Today’s Masses

Brian Dobbs

Today, I believe that more and more we are becoming the mass that Ortega wrote about, but if we are more of a mass now, are we to blame for it, or have the “nobles” helped feed the mass? I do not think that the masses have just declared that they will no longer let the nobles be in charge, and that the opinions of the mass hold just as much weight as those who in the noble class.

The first time I really woke up to just how much of a mass we have become, was in the 2000 Elections in the United States. While talking with some people about who they voted for, one of them said she voted for Bush based on one issue. The idea on voting on one issue shows that this person is really not looking out for the interest of society as a whole, but at a personal issue that they wish to gain in. A true citizen would take into account many of the policies in order to best serve the people. While this is bad, this was by no means the worse part, she voted based on the issue of abortion, for Bush, because she was pro choice. She voted on one issue and did not even know that Bush was against the one issue she voted for. This combined with many other cases of people voting with no real knowledge of the issues made me very angry. The fact that these people can cast a vote, that is equal to mine and others who looked at the issues made me question ideals I had always held. I had always held that everyone needs to vote, and make their voice heard, but I then started thinking that maybe less people should vote. Ortega said it best when he said “But by believing they have a right to an opinion on the matter without previous effort to work one out for themselves, they prove patently that they belong to that absurd type of human being which I have called the ‘Rebel Mass.” (pg.68) So if we are to believe that these people who voted, with little knowledge of the issues or people running are the mass, then are they 100% reasonable for this? Ortega rightly places some blame on the masses “The individual finds himself already with a stock of ideas. He decides to content himself with them and to consider himself intellectually complete. As he feels the lack of nothing outside himself, he settles down definitely amid his mental furniture. Such is the mechanism of self-obliteration.” (pg.69) While this is true, I think we cannot blame only the mass for this behavior.  I think we must look at those who are in the noble class, who are out working hard to make sure these people vote, in most cases for their party, as part of the problem. Every election we have get out the vote drives that try to get more and more people to vote, but often these people will do no more work to vote, then register at this drive, and vote on election day. Many others spend large amounts of time looking at the issues, but in the end they are no better then the rest. We have to look at society as a whole and how we have pushed away this sense of civic duty in favor of quick news, more ad money, and giving the people just enough information to make them think they know an issue. If no one had pushed them, a large part of this mass may have sat at home, while the informed people would vote.

Voting is not the only place where I see a mass society today, when I look around I see people who just have to have the newest more popular name brand shirts, pants, car, or really just about anything they think will make them look like one of the group. While it is true some people will buy these products only based on what they themselves want, it is easy to tell why some people own what they do. Often times people will act as if they are somehow better then others based not on anything that they have done or what they know, but only on what they own. While working on my marketing degree, we talked a lot about trends, and how to keep up with them in order to make a company successful. These trends are what seems to drive these people, and people in the business of advertising, marketing, and promotion know this, and use it to guide the mass to one product over the other. This group could be viewed as the equivalent of the Priests that Nietzsche talked about, who understand the herd, and use this understanding to direct them, but not in a useful direction for the people. Ortega had a third class of people, those who where not nobles but held them in high regard, and understood their roles, but I think this would be a forth party. This group is not part of the mass, not a noble group, but also, they do not hold up the nobles. While the mass may wish to look, or act alike in order to have a sense of belonging, it is this forth group that reinforces these ideas daily.

   “The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. And it is clear, of course, that this "everybody" is not "everybody." "Everybody" was normally the complex unity of the mass and the divergent, specialized minorities. Nowadays, "everybody" is the mass alone. Here we have the formidable fact of our times, described without any concealment of the brutality of its features. “ (Pg. 17) This aspect of Ortega’s revolt of the masses has been common for a long time, but in light of the attacks on the world Trade Center, people have felt a great sense of unity, and patriotism, that while in it self is good, it also had the impact of marginalizing minority groups who do not favor the actions of the mass. While the majority have supported attacks in Afghanistan, a small minority has spoke out against it, on the basis of violence begets violence, and that innocent people will die. To many, this act of not being one of the groups, has lead to great anger and hostility towards them, instead of a respect for their views, which I believe Ortega believes we need to have. Also those who have tried to bring up some of the possible wrongs the United States may have committed, such as sanction on Iraq, arming Iran and Iraq to fight each other, our support of Israel, are the reasons given for the attack and anger at us. While the nobles I believe would listen to these issues, and base actions of what they believe is best for our nation, the masses have attacked everyone who questions our self, even if only for the purpose of explaining the situation. The mass has refused to listen, and would wish for us to continue our actions overseas as if the issues do not exist, yet we have seen the devastation that this inattention has help bring about.

   While the masses may be revolting, it is not the mass that is truly driving it; it is many people who have found that they gain from the support of the mass. If we are to address the issue of the mass, I think we will find that there is little we can do directly that will change anything. It is only threw those who may be nobles, and those who may be called a third or forth group who make a change. To undertake some of the actions that may be needed, we would have to make some sacrifices that at this time seem remote at best. Do we let go of Democracy? Of course not, but we have to work on making sure that those who vote are fully informed of the issues and the people running. One other important thing we need to do is reaffirm the idea of listing to all sides, and giving people the opportunity to speak even if we do not agree. One day the nobles will be able break the power hold that is held today by those who benefit the most from the rule of the masses, and hopefully we will all be better off for it.