Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 23, 2013

ROOT: Be true to yourself

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Have you ever heard the word “sheeple”? It is the hybrid term that was developed to describe people who simply do what they’re told and follow the crowd, like sheep.

The problem with the term is that it has been cast in the same negative light as the n-word and an f-bomb. While n’s and f’s are definitely no-no words, sheeple gets taken out of context too often and is attached to groups of people who feel strongly about something.

This notion of trying to shoot down people who band together really needs to stop.

In most cases, the person who is using the sheeple brand is a lone nut who sits in his room at his parents’ house and thinks that his “Lord of the Rings” posters and Goth music make him some kind of independent thinker. If you want to meet a truly independent thinker, then make friends with Steven Spielberg or David Gilmour. The rest of us are trying to identify our individuality by using someone else’s visions. That is just the way it goes, and it is perfectly normal.

Let me give you an example of someone who is a true free thinker. On my wife’s Facebook page is a picture she took herself. It looks like a professional took it, but she took it on our last vacation to Maine. She will often use pictures she has taken of one of our cats or someone else as her avatar on Facebook as well. She doesn’t feel the need to identify with any group and she would definitely qualify as someone that could use the term “sheeple” in a derogatory way.

But the thing is that she respects everyone’s opinions and has no desire to shoot someone down because they follow the ideas of a particular group. She may not always agree with group ideas, but she has nothing against the people that do follow those ideas.

See, someone who identifies with an independent label album cover and quotes an obscure movie is not a loner. That person just digs a little deeper to find someone else’s ideas to use as their own set of identifying images. The fact that you know about independent label music and watch obscure movies does not allow you to look down on anyone.

All the cool kids in school think that they are allowed to bring others down, because only the cool kids listen to that band or can quote every line from that movie. But they are just members of a group following a collective idea. There is nothing liberating about that. You are still caught up in being part of a group.bn

I guess my point is that when you look at a group of people and call them sheeple, because they took the time to read a particular new law and actually understand it — while your only understanding of that law is what you read on Facebook or what some guy told you — then you are the one who is on the outside looking in.

I am finding that people who use the term “sheeple” are the ones who prefer to deal in rumors rather than facts. They find a condensed version of the information they seek, which is completely lacking in substance, and base their opinion on that. If you disagree, then you are just one of the mindless drones doing what you are told.

Let me give you another good example of what I am talking about. A recent post on Facebook had a link to an article about former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Marty Biron, and the caption said that we could use Biron right now. Instantly, a torrent of negative comments about the play of the Sabres, and the fact that Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth are doing just fine, rained down on the page. The article was about how we could use Biron in the broadcast booth, but it took dozens of comments before anyone suggested that people actually read the article before commenting.

If you base your ideas on subtle innuendo and partial facts and then berate everyone who disagrees with you by calling them sheeple, then you are part of the problem. If people just stopped to read the facts before they comment, then the term “sheeple” might not even exist.

But as long as millions of people are content to stop reading after the headline, there will always be disgruntled individualists who feel that everyone else is just drinking the kool-aid.

Sometimes being sheeple is the best way to go.

George N. Root III is a Lockport resident and part-time sheeple member. His column is published every Wednesday and, admit it, you read it every week, you sheeple. Contact him at georgeroot@verizon.net -- but one at a time, please.