I was watching a television show the other day (Sherlock–absolutely love that show) and one character, after dashing all over London chasing a cab that might or might not contain a serial killer, says “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done.” The other character gives him a look and says, “Come now, you invaded Afghanistan.” The first character thinks for a second and answers, “Well yeah, but I didn’t do it by myself,” as if numbers confer sanity.

Now I know nothing about any of Britain’s Afghan wars, or if they’re ridiculous or not. That’s aside the point.

The point: Where do we get the idea that if everybody’s doing it, it must not be ridiculous? Hey, everyone’s drinking and driving? I should do it too! Everyone’s listening to the Psychic Sunburnt Monkeys? I should buy their album, too! Everyone’s owling? I need to find a perch and pretend to be a predatory bird! (If you do owl, don’t worry: there are help groups available :).)

But seriously, folks. Why is it so easy to fall into the trap of herd mentality? Just go with the flow, don’t rock the boat, do whatever everybody else is doing (or whatever you think everyone else is doing). Is independent thought so difficult? Or do we think if we refuse to fall in line, we’ll be mocked, disliked, and outcast? Do we genuinely think that the best option is the one with the most adherents? Like the joke about the kid who becomes a goth in order to be different but then dresses exactly like every other goth, do we think we’re being unique when we do what everyone else is doing? Is ‘invading Afghanistan’ ever less ridiculous because a whole lot of other soldiers are doing it too?

I think not.

And yet I find myself doing it. I turn and find myself melding with the crowd, doing or saying things because it’s ‘in’ or it’s what everybody else is doing.

Not that what everyone is doing is wrong, necessarily, but sheer numbers shouldn’t be the deciding factor in a decision. In other words, invade Afghanistan (or don’t) because it’s the right thing to do, not because the latest Gallup poll says 78% of your peers are doing it.

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2 responses »

  1. Nathan says:

    YES!!! People need to think for themselves and not act like dumb sheep, swept away by the latest whims and ideas of culture.

  2. The counter principle, of course, is the cowardly but time proven statement of the safety of crowds. It’s true; if you don’t stick out, people won’t feel the need to trim you. In fact, a lot of self defense begins with being careful to blend in with the crowd. However, when it comes to a principle, you have to ask yourself if it might be worth dying for.
    Better a live dog than a dead lion?
    Maybe.
    But not all the time.

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