Have you ever identified yourself exclusively with a nation, gender, age group, sports team, personality type, or religion? Chances are that you’re a sucker of one of the most deadly and powerful ideas on earth. The Social Collective. Although serving as the glue that connects people, the Social Collective simultaneously tears people apart. Have you ever wondered about the cause of racism, sexism, religious fanaticism, political wars, and discrimination, ostracization, and intolerance of any kind? Thank the Social Collective for that. Just as its name suggests, a Social Collective is a collection of people who share something identical with each other. For instance, this could be a shared spiritual dogma, a mental notion, or a physical belief. It could be a religion, a political party, or a nationality that you subscribe to – but all revolve around the same need. We need to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, developing a false and dangerous sense of identity. The Social Collectives we identify with revolve around the same idea that: “We’re right, you’re wrong. We’re good, and you’re bad. We’re better than you.” Sure it’s infantile. But it’s true.
My Own Experience
To illustrate the potent power of the Social Collective, let me give you an example from my own life, and how it radically changed this year.
I grew up in a family that since birth, took me to church. My father is a preacher. From as far back as I can remember, I can remember going to church. I sang the same songs and sat in the same room looking at the same preachers as an adult as I had as an 8 year old girl. My parents, devout fundamentalist and non-denominational Christians, raised me on bible stories, Scripture readings, and church attendance. The household rules and the conduct of behavior was to be strictly biblical. All the outside “worldly” people and behaviors were to be kept at a distance, meaning that even clothing and TV shows were to be dictated according to what was biblical. At 14 however, I rebelled, not liking various rules like “no-makeup” and “no hair-cutting for females” imposed by my church’s interpretation of the bible. I started dressing in black, smuggling eyeliner pencils to school, and falling into a depression. This culminated in my rash decision to hack off my hair with some scissors later in the year. When my parents found out, I was scolded severely, monitored suspiciously for months, and stripped of every black possession I owned. A few years later I decided to get baptized, picturing vividly scenes of hell fire, fearing for my eternal fate should I suddenly die. This was a one way ticket to salvation. My parents said it was the happiest day of their lives. But not anymore.
It was only a few years ago that I started first questioning the Christian religion, in 2010. That year was one of hell fire and brimstone sermons about the fate of the world and its eternal damnation. These thoughts filled me with great anxiety and sorrow: that everyone I saw on the street would most definitely suffer in hell for all eternity. But it was this topic that began the fall of my membership with the Christian Social Collective. As my belief started to wane, and more and more questions arose, I hit the downhill slide in 2011. This was the year that changed my life forever, the year I met Sol, who has an amazing propensity to make people question themselves. A year and 2 months later – I left my religion and moved away from my parents. This of course, was at the climax of months of serious talks, accusations, confusion, suspicion, paranoia and grief.
Up until this day I haven’t spoken to my parents or siblings face to face. I have been ridden off as the heathen fool of the family, and the self obsessed-renouncer of “the truth”. Although I do get a few words out of my father through text and email, my mother is like an automaton. She talks to me through bible passages. And this is all thanks to religion, one of the biggest Social Collectives.
The Social Collective – How it Works
As we can see, people invest a lot of faith, trust, ego and self esteem into Social Collectives. A patriotic person may have a lot of confidence, pride and self worth invested in their country, but they are the same people who drive ostracism, racism and wars. They are the same cogs in the Social Collective wheel that support the idea of “our country is better than yours. Our country is innocent and your’s is to blame”, or the barking bumper-stickers that proclaim “get back to your own country!” As much as we don’t like to admit it, we all identify ourselves with a Collective, whether on a small scale or large scale. When we join a Collective what we are really doing is pursuing power, status, security and self acceptance. We are looking outside of ourselves in a typical Extroverted mentality to gain self fulfillment. Even supposed introverts do it. We relish our personality types as though we’re the cream of the crop. We join exclusive MBTI and Enneagram forums talking about ourselves amongst ourselves, and how irritating and unfathomable other “types” are. I know I did in the fluster of finding out I was a “rare personality” type. But ironically, in our pursuit to find ourselves, we lose ourselves. In our pursuit to answer the question of “who am I?” by finding our place in life – we misplace ourselves. We are blinded, bludgeoned, and brainwashed by the Collective clans that exist around us. They exist as the apples that taunt us – one taste and we succumb to our temptation of feeling bigger, better and wholer. We all do it sooner or later. It’s addictive.
Being the Odd One Out
Ever been in a group waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights – and suddenly everyone crosses without the safety pedestrian signal flashing up? Most people automatically follow, despite the impending danger. This is what I call the “majority rules” symptom of Social Collectives. In an experiment conducted by famous English mentalist Derren Brown, he discovered something disturbing. The more depersonalized you are, the more likely you are capable of acts of cruelty. And this depersonalization is as the result of being a part of a Social Collective, or in this case, being a part of an audience all wearing the same physical masks. Collectives serve to depersonalize you in order to brainwash you and fill your head with ideas of grandeur, moral uprightness and superiority. Sometimes the cracks occur to you, sometimes they don’t. But one of the hardest things in life is to break free from them. To stand by yourself and to be the off one out takes great strength of character.
Social Collectives are a distraction from the greater purpose in life – self growth. How can we learn or grow with an open mind if it’s crammed full with false notions and beliefs? We must find ourselves first in order to lose ourselves later. Not the other way around.