No One Organizes A Mob
While no one in particular organizes a mob there’s plenty of blame to go around when one forms. As with all things human, we are capable of using the raw material of our humanness for good or for destruction. As it pertains to mobs, I’ll focus on a particular part of that raw material, man’s herding instincts. These instincts can bring about a supportive community. But it can also burn it down.
To start we must first recognize that we are all sheep-like. The only difference between sheep and humans is that sheep are stupid and humans, in the grand scheme of things, are a little less so. Sure, we like to think of ourselves as too smart to be sheep-like, and in a narrow view of things we are. We’re just not so smart that we can not function the way we were designed by our creator to function, which is to behave much like sheep behave as far as it concerns the fact that they function as a herd.
As a side note and a disclaimer, I have no problem with the fact that I, as a human, was designed to function within the confines of a herd. I do prefer to call it a Body of folks, but herd is fine. And it was, evidently, fine with Jesus too. He often referred to his followers as sheep. That’s because he knew that we were like sheep. But probably unlike sheep, pride blinds us into thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to, so as a result many reject the blatantly obvious and join the herd that has convinced themselves that they are not a herd. Our humanity is the raw material. We are what we are, whether we are in the Body or are a member of some other sort of herd.
Our humanity does, on the other hand, offer us an advantage over sheep… or maybe it’s a disadvantage. As humans, we have the ability to be members of several different herds at the same time and in different ways. We are layered and multifaceted. There’s family, work, church, play, politics, and so on, all of which, in their own rights, are herds that impose themselves onto us the mentality of each particular herd. In addition, these herds will also tend to share some consistency. Those who find themselves in a herd of prostitutes, for example, will likely feel more comfortable with a herd of drug dealers. And for them, someone wearing body armor and driving a four-door without door handles in the back will look more like a wolf than a sheepdog.
For the sheep, it’s much easier. It’s all pretty much about grass and haircuts. For them it’s wolf = run. For humanity, with its layers and facets, the wolf is not always as easily detectable. But the fundamentals remain the same. Wolves eat sheep so sheep are afraid of wolves and act accordingly. Humanity is afraid of all sorts of more complex things real and imagined and so it will also act accordingly when confronted by these things.
Our biggest commonality, therefore, with our dumber herding counterparts is fear. That might well be the reason that Jesus told us so many times to fear not. Fear is contagious in the herd. In addition, our sight is limited. What is going on all around us within a small parameter can easily overwhelm our knowledge of the reality that exists outside of that parameter. Or, put differently, peer pressure is strong, even when we know better and even when we’re older, and especially when the stakes are high. If everyone around you is afraid it’s easy to lose the confidence necessary to not be afraid. And the more you find yourself in the not-afraid minority the more you question your lack of fear. Like an Alaskan tide rolling in lifting first that boat way out there, and then that one a little closer, and then the one tied to the pier you’re standing on, so does fear overtake us and erode our confidence in what we believe to be true.
The problem for sheep when they run is that they scatter which makes them easier prey. The problem for humans is a little different. We can get incredibly stupid and do incredibly stupid things and have the destructive potential to become a mob.
Human mobs range in size and complexity. Of course, the larger and more complex the more damage they are capable of inflicting. If a “herd” of folks, for example, have been raised on cornbread and victimization for their entire lives, they might burn down their hometown because one of their homeboys got shot by someone they saw as a wolf. But that’s small beans compared to what a much larger and more complex mob is capable of. It can burn down an entire nation without striking a match. But whether it’s a few sheep who think they see a wolf, or a local community that has been programmed to see only wolves, or it’s a nation, or even a multinational civilization, the fundamental element is the same. Fear.
At the zenith of the Roman empire, the thoughts of it committing economic harakiri because of a remote chance that some of its citizens might perish was impossible. Bad news traveled fast even then, but not that fast. It was an empire that encompassed the entire Mediterranean Sea. Even a hundred years ago such a thing would have been impossible. Why? Because they, even then, did not have the 24/7, moving-pictures-with-music “news” cycle. It’s one thing for the boy tending the sheep to shout into the village that a wolf was attacking the poor sheep. It’s another thing altogether when that message is pumped none stop into every house, state house, university, railroad station, senate chamber, planning room, conference room, airport, car, newspaper, magazine, and almost every living room. After all that hammer-broadcasting, whether or not there is actually a wolf is irrelevant. There’s a wolf even if the Shepard crosses his heart and hopes to die that there isn’t.
In modernity, we find ourselves in a constant state of warnings about wolves over here, over there, everywhere with the breathless news shows, warning us that we’re all going to be killed, sickened, oppressed, ripped off, robbed, shot, stabbed, enslaved, controlled, judged, offended, over-charged, lied to, or worse than all that, not getting our fair share of scarce resources for one reason or another. Oh, and our planets going to overheat because the silly peasants for some completely ridiculous reason would rather not live in poverty.
It’s a constant drumbeat by the most serious of serious faces that the wolves are about to devour us tail to snout. Sometimes it sounds so credible that every facet of our human experience begins to believe it and act accordingly which gives it a snowball effect as one herd watches another and another not realizing that the herd that they are watching react is reacting that way because they are watching your herd react. The fear is itself contagious and resonates between them all. It sells. It’s great for ratings, and it’s politically expedient by nature. Save us!!! Save us!!! Save us!! becomes the herd’s refrain as they take off in full sprint. In human terms, we would call this flight a mob.
Was it a conspiracy that caused our current Covid19 mob? No! Did some conspire? Without a doubt. Did the conspirators have the same motivations or the same ends in mind? Not a chance. Were some convinced that a wolf was about to devour them? Most certainly. Were some convinced that there was a wolf because they had lost confidence in their own discernment? Without question. Did some have the most honorable of intentions? Absolutely. Was anyone, top to bottom, smart to stupid, beautiful to ugly, knowledgeable to ignorant, rich to poor, conservative to liberal, powerful to powerless, immune? No way. We are all sheep. It, like death, is the basic equality of the rawest of the material that ends up being us. We are not immune to fear, and especially not immune to the fear of the herd.
The mob, therefore, is not by its nature a thing that comes about through organization. An attempt to organize a mob is like an attempt to create a humanoid robot. Both have the form of a living thing but are obviously lifeless. A mob has a collective life all its own, albeit a short one. The only thing enduring about a mob is the destruction it causes. The trick then is to understand the mob always with the perspective of from the outside looking in. To pull this off will require a vaccine that will help you to be immune to the contagion of the mob. Here are 5 vaccines that will help your heart and mind resist the mob contagion:
1. Don’t be myopic. Fear and panic cause tunnel vision which causes fear and panic. We can become more afraid of being eaten by one wolf over there while not realizing that there is a wolf salivating right next to us.
2. Turn off the wolf-criers. Why are we so willing to trust those who cry wolf day and night through the years? We shouldn’t be surprised when those who listen to this none-stop tend to see a wolf behind every bush and live continuously in a state of fear. There are things to fear, for sure, but you won’t know what they are because you listen to those who can’t do anything at all but cry wolf. They will, in fact, be the ones who will be distracting you from them.
3. Ignore the hype and look around you. Pay attention. Sheep all around you are being eaten by ravenous wolves all the time, but how? What does such a thing look like? They look like perversions, government education, state worship, Secular Humanism, divorce, infidelity, fatherlessness, abortion, addictions, folly, tyranny, to name a few. You have much more to fear from these things than a microbe. Those crying wolf are blind to them, yet there they are, blatant, their teeth ripping away at flesh.
4. Know the difference between a fake wolf, a wolf, and a sheep in wolf’s clothing. There’s only one way to know these things and that is by being grounded in God’s precepts which discern good and evil, man and his hubris be damned. Those who are yelling into your ear morning and night fear the violation of arbitrary law, an ever-changing law, a law that calls evil good and good evil, a law that devours and destroys. But God’s precepts protect, preserve, and keep the wolves at bay.
5. By faith. It’s one thing to have a compass. It’s another thing altogether to trust that it is accurate. The more that you focus on your compass and trust what it’s telling you, the less you’ll be swayed by the winds and the waves of fear that pummel your being. Make sure you’re in a herd that’s looking at the same compass, and that that compass is good and true, pointing to something objective and timeless. You will be less compelled to run every time you hear someone scream wolf. And you’ll know it’s time to run when no one is screaming anything.