Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nietzsche Said Groups Are Insane

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

Insanity in individuals doesn't seem so rare now when television programs showing videos of stupid stunts and events gone awry are common. But it's still not as common as insanity for groups of people.

How often have you wondered "What were they thinking?" when one of the governments to which you pay taxes passed a law that didn't make any sense, was unenforceable, would punish those it was trying to save more than those who were trying to hurt them, would cost fortunes to implement with little value foreseen for the money?

Or when corruption charges were laid against politicians who were, in effect, collaborating with criminals who would have destroyed the kind of lives the politicians were elected to defend and advance.

Or when a nation believes it can prevent war by starting one.

Or when a national leader creates fear within his own people by falsely accusing "others" of trying to make them afraid by threatening them. Hitler and the Nazis were an excellent example of that.

Or when a club, social group or service organization elects someone they know is the wrong person to lead the group, simply because no one else has volunteered to run for the office.

In the security business, be it national security, municipal security or security of digital records on computer, leaders sometimes hire criminals to advise them about how to guard against other criminals. As nutty as this seems, it works. Only a crook thinks like a crook. It also gives many criminals an opportunity to use the skills and knowledge they have learned to make life better for others, rather than worse. That's not crazy, but it seems that way to an unknowing layperson.

Groups of various kinds do apparently insane things and make crazy decisions not because they are all loonies, but because they think like individuals. Individuals seldom think in group terms.

Group decision making and action requires people who know not just the procedures for helping the group to survive and thrive, but the consequences of decisions that are to be considered.

Individual group members may be inclined to see only the consequences of how a group decision might affect them personally.

No doubt many stirling initiatives died in committee. But at least many totally foolish ones did as well. Committees have a way of sorting through the trash, even if they throw out some good stuff in the process.

Every group is conprised of individuals. Fortunately, some groups have individuals who think of the welfare and the future of the group while they are fulfilling their roles as group members.

The alternative for many groups is dictatorship. Benevolent dictatorship is the best possible form of government or of leadership. But benevolent dictators are rarer than sane governments. I would like to offer a good example of a benevolent dictator here, but most of the good ones went sour eventually--absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to see through the smog of reality.
Learn more at

No comments: