Friday, January 25, 2013


           In his concluding comments in Walden, Henry Thoreau famously wrote:  "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."  The rugged individualism so nicely captured in Thoreau's eloquence has long been a hallmark of the historical American character.
          But in 2013, large elements of America's population seem more attuned to a mentality like that embodied in  the totalitarian Borg collective portrayed in Startrek science fiction than to the individualism of Thoreau. 

           As the Borg drones directed their  hapless interstellar captives in menacing monotones, "We are Borg.  You will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile."  In the Borg universe, there is no individualism, no resistance to the conformity of the collective, and no diversity of thought.  All march with the crowd, to the same tune, in perfect lockstep.  The different drummers have all been silenced.

     Sadly, like a pale imitation of an ominous original, a creeping, Borg-like conformity has infected millions of Americans who have been assimilated into patterns of political, social and cultural conformity that they do not even recognize, let alone resist.

            The television news shows that provide much of the nation with what little information they receive on public affairs are both an example and a source of this condition.  As though controlled by a central script written by the Borg Queen herself, every night they present the same stories, in the same sequence, with the same leftist political bias, and exactly the same expressions of woe when reporting on the disaster of the day.  This is hardly surprising, however, since the journalistic drones who write and deliver the news for the mainstream media are all subject to the same controlling objective, namely, the unwavering support and defense of the Obama regime and its leftist policies.  And the unquestioning millions who absorb this spoonfed propaganda become infected with a monolithic political mindset which the nanoprobes of the Borg central neural system would be hard-pressed to surpass.
            Then there are the odious TV advertisements which are sandwiched between the mindless programs.  They relentlessly conform to a rigid template that could have been designed by some simpering, fully assimilated, latte-sipping metrosexual at Borg Central:  a blundering, overweight, unattractive white male stumbles stupidly through a politically correct script in which he is humiliated, in service of the product advertised, by slim and intelligent blacks or Hispanics, clever and condescending women, or savvy and smarmy little kids who shake their heads and roll their eyes incredulously at the hapless white guy.  And the same callow scenario is repeated in ad after ad, again and again.  And, except for the occasional eccentric dissenter, everyone laughs along with the stale and insidious joke, as though it were a perfectly sensible portrayal of every day life in America.

            Then there are the feckless crowds of students who enthusiastically and obediently provide rowdy props for the networks' weekly college football promotions and games.  Like so many trained seals, they bellow, grunt, shake their fists, and raise their index fingers in brainless "Number 1" gestures on the producer's command, while a certain portion of the males invariably doff their shirts to reveal fat painted bellies that were much better left covered.  It doesn't matter whether the game is in Florida, Oklahoma, or California, the staged antics are always exactly the same, with only the colors and the mascots changing.  Somewhere along the line, this perfectly patterned behavior has been programmed into the neural systems of students from coast to coast.  The student body that will call a halt to this uncouth programmed stupidity has yet to be discovered.  Somewhere along the line, I suppose, they too decided that resistance is futile.

            A similar version of the trained seals motif can be found in the studio audiences of the various television talk shows, like that of the insufferably cloying Ellen Degeneres.  Ellen traipses onto the stage doing a ludicrous bugaloo, so everyone in the audience stands up and does an even more ludicrous bugaloo.  Ellen's eyes tear up at the heroic struggle of yet another maudlin tale of politically correct self-discovery or redemption, and the audience collectively tears up on cue.  If Ellen invited the audience to join her in picking their noses, it would immediately comply.
           If some manifestations of the conformity culture may seem trivial, others are deeply disturbing.  In several sectors of the population, monolithic voting patterns underscore the scarcity of individual thought and judgment and the triumph of collectivist politics.  For example, no less than 93% of blacks voted for Obama, and in some Philadelphia precincts, not a single vote was cast for Governor Romney.  Given the extreme levels of unemployment and other economic hardship experienced by millions of blacks during Obama's first term, the absence of any significant black vote against his re-election appears to be firmly grounded upon the predominance of race-based political conformity.  The same can be said, albeit to a lesser degree, of the Hispanic vote, which reportedly went 71% for Obama, despite his divergence from many  Catholic Latinos on social issues like abortion and homosexual marriage.

        Of course, drone-like conformity of opinion among the American majority does not occur overnight, particularly on matters of long- or deeply-held conviction.  Sometimes assimilation of the populace into the collective mentality takes time.  That seems to be the case with regard to the biological oxymoron of marriage between two males or two females, the functional equivalent of a hydrogen atom composed of two protons or two electrons, instead of one of each.  Fifty years ago, the question of whether one approved of such a marriage would have been met with the nearly unanimous response that the questioner was either joking or crazy.  That general understanding, held for millenia among civilizations across the globe, was no more an example of mindless conformity than the present understanding that a hydrogen atom consists of one proton and one electron.  It was simply recognition of reality.

     But the powerful pull of social and political conformity in today's America appears to be gradually assimilating the populace into acceptance and endorsement of the concept of same-sex marriage, despite its blatant conflict with simple biological reality and basic religous and moral standards that have provided the essential framework for civilized society.  Among all Americans, polls show that in 1996, 68% disapproved and only 27 approved of same-sex marriage, whereas today, a significant 53% reportedly approve and only 46% disapprove.  Even more startling is the recent poll indicating that a strong plurality  of Catholics approve of same-sex marriage, by 49% to 43%.  Considering that gay sex -- let alone its institutionalization in a parody of the sacrament of matrimony -- is a mortal sin as a matter of core Catholic doctrine, stronger evidence of the strength of the conformity culture would be difficult to find.  When even Catholics are marching with the crowd against the core principles of their own religion, a Borg-like culture of conformity may soon prove more than a mere pessimist's nightmare.

     It is almost enough to make one long for the good old days of 1984.

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