Are you a sheep?

Case and Point.

“Man by origin is a herd animal. His actions are determined by an instinctive impulse to follow the leader and to have close contact with the other animals around him. Inasmuch as we are sheep, there is no greater threat to our existence than to lose this contact with the herd and to be isolated. Right and wrong, true and false are determined by the herd. But we are not only sheep. We are also human; we are endowed with awareness of ourselves, endowed with reason which by its very nature is independent of the herd. Our actions can be determined by the results of our thinking regardless of whether or not the truth is shared by others.

The split between our sheep nature and our human nature is the basis for two kinds of orientations: the orientation by proximity to the herd and the orientation by reason. Rationalization is a compromise between our sheep nature and our human capacity to think. The latter forces us to make believe that everything we do can stand the test of reason, and that is why we tend to make it appear that our irrational opinions and decisions are reasonable. But inasmuch as we are sheep, reason is not our real guide; we are guided by an entirely different principle, that of herd allegiance. Man by origin is a herd animal. His actions are determined by an instinctive impulse to follow the leader and to have close contact with the other animals around him. Inasmuch as we are sheep, there is no greater threat to our existence than to lose this contact with the herd and to be isolated. Right and wrong, true and false are determined by the herd. But we are not only sheep. We are also human; we are endowed with awareness of ourselves, endowed with reason which by its very nature is independent of the herd. Our actions can be determined by the results of our thinking regardless of whether or not the truth is shared by others.

The split between our sheep nature and our human nature is the basis for two kinds of orientations: the orientation by proximity to the herd and the orientation by reason. Rationalization is a compromise between our sheep nature and our human capacity to think. The latter forces us to make believe that everything we do can stand the test of reason, and that is why we tend to make it appear that our irrational opinions and decisions are reasonable. But inasmuch as we are sheep, reason is not our real guide; we are guided by an entirely different principle, that of herd allegiance.”

A quote out of “Psychoanalysis and Religion” by: Erich Fromm

Seeing as I like to consider myself an individual, it almost pains me to think that this could be true. We all want to think that we are unique or that we live purely by reason and to our own standards; but when I think about this quote and take a moment to stop and look around I am bombarded by the accuracy of Fromm’s words.

I suppose my train of thought went to San Francisco, as it often does during this strong wave of homesickness I have had for a few weeks. In San Francisco, we like to think of ourselves as “unique” to say the least. Hipsters are in abundance and political activists run amok, art is plastered over anything that will hold still and we even house the largest S&M production studio in the world.

I suppose it is entertaining for me to go home (where I grew up) and chat with my parents about all that is going on in my world. The idea of a pillow fight involving thousands of “unique” individuals like myself on Valentine’s Day rather than a good old fashioned date or hundreds of locals spending months making their costume for the Jesus look alike contest on Easter leaves them with mildly horrified expressions, but they fully support it if it makes me happy.

San Francisco is unique in the sense that it isn’t like other cities, but the herd idea comes in when you begin to think about all the people that flocked to this amazing city in order to be a part of this supposedly “unique” thing. In the end, this no longer makes it unique; it in fact just means that I decided to follow an alternative herd.

Things that come into mind when thinking about human herds:

• War
• Sport
• Fashion
• Art
• Lifestyle choices and status symbols (i.e. trying to keep up with the Jones)

Damn.

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