Don’t be a Lemming (or Lessons From a 1991 Video Game)

lemmings

Lemmings came out in 1991 and in 1996 was rated the 8th greatest video game of all time. 

There is a fantastic old video game called Lemmings. In Lemmings a stream of little creatures constantly walk forward with no regard for what they are walking toward.

A wall in the way? Keep it moving. A lake of fire just ahead? Walk on. Imminent death? Move it along.

Your job is to equip some as builders, blockers, or miners to navigate the obstacles and dangers these poor, mindless lemmings encounter. (I just found out you can still play this game online, so I’ll be back to finish this post in an hour or two.)

We’ve probably all heard that real life lemmings will follow other lemmings right over a cliff with no regard for their own welfare. It turns out that this is a misconception originating when Disney drowned a bunch of rodents for a fake documentary. So when I call us lemmings it isn’t all that accurate to nature, but I think the word picture works.

When I call us lemmings I don’t mean you are a lemming and I am not. I mean I do the same things. Even when I don’t want to. I’m not talking down to you, I’m trying to keep myself accountable.

When I call us lemmings what I am saying is that we blindly follow along without much regard to the dangers, pitfalls, and destruction that lies ahead.

We do this in many arenas including sports and religion, but it seems our political ideologies have increasingly become something we thoughtlessly follow without stopping to ask if they are good, beneficial, or even true.

This is not a left or right issue. It impacts both extremes and many in the middle.

My left leaning friends recently circulated a New York Times story about Department of Energy nominee Rick Perry not knowing that his new job included overseeing the nuclear arsenal, even though his acceptance of the nomination included his willingness to oversee our nuclear arsenal.

My right leaning friends are posting about how Trump had the largest in-person inauguration crowd of all time because his press secretary said so, despite the facts making it demonstrably untrue.

We want to be right more than we want the truth.

President Trump said during the primary season that he could walk out onto the street and shoot someone and not lose a single vote. His ability to say that (and I believe he was mostly right) shows how strongly we are devoted to our political preferences. And I think much of the same could be said for the other side.

We are so entrenched in our opinions and worldviews that we cannot allow ourselves free thought. We are so wrapped up in a quest for political power and outcomes that we have lost our intellectual integrity. We have allowed ourselves to become lemmings. Or at least what lemmings are commonly believed to be.

Here are some lemminglike behaviors we are guilty of far too often:

– We applaud everything our side does. It doesn’t matter if we opposed the same behavior two days ago, today we applaud it today because it’s our team/party/candidate of choice.

– We condemn everything the other side does. It doesn’t matter if they have a point or they did some good or if we previously supported such efforts. Now it’s bad because “they” did it.

– We dismiss any information we don’t like as biased or fake. We have reached the point where we only listen to the voices we already agree with. This allows us to never be challenged, never think for ourselves, and able to assume that anyone who disagrees is an idiot.

We’ve got to do better. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, no candidate or party will always do what is good or right or best. No candidate or party will perfectly represent your views. Not if we are willing to think independently and constructively.

We’ve become so partisan that we are afraid to show any agreement across the aisle. We see compromise and working together for the common good as a negative thing instead of a necessary thing. We value people based on their political opinions more than our shared humanity.

And in the process, we just keep walking despite the upcoming cliffs and pitfalls and destruction. We don’t want to hear otherwise, we don’t have time for facts, we don’t need various opinions and voices. We have somewhere to go and we will get there without ever stopping to ask if where we are heading is even worth heading toward.

I’m afraid we are more loyal to the direction we are walking than to common sense, the truth, and, at times, our faith.

If we keep going the way we’ve been going, we will be meet with an unfortunate end. Loss of friends, loss of respect, loss of influence, loss of decency, loss of integrity.

I suggest we take some measures to prevent ourselves from blindly running over a cliff:

1) Disagree with our own people. It’s okay, I promise. What if it was not uncommon to say, “I generally support what they are trying to do, but I cannot get on board with this issue.” The sky wouldn’t fall and we’d push our culture toward a more reasonable future. Or is toeing the party line more important than being true to our values?

2) Agree with people coming from other perspectives. Again, this is okay. Not everything the other side (and I hate even using the term “sides”) does is wicked or corrupt or out to ruin our country. They get one right at least every once in a while. Applaud them for it. Or are we so afraid of recognizing the worth of “those people” that we can’t even admit when something positive has taken place?

3) Educate ourselves. Please. Learn why people believe differently than you. Most people who support stricter gun control do not want to round up all the weapons in the country. And most people who support free market capitalism do not want to see poor people taken advantage of. Most issues we debate are complicated. There are no easy answers or we would have solved all our problems by now. Find out what people think and why.

4) We must want truth more than we want to be right. I might think the Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFL but when I am presented with some recent, observable facts I need to change my mind. We can’t allow our opinion to be more valuable than reality. Sometimes we need to shift what we want to believe based on what is actually happening. Truth is worth embracing, even if it means I have to admit I was previously wr-wr-wrong.

I’m going to try my best to live these things out. I won’t be perfect at it, but I hope you’ll consider joining me. I don’t want to mindlessly walk towards our demise. I want to think and learn and grow and discover. I want truth. I want integrity.

It turns out that the lemmings aren’t as mindless as we once thought. They don’t just blindly follow with no regard for what is good and right and true. Hopefully we can soon say the same thing about ourselves.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s