Thursday, April 13, 2006

From the Edge of the Herd.

I love blogging, it gets the bats from my belfry, the endorphin flowing and my writing skills honed, but I have to admit, it is just the ravings of someone from the lunatic fringe for I am indeed a nutcase, you only have to read my blogs to see the delusions and suspect opinions. One of the 7 Tenets of Toby Zoates is that nobody, but Nobody, has the right line, on anything, especially philosophy/politics, and not me either. But I do insist that it's anathema to me to be a mindless follower of the herd, running over any cliff with the other lemmings at the behest of some media dictation: I'll always demand a say in any proceeding that involves me and mine. I've bucked at the traces since I was a kid, one of those uncontrollable brats who threw terrible rages if things didn't go as he wished. And I never got over an experience I had in a lesson on psychology when I was a trainee nurse .

The lecturer asked for a volunteer for a psychology test and I stupidly volunteered, always up for an adventure, especially cerebral ones. For a few days it seemed forgotten, then one day the teacher pulled out some cards and asked the class to go thru pairs of cards with a different length of line on each card and every student had to say if they were the same length or different. At first the lines were the same length, the next pair only slightly different and all the class agreed they were the same so I went with the crowd, maybe I was going cross-eyed. Then cards with 2 lines of extremely different length were shown and each student claimed they were the same length, the pressure was on me to join the herd and agree with them. I thought I was going mad, or hallucinating, and hesitated to give my opinion as it was obvious that the pair of lines were not the same, and I broke out into a sweat.

Should I go with the herd, even tho they were wrong, or should I stick to my guns and tell them all they were mistaken, even crazy, couldn't they see that the lines were so very different. Eventually the whole class burst into laughter at my confused dismay, my face had gone red, my eyeballs rolled, until the lecturer couldn't let my suffering go on any longer and confessed to me it was a test, called the "Ash Test", about group dynamics that he'd conned the class into agreeing with when I was out of the room. Individuals are pressured by the group to believe in things even if they are irrational for we are social animals and hate to go against the grain. This partly explains phenomena like the group hysteria of the Germans in the Nazi era and how they could collectively go mad.

I've never got over that Ash Test experience, I try to evaluate every public directive, every leader's/authority's announcement, every lunatic's garbled conspiracy theory, to see how I'm being manipulated and conned for the benefit of someone else. It explains why I remain for ever a brat with a chip on my shoulder, determined to stay an individual with a thinking brain and not just be cannon fodder for any mass movement unless it truly is both factual and for something good. I think of the soldiers dying en masse on the beaches of Gallipoli and other trenches of the 1st World War, (Or the Vietnam War or the Iraqi War for that matter) and, for all it's nation building symbolism, it just seems to me a terrible waste of life.

I'm determined I won't be so gullible and will live into a ripe old age as a humbugging, questioning curmudgeon, no matter the hissing of the crowd that could come my way for not losing myself in herd instinct, maybe even getting lynched for going against the mob. To be on the edge of the herd can bring danger, the first to be predated, but using one's wits can also give an advantage, one can see the danger coming. I'd hate to contribute to the degradation of a minority because I ran with the herd. Hopefully I could achieve a happy life, contributing to the herd something funky, from the edge. Maybe I'm kidding myself as usual, I'd probably just get trampled in the stampede, turned to toe-jam, returned to nothing, a nobody, not the leader of the lynch mob.