In today’s society, speaking out against the trends is not a way to win popularity. If you wish to fit in, its better to either keep or peace or go with the flow. But what if the flow carries you right off the cliff? I think, if that is my choice, its preferable to be lions not lemmings.
In nature, when conditions are favorable, the animal populations increases. However, when there are not enough resources to support them, many species either move on, or stop reproducing. Lemmings, have a different coping method. They have been observed migrating in such large numbers that they become a herd of rodents.
Not suicide, but same results
Unfortunately, in their quest to find greener pastures, lemmings have been known to fall right off of cliffs into water below. Though the furry creatures are skilled swimmers, many don’t survive such a steep drop. Contrary to popular myths, these little guys are not committing suicide, but the result is the same. The herd mentality takes over, and they get caught up in the movement of the crowd.
In general, lemmings are not mindless little rodents. But when caught up in a group movement, they tend to get swept away. The same happens to us. When people are trying to fit in and don’t have the fortitude to stand up, they get swept away. Be it current fads, popular culture or politics, many tend to lose their way. Though it is often easier to not stand out in a crowd — after all, easy prey for predators — its better to stick to principals.
Being different makes us targets
Humans are apex predators. Sadly, though, we often mimic prey behavior. We see it in school children. Though we try to encourage our children to just be themselves, every child knows that standing out makes you a target for bullies. No one wants to become the laughingstock or the favorite punching bag. Throughout history, those who are different are marked prey. We lament that our children should be lions not lemmings, but those lessons are hard to teach and harder to carry out.
Even as adults, we fear rejection. None of us seek to be shunned by our circle of friends or co-workers. So instead of pointing out flaws in group thinking, we duck our heads and nod along. That is not how a lion approaches its pride. These majestic animals hold their heads up and roar loudly to announce their presence. If a lioness sees a pride member in trouble, she rushes to help, she doesn’t pretend not to notice.
Society praises lemmings, not lions
In society, corporations, employers and politicians prefer lemmings. Advertisers prey on our need to be accepted and desirable. They market their goods in such a way as to imply we are inferior if we pass up their product. Employers also reward blind obedience and servitude. It is rare that an employee is recognized for forging a different path. The same goes for politics. Government encourages group-think rather than independence. Why do you thing the Independent Party can’t seem to get a foothold in elections?
Society encourages lemming-like behavior. Though we often goad our kids to make their own decisions by using the ‘jumping off the bridge’ analogy, to be honest, most parents prefer lemmings over lions. Parents who have a free-thinking child often moan about how difficult they are to raise. Everyone would rather have a lemming in their life. It’s simply easier.
We need to practice our roar
There is a scene in the beloved movie, “The Lion King” when the evil Uncle Scar is encouraging Simba to practice his roar. The audience chuckles at the weak little sounds the cub utters. Suddenly, there is a mighty roar that startles even the cub. Of course, it isn’t really Simba, and the roar actually triggers a massive stampede that leads to tragedy. But, that isn’t my point. We need to practice our own roars. True, they may not always end the way we hoped. However, even in the movie, the roar signaled a major shift in the characters’ lives.
Consider how society might change if we all decided, individually, to be lions not lemmings. Advertisers would not have as much pull over the current trends. In fact, there might not be as many trends without the ‘lemming effect’. If each person found the lion within, both families and society beyond might behave drastically different. Politicians would have to focus on the issues rather than soundbites.
Employers might change some business practices that could encourage innovation. We all might find something to become passionate about. Schools may change the way the approach classroom instruction. Imagine have a class of motivated students who are more empowered in their education.
The lemming myth falsely perpetuated
In general, we all reject the idea of behaving like a lemming. Everyone is familiar with the idea that lemmings commit mass suicide in cycles. How did this belief become so entrenched in our minds? Well, part of it goes back to the herd behavior that leads to the death of those unlucky ones too close to the edge of the cliff. But, there is another, darker, reason this is so ingrained in our minds.
In the 1950’s Walt Disney studios was working on their now-classic “Bambi” movie. As a lead-up to the story, the movie studio filmed several documentaries to stir-up interest in nature movies. One of those films, “White Wilderness” featured life in the Arctic. There is a scene in this film that features lemmings charging off a cliff to their demise. In reality, these poor creatures were tipped out of a truck near the edge and chased off the cliff by production staff. Thus, the lie was presented as fact.
In many ways, we are forced to be lemmings
Those in positions of authority, prefer lemmings, not lions. Lions can’t be herded or controlled. They seek their own destinies and fight for what they feel is important. Lemmings are actually aggressive little buggers in the right conditions. The same happens in mob mentality situations. People can react and behave in unpredictable ways when mobs form. These are almost harder to control than a pride of lions as the herd mentality takes over, rather than rational thought.
Lions hunt in a pride. They are methodical about selecting their prey and each pride member plays a predetermined role. Lemmings simply react in adverse conditions. Humans tend to do the same. We lose focus and react rather than respond. Politicians and advertisers use this to their advantage and can take control of a crowd or consumers by using slogans that force people into a certain mindset. Free thought is seldom encouraged in American politics or business.
Teach how to be a lion, not a lemming
In the end, lemmings will likely continue to survive as long as the environment can support them. The same with us. Meanwhile, lions are a threatened species and it is unknown how long they can hold out. In my mind, though, survival isn’t enough. Living is the better option. How many of us actually feel trapped by trying to keep up with society? We are often in debt and unhappy with the paths we are on. Wouldn’t it be better to live in the knowledge that we are being who we are meant to be?
Lemmings are cute little furry rodents that resemble hamsters. They can build elaborate underground tunnel systems and set up separate areas according to their needs. But, they merely exist, and underground at that for months out of the year. Cute, but nasty little critters that could wind up falling off a cliff one day.
One the other hand, there are few more majestic scenes than a pride of lions on the African plains. Even at rest, they command respect and awe. They are confident in their strength and have little to fear. Personally, I would much prefer that my children are lions not lemmings.