The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, was written by James Surowiecki to argue that decisions are often better made by a group than could have been made by any single member of the group (the whole group is smarter than even the smartest person in it). He does go on to say that it matters how the group is made up, that people in it should be allowed independence, diversity of opinion etc., rather than just advocating crowd psychology as the answer to everything. These democratic wiki days attribute a great deal of prestige to wisdom of the many, but I have to ask – is it at the expense of the individual?
What if the crowd is wrong? What if there’s just a trend, or a panic, or pressure to conform? The Bible says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
I love that bit on Life of Brian when he shouts at the crowd, ‘You’re all individuals!’ Check out the response.
I’d take issue with Brian about not having to follow anyone, and we all follow someone – even if it’s the prevailing viewpoint. Just make sure who you’re following is going the right way!
This morning I was reading with my Friday morning men’s group through the beginning of Luke’s gospel. It seems Jesus had some issues with crowds.
The home crowd liked him at first, when he was preaching good. But then he said the good news was not just for the Jewish people, but for everyone, everywhere. Suddenly the same crowd that loved his sermon hated the application and then tried to chuck him off the nearest cliff! Now that’s what I call a reaction! I’ll never moan about a letter from ‘distressed, 3rd pew back’ again.
You can spend a lot of money on a trip to Israel to walk ‘in the steps of Jesus,’ but it’s really interesting to look through the gospels and notice the STOPS of Jesus. How often he’d see not a crowd, but a person. One life at a time. A leper who’d been left on the margin by the crowd perhaps, or a bunch of fishermen and a tax collector who would not have been welcomed by the religious elite crowd, the in crowd. Very often you notice it’s the crowd that would keep a blind man sitting quiet and unhealed at the roadside, or stop a paralysed man’s friends from bringing him to Jesus.
The only crowd Jesus was happy to sit with (and vice versa) was what you’d call the wrong crowd. The comment by the righteous observers was that he hung around with ‘scum,’ as my friend Justin’s Bible version rendered this morning.
I love what Zacchaeus did when Jesus came to his town. He got above the crowd – to see Jesus! The crowd would have kept him (and his sort) away, but Jesus saw him and said, “I’m coming to your house!”
Don’t go along with the crowd, get above – look out for Jesus – and then follow him.