By Dr David Laing Dawson
Just as we humans always overestimate our memories and find ourselves regretting we didn’t commit to paper or snapshot yesterday or last week, we also overestimate the extent to which our actions are guided by thoughtful consideration and choice.
We are easily influenced, especially if the influence is playing to our rat brain, to centuries of old survival coding.
The crowd of ordinary people chant in unison, “Lock her up. Lock her up.” It is, of course, entirely irrational, a bit nasty, and quite contrary to all due processes of judgment and punishment that have developed within western civilization over the past 100 years. I scan the part of the crowd shown on my monitor and I can’t find one person who has chosen not to chant.
But then we already know this about humans within crowds and mobs and humans under the influence of a charismatic authority, even when that authority is self-proclaimed. It is a small percent that can resist at that moment, that can buck the trend, be contrary, who can ask themselves, “Is this right?”
We know this from history. We know this from the Nuremberg Trials, from human behaviour in times of armed conflict and occupation. And we know this from some simple experiments in social psychology.
And we also know that among us are a few who respond eagerly to license and sanction, the go ahead to unleash the beast within, to act on a simmering hatred. Again we know this from history and contemporary observation.
Though the assumption of free will and personal responsibility is a cornerstone of human society, it does not negate the reality of what is written above.
We know these things about human behaviour. All our leaders should know these things.
So, yes, when Donald Trump’s crowds chant “Lock her up.” and “CNN sucks.” and when he tells his people they should fear the caravan of “invaders”, and when he fails to condemn the Alt-right extremists or other tyrants, he is culpable.