Trigger Happy

We have all witnessed the instantaneous shifting of directions during the flight of a flock of birds. Triggered by the leader of the moment, the birds instinctively follow the leader’s instinct. The same is true of other animals. On the other hand, humans come up short on instinct. Our major engine for survival is mind.

Yet, we are not free from the herd instinct. How else can we explain one-and-a-half-billion hits on a single day for a glimpse of a Bantam Style video. Subsequent to that event, another demonstration of instinct was massively celebrated by a homemade video of an infant who—yet unable to walk—simulated the sustained jumping up-and-down of the adult Bantam Style performers. That’s as basic as herd instinct gets.

For animals, the herd instinct sometimes misfires, as in a stampede that drives them off a cliff. At other times, it saves the herd from certain extinction. So, for them, stampede results are something of a wash. But I never trust the herd instinct in humans. The larger the herd, the greater my mistrust, especially of political herds. 

An unthinkable event in a school occurs. One of the immediate results is a stampede for the abolition of the Second Amendment. Celebrated politicians and entertainers rapidly surface online, on radio, and on television. More often than not, they embarrass themselves with feelings about issues rather than reason. Political celebrities dust off cliché talking points; debaters argue in circles; and entertainment stars reveal their profound ignorance about history and politics. Chris Rock tells us that President and Michelle Obama are our ‘mama and papa,’ and that we should do what President Obama judges we should do about gun ownership. Tony Bennett cites the Nazi hordes as proof that guns should be banned. When we break down their remarks to fundamentals, we find that Chris Rock advises us to revert to the seventeenth century notion of “Mon Dieu et Mon Droit”; Tony Bennett is unaware that the Nazi regime banned guns whenever and wherever necessary to suppress insurrections, especially from Jews.

Both those celebrities spoke to their flocks. Many others have made pro and con statements about gun control and ownership. Virtually all of them lack a sufficient knowledge of history and the discipline of logic to support their views. The imperative public demand for celebrity appearances and their opinions, coupled with severely brief time allocations between commercials, is infertile ground for significant thoughts on major issues. Senators aren’t doing any better. Worst of all, for a species whose primary tool for survival is the mind, we are dangerously relying on political demagogues to lead the flock.

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