Have you ever been most people? They’re awfully authoritative. If only they had fewer opinions, especially opinions that simple observation can disprove.
I was most people, for quite a few years. During those years you could tell me that “most people are in favor” of this or that, and I’d start to align with whatever the “this or that” might be. “Most people favor the war in Vietnam.” “Most people think Social Security is a good idea.” “Most people think John F. Kennedy is a hero.” Sheesh! Back when, if I were told that “most people think the sky is yellow,” I’d at least entertain the notion for a moment or two.
It’s awfully hard to shake the tyranny of most people – even if you happen to know most people.
The Most People Effect is closely related to the They Say Effect. Indeed, it’s hard to distinguish between the two. They have a certain untouchability about them: You can’t argue with most people. You certainly can’t argue with they. For one thing, it’s bad grammar.
There are subjects on which most people are right. There are other subjects on which they’re almost guaranteed to be wrong – and not because most people are BLEEP!ing idiots.
The product reliability assessments most people make are themselves pretty reliable. The same goes for most people’s statements of taste in matters such as music and the performing arts. That’s because most people’s tastes are...well...shared by most people. It’s the factual assertions most people make that are likely to be wildly off base.
We needn’t delve deeply into ancient history for examples. We have plenty before us today:
- Most people say that inflation is because greedy companies arbitrarily raise the prices of necessities.
- Most people say that Islam is just one more religion, nothing special or threatening about it.
- Most people say that Bill Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama are both really smart.
All three of these assertions are provably incorrect. False-to-fact. Complete and utter nonsense. Yet most people are in thrall to all three. Daily I thank God that the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch are not most people.
It’s easiest to escape the mental vise most people exert on you if you can test their claims personally and directly. Most people assured me that I’d never finish a novel. After all, most people never do. Once I’d finished my first book, most people told me it would never reach a readership. For a while it looked as if most people would turn out to be right about that...but the fly in the prognosticative ointment was that word never. Never is one hell of a long time. Print-on-demand and electronic publication came along well before never was over and done.
I haven’t rubbed most people’s noses in that, though. I’m still waiting for my chance.
(Josh Duhamel as) Milt Chamberlain: In my experience, when you trust people, they... they trust you.
(Dean Winters as) Russ Agnew: Have you actually met... people?
[From the television show Battle Creek]
Now, neither character in the above exchange said most people. That’s because both were talking about people they’d known. At least one of them generalized from an inadequate sample. Still, we’re supposed to assume that both characters believed, probably strongly, that what they’d said was true of most people. It was part of the premise of the show.
I can’t say which statement is nearer to the truth. I don’t know most people. Given the endless reams of utter bilge they’ve foisted upon me over my sixty-five years, I don’t want to know most people. But that doesn’t matter. They’ll keep pouring their ersatz wisdom into my ear whenever I don’t leave two or three empty seats between me and the nearest other patrons at the tavern.
Most people, you see, think that they know something that you need to know. Most people are like that. At least, that’s what they say.
“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m frequently spitted, roasted, and thinly sliced for:
- My preference for my own company;
- My off-axis opinions about just about everything.
Most people, you see, disagree with me in both areas. They seldom stop to reflect on the relationship between them.
You cannot have your own opinions if you’re most people. That’s the nature of the phenomenon. All observations about the utility of “crowdsourcing” to the side, most people are intolerant of opinions and habits that deviate from those held by most people. Sometimes their intolerance becomes lethal.
He who elects a thinker’s life – properly tempered by experience, of course – must learn early on that such a life comes with survival necessities. He must learn to enjoy solitude. He must learn not to argue beyond the point of mild disagreement. He must learn to bear most people’s frowns of disapproval. He must cultivate an amiable grin and a quick step. And he must learn not to care about most people’s opinions of him.
Friends are important. A sufficient number of friends might be a requirement of a long and healthy life; there’s some evidence for that contention. But the thinking man must find the sweet spot between having friends and submerging into most people. They have power one seldom appreciates adequately until it’s wielded on one’s own hide. And even friends can be a source of pressure to conform to some norm of conviction or conduct better resisted for the sake of one’s own integrity.
You might wonder why I’m nattering about this on a Saturday morning, when there are so many important topics available about which to rant...but isn’t it possible that that’s because those other topics have been deemed important by most people?
Limit your consumption of the “news.” Be skeptical of what you read and hear. Remember toward whom it’s being aimed. Do you want to be one of they? Most people do...but what about you?
Posting will be light for the coming week. Please bear with me while I spend some time with
most people a distant friend, the refreshment from whom I find I need rather badly. I’ll be back, as intolerable as ever, soon enough.