"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

The Masses Crave Discipline

I was briefly doing some reading on dog training once because I was visiting my parents and they had a young puppy full of energy with little discipline.  It was difficult to even take the young animal for a walk because he would zip every which way with no sense of direction and constantly fight against the tugging of the leash.
I soon discovered the ideas of a guy called Cesar Milan on the web, a fellow who I understand had a TV show.
It soon struck me that his kind of ideas didn’t just seem dog-like to me.  I’d never found a finer manual in the art of herding people.

We have only to see Britain’s adulation for its royal family or Americans’ worship of the Kennedys to understand that the typical human psychologically requires a master as surely as any dog.  People feel happy and safe when there is a dominating presence at the head of their tribe.  They become miserable and anxious in the absence of discipline and leadership.

One has only to observe groups of kids.  A classroom with a strong and competent teacher is well behaved and happy.  A class with a weak teacher is obnoxious and miserable.
One would think that the kids with greater freedom would be happier, but the opposite is true.
Over the years I’ve had stints as a substitute teacher and an English teacher.  I’ve worked in tourist venues where groups of kids pass through constantly.  Everywhere I’ve gone, the kids without leadership have bratty sneers on their faces and while they may smile, it’s always a snide expression of mockery and contempt.  They’re unhappy, insecure, and bored.
Investigating dog psychology on the internet, I read how canine misbehavior is an attempt to get attention and test the leadership of the master.  The dog is begging to be shown rules and leadership just as it begs for food.  After all, social creatures require rules and structure as they do food or water.
It struck me that all those kids are exactly the same way.  Their misbehavior when not disciplined is just an escalating plea for leadership.  They immediately become happy and compliant again when their misbehavior is punished and they are decisively cast down into their proper place.

Dogs, according to the likes of Cesar Milan, experience a great deal of stress when despite their pleas, no leadership is forthcoming.  The dog starts to see itself as the incipient alpha bearing full responsibility for the wellbeing of the pack.  This crushing stress, combined with perceiving the need to assert itself as leader, mere misbehavior can escalate into outright aggression.  This is the point where the master loses control of the situation irrevocably.

Here,  I reflected, rulers of people do not fall from internal disputes as long as they show strength and leadership.  However, the moment a ruler makes concessions, the end is near.  We can reflect on Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union, or Mubarak in Egypt.  We can compare the outcome of President Jackson’s quick and decisive suppression of secession movements in South Carolina, with the concessions and indecisiveness of Buchanan.
It is an eternal law of dealing with the masses: the strongman is rewarded with obedience, the kind man with rebellion and overthrow.

American foreign policy would have been greatly improved had its formulators understood the human craving for discipline.  They would have immediately had an astute and accurate understanding of what an Iraq without Saddam would be like.  Now, faced with all the problems that the strongman kept in check, they’re forced to unhappily enter an alliance with the Iranians just to feebly attempt to restore what they already had—and willfully undid—because they chose to make real world policy while living in a fantasy land.

If anything, the colonialists of the British Empire had no illusions about the subservient and base nature of humanity.  With incomparably less wealth, technology, and personnel they managed to govern most of the planet.  A few jungle and desert zones capable of resisting the entire might of the United States caused no unusual problems for the British whose only advantage over the American superpower was a shrewd understanding of people.

Enlightenment thought teaches us humans are perfect rational agents, who need only be set free.  But even the most casual glance at the psychology of real, ordinary people quickly informs us:  One of the cruelest things that can be done to a man is to set him free.  At heart, man wants to be ruled.

10 responses to “The Masses Crave Discipline

  1. Pingback: The Masses Crave Discipline | Neoreactive

  2. sunhater May 14, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    South Park made an episode on that dog trainer years ago.

  3. Sam May 17, 2015 at 4:52 am

    “…They would have immediately had an astute and accurate understanding of what an Iraq without Saddam would be like…”

    I think they knew exactly what they were doing. The attack on Iraq was to divide Iraq into a bunch of quarreling mini-states so they would not threaten Israel. Paul Bremer in every case when he ruled Iraq made decisions that would do just that.

  4. Edenist whackjob March 19, 2016 at 11:20 am

    How does one know if one is truly a freeman by nature, or merely fooling oneself? Are there some good indicators and tests?

    • Giovanni Dannato March 20, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      For starters, to even begin to ask certain types of questions and show curiosity is a key sign someone isn’t normal. I’ve lived in all walks of life and have worked very humble jobs around ordinary people. Experience tells me that the majority of people are incurious by nature with minimal capacity for critical thinking. They are what they are.
      Many disastrous social policies come from upper middle class types who are insulated and don’t understand most people out there aren’t anything like them.

      I eventually want to write a rough guide of “easy disqualifiers” that could serve as general heuristics. What I mean is how we get a rough sense of what type of person someone is within 30 seconds of seeing their facebook page, what their room looks like, what their interests and hobbies are, or just hear their speech patterns and see their mannerisms.
      Sorting people could actually be pretty easy.

      • Edenist whackjob April 3, 2016 at 11:10 am

        So curiosity is the mark of a free man?

        I would agree, but I think there are more marks.

        Agency would be one.

        Curiosity + agency = someone who sees a weird cow-path in the forest, and actually wanders off to follow it. Ends up finding a cool meadow full of magic mushrooms, or a witch’s abandoned den full of cool spell-books, or what have you. While the rest of the party goes the established route and ends up at the trading town where they intended to go.

      • Giovanni Dannato April 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm

        Yeah, something like this. It shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a reasonably simple formula that works most of the time and refine over time against results.
        A friend of mine showed me this indy game called “The Stanley Parable.” That’s a personality rorschach test of a game if I ever saw one. I naturally ended up defying the narrator any way I could think of and I found that actually was a legitimate branch on their tree of possibilities with its own ending. I was a fan of Morrowind back in the day because it really encouraged and rewarded random exploration and had endless sidequests. I don’t think I even focused on the main quest that much but spent awhile just exploring the islands off the Telvanni coast.

        If we had to sort some people tomorrow, I think we’d predictably find rts, moba, and rpg players consistently in a different league from madden football and call of duty.

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