I was walking down King street the other day when I saw just about the darndest thing. A dude, a bro of some sort, was strolling along with a Booster Juice in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. From the lit status of the dart I assumed he wasn't holding it for a friend. Now it certainly didn't strike me as unusual that he was smoking, heck this city smokes like a chimney, especially the Millennials. What was truly bizarre about the scenario was the dichotomy it presented. That's smart person talk for saying this guy needed to pick a team!
Yes, this confused health nut needed to look at the contents of his paws and decide his fate. The juxtaposition could simply not be allowed to continue. It has haunted me ever since. Or at least it does whenever I see a Booster Juice (which is rare, tbh). This man simply wanted the rich full flavour of a Du Maurier and the zesty, smooth smugness of a half litre of fruit juice at the same. This seemingly contradictory set of vices made me think of how often we are divided into camps, split up into teams, at times against our better judgement.
The country seems to be more and more polarized lately, or at least so the media tells me. And not just in politics, everywhere I look people are defining themselves by what they eat, what they listen to and what they think they believe. Vegans. Feminists. Vegan feminists. Anarcho-vegan feminists. (Yikes). Neoliberalists. Neoconservatives. Secular atheists. Progressive and Regressives.
There have never been more teams to choose from than there is right now. People, quick to align their beliefs, their attitudes, about themselves and others, with a crowd that already exists. I suppose that is perfectly natural, like toe shoes, to want to join a group. There is safety in numbers. Always has been. I'm no Anthropology post-doc, but tell me tribalism isn't among the strongest of evolutionary behaviours. It's far easier to not get picked off at the edge of a herd if you're clamouring for the safety of the centre. It's also easier for our little ape-like brains to put things and people into pre-existing categories, at least I think so. It's perfectly natural to want to be picked by a team or want to be part of one, especially a winning one. Look at Jays fans this year. Maybe we need to start asking ourselves why am I on this team anyway? The type of question Leafs fans never really ask themselves. I digress.
Yes, it seems that we're marching faster and faster into all out tribalism. Pick a side, choose a team, US vs THEM. No room left for individuals who stop to think. It's perfectly natural for us to form groups and tribes, and it's certainly helped keep us alive as a species when we left Africa in search of more food and better real estate. The problem with humans joining groups is they tend to leave their brains behind once they join.
Don't believe me? Well buddy, I was at game 5 of the ALDS this October, and let me tell you. Ordinarily passive 6ix'ers turned into quite the unruly mob in the historic 7th inning and I was slightly disturbed and a little shocked when the beers started getting hucked from the not-so-cheap seats of the 500's. Would you ever consider throwing an $11 beer at a complete stranger if you were by yourself? Sure, a few knuckle draggers might, but I would bet you the vast majority of people would hold on to that beer. The point is, brothers and sisters, that we lose our minds in crowds and fall victim to GroupThink. Few are immune and most catch severe cases. Look at politics and what it does to people. If one person carried around a sign with someone's face on it and a catchy slogan, you'd think they were batshit, right? But put a few hundred of those crazies together and you've got a perfectly acceptable political rally.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be on the winning team, but I think I'll stay a Free Agent until I see a team worth rooting for.