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Dangers of Collective Thinking


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I grow concerned at the way we as a culture are seeking forward growth.

For a long time we were hunters and gatherers: the ultimate individualists, with some of the greatest limitations built into our way of life. With no cooperation there could be no chance of any one person growing beyond his or her skills; there could be none (or far fewer, at least) of the great leaps forward that we now think of as one of the hallmarks of humanity.

Eventually this way of life was supplanted by an agrarian culture: people who grew their food, who stationed themselves in one place and made that place give of her bounty. That metamorphosed into villages and towns and cities, with the specialization that allowed men and women to focus their lives on one thing -- and to come up with amazing inventions and innovations that led to our current way of life, and a standard of living that would seem nothing short of magic to any generation that came before.

Now, a new culture is beginning to arise. Not the hunters, not the farmers, not even the specialized city dwellers. This culture is a single many-headed beast. A collective that seeks to consume all that come before it. To make their skills and abilities its own while at the same time purging them of any knowledge or viewpoints that run contrary to that of the beast. The collective allows for no dissent, no contrary opinions. There are many heads, but only one mind -- only one rationale -- is allowed.

Some laud this. Some say that this will make the world a safer place -- and there is a logic to this. If everyone agrees, if everyone is forced to toe the same line, will there be any conflict? CAN there be any danger to anyone if EVERYONE is forced to be silent rather than voicing any views that run contrary to that of the collective?

The problem, though, is that the beast, being a single creature, stifles all creativity and creates a single mind that can rise no further than its own self-imposed ignorance. The collective can never create, only destroy. It can never open vistas of understanding, only define boundaries of permitted action. Because it relies on concepts of "what hurts me" rather than "what is good for me," it inevitably takes steps that cause it self-harm: like an infant who refuses medicine because it tastes bad, the collective will refuse dissent and so will refuse to allow the very ideas that are the very basis of forward progress.

The collective is, at heart, the ultimate hunter-gatherer. Only because of its bloated, self-policed mass, it will ever be limited to the lowest-hanging fruits of human knowledge, the easiest accomplishments of negligible value.

We as humans must be more. Ben Franklin (a man who would have been consumed by the beast -- if not outright destroyed), said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." In recent days, months, and years we have seen more and more willingness not only to GIVE UP essential liberties -- freedoms of speech, of religion, of THOUGHT -- but to actively quash them in others. And in Franklin's words we see then that this is a far greater danger to liberty and safety than any external threat.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. A holiday meant to celebrate freedom, liberty, and the sacrifice of those who provided them. For many it still is. For others it is a day to skip work, to get drunk, to shoot fire at the sky without thought for the reasons WHY we do such things.

For others it is a day as any other. Because there is no sleeping for the collective. There is no day off for the beast. Every day is as any other, every day is a day wherein plans are made to stop speech, to whittle away at others' beliefs, to chip away at values to which brave men have committed "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor" (Declaration of Independence).

It is the Fifth of July. It is, for the country, a new year. It is, for us, a time to choose. To choose whether we will be a part of a team -- a group of men and women who seek common goals, but who bring their own individual talents and passions and abilities to that search -- or to be a collective, willing to destroy under the guise of creating not a "more perfect union" but the ONLY real utopia… and never mind if it is built on the bones of our once-sacred liberties, our once-holy beliefs.

Happy Fourth of July. And Happy Fifth, too. May we hold every day as a day to create. To add voices to the public discourse. To treat all men (and women) as equal before their Creator, and of inherent value for this fact.

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Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist and screenwriter. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings, on Twitter @mbcollings, or you can sign up for his mailing list here.