There is a school of thought, that believes that human beings are essentially a sheep-like species, who will copy, and therefore follow one another – without really thinking.
Is there any truth in this?
How often do you see the term ‘sheeple’ being used on the Internet for instance?
A term incidentally, almost always used by people who only differ from the targets of their derision, by their adherence to what appears to be a different ‘group’ or ‘herd’ of similar-minded people who happen to have a different opinion to them.
Since time immemorial, people have ‘grouped’ or ‘banded’ together for many reasons.
At the beginning, there was an obvious need to belong to a particular ‘tribe’, in order to simply survive.
It is a natural human instinct and whether you like it or not, the overwhelming consensus among those who study human behaviour, is that human beings will always tend to move in flocks.
And it is that instinct, that makes it relatively easy to manage public opinion, and introduce ever increasing amounts, of what seem to be at first unpopular political policies, and even completely unnecessary laws.
So how would something like that work?
You may, or may not be familiar with the work of René Girard, who was one of the earliest proponents of a theory that has come to be known as ‘Mimetic Desire’.
Girard’s view is that all desire is ‘Mimetic’, which translates as human desire is ‘borrowed’, ‘copied’ or ‘mimicked’ from other people, all conflict comes from ‘Mimetic Rivalry’, and that an inbuilt ‘scapegoat mechanism’ is what all human culture is based upon – including the desire to sacrifice.
He also teaches that religion became a necessity if humans were to survive as a species, let alone evolve, as it was needed to control the inevitable violence that accompanies their natural ‘Mimetic Rivalry’.
Make of that what you will, but it’s undeniable that human beings will naturally gravitate to others, who either possess something, or offer something, that they want.
Even if they did not know they wanted it at the time.
Think about what Steve Jobs, ex Apple co-founder said, when asked how he always seemed to know what people wanted:
“Folk did not even know they needed it, until they saw it.”
Another way that works, is even though one does not want a specific job that has been advertised, for instance, seeing somebody who has that job, or others who also want that job, causes one to want it too.
A perfect example, is as ‘Designer’ brands began to grow in popularity all over the world, you will have also witnessed first hand how mimetic desire works, and more importantly, what power it can hold over people.
Manufacturers and advertisers are only too aware of it, as if it didn’t exist, it would be extremely difficult to sell anything that wasn’t actually necessary – like food, warm clothing or a place to live.
That is why ‘Branded’ products are so phenomenally successful.
Simply because people will always desire the products that they see as being worn and used, by everybody else.
The Internet works in a similar way, you only have to look at the popularity of social media like Facebook and Twitter to see that, and it’s now viewed as being somehow ‘abnormal’ if anyone who has access to the Internet does not have a social media profile.
Many people publicly complain about the lack of privacy and the alleged ‘spying’ capabilities of Facebook, but how many will actually close down their accounts because of it?
The sheer numbers who use it daily speak for themselves.
Once again you can clearly see that the known lack of privacy and the blatant censorship of many forms of free speech, is almost irrelevant, as it’s also known that human beings will always tend to move in flocks.
Can you see how it works yet?
It may be wise to remember, that although it may appear that a certain opinion you hold or a choice you have made, may be seen as being ‘popular’, so therefore must also be ‘right’ – but very often, the only choice made available to a sheep, is which pen they are being herded into.
And it’s the shepherds and of course their faithful dogs, who ultimately control which particular sheep goes into which particular pen.
You may like to think about that.