Group Insanity and Being Oneself

by Ken on September 3, 2011

I watched with embarrassment as Carrot Top made fun of Dick Cheney’s heart condition as Mr. Cheney looked on – not 10 feet away at a recent Jay Leno show. Mr. Cheney had courteously agreed to stay and watch the skit and the first 5 jokes were about his own life-threatening cardiac problems.


What was really something to observe was that this was accepted by the group. They laughed and laughed

Fascinating. Such appeared to be the collective judgment of that audience (as a mass) on ethics, good taste, courtesy and general good fellowship.

It is interesting how certain things in this society (a collective group) are not tolerated. Yet others are.

“Collective Think”

It even fears itself. This fear provokes the oddest behaviors. In a country with freedom of expression folks are fired from public jobs for what they say . Dr. Laura was fired for using the “N” word (yea, I have to be careful too) in a contextual conversation discussing the use of that word and its impact. A Tennessee middle school football coach was fired for co-writing a song “When You’re Holding a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail” (a song critical of Obama). Juan Williams was fired by NPR for an anti-Muslim statement. There are many examples – we’ve all heard them.

It  seems like there is a “mass fear” of the “masses”.  What will “they” think?  – and that very concern is, itself, a group, not so much an individual’s, thought.

This is the genesis of our present form of political correctness.

But who decides the “correctness”?

Well, that, too, is the result of “collect think”.  As any group tends to manifest differentiation of individuals (there are always the dominant ones that rise to the top for whatever reasons), I believe the “collective think” is actually a conglomeration of “collect thinks” with certain ones dominating. One of our dominant collective thinks is the Hollywood mindset. Individuals commonly do not agree with that mind-set yet since “Hollywood” is plugged into and creates so much of what we see they tend to dominate.

Whatever the influence or domination the collective think allows marginalization of certain types of classes – and not of others.

And we get the crazy dichotomies. We see images of blood and gut stories while bleeping the curse word. We watch the story of an indigenous group being enslaved, or killed and maimed but must blur the cracks in their asses so as not to offend.

And then, as on Jay Leno, we see the teasing and taunting or this white “conservative” man about his heart condition which will likely kill him very soon. And the audience laughs and laughs. This could be seen as  “collective think” influenced by “collective think” in all its glory.

I would bet that hardly an individual there, if alone with Mr. Cheney, would say anything but, “Sir, I wish you well and hope your health issues remain controlled and improved”. But connect them to the group – and they laugh – in the safety of “collectivism”.

If one looks one will see that all the greatest thoughts, the greatest discoveries, the sanest actions, the most beautiful creations have been those of individuals. Every true science (and by this I mean a science that works and actually improves conditions) has been, at the start, the work of an individual. Sir Isaac Newton was the one who summarized, in a few simple equation, the basics of sub-light motions and forces. No group has improved upon that.

Each us has, within us, basic goodness and amazing abilities.

Perhaps we should remember, as we laugh at another’s expense – in a group setting, that we are doing so as “Part” of a Collective Think – not as ourselves.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan September 4, 2011 at 10:20 am

If you extend this further, you’ll start to see some of the anatomy of why I’ve always had an issue with overpopulation of this planet. Sure, there is lots of empty space out there, but its not all about that simple space per body. As a collective group, I believe as numbers increase, sanity decreases. A group of 5 people will generally devise solid solutions to their problems and quickly. 10 folks – it’ll take them longer to get to a solution, but maybe they still can. 20 folks – some will disagree, solutions – if they come at all – will come at a snail’s pace. Extend this out to populations of 350million and growing and the solutions that are derived as a group will be fairly asinine at best.

Ken September 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Agree. It’s individuals who make it all work. The scary part is if we begin to, as a society, give collectives more rights than individuals.

Collectivism holds that, in human affairs, the collective—society, the community, the nation, the proletariat, the race, etc.—is the unit of reality and the standard of value. On this view, the individual has reality only as part of the group, and value only insofar as he serves it. Ayn Rand

Connie Arthur December 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm

At an elementary level, this is known as being a ‘bully’. A behavior that causes so much damage to the young tender self esteem of children, who don’t know how to deal with this type of onslaught by their peers or adults in a position of authority, as others stand by in quiet permission to the terror being afflicted. It’s the incentive driving these kids to destructive reactions that can include anything from extreme retaliation to self affliction and suicide. The knee-jerk reaction of embarrassment on the part of the bystanders needs to be replaced with outrage and we can only replace the one for the other by teaching it to our kids, practicing it without fear and sharing it with our friends and families. Each one of us needs to recognize that we must be the ‘unit of reality’ in the crowd and we need to make the eye contact and squeeze that reality into the shoulders of those around us to help them see that what is happening can happen to anyone of us and it’s NOT O.K to stand there and watch. What we do about it will be the lasting impression. Thanks, Ken~
~Connie Arthur

Ken December 12, 2011 at 11:19 am

Connie – I like your phrase “we must be the ‘unit of reality’ in a crowd. Very well said. Perhaps it boils down to courage. Few men or women are truly brave.

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