Living for the Herd

Modern psychology is in its infancy. It has so far busied itself with the easiest confusions of the human mind, and not looked deeply at all into the day-to-day mundane insanity that infests us and moves easily among us.

In another 200 years, psychologists will have made extensive study of the herding (sometimes called group-think, hive-mind, or peer pressure) instinct in humans. Like other animals, we herd up when faced with a challenge. This is an obsolete response when we face personal challenges that don’t involve others.

However, our tendency is to involve others in our personal challenges. The reasoning is that when faced with a problem, we have a chance to respond and thus a chance to get it epically wrong. If that happens, others will see and judge us as being defective in some way.

We cannot avoid being wrong some of the time, but we can avoid being judged, so we try to change the minds of others so that they think failure is success. One way to do this is through morality. “I did it for the children” will work. The failure becomes a moral success.

Another way to fool others is to insist on equal validity of all outcomes. This is philosophy-speak for what happens when people say “I meant to do that” after they screw up spectacularly. If you lunged for cake and ended up eating feces, insist that it was performance art or religion and others will forgive.

Still another common phenomenon is the one we recognize from children’s tales as “sour grapes.” If you lunge for something, and fail to attain it, make sure you bad-mouth it. The children of rich people who camped out at OWS might have been saying “We have failed at being rich bankers, so burn the rich bankers!”

To this list we can add another method of evading a feeling of responsibility for the outcome of our actions: we can set up a herd of our own that validates us on the basis of nothing more than belonging to the herd. It’s like a multi-level marketing plan, except based on social approval.

For example, if I go to the local high school and I don’t fit in or particularly succeed at anything, I can rope together all the nerds, geeks, dropouts, druggies, freaks and outsiders and have a little herd. We can then agree that we’re great and everyone else is bad and thus we support each other.

Even more, like a ghetto gang, when one member is attacked we attack with the strength of numbers. One 250-lb football player is piddling change against 50 angry geeks armed with feelings of justified vengeance.

The internet has enabled us to take herdness to new heights. For example, internet humor:

Person 1: I came up with this new hilarious thing.

Person 2: But that’s not funny, really.

Person 3: It’s so not funny that it’s funny. Other people won’t get it.

Person 1: That means they’re dumb. We know it’s funny, now.

(In unison) Yes, it’s funny. We know it’s funny.

Outsider: That’s stupid!

Person 1: You just don’t see the humor in it. It’s an acquired taste.

In the same way we have learned to cheer for the home team, even if we don’t play the game; we have learned to demand our side get the votes, even if we don’t understand the issue; and we have learned that if we form a social group, we can insist that anything we want is “reality” and “true.”

The main phenomenon of the modern time, thanks to the breakdown of organic social order, has been the formation of these little herds and then those herds imposing their “truth” on the population at large. It’s no wonder people are so confused — reality itself is buried under mountains of human “reality” that are nonsense.

5 Comments

  1. crow says:

    There’s nothing wrong with sheep.
    Sheep are designed to be sheep-like.
    Baby sheep-lets are cuddly and enthusiastic.

    I do take issue, however, at people behaving like sheep.
    They are not designed to be sheep-like.
    And baby people-lets are really not my favorite thing.

    I guess that’s why I don’t read philosophy books, or anything that tells me how-it-is. I discover everything, myself, from first principles, and that way, nothing comes to me second-hand. Any bias I may have to take into account, is my own, so nothing is slanted, or rigged.

    Nobody can tell me conservatism is bad: I don’t need anyone to tell me that. Nor do I need anyone telling me leftism is worse. I can figure these things out for myself.
    So I wonder, sometimes, why I so avidly read articles on Amerika.
    I suspect brotherhood is something you just can’t do by yourself (:>

    1. A. Realist says:

      It seems to me the purpose of this blog is to take the many tangential opinions on conservatism and from them make a common standard, so that we know what to demand. If we are disorganized and can’t state what we want, our politicians will be only to happy to take advantage of us. If we make a clear demand, as a group, even if a small group, they are forced to acknowledge, discuss and possibly act on that demand. It is the only way we will get anything achieved in a democracy or any other committee-based society.

  2. Nicholas Marville says:

    The problems described here can easily be countered by keeping a list in which you formulate the goal, describe the steps you’ve taken to reach that goal with a short description of the reasoning behind it. Then, if you’ve still not attained the goal, it becomes clear where the problem is, or it should become clear.

    1. A. Realist says:

      Nobody has that kind of memory anymore, and you’re going to piss them off by insisting that a goal exists.

  3. […] “Infantilizer“, “Souls“, “Legalize Lying“, “Living for the Herd”Max – “13.FEB.2012; Forward Operating Base [Heartland]“, “Portlandia […]

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