Think For Yourself
Is conforming to a group really a good idea?
Whatever happened to independent thinking? Or original ideas? When did we stop thinking for ourselves and start letting someone else do our thinking for us?
We are all equals, by right of our birth, and yet so many people all over the world are controlled by such a small number of others. Why is that?
Well, it’s the same reason you didn’t speak up in that meeting when you had a different opinion than the rest, simply because you did not want to appear unsupportive of the group's efforts. It’s the same reason that the NASA engineers for the Challenger space shuttle pushed ahead with the launch in 1986, even though they knew about faulty parts before lift-off and didn’t want the negative press coverage of their team.
Or when senior military officers at Pearl Harbor ignored warnings about an invasion in 1941 because they had already convinced themselves that an attack by the Japanese was unlikely.
But you see, the ability to steer your life means learning to THINK for yourself, and for too many, the need to BELONG is often much more important instead. This need to belong can override nearly every rational thought we have because folks in a group are more concerned about maintaining unity than expressing critical thought, or evaluating the best choices, in any given situation.
Interestingly, though, independent thinkers don’t have the same desire to BELONG. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Einstein, Picasso, Galileo – none of them concerned themselves with conforming to popular culture or conventional wisdom. To the contrary, they had a remarkable tendency to explore and find their own meaning in life.
This is easier said than done, of course. Learning to think for yourself may mean that you have to turn your back on beliefs you have held dearly since childhood. It also means that you may be alone and isolated in your opinions, and our culture makes being the “lone man out” very difficult.
I mean, how many in Washington even remember what they believe anymore, when it seems so many just want to “go along to get along,” rather than express any independent thinking at all?"With groupthink, critical thinking is replaced by irrational actions, statements, etc. and then dehumanizing anyone who disagrees. And the greater the groupthink, the less free we become because we just surrender control of our lives to the consensus of the group.”
This is known as “groupthink,” and it’s paralyzing our country. A Yale psychologist coined this phrase in 1972. He said you could spot it whenever the “desire for group consensus overrides people's common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion.” It’s like when Nancy Pelosi said the non-sensical phrase, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it," or when President Obama promised, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” None of it made sense – but none of it needed to as long as it was consistent with the consensus of their group.
And if anyone should express any thought that is outside their group’s consensus?
They are dehumanized. For example, if conservatives are racist, greedy, heartless and elitist, then how could their opinions possibly deserve any consideration whatsoever?
I mean, if you listen to some folks, you’d think that conservatives would like to reinstate segregation, pollute the drinking water and take food out of the mouths of starving children. If this is your “groupthink,” though, is it really that far to rationalize opening fire on a congressional GOP baseball practice, injuring five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise?
for students at the University of California-Berkeley to set the campus
on fire and throw rocks through windows when a conservative speaker is
scheduled to appear on campus?
Or for Madonna to appear at a march in Washington and tell the crowd that she’s "thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House"?
With groupthink, critical thinking is replaced by irrational actions, statements, etc. and then dehumanizing anyone who disagrees. And the greater the groupthink, the less free we become because we just surrender control of our lives to the consensus of the group.
The worst part is that most folks today don’t even realize they already have.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo
Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.