The Herd of Independent Minds

“If you have a ‘good’ education, you’ve gone to the best schools, you have internalized the understanding that there’s certain things it just wouldn’t do to say — and I think we can add to that, it wouldn’t do to think. And that’s a powerful mechanism. So, there are things you just don’t think, and you don’t say. That’s the result of effective education, effective indoctrination. If people — many people — don’t succumb to it, what happens to them? Well, I’ll tell you a story: I was in Sweden a couple years ago, and I noticed that taxi drivers were being very friendly, much more than I expected. And finally I asked one of them, ‘Why’s everyone being so nice?’ He pulled out a T-shirt he said every taxi driver has, and the T-shirt had a picture of me and a quote in Swedish of something I’d said once when I was asked, ‘What happens to people of independent mind?’ And I said, ‘They become taxi drivers.’”

If there's one thing I learned from almost a decade in academia is that the most educated people are usually also the least creative. Universities are run more and more like corporations, which means that truly original intellectual inquiry is suppressed in favor of uninspired and derivative work. Scholars are judged based on absurd research metrics like number of citations & papers, which by definition reward conformity and punish truly groundbreaking research. This, coupled with a brutally competitive environment and utterly uncertain career prospects, creates an intellectual workforce that is less concerned about finding out the nature of reality and more about publishing cheap papers to get to the next position.

But this is not even the core problem. The core problem is that the education system is fatally flawed. Most schools train students for stupidity and conformity: independent thought is discouraged in favor of slavishly repeating mindless slogans in order to get good grades. The grading system itself is less about rewarding talent than it is about rewarding obedience: most of it serves no other purpose than to punish young kids that are not willing to accept the teacher's directives.

And this is not by accident, it is done on purpose. In 1975 the Trilateral Commission issued a revealing report titled The Crisis of Democracy, in which it was concluded that the problems of governance throughout the world "stem from an excess of democracy", and thus advocated "to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions".

An excerpt from the 1975 report of the Trilateral Commission "The Crisis of Democracy"

In particular, the root problem of this purported crisis of democracy was found to be the failure of the institutions responsible for “the indoctrination of the young”. This is how the education system was (and in all likelihood still is) regarded by the liberal elites, and that is exactly correct.

The indoctrination system is not interested in producing critical thinkers. Quite the opposite, it strives to produce mindless consumers. People who will not question authority, will not rebel, and will be easy to manipulate. This is vital for the smooth functioning of the market economy. As soon as people start thinking, the liberal elites are in deep trouble, or as they put it in a remarkably Orwellian fashion, "democracy is at risk". What that means is clear: if people start thinking for themselves, they might want to break free of their miserable condition as cogs in the machine of global capitalism. And that cannot be allowed.

Almost without fail, people who successfully go through the modern education system become perfectly obedient citizens, but they are rarely, if ever, aware of it. On the contrary, they pride themselves in being very smart and educated, and might even harbor a feeling of ill-concealed superiority towards what they see as the uneducated, and frankly a little bit stupid, masses. Indeed, by virtue of a truly exquisite indoctrination, they end up blaming what they perceive as the common herd for their problems, instead of verticalizing the conflict towards their real-life masters. In all respects, they are the perfect slaves.

So, what happens to the people of independent mind? What happens to the people who could not conform in school and repeat what the teacher said in class? What happens to the ones that don't fit?

Ask your taxi driver.