The American Sheep Essay, Research Paper
The American sheep and its conformity to the flock.
There are two common ways of thinking in any specific situation. The first being to fulfill one s own personal needs and desires with no specific regard for others around you. The second, basing your decision on how it will be viewed by others. The vast majority of people fall on the side of the second: being greatly worried and influenced by what others are saying and thinking. The looking glass self is a term for the image that people have of themselves based on how they believe others perceive them. Both good and bad can come from living in this manner, for the most part however it has seemed to remain constant throughout history.
People have a natural desire to belong, and fit in with a certain group. Whichever group an individual may choose it is almost inevitable that the individual will be forced at some point, to sacrifice part of themselves in order to obtain the sense of belonging that they desire. People are compelled to seek companionship, often feeling to weak to stand-alone. As a result, they choose to stand together in whatever group they are best suited to. For some this overwhelming fear of being alone can be disastrous. These are people who will stand together with any group good or bad simply to keep themselves from feeling alone. C.S. Lewis hypothesized that the desire to belong and fit in is a natural human characteristic. He believed that people have an instinctive drive to belong, in the same sort of way that a species instinctively is driven to reproduce.
Too often in society people forming groups commit unspeakable acts, finding shelter in the sheer numbers of those involved. A series of experiments performed some years back demonstrated a term known as blind obedience. A subject was placed in a control booth that contained a microphone and panel with a series of numbered switches. The subject was then instructed that he or she would ask specific questions to a participant in another room. Should the second subject respond with an incorrect answer, the inquisitor was instructed to flip the first switch in the succession. Administering an electric shock to the second subject, which was increased in severity with each incorrect answer given. In reality an electrical shock was actually not being administered, although the person asking the questions believed that it was.
The sound of mild discomfort, such as ouch or a damn that smarts would accompany the flip of the first switch. As the severity of the shock was believed to be increased so was the sound of the suffering. Working up to agonizing screams of pain and pleading such as please I don t want to do this anymore and I m begging you please stop. Whenever the subject administering the shock began to show signs of compassion and not wanting to continue, the researchers quickly reassured them that it was perfectly ok. After explaining to the subject that it was all part of the experiment some people would continue exhibiting little or no resistance.
Despite all of their senses telling them that what was happening went against their moral principals. Over fifty percent of the subjects, continued past the point where they believed that the next switch could actually endanger the very life of the other participant. When asked individually why they would cause another human being such pain, for the most part they responded by saying because they said it was okay. This can be directly related to the issue of people doing things because a higher social group or their own peer group gave their approval. In the particular example those involved sacrifice any sense of morals or upbringing that they may have had because they said it was okay.
People throughout history have been influenced by members of society to try drugs, alcohol, and countless other unwise activities. The reason behind this is clear; the human desire to fit in and obtain a feeling of belonging is too strong for most to resist, when the consequences of resisting could mean having to stand-alone. I am reminded of the story of King Midas and his golden touch, although he possessed all the gold that a king could desire he was miserable without being able to have simple human touch. People need people because as a whole we seem to believe that we will become weak and scared if faced with solitude. Will we? Someone once said that what we believe molds our reality. Using this statement I would say that one must ask one s self, just what it is that one believes.
The natural desire to bond is found everywhere and in every person with very few exceptions. Sometimes troubles can arise and unspeakable acts are carried out because of certain groups, but the advantages associated seem to outweigh the costs. The groups that people form between themselves often serve as shelters for the lonely, for this reason it seems people will go to extreme measures to belong.
Release a lone sheep at the end of a pasture and he will run directly to the flock. Why? Because he feels vulnerable and weak when separated from the flock. Does the sheep care about the rest of the flock? Who can say? What the sheep does know is that being submerged in the flock, the wolf is less likely to focus on him specifically.
So goes the life of the American sheep, by conforming to the flock we obtain a feeling of safety and reduce the chances of being the one that the wolves pull down.
Some would say that comparing people to sheep is absurd, but is it really? Lets compare the two and the similarities of their social structure. At the top of the ladder we have the sheepherder, he or she is the one that decides what is best for the flock. Devising rules and regulations that focus on maintaining the safety and well being of the flock as a whole. Now the sheepherder must have a way of being sure that the members of the flock adhere to the rules and regulations. So the next step down on the ladder is the sheep dog.
The sheepherder teaches the sheepdog exactly how the flock is to operate. It now becomes the job of the sheepdog to protect the flock from outside forces, such as the wolf. Also should one of the sheep stray from the flock it is the duty of the dog to convince the sheep to return to the flock. If the sheep resists the sheepdog has the authority to discipline the deviant sheep. The sheep is bitten and snapped at until it is manipulated into conforming to the flock. Should the sheepdog be unable to reform the deviant sheep, the sheepherder may step in and remove the sheep permanently. Another possibility would be that the sheep could simply fall into the hands of the wolf, eliminating its self through its own deviance. Whether the sheep realizes it or not, it is manipulated for its own benefit and the operation of the flock as a whole. Conformity also benefits the sheepherder and sheepdog, as it would be virtually impossible to uphold the rules if the sheep were scattered and operating independently.
Looking at the structure of the sheep s society the differences from our own are few, if any. Lawmakers could easily be considered to hold the position of the sheepherder. The police and the court systems enforce the rules and regulations, assuming the role of the sheepdog. You and I along with the rest of society are left to assume the role of the sheep. American sheep to be exact, conforming to the rules for our own safety and to ensure the survival of the flock. On a humorous note I find it somewhat ironic that the first animal to be successfully cloned was none other than, yep you guessed it, a sheep.