Tuesday, May 1, 2018

masses of democracy

In the down time, as the computer-demise extended its reach, I did watch movies. And one that I couldn't stop watching was "Trumbo," the tale of an American screenwriter caught up in the communist scare of the 1950's. The movie had its critics, but the situation of a certain group caught up in an unsubstantiated smear rivets me. The masses were frightened back then that the communists might mole into American culture and upend the 'democratic' way of life.

And that sort of generalized mind set continues to scare the crap out of me: If everyone says something is true then it must be true, regardless of the fact that no one seems to want to dig a bit, to presume innocence, to assess another point of view, to try to winkle out how communism actually upended anything.

Mass opinion is so powerful.

For good.

And for wretched and wracking evil.

(Wo)men are social creatures enamored of themselves: If we all agree, it must be true because I want to be social with you. I want to be part of the group and damn the expense.

I am frightened by group-think and so I watched "Trumbo," warts and all, and was afraid as I wispily recalled the concentration camps created in South Africa, in Nazi Germany, in the United States, and wherever all else an "enemy" was chosen and everyone cheered. After all these years, I abominate the sacrifices the many may make on the backs of the few.

Mass opinion is so powerful and so lamp-post stupid. Such opinion may or may not help to uproot the likes of Donald Trump, but it would be unwise not to recognize that it was that same opinion that planted him in the first place.

I am glad to know that women-as-sexual-prey are getting a well-nourished chance to speak their grievances after so many years ... but I wonder if the tsunami of powerful men (TV personalities, politicians, Hollywood moguls, clerics et al.) who are the bull's eye of the accusations are really so easily brought down. It may not be a lynch mob and the tsunami may be warranted ... but any time enough people get together and cheer ... I have a tendency to lift my shield ... even as one who has cheered the undoing of the invulnerable when challenged by the vulnerable.

I am sure there are others out there who are more grown-up than I -- who can range freely in the 'democratic' closeness that is not closely examined. Hell, maybe I'm just scared of crowds. However much I may dislike arrogance, still I cannot escape LaRochefoucauld's thrust: "The intellectual capacity of the mass(es) is inversely proportionate to its number."

And what is "democracy?" As former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is said to have said approximately, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest."

PS Conservative William F. Buckley Jr.'s "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views" continues to rattle around in my mind, And it made me wonder, if that is so, then can we say, "Conservatives do not claim to want to give a hearing to other views and as a result remain largely pleased with this life and their outlook on it."


  1. Never been one to easily succumb to group think. Might have something to do with the contrarian aspect of my personality. Being naturally low keyed probably helps. As does a willingness to go it alone.

    I liked how Trumbo and his like minded friends managed to continue to work under pseudonyms. I also like how they and some rather famous actors continued to fight the needed political fight.

    There’re lessons to be learned from that just as there’re lesson from others who retained their rationality and ideals under repressive regimes.

  2. You don't want to get in the way of a stampede, no matter the species.