SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - Whose Mind Is It Anyway?
Reward: Lost -- My Sanity.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, some hermit-ism required after all.
The Death of Julius Caesar (1806) by Vincenzo Camuccini
[Enter Cinna, the poet.]
What is your name?
Whither are you going?
Where do you dwell?
Are you a married man or a bachelor?
Answer every man directly.
Ay, and briefly.
Ay, and wisely.
Ay, and truly; you were best.
What is my name? Whither am I going? Where do I dwell? Am I
a married man or a bachelor? Then, to answer every man directly
and briefly, wisely and truly. Wisely I say I am a bachelor.
That’s as much as to say they are fools that marry; you’ll bear
me a bang for that, I fear. Proceed; directly.
Directly, I am going to Caesar’s funeral.
As a friend, or an enemy?
As a friend.
That matter is answered directly.
For your dwelling,—briefly.
Briefly, I dwell by the Capitol.
Your name, sir, truly.
Truly, my name is Cinna.
Tear him to pieces! He’s a conspirator.
I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet!
Tear him apart for his bad verses, tear him apart for his bad verses!
I am not Cinna the conspirator.
It is no matter, his name’s Cinna; pluck but his
name out of his heart, and turn him going.
Tear him, tear him! Come; brands, ho! firebrands. To
Brutus’, to Cassius’; burn all. Some to Decius’ house, and some
to Casca’s, some to Ligarius’: away, go!
[PLEBEIANS attack CINNA THE POET.]
Ahh plebians, they’re necessary and important but they come with a few downsides, as Shakespeare warned in Julius Caesar. The mob in this scene does as mobs do — it’s quick to anger and slow to reason, like a stupid but deadly dinosaur. I respect dinosaurs and surely they had a necessary role in the ecosystem, but I’d still never want to face one.
No matter how introverted you are (unless you’re a Russian hermit), as a human, you’re a social animal. Freud was particularly interested in how groups change an individual; he theorized that in a group, we give up our conscious personality in favor of the power and security of the group.
“…groups have never thirsted after truth. They demand illusions, and cannot do without them. They constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real; they are almost as strongly influenced by what is untrue as by what is true. They have an evident tendency not to distinguish between the two.”
― Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
A crowd is a unit ruled by one collective brain. In the crowd, individual responsibility decreases as the size of the crowd increases. The bigger the crowd, the fewer expectations people feel upon themselves, a phenomenon that leads to the Bystander Effect this retro interview will frustrate you with. There are a lot of theories as to how it happens, but a benign crowd is only a few triggers away from becoming a cruel mob (and murdering an unfortunately named poet — RIP Cinna).
The danger of a crowd is exactly what makes it seductive; forgoing individual identity, rational thought, and accountability can intoxicate. The masks (and uniforms) groups wear serve two purposes; not only do they conceal identity, but they erase it, making the adoption of a group identity and goals in place of one’s own rationality that much easier.
Zimbardo (1971) - Standford Prison Experiment: student participants were given police uniforms and sunglasses to act as wardens and subsequently inventing cruel manipulations for students designated as prisoners that required the experiment end due to unethicality within 6 days.
Watson (1973) – Warriors in 23 cultures who wore face and body paint were more likely to kill, mutilate, and torture captured prisoners.
Silke (2003) – 206 out of 500 violent assaults in Northern Ireland were done by masked offenders. Anonymous attackers were more prolific and inflicted more serious injuries.
The cruelty that anonymity can unleash is seen in both individuals online and in a street mob; who we become within the security of a group is partially thanks to deindividuation. The loss of self-awareness, of rational thought, and personal responsibility is the result of that unique experience in which group identity overcomes our own identity.
We look for ways to avoid responsibility constantly; we avoid relationships, we avoid hard work, we avoid critical thinking. More responsibility never harms — it’s too little responsibility that’s dangerous. By being accountable for your thoughts and your actions, you take ownership of your own power, rather than give it away.
Forced Changes by Malena Bozzini
Sometimes groups do historically great things and provide meaningful connection, other times they cause historically tragic outcomes. A group is no casual thing; outsourcing individual responsibility and rationality to a group turns the adult into a child — unthinking, conforming.
The group is not brave, only the individual can be. The individual may be brave in spite of the group, but an individual who finds bravery only within a group exposes a level of cowardice worth fearing.
In the midst of so much historic change, it might seem like your values are the only things most certain. Nope, even that’s awash; it’s easy to know your values when life is normal, but when things are upside down, recognizing what was once up but is now down but is still technically up (see?) becomes a challenge.
Confusion about the “right way” to express values and support a cause betrays a risky reliance on others to form the moral actions that must come from ourselves. Learning from others is important, but giving others the full power to dictate how you act out your beliefs is a danger.
Anyone that requires this power of you is more dangerous yet.
You don’t need a guideline, an infographic, or an activist to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. The world will not solve its issues by handing everyone a Correct Behavior and Thoughts Manual. Most people are good, but they haven’t done the work to uncover that goodness from beneath the layers of silt life buries it under. Instead, they look to others who promise they’ve done the work themselves, so just listen and do what I say.
The answers to your question about the right way — Lion King moment — is within you, Simba. Seriously, stop letting other people tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. You could kill someone. Or worse, you could be the one in a crowd who stands by and justifies it.
Inaccessible therapy is a true loss because it’s the best way to help people know themselves and uncover the goodness they need to act in the world. If you don’t know yourself, you don’t know what you believe, and if you don’t know what you believe, you’re the ideological version of a 15th-century indigenous person facing the measles.
This worksheet is used in ACT therapy and while they’re meant to help you know yourself for your own wellbeing, an aspect of that well being is knowing how to….ACT (sorry). By clearly defining your values, you can return to yourself and answer your own questions when a chaotic world tries to pull you in two directions simultaneously.
The point of this worksheet is to help you think for yourself. Before you scoff at such a presumptuous offer, if we’re being honest, an upside-down world full of emotion and screaming and spite is justifiably hard to stay grounded and listen to yourself within.
Yet, no greater good can be done before we uncover our own goodness and answer for ourselves.
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.