by Nicolle Morales Kern
The balance of life and society can be a hard one to maintain, especially when you’re a part of a powerful group. This was never more evident this month than when the San Francisco police shot down a man who ran from them when they asked to see his train transfer.
You may not be surprised to hear that police shot down someone who ran from them (it occurs so many times it doesn’t make the news), but if you have seen the video then you know this wasn’t a normal incident. To see a group of officers (I would say about eight or 10) keep their guns trained on a man who has been shot and is bleeding out on the sidewalk and is not something you would expect from officers of the law. You’re left wondering where the ambulance is and why the officers aren’t doing anything to help him. Last time I checked, people are innocent until proven guilty in our so-called land of golden streets, but maybe not.
Warning: Graphic content.
Now you might be wondering how this happened. Did these officers get a thrill at seeing a fellow human on his way to his death? The social psychologist Irving Janos would have said that these officers succumbed to groupthink. Groupthink happens when “a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment.” In other words, you make decisions you normally wouldn’t based on the perceived expectations that come with belonging to a certain group.
The example given above is an extreme example of what can happen as a result of groupthink, but the concept equally applies to any type of group or gathering of people. It could be those who gather under an institution, a religion, a culture or any other interest. Today, we might assign the term “fanatic” to people who explicitly dedicate their lives to a cause to the exclusion of other ways of life. However, it is important to keep in mind that this can happen to anyone.
Does this means it’s not advisable to belong to groups? No, of course not. Does it mean that groupthink is an excuse for any types of action on behalf of a group? No. What it means is that it is possible to lose yourself in any type of group (even the perceived notion of what it means to belong to a certain ethnicity), something that can easily happen if you only surround yourself with members of that group, with similar backgrounds and don’t allow room for different opinions or ways of thought in your life. Staying safe and avoiding change have their disadvantages.
Copy Editor, Nicolle Morales Kern.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.