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  • Sheeple

    Posted by Shannon Love on July 15th, 2009 (All posts by )

     

    sheeple

    From xkcd

    We all seem possessed by the fear we are not special. We cannot emotionally tolerate that each of us apprehends only a tiny piece of reality. We create a fantasy in which whatever special piece of knowledge we believe we possess grants us a superior understanding as compared to all others. This fantasy lets us view ourselves as deserving a higher status in society than all others. 

    Some people build political ideologies around this fantasy. 

     

    14 Responses to “Sheeple”

    1. david foster Says:

      There’s a Heinlein story in which a man is under the delusion that he is the only truly conscious being on earth, and all the other people are just kind of a stage set for the play in which he is the star and the only actor.

      Of course, it turns out that he is right…

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      Remember the Matrix? Or Marxists talking about “false consciousness”?

      It is all a form of gnostic heresy, wherein an enlightened One or Few have insight that is denied the masses of blind and ignorant people. Eric Voegelin wrote about it fifty years ago. Once you start to notice it, you see it everywhere.

    3. Whitehall Says:

      As long has we have competition for the alternate views of reality and how to deal with it, fine. We SHOULD make our case that we have the most insightful world view.

      Just so long as everyone gets to test those worldviews against reality.

      Still, people who think THEY are so much smarter than everyone else need to grow up and realize we are all trying to make the best of an imperfect world.

    4. methinks Says:

      My world view is that maximizing individual liberty is best. The opposite world view – making everyone a slave of the State – has been tested plenty (although, apparently not enough to satisfy the Obamabots). But I’m not sure it’s ethical to test the opposite world view. Should slavery be tested? It has, but should it?

    5. veryretired Says:

      Lex’s point above is well taken. Mystery cults, religious or secular, have a powerful appeal to the kind of mind prone to believing in conspiracies, or those who have a disdainful opinion of their fellow humans.

      But it isn’t just the belief that one has a correct idea about how things work, and that others are often mistaken. Any well educated person, of skilled ctaftsman, has that belief regarding certain areas in which they have expertise.

      What matters is the contemptuous attitude that everyone else is a misguided fool, one of the “sheeple” referred to by far too many elitists who constantly need to reassure themselves that they truly are one of the insiders, and that most everyone else is out.

      Combine that superiority with the second critical element in this scenario—that being among the chosen entitles the trus believers to enforce their vision on everyone else, for their own good, of course—and the self-hypnotic mantra is complete.

      Look around, and listen to what is being claimed by the elites as dangerous, and what desireable.

      Free and independent people, operating in voluntary association, attempting to make as good a living as they can, are dangerous, and have brought upon society repeated and painful economic disasters and social upheavals. This is the current “conventional wisdom” diagnosis of what ails us.

      Public spirited political and administrative cadres, most without any economic or technical expertise, have figured out the solutions to all our problems, have created huge state programs to enact these solutions, and require all citizens to cooperate in seeing these programs through to their successful conclusion. This is the current prescription to cure our social and economic ills.

      By any rational standard of measure, free and independent men and women, working creatively to provide for themselves and their families, have produced advances and improvements in the lives of all humanity beyond the dreams of our ancestors. We live in the land of milk and honey.

      Over the past century alone, political and governmental cadres have brought about wars, purges, created famines, and genocides resulting in the deaths of dozens of millions, and suffering that is truly impossible to measure.

      To trust the latter, while condemning the former, is magical thinking on a grand scale, indeed.

    6. Josh Reiter Says:

      “Remember the Matrix?”

      Actually, the movie ‘The Matrix’ had more to do with a philosophical thought experiment posed by Descartes. He proposed that for all we know we could just a brain in a vat and a mad scientist or demon is tricking us the think we see the world around us as it is. It was more about debating those things which you cannot know rather than the ones you do.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      Josh Reite,

      Actually, the movie ‘The Matrix’ had more to do with a philosophical thought experiment posed by Descartes.

      I would say its a movie about Buddhism conveyed using a thought experiment posed by Desecrate.

    8. Lexington Green Says:

      wrong about the Matrix. The Matrix is about fanatics who think that the public and the cops have false consciousness, so it is OK to murder them, and that doing so makes you a super-hero with super-powers. The thinking of, say, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang or the Symbionese Liberation Army was along the same lines as Neo and his nutty pals.

    9. Captain Mojo Says:

      The thinking of, say, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang or the Symbionese Liberation Army was along the same lines as Neo and his nutty pals.

      Although I think we can all agree that the real threat posed by this kind of semi-literate solipsism is filthy hippy raves presided over by Cornell West…

    10. Jonathan Says:

      Once you start to notice it, you see it everywhere.

      Everywhere. One sees it in hobby and sports clubs and professional groups and schools. It’s typical for there to be individuals in such groups who enforce the us/them ethos (perhaps such people are drawn to groups). In most cases it’s benign, because most groups are benign. It’s dangerous in political and some institutional contexts. Cults work by isolating individuals from everything that doesn’t reinforce the ethos. Individuals who are self-directed and/or grounded in competing social structures, particularly family and religion, are most resistant.

    11. david foster Says:

      “Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things”

      –C S Lewis

    12. onparkstreet Says:

      Phenomenal comment, Veryretired.

    13. Da Says:

      Everybody has blind spots and nobody has it all figured out, but I still think that the majority of people in the world are incapable of having any sort of internal dialogue or reasoning.

      Maybe you guys walked into the wrong theater, but the Matrix was about S&M.

    14. Shannon Love Says:

      Da,

      Everybody has blind spots and nobody has it all figured out,…

      Which is why we need to keep decision-making as decentralized as possible.

      … but I still think that the majority of people in the world are incapable of having any sort of internal dialogue or reasoning.

      Why would you think that? Isn’t it more likely that its just that different people concentrate on different aspects of reality while ignoring others? Why is one persons area of concentration more important than others.

      I mean, when I was a teenager, “intellectuals” of the day spent all their time thinking about Marx and Freud while sneering at anyone who didn’t. In retrospect, they were engage in a from of intellectual self-gratification. People who ignored such nonsense most likely spent more time thinking about the real-world even if they only did so once a month.