Here in America, we regard majority rule as a wonderful thing. We call it “democracy,” and tout it as far superior to any other form of governance. We boast that we rule ourselves.
But the majority has always ruled. That’s been true in every society that ever existed. There have always been vastly more of “us” than there have of “them.” Even those nations that allowed the most despotic tyrannies could have done away with them had the majority of people determined to overthrow them. In one way or another, the majority has voted to keep the status quo much, much more often than not. Whether they did so at the polls, or merely by their indifference or passive acquiescence.
My last post got me thinking more about this. The majority rules in everything: not only government, politics or commerce, but in the particular form of commerce we call entertainment. For example, if the majority decided it didn’t expect pretty young actresses to appear nude on TV or in films, it would no longer happen. There is no Great Oz who determines that for us, sitting behind some faraway screen.
Yet we behave, for all the world, as if there is. As if somebody else calls all the shots, and we’re powerless to do anything about it.
When a water buffalo — or whatever that great beast in the picture happens to be — is overcome by a pride of hungry lionesses, that’s majority rule in action. Is it not? The water buffalo thingy is cute; we always find ourselves rooting for it to somehow escape. When we watch those nature programs on PBS, and we see the big snake creeping up to swallow the sweet little bunny, we scream at the TV screen for it to run — or for the dolts filming the horror before our eyes to stop it.
Are we the hungry lionesses? Or are we the dolts behind the camera?
When I hear somebody whine “But it’s not my fault!” about something he or she could easily help to change if this idiot had half a mind to, I’m reminded of a poster that used to hang in the break-room at one of the companies where I worked. It showed a stretch of a freeway during a rush-hour traffic jam. From every stalled vehicle, there emanated a thought-balloon that said, “I can’t make a difference.”
But of course we can make a difference. You can, and so can I. Even if our opinion doesn’t “win,” we can damned sure register it, loud and clear. We can stand up, speak out, work for change and leave something meaningful behind to show that we were here.
It’s what separates us from the water buffalo. Or the lions. Or the dolts behind the camera.