“We’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen
And its Arsenal….Arsenal FC”
The chants were ringing around the Wembley Stadium around 7 years back as Arsenal FC took on Hull City in the final of the FA Cup, one of the oldest competitions in club-level football.
Nearly 90,000 people packed into one location. Divided evenly in the colours of red and white & orange and black. At the place in the stands where the two groups of fans met, there was a long line of stewards and policemen making sure that the banter between the two groups didn’t turn into something ugly.
Let me take you into the mind of an Arsenal fan in a situation like that. When the stakes are so high, it is natural to let the nerves get the better of you. Even the most rational of minds would find themselves indulging in some superstitions, just to make sure they don’t have any regrets at the end. The desire to win is so great and the certainty of an impending victory so strong that one football match can decide how you feel for the rest of the day.
Now imagine the same situation but with elections.
What do you think happens when the line between elections, sports and entertainment is blurred?
It happens very often on social media nowadays. Politics is seen more as a source of entertainment for the common folk than a means to serve the people. There is everything you would expect to see at the final of a football competition, on the day of elections. The angst of anticipation, the thrill of each new bit of news, the feeling of superiority if ‘your’ team wins, the disappointment when ‘your’ team loses. It is as if we are as invested with political parties as we would be with means of entertainment such as sports clubs.
The problem is that societies cannot run well when they are divided as strongly and deeply as they are now. In social psychology, we learn about the very basics of group dynamics. We see the people of our group as ‘good’ or ‘better’ and the people of the other group as ‘bad’ or ‘corrupt’. We think that our group is a diverse collection of thoughts and views while the other group is just a hivemind where everyone thinks the same way. My group supports freedom of thought, the other group supports mindless obedience.
This plays out every day in our lives from the small groups we form at our jobs, to the group of friends at our college, sports teams that we support and now, it also happens with our political parties. I can honestly say that there has not been one time when I have seen my country so divided on political lines. People n longer adhere to ideas, values or morals but to people, groups and parties.
As you can see around you, this sort of partisanship means that no matter how much someone messes up, no matter how big a mistake is, if it is from someone of your own team, its acceptable. It shouldn’t have happened, it was unfortunate, but it won’t make you question your membership of the said group.
As time goes on, we lose our own personal identity for this new found social identity. This new identity gives us a sense of purpose, offers us a community and leads to opportunities one wouldn’t have thought of before. Just like that after that, the person is gone, there is not one original idea that is generated by this brain. The only thing that is left is a zombie regurgitating what other members of the group are saying.
We are always going to be members of some group or the other, it is inevitable. It is not necessary though, that we lose our ‘self’ to the group we are in. It is important that we understand the boundaries of our groups and how much we let them affect our lives, otherwise, we risk simply becoming a zombie, a country full of zombies.