Writing on, and about, an island

Goodbye, Group Think. Hello, Independent Thought

In Tasmania, Writing on February 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

I am allergic to FebFast. I am also allergic to religion, unions, sunscreen and anything else that peddles mass guilt to the guilty masses… It’s also why I have an ongoing struggle with Facebook (my time on there is doomed, I think).

I have come to my own conclusions about these quasi-religious social projects… and those conclusions do not align with my belief in independence and the fundamental differences that should be respected and revered in humans.

FebFast, as a timely example, is designed for people who need validation, the pat on the back, the relief from guilt that comes with doing something – very publicly – that is popularly thought of as acceptable, expected and desirable social behaviour. I don’t think this is a very sound reason for doing something, however good.

Think I’m harsh?

Consider the fact that all those people signing up to FebFast could do the exact same thing – abstain from alcohol/donate money – on their own terms. Quietly, without requiring other people to get involved or applaud them for it. So… why don’t they?

Want to do something that’s good for yourself or the world? Then do it because and only because you thought independently about it, not because you have been sub-consciously guilted into emulating others. Want to do something that other people say is incorrect/not the done thing, despite the fact it wouldn’t hurting anyone else in the doing of it? Go ahead. It’s your life.

There is a well-known scientific experiment of mob mentality, of group-think, involving monkeys, a banana and some cold water…

To be or not be a monkey? Hmm.

Mob mentality is what I disliked most about Tasmania while growing up here. Look at our politicians, the jobs for the boys, the way we dislike anything that challenges the status quo. Tasmania is a place where independent thought is so rare, that those who have it are championed as geniuses (Richard Flanagan*, for example – certainly a great independent thinker, but not, I would argue, a genius). Tasmania’s mob mentality is what I ran away from. But, inevitably, I find it’s still here on my return. I’m not running from it this time, though.

By all means, do good things for yourself and others. But don’t do things just because everyone around you is doing them. Just because something is popular does not make it right for you. If nothing more, think a little harder when you’re tempted to be conscripted into doing something ‘good’ – into joining someone else’s cause – just because everyone else is doing it. Instead, start your own cause.

 *RF, speaking recently at a wake for respected Tasmanian arts patron Dick Bett, said: 
“For a moment it seemed as if gathered there that night was the Tasmania you dream about – brave, gifted, open, laughing, free. I don’t know if we’ll ever arrive at that Tasmania.”

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