Hero worship, entrainment, academia, and culture

I confess that I look at the Daily Mail almost every day.

It lets me feel that I am in touch with something common—common people and common emotions generated by uncommon people.

Today I learned that Taylor Swift earned $1million a day this year…, making her the highest paid musician in the world. I also read about the much more ordinary safest diner in the most dangerous neighborhood in America, a story about a guy who is not afraid to live and work in Detroit and how he is supported by his tough clientele, many of whom get murdered.

These two kinds of stories typify the contents of the Daily Mail and reveal something about how humans think and feel.

Taylor Swift’s primary audience is teenage girls and younger. They worship her. Jovica Trpcevski, the owner and cook at John’s Grill, is more like us as are his clientele, though Trpcevski also commands loyalty and allegiance from his “fans.”

All of us at one time or another follow some celebrity, musician, author, thinker, religious figure, or news analyst or are impressed with or proud of some local person who is doing something we can’t.

Swift’s audience illustrates hero worship, or whatever it is, in its most basic form. The developing young brain is captivated by music and the style of someone more mature and cannot get enough. Trpcevski’s fans are older, wiser, and more jaded, but are still capable of a similar bond, a similar entrainment of the brain on a social or local community vibe.

This is what people do. We adulate and follow other people, usually famous people. Trump is better at getting that entrainment than Jeb. Chomsky was better than Skinner. For many today, the Buddha is doing it better than Jesus.

The followers of others—including Trpcevski’s fans—also conform to each other. They form groups whose members imitate each other as much as their star.

And it’s not just teens and tough guys who do it. Academics do it as much as teenage girls and with far worse effects. The toxicity of the PC atmosphere in American academia should be obvious to anyone who has gone near it.

…the image of a cowering cuckold is far more appropriate for the vast majority of academics than that of a dashing rebel against the establishment.

That quote is from Liberal Bias in Academia: Will Being Self-Conscious About It Help? The answer to that question is no because:

“…academics censor each other… they create a climate of conformity where if you want to get on in an academic career, you don’t stick your neck out and you don’t say anything controversial.”

Students pick up on this and begin to follow suit. Before long, debating, challenging and wrestling with ideas and truth claims becomes obsolete, replaced by a classroom full of silent witnesses who refuse to contest the academics teaching them…

“Then there’s no need for external restraints on academic freedom because academics are doing it for themselves – they’re restricting their own academic freedom.”

Students who don’t conform are self-selecting themselves out of university. (Ibid)

No hope for academia, most religion, most culture, most anything. It’s what we do.We conform and restrict our own freedom due to biological and social pressures. It starts early and often lasts a lifetime.

I do think we can break the spell by understanding that we learn from the Swifts and Trpcevskis of the world and from the others who are learning from them along with us. But after we learn, we can move on and think for ourselves.

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