Wednesday, January 25, 2012


January 25, 2012

My beliefs are the same as those of everyone around me and that validates me. It means I’m on the correct path. If I didn’t think like all these other people I’d be misguided, wouldn’t I? Because they must be right. How soothing this is. How fortunate that we’re all so... together.
We look around us and take enormous comfort from that fact. We dress similarly, eat the same food, we all dislike abortionists and homosexuals and Muslims and illegal immigrants and welfare recipients and taxes. We all watch Fox News. We all detest Obama. We’re all doing everything we’re supposed to do...
And isn’t it time we abandoned this perfunctory Group Think and instead began exercising our own brain – each one of us. Wasn’t this country built on “rugged individualism”, as Rush Limbaugh is always braying about while inciting us to keep on hating Obama and homosexuals and Muslims and watching Fox News?
Then why do we look to our neighbors for reassurance? Disappointingly, this means we’re no individuals, we’re conformists. Herd animals. We’re followers who want someone else to do our thinking for us while we watch ‘Dancing With The Stars’.
Here’s the problem: the folks around us don’t know either, they’re all waltzing to the same tune, drawing their information and their conviction from us. The blind leading the blind. Which leaves us all easily managed, allowing an astute – no, let’s call it correctly and say ‘cunning’ – individual to assume the lead animal position. We all follow.
Time to mention Battle At Kruger, an exciting amateur video shot in South Africa by American tourist David Budzinski, that’s on the Internet. it shows a line of Cape buffalo heading to the waterhole where a pride of lions lie in wait. It’s an ambush and the dominant bull leads his retinue right into it; the result is pain and suffering for a calf and severe anguish for its mother and the entire herd.
These were faithful followers and they all relied on the good sense of the leader who steered them wrong. His problem was stupidity, perhaps inexperience. There are human animals elbowing their way to the front whose main attribute – if you can call it that - is something far less forgivable. They play us for suckers, tell us leave the thinking to them and all we need do is check the box with the appropriate letter.
In the Walton Tribune last month News Editor Robbie Schwartz recalled a voter complaining at a non-partisan Loganville City Council election that there were no Rs and Ds. He called dumb voting like this a slap in the face of democracy and he’s right.
You see a D or an R and that’s good enough for you? Low-information voters are bad enough, but no-information voters should be denied a voice. Absolutely. If you can’t even be bothered to find out what it is you’re voting for or voting against then you shouldn’t be allowed to vote at all.
“My father was a lifelong Democrat, grandpa too, therefore I’m the same.” Groan. So your forebears already did your thinking for you? It’s handed down through the family like an heirloom? That kind of laziness should disqualify you at the polling station door. Take that person away! You’ll get what you’re given and no more!
Clubs, societies, associations – an eagerness to belong is the continuation of that pre-teen insecurity where we crave acceptance from our peers. The Belonging People yearn to be embraced by the herd and thereby lose their “rugged individualism”. What a shame.
You don’t have to be particularly intelligent or well-educated to think independently, insists Australian sage Tom O’Leary. Simply switch off the TV because all mainstream news is tainted. Read newspapers with opposite political leanings. On the Internet be aware that everyone has an agenda, so question everything.
The most important thing is to ruminate - be a good buffalo and chew the information before swallowing. Be skeptical. What does the writer or the speaker have to gain from making me believe this? Could he be hiding something? Pushing something?
Nobody’s suggesting we should all become philosophers or shrinks but we must spend a little time away from the tube to examine what it is we want for ourselves and our children. ‘America’s Got Talent’, but America’s also got too many couch potatoes who are quite willfully closed-minded. It so-o-o much easier to cling to two or three “core principles” than to activate the brain. God. Guns. Country. That’ll do. Leave everything else - like the economy, the distribution of wealth, world affairs and the entire direction of our country – to a wily politician who stokes those three ideals.
Go it alone and you may be labeled a “loose cannon”. Yawn! That unimaginative, worn-out phrase has been applied to me pejoratively but I take it as a compliment. Wifey and I are mavericks, not the John McCain/Sarah Palin toe-the-party-line type mavericks but an actual pair of lone wolves.
As Americans we pay lip service to the notion that we’re self-reliant and free when in fact we’re being corralled like cattle. Willingly. Nevertheless we can each have a personal Independence Day the moment we take an active interest in our future. Personal independence is intoxicating; the reward in self-esteem is remarkable once we see the world around us with our own clear eyes and not through the red or blue colored lenses of others.
So step out of the herd. It’s safe, you know.


© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.