Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dog, Cat, Dog, Cat

photo: Charles Dharapak/AP
We watched the State of the Union address last night. I thought President Obama did a fine job. If he can pull off half of his plans, we'll be fine.

I heard my Susan sigh a few times at the mention of bringing ROTC back on campuses and at the absence of any verbal support for the arts or teaching them in schools -- or even important things like history, writing, social skills. Certainly math and science and technology are important. She knows this. But scientists can get pretty off-track if they skip the rest of their education. Ah well, at least it wasn't teacher-bashing night.

photo: Brendan Smialowski/AP
But what I actually loved was the seating mash-up. Seating Democrat-Republican-Democrat-Republican with the Independents sprinkled in was a great idea. Sure, it is was superficial symbol of strained unity. And everyone made sure they wore their color. But I thought mixing up the seating worked pretty well to keep the crowd mentality at minimum. No raucous roaring, less mindless leaping up with diluting standing ovations, no sea of frowns and curled lips and far less smirking whispering to neighbors. Last night, our leaders looked a bit subdued and uncomfortable squeezed together. And I rather liked it. 

Let's face it, we all act differently in packs. Every terrorist group on the planet knows the power of the pack. For better or for worse, leaders know how to tap group psychology. Packs get individuals all riled up and making choices they might not make, given a moment to think or look their opponent in the eyes. Military trainers, cult leaders, and inciters of mobs all count on our brains lighting up with excitement when we are surrounded by -- even blinded by -- people who agree with us and are united by a common purpose. Some of my least civilized moments at the dogpark have occurred when I've gotten carried away with the pack frenzy (Sorry, little yappy terrier. You were terribly annoying but you didn't deserve a whole pack putting you in your place.)

Of course, groups can do great good. The sum is often greater than its parts. But that assumes group members are listening thoughtfully and considering more than one perspective. Our nation's dear politicians struggle at all of these things. So sometimes the only way to tamp them down may be to give them assigned seats: dog cat dog cat.

This is the best picture I have of Sophie, Me, and Stuart

1 comment:

  1. My goodness, Carmella, you sure know a lot about gestalt theory for a dog!