September 30, 2010

People versus Sheeple. Which side are you on?

Are you human, or are you one of the sheeple?

Don’t get me wrong – I love sheep. But not when they are pretending to be humans!!

It was brought to my attention recently how un-human many humans are!

I came off my bike, and was lying by the side of the road, wondering if I had broken anything. It was here in the hills where I live, and there was no-one around to help me – until a car came along… and passed. The passenger, a metre away, looked through the window, pointed at me, laughing!

I would say that “I couldn’t believe it”, but the fact is, I wasn’t all that surprised…. something very similar happened to me years ago in London – but that time I was in a busy street, surrounded by literally hundreds of people, and again, not a single person so much as asked if I was ok… although I had a very serious and dramatic accident. I was lucky to be alive actually.

Why is it that people are so uncaring about each other?

I believe that there are many reasons – for example, sometimes people are really in a hurry; caught up in their problems; stressed. I can understand that. However I think that the main reason lies elsewhere: I think that many people are afraid. Afraid of being seen – of being visible. Afraid of being heard. Afraid of what might happen in this unexpected, unusual, extra-ordinary encounter with a stranger.

Afraid of breaking out of their comfort zone. Afraid of breaking through the little bubble of habituated routine that they inhabit.

The fact is that many people have become like sheep. Fearful, and ready to do only what they are told.

At the Nuremberg trials, as we all know, the German officers and soldiers responsible for mass murder and genocide stated that they were simply
“following orders”.

I see that many people today are still perfectly happy to follow orders, even if those orders are apparently against what they believe in.

For example, recently on French television, an experiment was carried out:
In the documentary, ‘contestants’ were told  that they were taking part in a ‘reality t.v. show’. They were told by the ‘T.V. presenter’ (played by an actor) to electrocute the other contestants for giving wrong answers. The person being ‘electrocuted’ was also an actor, but the ‘contestants’ didn’t know this. The purpose of the documentary was to find out how far people would go before saying ‘No’ to an authority figure.

Guess what? They were prepared to follow orders even to the point where the person being electrocuted could be killed.

Actually, this experiment was a replica of a famous scientific research conducted by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s – in which the results were the same. The times have changed; human behaviour has not.

To me, this shows the extent to which we allow others to take our power from us – if someone is in a position of apparent authority – whether they are a politician, a doctor, or a television presenter! – we are often all too happy to give our power to them.

But there is another side to this. We are not only prepared to follow orders. We are unprepared to act on our own initiative. So many people are so brainwashed by television; advertising; and our excuse for an education system (which really educates people how not to think for themselves) that they actually don’t know how to think for themselves. If they are not told what to do, they tend to do nothing.

The great philosopher Bertrand Russell once said:
“Most people would rather die than think. In fact, they do so!”

Of course, we all go through the normal day to day activities, but anything out of the ordinary presents many people with a difficult challenge. So when they come across the unusual situation (for example) of a man at the side of the road underneath a bicycle, they simply point and laugh nervously!

I wrote recently about FREEDOM, and how we are often unable to react spontaneously because we are so conditioned by our prejudices, fears, and ideas about the world around us. But I have realised that there is something else which limits people’s freedom in a more fundamental way: this inability to act without being encouraged; given permission; or even being ordered, to do so.

If you came across a person at the side of the road, under a bicycle, would you stop to help? If *you* were one of those unwitting ‘contestants’ in the documentary, how far would you go?

Do you have the courage to break free from social conditioning in order to do what you know in your heart you must do: to do the right thing, in any given moment, no matter the cost?

Because – correct me if I’m wrong here – isn’t that what makes us human?

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