Margaret Wilson Reckling: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com
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Margaret Wilson Reckling: Guest opinion

On a recent morning, after a night of fresh snowfall, I was in front of my place shoveling snow when my neighbor John passed by and waved a big hello. He pulled over, hopped out and grabbed his snow shovel from the bed of his pickup truck. He was insistent that he was already warmed up from clearing snow at his place, and we began to shovel in unison.

I told him how nice it was to have a neighbor help a neighbor out and that neighborly gestures seem to be a dying tradition in America. We lamented the decline of common courtesy, moral standards and decency between people these days.

As we worked, we discussed the challenges of restoring such institutions and what it would take to reclaim respectful behavior among one another. When the job was done, John stopped shoveling to proclaim, “The people of this country need a spiritual awakening!” He threw his shovel into the truck bed, and shaking his head with frustration over the mindlessness of our populace, he climbed in and pulled away, leaving me to ponder.

The spiritual awakening of America is an impressive vision, but before the spirit can awaken, the mind must be open and think freely. Independent thought is unpopular right now, and we have increasingly become a nation of sheeple. We’re a herd of hundreds of millions of followers, unable to unplug from our television and computer screens to allow ourselves a free thought that is all our very own. Is it sheer laziness? After all, thinking for one’s self is demanding work. With the constant barrage of media messages, cyber updates and political agendas, it’s hard to get one’s own ideas formulated.

In the early 1970s, there was an iconic advertising campaign that professed, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” In today’s world of Hollywood worship, fashion addiction, bandwagon rides and self-absorption, it’s no wonder we have fallen into the careless ease of a herd mentality – sheepishly succumbing to social pressures and government controls, bleating “bahhhh” if we don’t get what we feel we are entitled to and all the while being fleeced by our own government. Rudeness and disrespect toward one another is epidemic. Divisive labeling and blame are the comb-over for our lack of self-responsibility.

Nowhere else is the collective mind-set of sheeple more apparent than in the political paradigm. When it comes to blind commitment to political parties, sheeple immediately flock to meaningless party labels. Sheeple ignore the vast similarities of corruption between both major parties because that doesn’t serve their interests. Emory University brain-scan studies revealed that the politically biased are virtually addicted to lying to themselves to maintain their view that their party and leaders are flawless. People of both political persuasions are equally affected by bias.

Sadly, sheeple numbers are on the rise as the U.S. population increasingly becomes reliant on the nanny state. At its roots, sheepledom is insecurity and fear. Bertrand Russell, a champion of freedom of thought, said, “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” It’s so easy to conform to what we are fed by mass media and then spew hatred at non-followers. The desire to belong is very seductive; it appeals to our fundamental need for security and safety.

Not only do sheeple lose their ability to think for themselves, but they experience greater losses in their quality of life: loss of freedom, loss of compassion, loss of creativity, loss of humanity. The belief that government improves the plight of citizens is a false conclusion. To become a spoonfed nation that abandons its liberty, freedom of thought and self-sufficiency is to create a mass of ignorant, unoriginal humans who herd together and follow mindlessly.

How can we shed our sheepish ways? Stop worship and idolization of actors, politicians, athletes and religious leaders. It’s time for us to devote ourselves to our family, friends and neighbors – the real people in our lives, who will actually be there when you need them. Disconnect decision-making from sources of conventional messages such as television, computer and radio. Step outside the herd. Practice disbelief, question everything, and look at all aspects of an issue. Jump off the assembly line of cookie-cutter judgment. Think independently, and life opens up to endless opportunity. Abandon the status quo, and awaken the inner spirit and the unique individual within.

When a complacent population welcomes government intrusion and regulation, it forsakes its freedom. Are we going to relinquish our personal freedoms and just become part of the government’s “plan”? Has argumentum ad populum become enough reason to go along with something? A country composed of sheeple is the ultimate government creation, and our once-vibrant nation shall be determined by the silence of its lambs.

Margaret Wilson Reckling lives in Aspen and welcomes your comments at margreck880@gmail.com.