In the first part of this ongoing series I talked about “lemming mentality.” There are parallels to lemming mentality, too. A few of them, off the top of my head, are “herd mentality,” “gang mentality,” mob mentality” and “crowd mentality.” There are slight differences distinguishing one from the other. And, here is where I have to play my honesty card. I am guilty of participating in some of these. But, then again, I don’t think there is anyone who at one time or another hasn’t participated.
For example, in my case, one instance is when, as a veteran of our U.S. military, I stood in line with a huge crowd (crowd mentality) of other people, all veterans and spouses, to enjoy a free meal. The occasion was a Veterans Day recognition dinner offered by the Golden Corral restaurant chain. Each year all of their nearly 500 restaurants set aside an evening one or two days on either side of the official Veterans Day to honor our nation’s veterans and active military. They’ve been doing this for about ten years and to date have served nearly 3,000,000 free meals on that special evening. The restaurant is not open to the general public that evening. So, yes, I joined in the crowd. Now, I DO NOT enjoy crowds and I DO NOT like waiting in lines. But, for this event and to enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow service men dating back to WWII and extending to the current conflicts, I made an exception. This was a joyful celebration of those who proudly served their country and, for those who saw combat, survived to return home. Many of these men and women were disabled in some manner. Everyone had the proverbial “war stories” to share with anyone willing to listen. In this particular case, it was a peaceful, non-violent gathering of people sharing something in common. We knew we were linked, through the Golden Corral, with a couple hundred thousand others just like us that evening.
Here’s another very different example. I’ve been to New Orleans (not since Katrina) and down on Bourbon Street during the rousing celebration that is Mardi Gras season. And, yes, I heckled and taunted the women to flash their breasts for the cheesy beads that were their reward. This is probably better described as “mob mentality.” There is a happiness, a party like atmosphere. People are drinking and getting pretty loose. I would say that the men and women are largely acting totally out of character, I know I was, mainly because they were all part of this “mob.” Another factor is that most of these people were not local folks. They traveled to New Orleans specifically to party and be away from their more respectable lives. Most likely the actions of both the men and the women were some secret, inner desire of being free that they weren’t free express in their regular day-to-day lives at home. They may have been schoolteachers, college students, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and from any number of other respectable professions and occupations. But, during this one period in time, they could let their hair down, pull their shirts up and be wild, crazy and free – and no one should be hurt by it.
But, I will point out, again, I dislike crowds and mobs and I don’t like being part of a herd. A herd is somewhat similar to the lemming concept. You’ve probably seen a herd of milk cows following a lead cow tail to nose to the milk barn and back to the pasture. You’ll see a similar behavior with elephants. The herd mentality doesn’t lead to some mass suicide as the mythical lemming mentality might imply. The herd just blindly follows a leader to do whatever the leader is taking them to do. To some degree, we witnessed, so horribly, some of this kind of behavior during WWII in the holocaust and the forced marches in China and some of the Asian countries and islands of the South Pacific. These are some of the worst examples.
Finally, there is “gang mentality” when people will gather in various size groups and because they are members of the group, they’ll do all kinds of terrible things ranging from robbing, stealing, destroying property, looting, beating innocent people, murder and rape. They become nameless and faceless in the gang and lose any individual recognition of right and wrong. Those who participate in gang mentality range from the obvious, gangs of thugs involved in power struggles, illicit businesses of various kinds and turf wars to those who may be the average, mainstream citizen who gets caught up in the fever pitch of the moment. Again, this could be teenage gangs, organized groups like unions not only striking, but striking back at the business they are in dispute with and with employees who cross the picket lines, termed “scabs” and who are often co-workers, friends and even family members. These same kinds of gang events can break out at political protests as we have witnessed this past year in the Middle East and even with some of the Occupy protests in the U.S.
Another current example of this behavior is called a “flash mob” defined as a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, and then quickly disperse. In this case, the activity is usually benign and often very entertaining to the bystanders. A group of singers/dancers will “spontaneously” emerge in a crowded place out of seemingly nowhere and perform a choreographed dance number and often sing the lyrics of the song.
More violent versions or spin-offs are called “flash robs” and “wildings” which are defined as the activity by a gang of youths (teens) that communicate via social media then meeting and going on a protracted and violent rampage in a public place, robbing convenience stores, shoplifting at shopping malls and high end department stores, attacking or mugging people at random and taking their bikes, motor scooters, cell phones, cameras and money. Flash robs appear to be escalating and while the police have some success in apprehending some of the members of the groups, it’s extremely difficult because the group changes its members and size spontaneously.
So, why am I making a point of this? Because, this is all about values. I admitted my patriotic reason for participating in recognition of our nation’s active service members and veterans. I, also, admitted my playful indiscretion for my Mardi Gras participation. And, there is certainly nothing wrong with gathering to celebrate these two distinctly different events as long as other people’s rights aren’t infringed upon or their property isn’t damaged, destroyed or stolen or they are not subjected to personal injury or worse.
But, every facet of our society is being goaded, encouraged in some way to act as part of these various groupings: crowds, mobs, gangs and herds. I have no intention of offending anyone who reads my blog, but I suggest that you look at how people act a football, baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer and other sports events on Little League, high school, college and professional levels. Oh, and let’s definitely not forget some of my favorite sports – “professional wrestling” (I’m laughing out loud at that one), boxing and kick boxing. I’m not singling out anyone, but the players, the fans and often even the coaching staffs are involved in violent activities all in the name of athletics.
Observe how people react on Black Friday sales events where they are waiting in crowds, become herds and then mobs as the doors are opened for the sale to begin and people are crushed, some are even crushed to death. It’s even been reported that guns have been brought to the sales. Some people will give up their entire Thanksgiving Day holiday to camp outside the stores for one or more days before the sales begin so they can be first in line when the doors open, now as early as 10 PM on Thanksgiving evening. The amazing thing it that these people KNOW that they will actually not get the best prices until just before the Christmas holiday and even better prices the day after Christmas.
At a recent grand opening for a new Dollar Store in San Diego a man camped outside the store for several days to purchase one of nine small, flat screen TV’s that would sell for $27.00 because his kid NEEDED to have a new TV to play his Xbox games on. I’m sorry; no kid NEEDS their own new flat screen TV to play games on. This feeding frenzy and mob mentality is not only encouraged, but it's driven by retailer marketing efforts including shameless exploitation on TV, radio, cable, the Internet and print media.
There is so much more about this entire mentality thing that I could write a book and I’m sure there are several books on the topic already. But, here is what it all comes down to. As a people we all want to defend our personal independent thinking. We don’t want to admit that we all participate in the various forms of lemming, herd, crown, mob and gang mentality, yet . . . here it comes, WE ALL DO at some level. Unfortunately, when you see the kind of numbers and various degrees of mass hysteria that are part of all kinds of events and social interactions, it’s not difficult to see why we have the kind of political environment we have, rife with greed, corruption, power mongering, unethical, illegal and just overreaching behavior and actions at the most basic level of propriety.
Our political system operates on this same level with these same kinds of mentality in play all the time. It’s simple to see the various crowds, mobs and gangs that practice lemming and herd mentality. Here are some labels for the various factions: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Statists, Socialists, Communists, Fascists, progressives, liberals, extreme left-wingers, conservatives, ultra conservatives, extreme right-wingers, the religious right, survivalists, Tea Party, Wall Street (put your own favorite word here) Occupiers, unions, big business, Chamber of Commerce, Gay Rights, civil rights, women’s movement, pro-life, pro-choice and the list could go on. Every one of these groups has an agenda and that agenda is to get you and me to be part of them. The power isn’t with the individual. The power is in the numbers. Just as when a “flash rob” group of 20 to 50 teenagers all converge on a convenience store or some other retail establishment, the store clerks and employees are paralyzed by the mass movement of the sheer numbers. They are powerless as individuals to have any control of the situation and fear for their own welfare. The only freedom of choice the aforementioned list of groups want you to have is to choose them and their agenda. These groups then negotiate among themselves to create even stronger forces. End of day, whoever can provide the most support for a candidate can win the ultimate prize. What is the prize? The group owns a seat in the government. The government then represents the special interests of the group or groups that supported them. So, it’s not necessarily the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It’s the greatest good for the people who support the agendas of the special interests.
So, how do we remedy this situation? Frankly, I don’t have a clue. This lemming, herd, crowd, mob, gang mentality education and conditioning definitely begin as soon as we start attending any school system and any religious organization. Sometimes it begins at home with our parents. The indoctrination is continuous and goes right into the adult’s work life, you know, be a “team player.” None of this is new. However, it continues to evolve, I again cite flash robs. When you choose not to conform, you become a “non-conformist.” Now, that’s not good. Non-conformists, by some quirk of fate, actually believe in thinking for themselves quite often. But, even in non-conformity there is still a degree of conforming. We call non-conformists by various labels, too. I suggest you consider hippies, beatniks, bohemians, mavericks, nomads, artists, musicians and anyone else who chooses a lifestyle that segregates itself from what is considered by the majority to be the mainstream. Certainly, choosing to live free is another form of non-conformity and thinking independently.
Our choices, in so many ways become more restricted as each year passes. The more laws that are on the books the less freedom the individual has. It is without question or doubt that there are so many laws (federal, state, county, city/town) on the books currently that there is no one who isn’t breaking at least multiple laws virtually all the time. I suggest that those of us who decide we want to live free spend the time to define what living free is individually for each of us. Then we must determine how we can tailor our lives with the least number of restrictions, limitations, rules, regulations, red tape, bureaucracy, etc. while still abiding as best we can with the existing laws of the land. Then make the choices and take the actions to enjoy as much freedom as you can within your chosen lifestyle.
Once again, we have an election year coming up in the U.S. Obviously, it’s not the best governing system, but it’s the best we have and, let’s face it, if there were a system somewhere in the world that is better, wouldn’t we all be emigrating to that country and wouldn’t those who are immigrating, legally or illegally, to this country prefer to go to that better place? Vote in the upcoming elections. But, do your best to vote your own conscience and not the collective conscience of the lemmings, herds, crowds, mobs and gangs. Remember, if you don’t vote, you don’t get the “bitching” rights that come along with voting. As I see it, based on the field of eligible candidates (are they really eligible) lining up for the 2012 general election, it looks like, for me, it’s another year of the “evil of two lessers.” Your thoughts?