhere from the nursery upwards and we are faced with the consequences of subscribing to the popular view, or not, at every turn of our lives. There is no doubt it is far easier to run with the crowd, few repercussions, a sense of comfort and identity but what happens in the long term?

The results of incrementalism are well documented, the rise of Nazism, the bigotry of discrimination, the persecution of those with different beliefs. And yet everywhere in our daily lives we see these events and remain silent. What is it that we are so scared of? Do we fear 'being different', standing out?

As the world melts down around us, economically, politically, socially, blame is being thrown around in every conceivable direction. Is that just? Don't we all share part of the blame? The rise of the bland group think, the desire for social acceptability has gone beyond the pall. What happened to the days of acceptable differences?

I see more and more groups of people who simply cannot cope if your vision is different to theirs. The"either you are with us or against us" attitude of George Bush, the fear of speaking out against obvious violations of human rights. Where does it end I wonder? If we don't have the courage as ordinary human beings to think as individuals, to comment on events and viewpoints what will happen to society? Will we turn around one day and see that by our dereliction we have been the architects of our own demise.

There is a real fear amongst many people we meet to articulate their true feelings. I find that difficult to understand, as you are no doubt aware its not a problem that I have! Or do I? There are many occasions when I do not commit my thoughts to paper as I fear they will be just too radical and uncomfortable for those around me. Time to change!

We are a gregarious animal and too easily processed. We need to create a place where it is safe to exchange dissimilar views. TBH has made this subject his life's work. And sometimes it can be quite difficult to live with for us more ordinary mortals!

To speak out and raise an uncomfortable or unpopular truth is wearing. To stand up against drugs, even though many see cannabis smoking as a pretty vice not a crime, to find old men exploiting young women unacceptable, to say openly that one disagrees with the populist view.....

But the truth is always defined socially. It is the group dynamic that dictates what is acceptable. If nobody ever questions then we have no discourse, no focus for thought, we become mindless.

Our future as a human race must depend on the development of a much greater collective Mindfulness of what we say and what we do.

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