September 20, 2009

And So We Were Commanded

We humans are impressionable creatures. We can be influenced quite easily by many pressures and institutions- religion, government, media, society. All of these are things I've written about before. But there is one rather simple pressure I've neglected to mention, and that is human-to-human direction. Perhaps this omission is by virtue of the fact that, on my virtual soapbox, I have very little face-to-face contact with readers. Perhaps such direction is so common that it is not noticeable. But the fact remains that simple commands have great influence over our lives.

Take as an exaggerated example the performance I saw earlier tonight. Sailesh the hypnotist visited the Hop in a special performance geared toward the freshman class. Thirty of my classmates were invited on to the stage. Most were consequently hypnotized and subject to Sailesh's control (via the power of suggestion and peer pressure) for the few hours of the performance. Their "hypnosis," of course, was helped greatly by the fact that they were all willing volunteers, hyped-up teenagers and subject to the power of the mob (a.k.a. the audience). But regardless of the reasons for their (absurd) behavior, it was eye-opening to see the amount of control one human can exert over another simply through the use of commands and social pressures.

This method of control is often used, to a lesser extent, as a political tool in small campaigns. It is often dominated by more "big-picture" strategies in larger campaigns due to the fact that it is simply ineffective to attempt to influence large groups of voters individually. But I've met a few politicians in my life, especially in the past few days, and I can tell you that the use of eye contact, assertive statement, and firm handshake is still very much in use.

Politicians (and everyone else with an agenda, which is pretty much everyone) have attempted to harness the power of simple commands and the resulting "mob effect" in the context of bigger crowds. Even presidential candidates travel throughout the country to shake the hands of steel workers, bank clerks, babysitters, the unemployed. This is not only because of the inherently present and invaluable photo opps; this is because these people know the power of human-to-human direction.

And so tonight I ask you to ponder not hypnosis, persay, but its close cousin, human direction. Think about just how much you are influenced when someone close to you gives you a command or makes an assertion. It may be more than you know...

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