A funny thing happens to human minds when they’re in a crowd. They begin thinking collectively. We’ve all heard of “mob mentality” and dismiss it as so common that we don’t stop to think how remarkable it is. Maybe we’re afraid to. Yesterday I attended my third Women’s March, this time in New York City again. Being an introvert, I find the prospect of putting myself into a large crowd daunting, and with a winter storm warning posted, worries about getting home provided a convenient excuse. My wife knows me well enough, however, to sense when my enochlophobia kicks in and tries to kick out that part of me that’s passionate about social justice. You see, women are still not counted equal citizens in this “land of equality.” The Equal Rights Amendment has never passed. Pay is still based on gender rather than qualification. And we have an unrepentant misogynist in the White House.
Once I’m in a likeminded crowd, supporting social justice, it’s clear that my thinking is influenced by the activity of all those brains around me. Scientists know this happens in nature. Ant colonies, for example, “know” more than a single individual does. Recent studies have even suggested this “hive consciousness” can exist beyond a lifespan, creating an archive of learning that exceeds the lives of an entire generation. If only we could teach Republicans to do that. In any case, being in the crowd of bright, intelligent, hard-working women found me in a good head-space. The men in DC are certainly doing nothing to make the male gender proud.
Although crowd estimation isn’t an exact science, the media has consistently underestimated the sheer numbers of these marches. The National Park Service, on duty in Washington in 2017, estimated 1.3 million had shown up for the march. It’s still not unusual to see the number cited as 500,000. Regardless, with the sister marches it was the largest single-day protest event in U.S. history. We have to keep marching as long as men continue to elect the most ignorant of their gender to high office. There’s nothing controlled about the chaos in the White House. Fake news, alternative facts, a revolving door of staff, and Fox News’ nose so brown you could grown corn on it is not the way to run a democracy. I may have been part of a hive mind for a few hours yesterday, and it was a far better mind than those that abound in the federal government seeking only their own glory. Let’s hope the collective mind outlives this generation.