Sunday, April 19, 2020

It's Amazing How Conformist People Are

People, particularly young people, claimed to be rebels.  But people, particularly young people, can be very conformist.
When crowds of people do things all in unison, it often results in bad things happening.

One of the things to shock me about this Corona Virus thing is how conformist people can be - particularly young people.  I like to look at online comics, as I miss the old comic pages from the papers. It's refreshing to see the perspectives of many young folks trying to start a career as a cartoonist - a career that is very difficult these days.

Prior to the Corona Virus crisis, most of the cartoons were pretty liberal and youth oriented.  There were a lot of themes on rebellion and being different. A lot of left-wing and pro-Bernie themes as well.

When the virus hit, it was amazing to me how quickly they all fell into line.  It was almost as if somebody had sent out a memo from the state-sponsored cartoonist collective.  Every cartoon exhorted people to stay at home and to honor our first responders.  Everyone marched in lockstep with the government mandates and no one questioned any of it.

This is not to say you should question the seriousness of it, only that we should do these things rationally. I thought, perhaps naively, that if anyone would question the logic of mandates from President Trump, it would be the nation's young people. But instead, they were all too happy to march in lockstep with the government.

And don't get me wrong, perhaps this is a good thing. We don't need groups of teens congregating on the beach and having beer bongs at this particular time.

A reader wrote that in Canada, it apparently is a "thing" to bang on pots and pans out the window every night at 7:00 PM, and this concerned him.  Not because we shouldn't "honor" those people who are doing difficult jobs, only that it seemed a little creepy that folks were all doing the same thing, at the same time, all in unison.  Bad things usually happen when people march in lock-step.

I was hoping, perhaps naively, that some might question what was going on and whether some of these restrictions made sense or not.  But no, there was none of that.  And maybe the reason is pretty obvious.

Young people live in deathly fear of being different.  Sure, they want to tell you that they are just being different with their tattoos and piercings and odd clothing choices - just as we were at that age. But they're being different just like everyone else, or in other words conforming to their own peer group.  Young people are more conformist than old people.

And I guess this shouldn't shock us too much. After all, it was a Hitler Youth that eventually became the Wehrmacht. It was the young people who served in the military without question as to whether invading Poland was a good idea or putting people in concentration camps wasn't an abomination.

As I noted before, marketers love that demographic, particularly young males aged 16 to 35, because you can sell them shit on the stick if you tell him that all their friends are buying it.

So I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. It's not necessarily the Gladys Kravitz's - the old Bats, Biddies, and Busybodies - who are calling in social distancing violations on Facebook, but rather the young people.

Both the Communists and Nazis had great success in getting children to turn in their own parents during those dictatorial regimes. Young people want to fit in with society and are willing to go along with things without question.  It's the older people that probably formed the basis of the resistance. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, only that it's an interesting observation.

The last time around we had something like this was after 9/11.  We all said the same platitudes about how "we're all in this together" which lasted about ten minutes before the usual partisan bickering commenced.   But in that short period of time, we all marched in lock-step, right into Iraq.  Even today, we are mystified as to why we did this.   A few voices spoke up and said, "You're invading the wrong country, dude!" and we shouted them down and shamed and damned them for questioning the whole thing.  What were they, unpatriotic?  On the side of the virus Al Qaeda?

A recent article in The Atlantic is ostensibly about licensing of workers - and how over the years, more and more people have to obtain licenses to work in their field, not to ensure consumer safety, but to make sure there isn't too much competition in that business.  It is a fascinating read, and I never realized that if a hospital wants to add more beds, or you want to build a nursing home, you have to first get permission from competing hospitals or nursing homes, who of course, are not giving it.  And we like to think we are living in a deregulated society - ha!

But the author managed to slip by a little nugget past the PC Police at The Atlantic.  Subversive stuff, really:
In times of panic, the natural tendency is for government power to expand, and some states have already enacted laws giving state governors near-dictatorial power to waive or suspend legal requirements. But history teaches all too well that such expansions of power are rarely reversed when the crisis that precipitated them abates. So although our current situation requires rapid action, it is both better and safer to make changes through ordinary legislative and rule-making processes.
That is the real danger of conformist behavior.  It is not that we are not "all in this together" but that given absolute powers, some people abuse them.  I live in a "Red State" and right about now, quite happy to be here.  All the grocery stores are open and fully stocked with goods - even toilet paper, although they won't let you buy a cartload - for your own good.  Plenty of meat, pallets of sugar and flour (for some reason) and nothing in short supply.  The liquor store is still open - drive-up only. Home Depot was mobbed, but they are letting in only a few people at a time (I am fixing a roof leak, which is "essential" in my mind, anyway).

In other States, less so.  The Washington Post laments the empty shelves in the DC area, as government drones in emergency mode, strip the shelves bare (they do this after a half-inch of snow, go figure).  In Pennsylvania, they have outlawed liquor sales - why, I am not sure.   It seems that State-by-State, the rules put in place are arbitrary and capricious, and a lot of people are going along with this, lest they appear to be rooting for Al Qaeda the virus.

I was one of the voices that shouted down dissent after 9/11.  We had to go after Saddam Hussein, he had yellow cake uranium!  Turns out I was wrong. Turns out, the government lied to us.  How shocking.   At the time, anyone who said otherwise was called a terrorist, or worse.   It was really no different from the 1950's and the McCarthy era, where the epithet of "Communist" was worse than "child molester."

Today, oddly enough, the conformists are more on the liberal side.   Gretchen of Michigan seems to be getting orgasmic pleasure out of throwing her weight around - often contradicting her own dramatic prohibitions within days.  This isn't good governance, it is grandstanding.  It is, dangerous.

We should think carefully about ceding power to government, particularly in a crises.  This isn't a leftist versus rightist thing, but a human thing.

But if you are a leftist, think carefully about this mindless lock-step thinking.  Because the guy who presently heads our government would love it if you granted him dictatorial powers.

All hail, Emperor Trump!   Is that what you really want?    I don't!