Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Groupthink Mind

This is a first try at some notions that have been a-brewin'. It may evolve. It may fall flat. You pays no money and you takes your chances!

A recent flap involving a lefty-ish Australian blogger's anti-gun-ownership musings and a couple-dozen gunbloggers led me to read a bit more widely. What I'm finding in a mode of thought not unique to the Left but often seen there and it's a worldview I can't find a word for.

In referring to others, the blogger in question leaps from individual to group behavior as if there was no difference -- conflating government-controlled foreign aid with private charity, tax money taken and handed out to other nations with individual contributions of time, expertise, money and/or materials. But he himself -- and his nominal, like-minded peers -- is never considered a member of the collective, always a proud individual. (Never mind, for now, the mad faith that the needs of others imposes an obligation upon those with more; let alone the essential valuelessness of required charity).

Is it solipsism? Blind arrogance? Look, if'n you are gonna treat everyone else as if they are a hive-mind, where d'ya get off exempting yourself?

If this was just the usual PSHness over firearms in the hands of free individuals, I'd shrug it off; we are, after all, talking about a writer who in all earnest believes that gunbloggers receive "marching orders" and "talking points" from what he belives to be a self-evidently horriawful, wicked NRA (of which I am at present not even a member, btw, funds bein' a bit shortish), fears any of what he describes as "manly" virtues and who appears incapable of distinguishing hyperbole and sarcasm from plain talk. I'd shrug it off as a desire for blog-hits, since there is one (1) item about which he happens to be right: there are few (non-NSFW) topics that draw online attention better than an anti-self-defense screed. I would -- except the same attitude and zeitgeist shows up over and over in his other posts. Nor is he by any means alone or exceptional in this attitude; he's just a handy example, recently met.

Folks who were there at the time point out how Ayn Rand could be utterly vicious to witlings and the ill-informed, especially later in life; witnessing this particular form of aristocratic Queen-Bee collectivism, I begin to understand how she got that way.

Readers, I do not assume you are monolithic in thought, attitude and/or deed; while I don't especially care about your politics, religion or shoe size as long as you can accept the necessity to not impose 'em upon unwilling others, I hope it is an active, engaged sort of apathy that sees each of you as who you are (or who present yourself to be, my third eye still bein' at the repair shop this week) and not some unit of the collective. Left, Right or orbiting Pluto, that may be one of the more basic differences among people: do you see others as individuals, or some seething mass to be bent to your image of the "common good?"

Me, I'm not even sure there actually is a "common good" or that striving to enforce it is such a great darned idea even if it exists. Who decides? The Queen Bee? (My mom kept bees. I've seen the heap of dead ones outside the hive, a pile that grows and grows as Winter continues. There's your "sacrifice for the common good." Count me out!) Perhaps a roughly and incidentally shared "good enough" is about as far as we ever manage.


Lorimor said...

It's arrogance. Well, that and a supremely bad case of projection.

bmayer said...

I think it has to do with them thinking that everyone is stupid except them and people that think exactly like them.

So I guess that would be another way of saying arrogance. Thanks lorimor!

Carteach0 said...

It helps tremendously to think in terms of theology, rather than rational thought.

The thing is, expecting rationality from some people is akin to expecting a cat to yodel a wagnerian opera. It's going to be a mighty long wait.

It might be best to read the words of Jubil Harshaw, as a means to order your own thinking. It helps place things in perspective.

For myself, when I gave up expecting people to make sense, I also stopped getting headaches and constipation. While the situations may not truly be cause and effect, I decided not to risk it, and just go with what works.

Best of luck on the musings....

LabRat said...

Oh, it exists plenty on the right, too. I've seen lots of otherwise rational people who seem to think that all homosexuals get a decoder ring on coming out of the closet that lets them translate this week's copy of the Agenda.

It's psychological immaturity- failure to proceed from recognizing people you have successfully distinguished as "other" are their own individual units and not just in a broad "other" category you can lump all not-you traits into. A lot of feel-good liberals seem to think we should never think of "others" in the first place, but that's even more immature- assuming that everyone must automatically have the same feelings and needs as your own.

Shrinkwrapped and Dr. Sanity have a lot of good material on how this mindset develops...

Larry said...

It also seems related to the psychological mechanism behind seeing the world going to sh*t everywhere but your own back yard.

A lot of people watch or read the news, and assume that ALL news from "foreign parts" (whether that is Iraq, or Metropolis) is bad, because good news is only of local significance, and bad news is universally interesting, or at least that is the filter that media irganizations inmpose upon us.

You can talk to ordinarily rational people and have them tell you, "Well, yeah, things are pretty good here in my home town, but all I hear from the city is how much crime and poverty are there. All I hear from overseas is how violent everything is. So it's obvious the world is cracking up and things are getting worse all over."

Likewise, people project thoughts onto faceless groups with a broad brush. We can predict very well what large groups of people will tend to do over time, but we can't predict individual behaviour worth spit. So, the intellectually shallow person will entirely discount individual behaviour, especially if their indoctrination has already prejudiced them against individualism.

Lorimor said...

Very good Larry!