Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Institutionalisation or mob rule - how minorities control the majority

[Image by Mick Stevens, courtesy of the Newyorker]

The topic has been on my agenda for very, very long now. I've touched upon it in my Social Business (R)evolution book, and most other "social posts" underlying that.
I've touched upon it in my "enterprise posts", and in my "religion posts". I haven't written any (or maybe I have some?) "political posts", but I have most certainly done so in my "spiritual posts".
Institutionalisation - it ruins everything. It obliterates common sense, magically forces people to hand over any and all kind of responsibility, and transforms reluctance into acquiesence

Examples of it were handed to me only yesterday, by Brenda Michelson and Michael Vrijhoef. Brenda pointed me to a post of the Newyorker whose cartoon had been banned from Facebook (depictured on top), and Michael told a story of how a conversation about mussels had been stricken from Facebook's records within minutes.
The simularities? Both were examples that would have been enjoyed or at least condoned by a vast majority of the intended audience, and a good majority of the extended audience. Not to mention the automated - and I guess unaccompanied by any human-written explanation - removal of both
Could people be offended by either? Sure. Would some? Sure. Had some? Probably so. Did they alert "the media"? Maybe
That is not the question, the question never is about whether or not, or, as Vinnie Mirchandani so aptly puts it: it's an age of and-and, not or-or. Am I alive? Most certainly so. How much alive am I? Well, to tell you the truth, I am very alive. I enjoy almost every minute of every day, not too sure about the nights, and yes there are days that I spend an hour or so without enjoyment at all, but to me being alive is measured by the relative quantity of enjoyment during that same life - even though I respect e.g. plants, trees and rocks for being alive without me being able to measure that same enjoyment. As long as they grow fuller and more beautiful year on year, even when that's at the cost of their surroundings, I suspect they feel great - and are very alive
But I'm being distracted, sorry. My point is that we live in a world. That world is very large, and made up many different smaller worlds, also known as societies, nationalities, regions, localities, groups, and so on. One really interesting to look at it, is that we people in IT are trying to create redundant systems that are capable of failover by mimicking the world's networks: these are organised horizontically, vertically, diagonally, and at any point some of these and those form majorities or minorities, and of course any grayscale in between.
Are those quantitative, qualitative, both? Yes and no and sometimes. The 1% and 99% are good examples of quantitative minorities that have qualitative majority impact, and vice versa
I'm not talking about those here. It is obvious that every form of organisation is shaped like a pyramid, with lots of ant workers at the bottom and only one queen on top. Same for bees, gorillas, horses and what not. Humans somehow magically manage to squeeze in a few additional layers of clueless intermediates in between the two layers, but that is also yet another story

The main story here is that we, the majority, have to watch over the minorities. We don't want them to get squeezed, certainly not crushed, in (between) our majority ways. We agree to disagree with them, and vice versa; but we respect them for what they value, and we expect the same respect back. If the gap gets too wide and the differences too great, e.g. when people are getting their hand cut off for stealing a loaf of bread, we can say "Listen, we did that in the Middle Ages too, but fact of the matter is that (really, really) desperate people will make desperate moves. Cutting off someone's hand for stealing a loaf of bread will only result in organised crime where people will pillage and plunder a bakery at night, and murder the baker himself during the sequence of destroying all the evidence. If you want to prevent the crime, just feed your people - they will become a lot less desperate"

I myself am in as many majorities as minorities as can be, I think. At home, I'm the only male among three females - humans that is, not counting the animals. At work, I'm one of the few independents, most are perms i.e. have a boss and company they work for. In traffic, I'm in a relative small car yet I drive "fairly close to the speed limit" - am I a minority or majority there?
You also are in as many majorities as well as minorities as can be. We all have dozens of roles and functions and identities in our lives, and act accordingly. Family reunion? You will be in a lot of majorities and minorities, depending on sex, age, number of kids you have, last name, closeness, etc. Company evening? You will be in a lot of majorities and minorities, depending on years of service, expertise, relationship to management, etc. What stand will you take in any of those positions? An appropriate one, I hope

My point: minorities have the right to live their life as they seem fit. So do majorities. At a family reunion of company meeting, even if that runs into or beyond the thousands, the same rule would apple.
But stretch the rubber band well beyond that and you get different results - it's mob rule that dictates the setting.
One hundred people to a party, and 2 complainers? Well that's 2%. Usually considered to be collateral damage and statisticallt insignificant.
One billion people to the party, and 20 million complainers? Still the same old 2%, yet an awesome multitude of voices you wouldn't want to confront - you'd do anything to please those, even in spite of the other 998 million - unless a wee part of those turn against your decision of course. Hey, we still live our lives by democracy rule, somehow

Power to the people? No. Power to the people is only vested in voices. If you are a (for argument's sake rather influential) member of a 2 million people minority, you can be heard, listened to, and reasoned with. If not satisfied, go mobilise your friends and try again - then it's Power to the People if you can.
Within a large group, there are always many minorities. Needless to say, the number of minorities always outnumbers the number of majorities. If you let the demands of a minority prevale over the values of the majority, you pay disrespect to that very majority. With the inevitable outnumbering amount of minorities, soon your majority will have to respect each and every minority rule - and you will only fuel the debates, opinions and judgments, and reduce the majority to countless pieces of minorities

The end result of that? The people who want to walk away and can do so, will do so. The people who want to but can't, won't. And you'll be left with the losers and debaters before you know it, and they will tear your place apart. And a new majority will form somewhere else - if they can

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