The "sheeple versus enlightened" framework has a few flaws.
For one thing, asking people to be individualistic plays into the consumerist culture that people are trying to rebel against. That is because individualism has, for the past 40 or so years, been realized mostly by purchasing differently than everyone else. Buying your way into coolness, in other words. As a result, there has been a massive increase in demand for choice of products, and companies have reaped greater profits by catering to individualistic tastes. There was a time, and some of you are old enough to remember, when companies were associated with conservatism and conformity. The 1970s movie Rollerball has, as villains, a group of Coporate Conservative Conformists.
There was a time when Conformity was not merely a social pressure, but actively endorsed. It's been a few decades since that ended. Individualism worked. It won. In large enough numbers, Special Snowflakes can be an avalanche.
And yet, consumerism remains. We still buy too much stuff and throw too much stuff away throw too much food away and use too much energy.
And if you think "well, I'll just be thrifty with my food and buy less and use less energy", well, that's the second problem. I don't really care what YOU do. You alone are not enough to heal the world. That's the whole trouble with individualism, it leads people to believe that their individual choices can change the world for the better in the absence of organized effort.
After all, it takes more than one person to build an institution. One person can destroy something, oh, that's easy. All you have to do is hit it in just the right place. But if you want to build, you need other people involved. You need other people to invest their energy and their time and and their love so that it keeps going after you're gone. You need a community to be invested.
As much as the Three Cups of Tea guy turned out to be a fraud, he got one thing right: the schools that a community helped build were ones they were willing to defend. People don't like to abandon the things they build.Teach a man to fish, and he fishes for life. That kind of thing.
And we need to build communities, because as it stands, right now we're kind of scattered on the wind. We young folk of each generation say things like "my single vote doesn't matter" and "what can I do." We think of effectiveness as our individual choices, and not as collective action. We need collective action. That's how shit gets done. That's how things get built. That's how communities are protected. By the work of many. The idea that a single, super human can fix everything is so far off the mark that even BATMAN is willing to delegate his duties now.
And people who are committed to changing their world for the better understand this. There's been movements toward that end for the past few decades. Before the Marriage Equality movement, there was ACT UP and the organized pressure to find a treatment for HIV. There was the Environmental movement. The second wave of feminism. And so on. All of these movements were championed by people who lived in the midst of an individualistic culture. It did not prevent them from finding common ground on matters of national importance.
My worry about the word "Sheeple" is that it represents a mindset that prevents YOU from finding common ground with anyone. Because it prevents you from looking for ways to connect with people. As the message at the bottom of this node says, "yeah, yeah, you think you're high and mightier than everyone." How are you going to find common ground if you think you're at the peak?
The idea that everyone is stupid and half-asleep, that everything will go right if we all just Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, is something that has pervaded American thought for the last 240 years. Ever since the Great Awakening, we've had this idea that someday we'll all get smarter all at once, we''ll all become more moral at once, Jesus will descend and everything will be made right again. In the massive cultural upheaval that was the 1950s White Flight To the Suburbs, this idea lost its Christian mooring and began to be expressed in whatever promising new spiritualism people found. Psychedelics and Eastern Mysticism were supposed to all awaken us to a state of higher consciousness and we were all supposed to see Reality, and finally realize the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
The word "Sheeple", implying a kind of sleepy conformity, is a degraded version of this cultural movement.
Meanwhile, the people who were perfectly willing to get on the level of other people were able to band together and achieve real change, and that's why the first anti-retroviral drugs came out in the 1990s instead of 2000, and that's why marriage equality was achieved this year instead of ten years from now. And that's why cultural attitudes changed in time for my own mother to be able to open her own goddamn credit account in the formative years of her adulthood. Change of this nature doesn't happen automatically, especially when lots of powerful people have a financial interest in keeping things the way they are.
It's tempting to think that good change would happen automatically, if everyone just Woke Up. But human behavior doesn't work that way. Smart people come to different conclusions. Intelligent people argue a lot. Just look at the scientific papers coming out of universities.
I don't like it when people compare other people to sheep, because it implies that they're just a bunch of dumb conformists. Maybe they aren't! Maybe they're all as smart as you are, and still don't want to change anything, because everything is satisfactory for them. Maybe they understand how the world works and are looking to manipulate it for themselves. Maybe they're not as learned as you, but they're proud and determined and well worth having in any group of people dedicated to change. How are you going to know unless you get down off your mountaintop and ask them?
And if you find a group of people all willing to work together, who knows what you all can accomplish?
The people in elected positions do. That's why they don't want you to vote in the first place. They understand the power of collective action, and they fear it. They try to undermine it. They gerrymander your collective voting power into oblivion, and they make you pay poll taxes, and they ask for IDs when you vote, in full knowledge that you're too poor to get one. And they look the other way when companies do everything they can to prevent workers from organizing. They fear the power of organized people.
They know that, far from being a bunch of sheep, a community can be a herd of Cape Buffalo.