Wednesday-- March 20, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 190
The Terror Of Herd Complacency
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
Mar. 20--I have this ongoing concern about why all the flags on cabs
disappeared in New York City about the same time. Every
opportunity I have, I ask a cabbie why he doesn't fly his flag on his cab
In previous reports I have
stated some cab drivers told me the flags got worn and were removed
because the drivers, 40,000 of them in New York City, chose not to buy a
new one. I found this a little incredible, but I took the
Then, the other day a cab
driver was heading for his yellow chariot after getting a cup of coffee
and I stopped and asked him how come he wasn't flying a flag any longer.
He hurriedly told me that he looked around and saw others taking off their
flags, and decided he would too. I bought into that one also.
It seems to me that if I asked
all 40,000 cab drivers the same question, I might get an equal amount of
This leads me to the subject of
today--the "herd mentality."
Society is a collection of
individuals trying to get along with each other, forming a flow, a river
of humanity coexisting next to one another in some civil fashion.
Rivers are the sum of many tributaries that flow into them.
These feeder streams may be wild and independent as they cascade down from
some mountain, but when they spill into the main artery of the river, they
are absorbed, becoming one with many, just another molecule of H2O amidst
billions upon billions of others. Individuality is sacrificed for
the whole of the flow.
Complacency--the lack of distinctive
concern for issues--is like a river. It sucks up the energy of
the individual, watering it down, moving it with the mass so that whatever
it might have been before emptying into the mainstream, it relinquishes
that uniqueness. Often, to survive, it has no choice.
If it acts independently, the mass will pull it down, force it to conform,
teach it "manners," as the group or whole has found works best.
New York City was a good
example of that principle prior to the election of Mayor Rudy, two terms
ago. The city was in a state of decay, crime rampant,
corruption seething from almost every pore. Then Rudy came to town.
He struck at the heart of
Complacency--attacking the old thinking that said: "We can't do
anything about all this mess, it's far too big a problem for me."
He looked at New York City and unpacked his shovel, and began to dig out
the crime, the corruption, sweep away the dirt and turned a decaying metropolis into a shiny
jewel. People didn't like Mayor Rudy at first, because he wore
a silk glove over an iron fist, and slammed the city's Complacency in the
gut until it awakened, refreshed, renewed, regenerated.
The Terrorist attack on
September 11 slammed another fist into the gut of America.
Complacency that we, as a nation were safe from Third World attacks, was
wiped out. Our vulnerability rose. We realized we
could be bombed, butchered, blasted and poisoned just as easily as any
country, regardless of our status as a "superpower."
We waved flags and shouted "God
Bless America" and called the FBI every time we saw someone who remotely
looked like a Middle Eastern Terrorist. We scoured the
paper, and sucked up the evening news waiting for proof that bin Laden was
dead, that we had exercised our "eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth"
strategy of revenge.
Then something happened.
As we found the "hunt for bin Laden" a matter of searching a haystack for
a needle, and tens of thousands of pounds of bombs doing nothing but
pock-marking the Afghanistan desert, we slowly began to take our flags
Complacency settled back into the
river. The storm which had flooded the mainstream and caused
our society to shudder and shake its patriotism, passed. The
storms subsided. Life as usual crept back into the equation of
daily living almost inversely proportional to the gradual slipping of bin
Laden's front-page mug did off the front pages of our papers.
At first, I held a resentment against
the cab drivers for taking down their flags. I even went so
far as to suppose it was a conspiracy of Complacency, a foreshadowing of
our return back as a society to a state of "balance" where we would be so
pressed with "daily living issues" we were forced to "forget to remember"
the lesson of Nine Eleven.
Lately, I've begun to realize the cab
drivers are just like everyone else. They grew tired of
remembering Nine Eleven, and elected to remove their flags as a symbol of
getting "on with life as normal."
Across the country I've noticed this
same ebbing of emotions. Just the other day I noted a
Starbucks without the flag in the window. Just after September
11th, every store displayed them boldly so everyone could see.
Now, more and more stores have moved the flags to quiet corners of the
window, or removed them completely.
Retailers, once appointed with so
much red, white and blue you thought it was the Fourth of July, have also
diminished if not totally eliminated their signets of patriotism, replacing
the precious display space with signs that bark specials and discounts.
"Life as normal" seems to have taken
a huge bite out of the Terror and ensuing Vigilance that grew from the
destruction of America's security.
The rumor that Ted Koppel was going
to be canned so David Letterman would have a key spot, suggested
entertainment was of more concern than town meetings, hard-lined
journalistic interviews, and feedback on critical issues concerning us
Vigilance, the state of mental and
physical readiness and alert against oppressive forces, is succumbing to
Complacency again. It's like a slow drip, hardly noticeable
one drip at a time, but over a long period, the water forms a pond,
stagnant, flowing nowhere so that its stench rises and the vulnerability
that once caused Nine Eleven ripens again.
If Wisdom is the result of learning
by mistakes and doing something about those mistakes so the same errors
won't occur again, then we, as a society, are losing the Wisdom of Nine
That Wisdom to me is Vigilance against
Terrorism. But not the kind that the Taliban or Osama bin
Laden issued upon us. I call it Subtle Terrorism.
Insidious Terrorism. Complacent Terrorism.
It occurs when we least expect it, as all
Terrorism does. It creeps into our minds, our way of life, telling
us "we can't do anything about this problem, so we'll let someone else
handle it." We turn our backs. We shut down our interest
in the issue. We busy ourselves with daily life, forgetting to
remember that our vulnerability as a people and a nation has been
benchmarked by the events of September 11 and recorded by those radical
forces who want to show the world David can bring Goliath to his knees
with one stone.
September 11th will happen again, and again in
It is happening now, but we can't see it.
The glaciers of dissent are melting, and will indeed crash down and fill
the rivers with a great flood of pain and anguish once again, validating
that America's society likes to forget to remember to protect itself.
And I'm not talking about the U.S. government, or
the military. I'm talking about the cab drivers who take down their
flags, or the retailers who remove the flag from a prominent display to a
corner, or the mother and father who forget the Terror their children
suffered, and assume that the school, or the Church or society as a whole
will heal the scars left by the event.
More specifically, I believe the Terrorism of
Nine Eleven was a message to Americans to learn to understand how Terror
affects their daily lives, in its many forms and disguises, ranging from
boredom to hyperactivity. A society can crumble when it
loses its primary mission--when it forgets its role to feed and strengthen
its future generations with the elements of Vigilance--Courage,
A child in today's society needs a Sentinel of
Vigilance more than at any other time in our nation's history.
He or she needs someone to train and teach and guide him or her through
the maze of confusion set about by September 11th when the "Evil Ones"
appeared on America's doorsteps, and the fantasy that our nation and its
children were safe ended.
To me, the Complacency creeping into our nation
signals a pressing need for parents, grandparents, loved ones, to take the
Pledge of Vigilance to protect themselves and their children from the
grips of Complacency.
The elements of Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency are time bombs inside a child, waiting to erupt by conditions
that drive a child to seek refuge either within himself or herself--in
some dark, lonely cave full of horrors--or, by seeking the hand of the
Sentinel of Vigilance to guide him or her out of the darkness, away from the
bogeymen who lurk in the darkness.
This is the message I believe all Americans
should take from September 11th--the one about how to handle Fear, how to
overpower Intimidation, and how to battle the gravity of Complacency.
The lack of "flags on cabs" is not as
critical an issue as the lack of "Vigilance By Parents." As I
see the flags coming down, I hope they are replaced by ones of Vigilance.
If not, then we are not only vulnerable to the next attack from the next
bin Laden, but worse, the Terrorists have won again, by leaving our
To Mar. 19--Testicular
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