The train station of a big city is the place to be for seeing the human survivor instinct in optima forma. It is here that Thomas Hobbes proofs himself right: humans are indeed selfish by nature. People can seem so friendly, waiting in serene groups for the train to come. But then, when a last minute change in the track is announced, the herd goes mad. It is like the butcher coming to slaughter the last few pigs. Like the shepherd and his golden retriever pushing the crowd onto the road of freedom.
People take themselves and their lives very seriously. When the broadcaster on the train station announces that, two minutes before the planned departure of the train, the track has changed, hundreds of people sigh and mumble, “Why does this always happen to me?” At those moments I always think to myself: isn’t there just as much reason to laugh as there is to whine? I mean: isn’t it awfully funny to see hundreds of people waiting in the cold, desperately nipping of their coffee and smoking their cigarettes, waiting for the train to bring them to the jobs they hate? To see them running back and forth, like monkeys on acid? If we wouldn’t take ourselves so serious, and come to realize that truly no-one cares that we’ll be late for work, or for anything about our lives for that matter, then we might come to enjoy running around like fools, pushing away those other self-centered train-people.
This little illustration captures society in a nutshell. It is always chasing the next big thing that is going to save them, whether this is a train bringing them to their “money making destination” or to an ideology saving the true nature of the human species. This process will repeat itself until society makes up its mind and realizes that the track has changed. And when the track has changed, everyone stands in the front-line, everyone claims to be the one who knew where to go all along, waiting to get punched in the face by the next change in track that is announced.
Let’s face it: we are followers. Although we would like to believe that we came up with things for ourselves, in fact, we have no idea what to do until someone tells us. That goes for marketing as well as for societal movements. But radical changes in society take time. It is not like announcing a change in track. At least, not in a democracy. It is there that societal changes are incremental, behaving like a snowball gathering mass. And when the snowball is big enough, the second biggest snowball will lose its followers and eventually melt down.
The crowd has no reason. It moves according to the whims of its animalistic instincts. Food is food, power is power. Discrimination does not exist in its vocabulary. Merely genuine but unreasonable fear. And it is this fear that drives all of us. It is this fear that makes us go to work every day, even if we don’t want to. It is this fear that fuels envy, making us hate those that are better than us. It is this fear that drives our hunger, the fear to die. And fear goes hand in hand with our human weakness, our vulnerability to Mother Nature’s changes. A little wind and we are gone. A little water and we are dead. A little shacking and our lives will tumble down.
Let’s accept our vulnerability and seek shelter in the irrational source of life fueling the crowd. You want to know what this would look like? Go visit a train station.
But what do you think?