Quotes: Majority is often not wanted
Mark Twain once advised:
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
John Stuart Mills:
“The majority opinion is not guaranteed to be correct; it can be wrong, for the majority has no true authority and no absolute certainty. The fallibility of majority opinions is exemplified by looking at past history. Past popular opinion has often been rejected by present-day society, and there is no guarantee that present popular opinion won’t also be rejected by the future.”
Søren Kierkegaard (Danish philosopher):
“Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion — and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion … while Truth again reverts to a new minority.”
Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor):
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”
In a democratic society, everyone has to accept the will of the majority even when it’s wrong. The reality behind democracy is in danger because the majority often is misled, misinformed, or manipulated. The problem is that the will of the majority is frequently manipulated by a few clever people who do not speak straight, coupled with supporting people with financial power who push their agenda. In a democracy the majority (like business customers) may often be wrong, but the system must always value the majority as if they are always right. For Greek philosophers like Socrates/Aristotle, democracy’s fatal problem was that it divided society unnecessarily – the majority against the minority.
However, our democracy isn’t just a numbers game either. Democracy has different sides too. Many years ago, the French government eliminated the death penalty when 2/3 of the population still supported it. Today, more than 20 years later, less than 40% of French citizens support a return to the death penalty. In the USA, Massachusetts judges struck down a ban on gay marriage. Conservative circles were screaming because the majority of US citizens polled oppose gay marriage. Elizabeth Birch, director of Human Rights Campaign:
“If not for courts, African-Americans would not have had the right to vote, women would not have the right to vote. The purpose of a constitution is to protect a minority group from the wrath of the majority.” (source: CNN)
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. (Wikipedia) Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising conflicting issues, therefore loss of individual creativity, uniqueness or independent thinking. In a cohesive group, members avoid speaking out against decisions, avoid arguing with others, and work towards maintaining friendly relationships in the group.
A highly cohesive group could impair the group’s ability to generate quality decisions. Tight-knit groups’ process of decision-making may decrease the members’ ability to think critically. It is, therefore, considered by many to be important to combat the effects of groupthink. While minority influence involves a challenge to popular opinion and group norms, it can serve the interests of the wider population in the long term. Critical thinking is often discouraged inside the majority. The cure is simple: Avoid the easy path of following the majority crowd.
In the science of chemistry, once the phlogiston theory was accepted for more than 100 years. This early chemical theory held that materials that burned contained a fire-like element that was released as the object burned. In this view, the phenomena of burning, now called oxidation, was caused by the liberation of phlogiston, with the dephlogisticated substance left as an ash or residue. When Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774 he called it ‘dephlogisticated air.’ In understanding the reason why phlogiston theory was used for so long to explain experimental observations, it is important to know that no one knew about oxygen at the time.
The phlogiston theory was discredited by French chemist Antoine Lavoisier between 1770 and 1790. By 1800 practically every chemist recognized the correctness of Lavoisier’s oxygen theory. For over 100 years every chemist in the world was fooled by the phlogiston theory.
The majority has such effect and power upon us. So, what is the essence of majority? I believe that majority of us are copying other’s opinion without even thinking deeply in order to live comfortably inside our society. Staying inside the majority is more important for the majority of people. This is my intuition. People who did critical works by questioning the majority and their authority had brave souls. Be brave!
Related post: Value of a Misfit