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Cows like to turn their backs to the wind. At least, all the cows I know do. Slowly, awkwardly, eventually, all that beef will run parallel to the breeze.
People aren't too different. We align ourselves safely into herds, comforted by the hot breath of others breaking on the backs of our necks and ears. Then we huff and we puff and we blow at the fools turned in the wrong direction.
Is there anything more compelling to us than the heavy synchronized breathing of a mob, especially when combined with cocked eyebrows of disdain and curled lips of disgust? This is the zeitgeist, inside the church and out, and it will judge you until you conform and commune. This is cool-shaming, and it will make you squirm and itch to turn your back to the wind, to stand with all the other cows.
The trendsetters and vision-casters in a herd start the movement, motivated by profit or power or personal gain, as well as genuine striving for holiness and righteousness. They target their breath, their words, their media, and their coolness accordingly.
But for the rest of us, the single greatest factor in our decision-making is simple compliance. We turn with the crowd because we want the awkwardness to stop. We want them all to stop looking at us like that. We want to feel the wind of opinion at our backs.
How did otherwise intelligent people go along with the Third Reich, the invasion of Poland, the extermination of Jews? We may assume they were evil, brainwashed, or a bit of both, and in part we're right. But when was the last time you hedged on an opinion because of the hot breathing of those around you? When did you last choose your words based more on the politics of a situation than on truth?
The power of the zeitgeist helped propel the agonies of race-based slavery, and the zeitgeist threw it away in a bloodbath. The zeitgeist gave us institutional racism, and when enough shame had been applied, the zeitgeist (at least officially) struck it down. The zeitgeist ...