The idea of community has been on my mind for a while now. I’ve always been an awkward sod, I’ve always wanted to know the reasons why for everything and one of the most common phrases I would utter as a child was “I don’t get it!” and I’m still saying it today. So many things, sport, drinking, thoughtlessness, soap operas, attention seeking, pubs, nightclubs. I’ve tried doing things to understand their point but I just can’t wrap my head around them. I’m not autistic, I’ve had that checked out but something happened long ago might explain it. Back in the early nineties, awork colleague of mine ran a covert experiment on me. He used the word “skank” and “skanky” in his conversations daily to see how long it would take me to start using the new word. In most cases it takes a couple of days but with me it took six weeks. Suffice to say, I am not easily swayed or influenced.
I have sometimes been accused of being antisocial, I am very self contained and love reading and quietly getting on with my own stuff, that said, I do like people, some people just not all people. I’m less anti social and more anti arsehole. There are lots of arseholes around, I’ve got very good at keeping them at a distance and keeping them out of my life but it’s not always possible. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to recalibrate my suspectedly faulty arsehole detector recently, once when someone who I thought to be absolutely awful had done the same job that I did a few weeks before and had managed to upset everyone with her patronising, insulting and unprofessional behaviour and the other where I sat within earshot as I heard someone I had been told had a heart of gold as she constantly talked over, contradicted and put down a whole group of people and foisted her opinion on them by sheer force of will. If there was a heart of gold it was buried beneath layers of concrete, barbed wire and machine gun turrets. Nope, arsehole!
Someone told me a while back that people were essentially good but I have never seen any evidence to support this theory. People, I’ve discovered, are basically people. They have the capacity for immense good and also for immense evil but they usually seem to hover about in the middle somewhere. The problems tend to come when people group together, it is very easy for an individual to succumb to peer pressure, doing or not doing things so as to be accepted by a group. In any group situation one or two leaders become dominant, unfortunately these are rarely chosen for their wisdom or skill and are more often there because they have more forceful and dominant personalities. It is no secret that many leaders in any situation tend to have narcissistic personality disorders and sadly group situations can be easily hijacked and just become a competition between a couple of people trying to fulfil their own agenda. Being primates, albeit highly advanced ones, human beings are genetically built to function in social situations and like many things we have evolved away from, this can cause as many problems as it solves. Numerous studies have been made into the phenomena that is called dissolution of responsibility where, believing that an external authority is taking charge, ordinary people have done appalling things for no better reason than someone in a white coat, a uniform or higher up the corporate ladder has told them to do it.
I see this in my home town all the time, people doing dangerous things, pointless things, counterproductive things, demeaning things, over and over again, seeking approval of a gang, a committee, a peer group, it’s so depressing to witness how few people actually think for themselves anymore. In its own small way it’s no different from the podgroms, the witch burnings, the concentration camps and the lynching that have plagued our past. People it seems rarely change, they are still very much people.
Whenever anyone tells me now that what they are doing is right because all their friends agree with them I just think of lynch mobs. There are photos of them on the Internet, deluded people willing to pose for a camera as some poor dead black person swings from a tree, history has shown us time after time that being in the majority does not make you right, it just makes it easier for you to think you are.