Talking with Crowds

By Charles Pinwill 11/6/2022

Advise to men about their relationships usually appertains to a woman, God, or their associates at work. What really shifts men’s opinions, ideas, aptitudes, and convictions is usually how they relate to the “herd”, or if you will, the “mob” or the “collective” of which they regard themselves as a part.

Research is increasingly telling us, it seems, that the opinions we adopt, the ideas we accept and the policies we opt for, are what we think “others” will concur in.

The global advertising industry spends hundreds of billions annually upon influencing us.

They spend many more again in assessing whether it worked, and why.

Approximately, it works like this. In deciding what we make of a proposition such as “CO2 is threatening the climate” we don’t usually consult our independent conclusions in the matter. This is because few of us have them. It is far too expensive in time and opportunity to explore many abstract academic propositions. What actually happens is that we “pick up” or absorb what majority opinion appears to be. When we are asked to take a position on this question, our subconscious mind which loves us, intervenes saying, stay with the mob and the safety of numbers. The perceived majority opinion is adopted on the basis of its “safety”.

This is probably the most significant and widely employed strategy in controlling nature. It is as effective amongst animals as it is with humans.

In mustering widely dispersed cattle on an open plain into captivity, it is subtly employed. Drifting well out from the outermost cattle, one attempts with minimum pressure to induce them to move a little more closely to the others. This continues at the most leisurely pace practicable. As the cattle come into closer contact with each other their awareness of each other increases. In time they increasingly look to the others to suggest their own response.

A small nudge on one side of the mob can change their direction of movement a little. Offering the mildest threat causes a movement towards the centre of the mob, and the mob readjusts slightly. The principle here is that if the crocodile is to eat one of us, it should always be someone else. By inducing the mob of cattle to always take the safety option, in time they are all herded into the cattle yards and every single one is shipped off to the abattoir. The crocodile can eat them all because they prefer the others to be eaten first.

Those which stand out from the swirling ball of sardines are first eaten when the tuna and dolphins are herding them. In time of course all are eaten, unless the predators’ appetites prove insufficient for the task.

Are men so dissimilar? My brother once spent many hours in discussions with professional army officers recounting their experiences. They spoke of a training exercise in which, at a point when the men were crawling under obstacles, live ammunition was fired over their heads. When the recruits were drawn from suburbia, they all crawled in closer and closer towards each other. Rural recruits dispersed as much as they could.

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Their consciousness of the falsity of “safety in crowds” differentiated their responses.

The dynamics of convincing everyone of what everyone else is thinking is changing radically with the artificiality of “mega media”. This in turn, if we are mob sensitive, changes what we in turn will accept as true.

Kipling’s poem asks, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue?”  Implicit in this is that it may threaten virtue. Talking with crowds can hardly be thought to challenge virtue in the sense of sexual misdemeanour or petty pilfering. It offers the altogether greater sin of prostituting our judgement, opinion and intellectual integrity to our perception of “others”. Ultimately this can mean that we cease to be persons, and become but “outcomes” of advertising campaigns or political propaganda.

The politically and socially correct are piteous outcomes of what they have heard most often and have internalised and adopted at a sub-human level.

The most heinous and demeaning of all human sins comes with surrendering to the popular, and wholly because it is popular with others. In a certain sense we cease to be. When we decide to be what everyone else seems to be, we can retain nothing of ourselves.

What all this seems to mean is that when something without an objective truth is widely held to be true, it must be treated with the utmost suspicion. It has very probably been induced into the popular mind by a vested interest with the means of endless repetition and at the very least, whether this is so or no, this forms the primary duty of care of a functioning human being who takes responsibility for himself.

We must examine the pedigree of every idea to know its agenda in society’s sung narrative. Who benefits is, as ever, the question.

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