Man is a strange critter.
Part predator, part herbivorous herd animal.
Jordan Peterson has an interesting commentary about zebra stripes. They aren’t camouflage against the landscape. The black and white stripes are camouflage against the rest of the herd. Once the lions can identify a single zebra they can strategize to bring it down.
This is a head slap moment: when you realise herd animals camouflage themselves against the herd, a whole heap of human doings make more sense.
Before generals dressed their soldiers in camouflage they dressed them in bright uniforms. Red, blue, grey, navy, tall hats, shiny brass bits and white belts. Surely being in a mass of men all dressed in red coats provides no protection for the soldier under fire?
But imagine you are pointing a musket at a rank of men all dressed in red, except one guy who is wearing yellow. Who are you going to shoot at? The next best thing to being invisible is being the same as everyone else.
In the corporate world companies spend large globs of money on advertising and PR, supposedly in order to stand out from the competition. But do they really want to stand out? Standing out makes you a target. This might explain why all advertising you have ever seen has been a same- same, boring load of old cobblers.
It might explain why corporate leaders feels the unquenchable urge to jump aboard every single progressive, irrational bullocks themed fiction falling from an ivory tower.
Cookie- cutter housing. Identikit architecture. Cars that all look like over- sized suppositories. The latest brain- dead buzzword. Crazes in policy that sweep the whole world.
The thread that runs through all this is the imperative: Don’t stand out. Watch for the signal, then do what everyone else is doing.
You can stand out from the crowd only if you can beat off the predators.
This is exactly what has happened to Harvey Weinstein. When one person stands up to the predator and does not get eaten, suddenly the tables turn: the hunter becomes the hunted. The herd watches, and learns. Until the predator is bested, the herd beasts strategy is to blend in with the general air of cowardice and denial.
Why the mental disconnect between years of turning a blind eye and the instant condemnation once permission is given?
How could so many people ignore or joke about this man’s alleged conduct (remember the 2013 Oscars and Seth Macfarlane’s quip: “Congratulations ladies, you no longer have to pretend to find Harvey Weinstein attractive” received with hearty guffaws) all the while producing on film endless politically correct morality plays. Then, to top it off, once someone else takes all the risks of revealing the truth, what do they do? Without an ounce of self- reflection condemn the man.
A curious and important lesson in herd morality.
All this, not on the plains of Africa, but mapped out in the minds of men and women of considerable influence.
If you want to be a contrarian you have to have the strength to stand up to predators. And beat them off.
In the Weinstein saga there are all sorts of moral lessons. The beaten predator becomes the new means for the herd to signal their sameness. Even as they understand the damage caused by their old camouflage, (oh yes, they understand all too well the damage done) the members of the herd pull on the new uniform of self- righteous condemnation.
Are you a predator, a herd beast or a contrarian?