The cool kids, like older brothers and big cousins, had their own crowds, their own gangs - some of them even belonged to bicycle gangs
Have you ever wanted to be one of the in-crowd? Well that was the pursuit of my childhood.
The problem was, however, I was not all that cool; and subsequently I never seemed to fit in. An additional problem was that when I started feeling that I had breached the outer barriers of a group that I wanted to be part of, I would try to demonstrate how acceptable I was by doing things to impress the group even more (things that I would not normally do); I must have frightened quite a few people.
My affiliations with groups, as a consequence, never lasted very long.
The cool kids, like older brothers and big cousins, had their own crowds, their own gangs – some of them even belonged to bicycle gangs.
I used to watch the bicycle gangs ride past our home and yearn to be part of that. I even cleaned my bike and polished the individual spokes with steel wool till they sparkled, and my fingers turned black, to prove to the gangs that I would be an asset. And though I stood at my gate with my sparkly clean bicycle, hoping to impress them and show them what an asset I’d be to the gang, they never seemed to notice me.
Where bike gangs went after they had passed out of sight, and what they did when they got there, I never knew; all I knew was that I wanted to do it with them. It didn’t matter to me what they were doing, as long as I could be part of it.
Apparently a herd mentality is all about how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviours and follow trends. And just to be part of a bike gang, I was prepared to do whatever my tribe did – no questions asked.
Eventually, however, as time went on I started saying to myself: “So nobody wants me around, well that’s fine! I don’t want to be around anyone anyway. I will do things and have fun on my own!”
And I would brood and pout all day long. Fortunately for me I had some really good friends that kept me from completely slipping into the abyss, but that’s another story.
Learning to appreciate myself apart from the group made me into a pretty stubborn person though. I convinced myself that the desire to be recognised by the group is just conformity. And I didn’t want to conform to, or be associated with, people that would ignore me and my sparkly bike with its shiny spokes!
Many years later I put my principles aside and took part in a march to hand over a memorandum to some government official. Along with a group I took up a cause.
And being part of the crowd made me very, very uneasy.
I kept thinking, “I am part of this mass of people, but how many of them know what I am willing to do? How many of these hundreds of people hold the same values that I hold? Who in this group – of which I am now a part – is prone to violence and rioting; and if they get out of hand I will be part of this!”
So I peeled off the mass, bought myself a fizzy drink and walked home alone.
The world has become a place where it seems that a show of force is the only thing that will bring about change. But to my understanding a show of force does not appeal to the better nature of the ones who need to change – it is merely aimed at intimidation, to incite fear in them.
Offend a herd and they will march on your offices and burn stuff to show they’re serious; often they will overturn bins and break things to show they’re serious.
But when a person feels fearful they usually get defensive. Often defensiveness comes in the form of a show of force, in order to show that they should not be trifled with.
Of course this causes fear in the first group and things just escalate from there.
So even though things seem to be going from bad to worse and those in power have probably lost touch with those in the trenches, I sometimes stand at my gate, these days with only my shiny bald head as company, thinking: “There must be another way, other than joining a herd, for us to get their attention.”