With apologies in advance to rams, ewes, and lambs all over the world, human beings who forego independent analysis and comply with mass groupthink are often deridingly referred to as sheep. And sheep + people = sheeple. I suppose the Pied Piper’s rats (and the children of Hamelin) and Pavlov’s dogs can fall into the category of reflexive compliance too, but it’s those lovable, wooly docile farm animals that remain the symbol of conformity.
Among other traits that – whether consciously or subconsciously – sheeple possess, is a sense of duty to reassure their interlocutors, most often without any prompting from the latter, about their convictions on certain subjects. Three that readily come to mind are racism, Donald Trump, and vaccinations.
We’ll begin with racism, which has dominated discussions for as long as I can remember, and certainly eons before Trump ever made it to Washington or ‘corona’ meant anything to most people other than a brand of beer and, to New Yorkers, a section of Queens.
One of the sheeple’s most-quoted mantras is: ‘I’m not a racist.’ It’s a qualifier that many sheeple insist on disclosing, lest anyone think otherwise of them. Those same folks have no problem telling their neighbors: “your kids look absolutely adorable in their Halloween costumes” without prefacing it with: “I’m not a pedophile or anything.” They might also feel comfortable enough to suggest: “you know, you might consider getting a better lock for your front door” without prologuing with “I mean, I’m not a burglar but…”
If we can all agree that pedophilia, burglary, and racism are all bad things, and that most human beings are good people, then why are we so obsessed with officially proclaiming our nonracist status, but not our position on the other two maladies?
Come to think of it, I’m very much opposed to fraud. Like when someone pretends a junky Rolex knockoff is the real thing and sells is to an unsuspecting patsy for a ‘bargain’ price of $500 when the watch is barely worth ten bucks. There, I said it: I condemn that practice! I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that out loud before. But would you really have thought I was in favor of fraud if I didn’t just reveal that I’m not?
If we criticize high-profile persons of color, like Kamala Harris, Tim Scott, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, can’t we just get to the criticism without the “I’m not a racist, but” preamble?
The next two subjects, Trump and vaccinations, are less clear-cut. Contrary to what some may argue, the verdict on racism is in: it’s a bad thing. Not so with Trump or vaccinations. Even though some would like to ban those discussions from the marketplace of ideas, there are tens of millions of Americans with contradicting points of view about each. That’s why the sheeple feel particularly compelled to reassure those in their likeminded circle that they’re cheering for the home team.
Entertainers (actors, musicians, etc.) are particularly spineless when it comes to this. They’ll appear as guests on talk shows and, just in case the audience isn’t sure which way they lean, they’ll throw in a line about what a monster Trump is, even when the former president is not the topic at hand. For instance, to the question: “what do you think of Joe Biden’s presidency so far?” the celeb might respond: “well, I think he’s had some challenges…” and after a pause, continuing with “I mean, he’s better than Trump, there’s never been a worse president than Trump…” to which the audience chuckles and applauds approvingly. Now the celeb has been accepted – whew!
But declaration of vaccination has quickly supplanted Trump-bashing as the sheeple’s favorite exercise. “Fully vaccinated” and “just got my booster!” are surefire ways to announce: “I’ve got my shots, so don’t worry about being around me. I’m safe!” or “I’m going to keep taking as many shots and as many boosters as they say I should take. The more the better. Don’t think I’m one of these rightwing conspiracy nuts who think that Bill Gates is trying to curb population control by poisoning us with the vax.”
Particularly interesting is that the unvaxxed and the uncritical (of Trump) typically don’t give a hoot about who’s in their ‘club.’ They don’t feel the need to reassure each other of where they stand in order to belong. They just accept others for who they are and how they treat others, rather than for what they believe. (Imagine that!)
Conspicuously missing from this analysis are racists, which I limit to those who 1) hate; or 2) believe in the inherent superiority or inferiority of, another race. I distinguish them from racialists – those who make nonracist, race-based observations. That I think the Jay Z CD on the table belongs to the 26-year-old black guy and the CD next to it, or that Parios’ Nisiotika, belongs to your 86-year-old yiayia, who is also in the room, is not a racist statement. It is a logical guess based on sound reasoning, and to discourage such analysis is to shut down one’s brain.
The true racists, then, feel the way they do largely based on ignorance mixed in with fear, and some, though not many, are just purely evil people (remember, most people are good, so very few are good’s polar opposite).
Without even knowing a particular person of a different race, racists will judge the person simply by the color of his or her skin. They will hate, fear, or patronize such persons based on their levels of melanin. They will draw conclusions, with arrogant certainty, about what these folks believe in their hearts. They will decide whether these ‘xenoi’ are intelligent, compassionate, and moral, without ever having heard a word they spoke.
Sounds like I’ve heard that type of Neanderthal thinking before. Oh yeah, from Trump-bashers and vax-shamers.