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Weird excerpt (and teleconference)

September 30, 2011
by seth godin

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[The call was great (though the recording isn't so loud... here's the mp3 file]

Here’s an excerpt:

Origins of dominion
Someone always wants to be in charge.

But how?

The long-term plan is to train people to accept someone giving them orders. Sure, we can resort to physical force, but the arithmetic doesn’t support asymmetry. If you need one foreman for every subject, you’re not going to be able to scale. And actual restraints and fear for one’s physical safety are not effective motivators. Instead, dominators have long created cultural norms that dictate that the lower class (as defined by the upper class) should obey their superiors.

For thousands of years, leaders have enforced their rule by telling us stories and selling us on the idea of compliance.
The stories in all ancient mythologies revolve around powerful gods that told humans what to do—and those gods were ignored at the peril of one’s life.

I don’t think it’s an accident that these stories were invented and then reinforced and amplified by human leaders. They push the population to accept “normal” and they encourage peer pressure to comply. If effective society is defined as people accepting authority, then everyone in the society has an incentive to enforce the rule of just a few.

So emperors and princes and then kings like Louis XIV pushed forward this idea of normal, of being an insider, of doing what you were told.

Marketers, discovering a good thing, joined in. By doing the only commercially viable thing (marketing to the middle of the curve), they unintentionally latched on to this old idea of pushing society to the middle. As democracy created positions of power for the elected, these newly elected leaders did the same thing. They campaigned to the middle and thus had an incentive to push society in their direction.

Today we can see that the post-industrial age and the Internet permit a different sort of power, one of silos and smaller but tighter networks. Now, there’s an incentive to fragment instead of coalesce. And given the choice, given the chance to be weird, more and more of us are taking that chance.

Sure, there are traditionalists in the center, ranting and pushing and haranguing society to get back to the good old days, to the days of compliance. There are Supreme Court justices willing to criminalize behaviors they consider weird. There are corporations who fire employees for speaking up. There are even dictators who imprison someone worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

The reactionaries that demand compliance, though, face an uphill battle. They will have a hard time becoming Torquemada in Spain, 1492; they will have a hard time enforcing a rigid status quo when ideas are easier to spread, mobility is easier to find, and marketers find profits in niches, not mass…

Is there any doubt at all that we’re going to get weirder?

[Here's a review from Barry Moltz on the Amex site]

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