Don't Be a Cow (Groupthink): Your Life Matters

June 19,2020

On Juneteenth 2020, it saddens me to think that the little boy on the basketball court the other morning could be fearful of racism. If my business partner and his lovely life choose to start a family, I would be loath to think those beautiful children would have any recourse to mark themselves as different from society, because of racism.

I was pulling up to the University the other day and saw a father at the basketball court with his two kids. He had some apparatus concocted to teach the kids how to avoid opponents when driving to the hoop. He was giving pointers and high-fives. This family did not appear to be the wealthiest family on the block. But, they could have been in the running for the happiest at that moment.

The campus was otherwise empty, due to COVID. I sat for a moment, reveling in the beauty of family. I was a little jealous that they were able to be out playing when I had to go into work.

There was a stark contrast to the scene. The campus has been eerily still and quiet, since the shutdown, usually bustling and jovial, with an air of studiousness. With the towering buildings, beautiful architecture that builds into the wonder of nature, and steeped in long-standing and significant traditions and History, the University is an edifice of greatness.

With this backdrop, there emanated a euphonious echo of children's laughter, lightly whispering off the walls of my surroundings. The warm sun (not quite too hot in the Texas Sun that early in the morning) and the gentle breeze made this sight all the more delightful.

While I wasn't able to be with my family at that moment, I appreciated them all the more, through the example of this family, out having a good time.

Oh, and the father and his kids are also Black.

A friend of mine, and college, has one of the most exceptional families I know. The parents are remarkable health care clinicians; his brother is a law professional; his sister is studying at an Ivy League school.

I was at my friend’s wedding a while back and got to see this fantastic family in action. Not only accomplished, but they were also kind, loving, warm, gracious hosts, funny, and lively! I was so impressed that I had to go up to his father and thank him for being an exemplar to fatherhood. It was inspiring to see how a family can turn out so accomplished, and so close. Sure, they likely have their issues and struggles, just like we all do. But, man, that is one amazing family. I have a lot to learn about what a family is from them.

Oh, and my friend and his family are Black.

We could continue along this narrative of all the amazing people of color and diversity in my life all day.

On Juneteenth 2020, it saddens me to think that the little boy on the basketball court the other morning could be fearful of racism.

If my business partner and his lovely life choose to start a family, I would be loath to think those beautiful children would have any recourse to mark themselves as different from society, because of racism. I wretch, from inside my soul, to think that people use this as a political standard to push their agendas- from both sides of the aisle.

This post is not political.

This post is not political, in so far as debating if Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Green Party, or Paleo Diet advocates hold all truths to the exclusion of the others.

This post is about ingroup and outgroup Groupthink, which, by its nature, is inter-personally politically driven. Aristotle once said, "Man is a political beast." We can't escape it, but we don't have to be debased about it.

This post is about ingroup and outgroup Groupthink.

In many cases, this is where "Great White Guilt" may set in. Guilt could set me into a defensive stance, where I minimize the fact that I'm not a racist, my family is not racist, so racism doesn't apply to me; or likely doesn't exist at all. I may instead "virtue signal" an overly self-knowing and self-righteous freedom fighter - from the comfort of my own home doing nothing outside of my myopic writings on social media walls - or stoking the flames to incite violence among genuine peaceful protesters. Both of these are extremes and play into what we call Cognitive Distortions of all-or-nothing thinking, with concrete-thinking, based out of an Ingroup Groupthink.

I know, I know, that was a lot of unnecessarily complicated words. Let me take just a second to parse them out.

Virtue Signaling: Hypocritically signaling one's virtues as a self-aggrandizing effort to garner praise. Think of me jumping up and down with my hands in the air to show you how humble I am, "Oh, oh, Pick ME! I'm humble, Pick MEEE!" Perhaps, pointing to others with vitriol in my tone telling you how hateful those people over there are.

Cognitive distortion: Thinking that is inaccurate, unhelpful, and overly-negative, but get stuck in the wiring of our brains. This type of thinking is a survival technique our brain uses to get out of adverse situations and tries to prevent future adverse conditions. Still, they may not always be accurate or helpful in doing that. They may, indeed, actually lead to unfortunate situations, because we are not thinking clearly. There are around 10 to 15 commonly accepted cognitive distortions - if bored, Google it, and learn some about faulty thinking.

All-or-Nothing Thinking: A cognitive distortion that throws the baby out with the bathwater. It takes one good or one bad and discounts the rest. It has to be all, or it can't be anything, as the name implies. Unfortunately, when was the last time you got ALL of what you wanted, exactly how you wanted it? This thinking adapted over the centuries to allow us to forfeit any potential well, for fear of losing it or being placed in compromising situations for it. Unfortunately, if we sacrifice ALL for fear of NOTHING, we are still left with nothing.

Concrete Thinking: Also known as "Black and White Thinking." This cognitive distortion means there is no flexibility in thought. As such, there is no growth, no learning, no potential for movement into the future. If you were to get burned on a kitchen stove accidentally, concrete thinking would say that stoves will burn you. You better have enough money to hire a cook or buy lots of Slim Jims, as you are about to go hungry, my friend. You will never go near a stove again, with concrete thinking. It's not a very helpful way to think. I tell you what. I'll buy you some oven mitts, a splatter guard, and show you how to cook. Would that be easier? Not if you have concrete thinking.

Ingroup Bias: Or "tribe thinking." This type of cognitive distortion implies that you are only safe if you are in a group. To maintain that safety, you must espouse the things your group prefers or values, to the detriment of others, to retain citizenship in your tribe. The difficulty here is identifying an actual tribe. We all want to feel like we belong. That doesn't mean we have to exclude to be in a tribe.

Outgroup Bias: The opposite of ingroup bias, thinking that "others" outside the tribe are a threat or a danger to the tribe. As such, we need to disfavor things the others favor. We need to villanize those who might not be villains. While the fear of loss of a tribe could be an objective reality of a threat, judging by actions taken by others in parts of the world, the difficulty would be misaligning "others" as misanthropic towards the tribe versus culturally different in expressing their humanity alongside the tribe.

Groupthink: Think a herd of cattle. If you ask the third cow to the right from the center, with the black and white spots, which way it's headed, if it could talk, would it know? Nope. The cow goes where the herd goes, eats the grass his neighbors eat, moves when the crowd moves. After trying to leave a Texas Rangers game amidst the throngs of humans, I often feel this way, though it was worth it if the Rangers win!

Groupthink is how Nazi Germany, the Apartheid, terrorist groups, cults, gangs, and every tyranny in human history started. The little Black boy on the basketball court, and me, a White man in my car on my way to work, won't start a war. Groupthink starts wars. Whether you are Ingroup or Outgroup, Groupthink will be your downfall. That's only assuming that history can teach us anything about humanity. **Considering it repeats itself over and over with different expressions, and diverse characters, but the same outcomes, I'd say it may have some insights.

If I am defensive about my "Great White Guilt," I'm participating in Ingroup thinking. If I am virtue signaling about how I'm not ingroup but have no real efforts to accept all diversity (including my own) and get out of groupthink, I've just made myself feel like "other" and am passively participating with Groupthink. If I war against one group or another, it may be a righteous or unrighteous effort, I'm not here to judge that, but it's still Groupthink either way.

Black Lives Matter? Without. A. Doubt.

All lives matter? Obviously.

The sanctity of the dignity of every human being is what sets us to be a noble race.

Don't be foolhardy in your ingroup groupthink, based off of all-or-nothing and concrete thinking to believe that your life doesn't matter because some "other" person does.

Don't jump to extremes to justify this cognitive distortion. Not all (Black/Blue/Brown/Politicians/White People/Men/Women/Zers/vaccers/...) are "others" who are here to destroy you. Some are. Sure. We are human. There has been war since the dawn of time. We can stand together against them. Not all of us, though, are "Others." If there are "others" out there to hurt us... we might want our "other" neighbors to back us up!

I'm not talking to that other group over there. I'm talking to you. I’m talking to myself. I’m not saying ALL of one group thinks ALL of this or that. That is exactly what I am saying to break out of.

If you're Black, I'm with you.

If you're not, I'm with you.

If the two of you are against each other for stupid reasons based on delusional thinking and participate in activities that aren't helpful to unifying and uplifting an elevated expression of human dignity, I'm with neither of you.

If we are to stand against oppression, racism, true justice, peace, the rejection of human dignity, I'm with you. Together we stand as individuals, diverse, each with a voice, and democratic in expression of order. We stand together

People can be good. People can be bad. People are both not either-or, or neither. We, you and me, are both. If we live pretending that ALL of one type of people are bad, we will fall.

ALL of some actions may be bad. ALL loss of innocent life is bad. ALL loss of rights and freedoms is bad. ALL of some beliefs are bad. ALL of Hate is bad. These have no place in our society. If one group is experiencing this disproportionately to another, we need to be very curious about that and fix what is wrong AS SOON AS POSSIBLE - rather than saying that it is ALL bad and lighting it all on fire.

We used to fight for higher meanings and purpose, not skin color or personal identity. We used to strive for the common good, not the ingroup political favor. Don't look to the politicians to save you. They are just a reflection of us. We must unite.

"Others" start wars. "Others" allow tyrannies to come to rule. "Others" sit on necks of innocent (until proven guilty in a court of law) men like executioners rather than peacekeepers.

DON'T BE A COW blindly following the way others go. Don't be a cow, being moved to hate because others move there. Don't be a cow, and allow this Nation to crumble into chaos.

BE LIKE the Black man playing basketball with his family on his day off.

BE LIKE my business partner's family, accomplished, kind, and welcoming. STAND UP to what is wrong, together.

BE LIKE those who break out of Groupthink and help move the needle towards a higher purpose.

We are not others. We are neighbors. We are business partners. We are lovers. We are families. We are communities.

We are friends. We are people.