― Jess C. Scott, Literary Heroin (Gluttony): A Twilight Parody
“Why do you have to be the same as the others? ...Most of them are stupid.”
― Ken Follett, Winter of the World
“The city was filled to overflowing with persons who had neither brains nor individuality, who bore no resemblance to men that live by bread, and had only their outward shape to distinguish them from sheep.”
― Lucian of Samosata
“I don’t like the term “Average Joe.” I prefer “Dolly,” because not only is the Everyman a sheep, but he’s also a clone. They all think alike and act alike.”
― Jarod Kintz, 99 Cents For Some Nonsense
Pavlov and his experiments with dogs.
Pavlov Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was an eminent Russian physiologist and psychologist who devised the concept of the conditioned reflex. In his initial experiments, Pavlov rang a bell and then gave the dog food; after a few repetitions the dog started to salivate in response to the bell. Pavlov called the bell the conditioned stimulus because its effects depend on its association with food.
Just like the dogs we all have Pavlovian responses to repetitive stimuli. French teenage girls are exposed repetitively to TV and film images of attractive people smoking and a very high percentage of them smoke. Russians have experienced a profound rise in their living standards under the leadership of Putin and experience a positive Pavlovian response to his name. Conversely Western media associate Putin with a rejection of our American leadership and in our media he is vilified. Just like the dog's salivating response on hearing the bell ring, many in the West have an instant negative response on hearing his name. Republicans have the same spontaneous bell ringing reaction to hearing Obama's name.
It logically follows that our Pavlovian responses can blindly lead us into collective herd-like and mindless conformity. A rush into a war in Iraq with flags waving. Oops!! a mistake based on lies that leaves a nation destroyed including 5,000 American soldiers and as many as a million Iraqis dead. Thomas Friedman, (described by Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stones as light weight but popular columnist of the NYT) was a strong advocate for this war.
This was a repeat that followed the disaster in Vietnam that killed an estimated 3.6 million in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and 6,500 American soldiers and ended up with an ignominious American defeat.
The Lonely Crowd - Written in 1950 by David Riesman describes three main cultural types: tradition-directed, inner-directed, and other-directed. If we can step aside from the herd and listen to mainly inner directed personalities it can give some hope to the human race. The Internet has opened a window to these voices all of whom reject mindless conformity. Their voices are now being heard and shared by millions through the Internet. The aren't so lonely anymore. My list is long but here are a few names: Chris Hedges, Matt Taibbi, Jon Stewart, Naomi Kline, Jesse Ventura, Michael Moore, Pepe Escobar, Elizabeth Warren, Edward Snowdon, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange (Wiki Leaks) Cenk Uygur (Young Turks), Erik Margolis, Peter Lavelle (RT).
Where does mindless conformity take us? There are many allegoric stories written about this human weakness such as
- Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick' where the crew blindly follows Captain Ahab's obsession to kill the Great White Whale. Only the first mate rejects this maniacal obsession and survives to tell the tale.
- The fable 'The Pied Piper' tells the story of children listening to the leaders flute and blindly following him to their death. Dates back to an actual event in Hamelin in 1284 where 130 children were killed.
- Examples of modern day Pied Pipers for military interventions, including the disastrous wars in Iraq and Libya, include Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Fred Barnes of Fox News, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and influential Republican right wing policy advocates such as Victoria Nuland and her husband Robert Kagan with the backing of PNAC (Project for the New American Century). She is currently busy in Kiev with a 5 billion dollar budget to realize her hegemonic goal to replace Putin with a US handpicked leader just as they replaced Ukraine's elected leader with Poroshenko, a US handpicked stooge.
What can we do to prevent being swept away by mindless conformity? Unfortunately the controlling and wealthy interests need their armies of well cared for sheep. The Koch Brothers can be included in this select group of 20 people whose wealth is estimated to amount to a total net worth of over a half-trillion dollars.
Their collective investments run into the many millions to finance chosen politicians, conservative think tanks and media campaigns. Koch brothers for example promote the rejection of global climate change regulations related to oil and gas production and generously finance conservative politicians who support their causes.
The history of the Koch family makes for some very interesting reading. The pile of money Fred Koch and his family made working for the Bolsheviks in the late 1920s and early 1930s, building refineries, training Communist engineers and laying down the foundation of Soviet oil industry provided the foundation of wealth for Koch industries. Fred Koch (1900 - 1967) from this experience in Stalinist Russia became an ardent anti-communist and a founding member of the John Birch Society. He was convinced that the evil 'socialism' was taking over America through unions, colored people, Jews, homosexuals, the Kennedys and even Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had four sons who were all rabid conservatives; Charles and David who manage the Koch empire, and Frederick, the oldest brother a philanthropist who died in 2014 and William, the youngest brother an American businessman, sailor, and collector. William's boat was the winner of the America's Cup in 1992.
Read about an unsavory Nazi past of Koch relatives.
Since Sheep rarely think about these issues, their complacent conformity lends a helping hand to the influence of the .00001% as they trash Obamacare and environmental protection. In my view only an economic upheaval can alter the course of this complacency.