Yes, I have my own blog, but as it’s name says “Morgan’s Reality Check” is more for pointing out facts than for expressing opinions. So, my I asked my husband if he minded me posting my opinion pieces here. As you can see, he doesn’t mind :-).
Humans, like many other of nature’s creations, have instincts. Some are stronger than others, but for the most part impulses like self-preservation, maternal instinct (not limited to female parental figures), and a need for companionship of some sort are universal. But the form some of those instincts takes can vary.
Groups tend to come in two types: herds and packs. Both band together for mutual benefit. Herds tend to be large bands of animals who congregate for safety, and packs are smaller groups who are often together as much for social reasons as for pure survival ones. The idea that more people are herd animals than pack animals is what prompted this writing, and research seems to bear it out.
A web search of “‘herd instinct’ human” on ixquick.com yielded “38 unique top-ten pages selected from at least 2,817 matching results.” The same search with “pack” instead of “herd” yielded “40 unique top-ten pages selected from at least 300 matching results.” Going over to Google, the herd variation yielded “about 2,870” and the pack one “about 327.” Obviously, there are more sites out there dealing with people in terms of herds than packs.
Most of “pack” sites had more to do with humans training dogs than with humans behaving as pack animals themselves; the one I found that talked about humans only discussed “pack instincts” in relation to unmarried adolescent males. A few others used the term “pack” when from the context I think “herd” would have been more appropriate (for example, a tendency to “follow the leader” is more of a herd response than a pack one).
So is seems some, even many, people prefer large groups to smaller ones. Why is this an issue? Because it seems to me that those with a herd mentality see pack types as a threat. Viewed in terms of packs and herds, this makes perfect sense — pack animals tend to be predators, and herd animals their prey. But not all pack-oriented humans are interested in preying on herd types, and in fact I’d say most would rather the herds just let them be.
Being a pack-type person in a society full of sheep was what originally got me thinking about this, but it has become a serious issue these days for another reason: herd animals tend to be driven by fear, and our current “leaders” are masters at playing the fear card. Frightened people are more easily manipulated, and those with a herd mindset to begin with are more likely to respond to fear by expecting the leaders to protect them.
Like an abusive man who, while never laying a violent hand on his wife, restricts her every move under guise of love and protection so that he can go about doing what he wants to do, the administration encourages Americans to be good little sheep and to let them get on with taking care of us. Renana Brooks discusses this in “Bush Dominates a Nation of Victims,” (AlterNet, June 22, 2003). Americans were presented with visions of mushroom clouds to convince them that the first ever preemptive strike by the American military was necessary, but we’ve since seen that no “nu-cu-lar” weapons were there to point our way (and in fact, the administration is now claiming that it was the threat that Saddam might develop such weapons that drove their action, not their actual existence. But I digress). Ashcroft attempts to silence critics by claiming that dissent helps the enemy. And many people have noticed that, whenever unflattering facts about the administration surface in the mainstream media, the Terror Alert Level yo-yo goes up to Orange.
It has been shown, all too often, that when a people behave as “good obedient children” or mindless sheep, they are all the more easily led to ruin. Adolph Hitler and Jim Jones are the names that come first to mind, but there have been others. It also shows up in our fiction, in movies like “Metropolis” and books like “1984,” where a populace is kept in fear so that the few at the top can control them. The fictions with “happy endings” are the ones where the people rise up against this oppression, and take control of their own lives again. The ones where the culture of fear wins out are seen as tragic.
Is is always best to follow one’s own drummer? No, sometimes being a team play player is better for the individual and the whole. In combat situations, for example, a lone glory hound can get an entire unit killed. We see it in sports, where “all star” teams don’t play as well as “lesser” athletes who have trained together, or movies with a list of “super stars” as long as your arm aren’t as good as ones with a small cast of unknowns who play well off each other. But there is a difference between working together cooperatively and blindly letting oneself be manipulated into following the herd.
The United States was founded by men who felt that the best way to ensure the safety of their new nation, and it’s people, was for those people to stay informed and involved. This reasoning was behind the Second Amendment, where every able-body was expected to be armed and ready to defend themselves and their neighbors from threats, including “official” oppression. It shows in our “representative democracy,” a mechanism wherein a populace too large and widespread (at least in the centuries before the Information Age) to have a direct Democracy could elect someone from there community to go to Washington and look out for their interests, and in which they could elect someone else if they decided their representative wasn’t representing them to their satisfaction. And it is the basis of the First Amendment, because only a through a free and independent press and the freedom to come together to discuss issues can the people stay informed.
In a pack, everyone looks out for the welfare of the whole. There is a leader, but he or she is not followed by blind instinct. Americans need to shake off the fears we have been bombarded with, and mindfully assess our leaders’ abilities and motives. Then we, the people, need to make sure we choose leaders who are worth following. We have been exhorted time and again not to let terrorists rule us by fear — let us turn that advice to our own leaders.