We’re not all that different from our bleating brethren 

petting a lambPeople are sheep.

That’s probably not the most groundbreaking of observations, but it’s a tough one to argue.

Despite our advanced critical-thinking skills (which unfortunately aren’t displayed in our political institutions), humans are like animals when it comes to following the herd.

Instead of engaging in self-reliance, we’ll seek out a shepherd.

Instead of employing our free will, we’ll join up with a flock.

We’ll gladly pursue the ideals of rugged individualism – but only as long as everyone else is, too.

As humans, we crave a sense of community. Community is healthy, but conformity is not. As individuals, our colors shine brightly, and if we were to let our individual lights shine, together we would make up a collage of color.

When it comes to our proclivity for conformity, at least some humans are self-aware. They know that our tendency is to follow, so they use their art to urge others to think for themselves.

George Orwell, for example, wrote an entire book likening human behavior to barnyard animals. Pink Floyd recorded a compilation of soundscapes to make the same point.

Even the Berenstain Bears got in on the action one time, with Farmer Ben advising Brother Bear that joining Too-Tall’s gang would make him just another sheep following the herd.

And if that isn’t enough evidence that humans (and apparently some bears) behave like sheep, then I’m not sure what is.

Although I do have personal experience.

A story I like to tell took place when I was about 10 or 11. My family and I were driving around Lake Tahoe, looking for a nice place to pull over and have a picnic.

Ahead, we spotted a snug little turnout shielded by trees and surrounded by thick manzanita. Not a soul was in sight.

We pulled over and carried our belongings to a cluster of nearby boulders. The rocks worked great for sitting and spreading our food.

Within 10 minutes, eight cars had joined ours in the turnout. People were wandering around with confused looks on their faces. It was like a George Romero film — except far more outrageous and terrifying.

One guy, a typical yuppie wearing brown shorts and matching loafers with no socks, approached our picnic area. (I’ve never understood the yuppie male’s aversion to socks, but apparently, their dress code prohibits them.)

The man’s face was red, and his nostrils were noticeably flared.

“There’s nothing here!” he blustered, spreading his arms wide and glaring at us.

I remember us just staring at him, blinking. I don’t think anyone could quite believe what they were witnessing, and none of us knew how to react.

This guy, like all the other open-mouthed, Romero zombies who were now invading our picnic, had seen our car pulled over and figured there has to be something worthwhile to stop and look at. It was the typical sheep mentality: Run to where the flock is without pausing to ask why.

It took a while, but most of the cars eventually sped away in disgust. Only a few other people stayed to have picnics of their own, prompting us to take our leave.

I’ll never forget that day or that particular guy. It made a big impression, and I gained some insight into human nature.

And it made me realize that, unfortunately, we still have a lot of evolving to do to become truly distinct from our bleating brethren.

11 comments on “We’re not all that different from our bleating brethren 

  1. I may be a sheep but at least I’m black. Baa.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean, Allen. For years I’ve gone into banks and before you know it, a whole bunch of people will be standing right behind me—just like a bunch of sheep ready to be sheared. That’s when I look down at my receipt and turn around to face them and I start bleating at the top of my lungs “There’s nothing here folks!” And does anyone listen to me? Well yeah, but they still act like they don’t understand a thing I’m bleating about, because they just keep walking up to the tellers like sheep—willing to be clipped by all the hidden charges. Anyway… bleat … bleat … bleat … bleat! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post reminded me of movie theatres opening for their first show of the day. If they are free-standing, patrons will patiently wait in their cars until the usher or manager starts opening the front doors…in which case they will then exit their vehicles and approach the box office inside. But God forbid someone gets out of their car and decides to stand outside those front doors before they’re opened. The parking lot experiences a mass evacuation as all other patrons exit their vehicles to join in standing outside the locked doors (regardless of weather as well). Same thing for theatres that have their box office inside a mall. Patrons will wander the mall browsing the various stores until the time these theatres are to open up for business…but if anyone decides to line up outside those gates or doors ahead of time the next thing you know is there’s a massive line the length of the corridor…even though all patrons will get in well ahead of time. See it during traffic jams also. One driver will head down a side road out of nowhere and…out of nowhere everyone else decides to take the same route even though they don’t have any idea if that path is also clogged up or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how often you see this phenomenon in life. One person takes the lead, and then all of a sudden they have a parade following them.

      That happened to me at a college one time. Classes had gotten out, and the sidewalks were crawling with people. It was difficult to get anywhere. So I just walked across the lawn to get to where I was going. There was no rule prohibiting it — in fact, people often lounged and played frisbee on that very lawn. When I looked behind me, there were 30 other people following me, as if I had discovered a secret path.

      Never knew I was a trendsetter!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Perhaps an even better animal-example of “We’re not so different, you and I” is the (pun intended) following: MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO.:

    Liked by 1 person

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