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JOHN DOE, AVERAGE MAN: THE HERD-MINDED TYPE
IN a brilliant discussion of what they call "TheSea of Humanity," the authors of "What About Advertising," KennethM. Goode and Harford Powel, Jr., paint an admirable portrait of the average man--theherd-minded type which forms the overwhelming majority of mankind. I am taking theliberty of selecting a very few of the most illuminating items from their compendiumof evidence upon this subject, adding some which they were probably constrained toomit out of respect to prevailing orthodoxies.
First, as to John Doe's academic education. Takingthe method of Dr. Brigham and following the schooling of one thousand typical Americanmen, all of whom began their education in the first grade of our public school systems,Goode and Powel record that:
1,000 boys enter 1st grade
970 of them enter 2nd grade
940 of them enter 3rd
905 of them enter 4th
830 of them enter 5th
735 of them enter 6th
630 of them enter 7th
490 of them enter 8th
Of our original one thousand boys:
230 boys enter 1st year high school
170 of them finish 2nd year high school
120 of them finish 3rd year of high school
95 of them graduate from high school.
Of our original one thousand boys:
50 boys enter 1st year college
40 of them finish 2nd year college
20 of them finish 3rd year college
10 of them remain in college to be graduated.
The academic development of John Doe ends withhis schooling. When he leaves school, he reads, writes, and has a smattering of arithmetic,history, and geography, and he considers himself educated. Thereafter his intellectuallife is paralyzed by a regular reading of newspapers, popular magazines and churchattendance.
What kind of mentality has this schooling produced?A few years ago 700,000 typical American young men and women who were members ofthe Epworth League, voted that the greatest men in history were as follows:
1. Thomas Edison
2. Theodore Roosevelt
3. William Shakespeare
4. Henry W. Longfellow
5. Alfred Tennyson
6. Herbert Hoover
7. Charles Dickens
8. General Pershing
9. Lloyd George
10. Andrew J. Volstead.
This collective judgment was plainly a productof conventional education through the public schools, the churches, and the dailynewspapers. The selection of Shakespeare, Longfellow, Tennyson, and Dickens, wasinfluenced by the schooling of these 700,000 young Americans; the selection of Edison,Roosevelt, Hoover, Pershing, and Lloyd George, by their reading of the newspapers;and the selection of Volstead, the author of the Federal Prohibition EnforcementLaw, by their church attendance.
John Doe goes to Sunday School. North Americaboasts of 195,343 Sunday Schools with 2,459,799 officers and teachers and 17,510,830pupils--a total membership of 19,970,629. The Bible, which is the foundation of theteaching in these schools, is a compilation of some of the sacred books of a barbaricSemitic people and the writings of the followers of a possibly mythical Jewish messiah.Yet its pronouncements upon the most difficult ethical, social, and political problemsare accepted in all seriousness by John Doe and the millions of his fellows who makeup the "sea of humanity."
John Doe gets his philosophy of life from hischurch. His church-going makes him understand clearly, both by precept and example,that virtue demands credulity and conformity; that skepticism and nonconformity endangerhis future felicity, and that departures from the herd judgment involve business,social, and political handicaps in his present life. His priest, minister, or rabbiiterates and reiterates the glories of conventionality to him fifty-two times peryear. He is one of the 18,604,000 Roman Catholics, 4,516,806 Methodists, 4,087,000Jews, 2,546,127 Lutherans, 3,061,576 regular Baptists, 2,450,574 Presbyterians, 1,173,679Episcopalians, and the other 200 religions in the United States which are listedin the Census of Religious Bodies in 1926. Of course, a few of the sects, of whichthe Unitarian church is typical, (but which numbers only 60,152 members all told),are hardly more than masks which shield their members from some of the contumelywhich the average man and woman visits upon avowed rationalists and "free thinkers."These liberal church-goers, as is to he expected, represent only a very small partof the total church membership of 55,000,000. They shrink into even a smaller partof the total mass of conformers and are rendered doubly insignificant because mostof the millions of John Doe's non-church-going fellows accept the superstitions ofthe prevailing religions even though they do not actually belong to any church.
John Doe is not a book reader. The "New York Daily News"and the "New York Evening Journal" are the sort of newspapers which helikes to read. The "Saturday Evening Post," and "'The American Magazine"are most popular with him in the field of magazine literature. In addition to thisreading, he feeds his mind through frequent attendance at the movies, and many hoursdaily of "listening in" on the radio. Goode and Powel say that there are6,000,000 radio sets in America in use from one to two hours every day in the year.They estimate the movie audience at an average of 10,000,000 people per day.
The popular literature, the movies, and the radio,in order to secure the volume and circulation which is essential to profitable massproduction, are of course keyed by the astute publishers, movie magnates, and radiobroadcasters, (who know their public), to appeal to an intelligence no higher thanthat of normal twelve to fourteen year old children. It is easy for John Doe to enjoywhat they offer him.
As Goode and Powel summarize the situation:
The average American, broadly speaking, celebrates his twenty-fifth birthday by shutting shop mentally and refusing to accept any new ideas. He has then the literate capacity of a twelve- or fourteen-year old child.
Then, addressing themselves to the problem ofmanufacturers who have to write advertisements that will move these morons into action,they say:
Many an advertiser may be discouraged to realizethat copy aimed anywhere above the comprehension of an eighth-grade schoolboy cutshis audience in half, while any argument over the head of a college freshman missesnine out of ten of his possible prospects. . . . Your average audiences-which meansany American audience as soon as you reach into the hundred thousands--is like that:$8-, $10-, $12-a-day workers; thirteen- or fourteen-year-old minds scarcely equalto second-year high school. Each gets a book every four months where public librariesreach them; four out of five haven't even this service. And one out of three familieshave no books in their home. They like Tosti's "Good-Bye," "DavidCopperfield," "The Big Parade," "Abie's Irish Rose." Theyall go to the movies every other week; and about one in four listens to the radioperhaps an hour a day. They like dark blue as a color and lilac as a scent. Writingthemselves, they use a vocabulary generally of fewer than a thousand words althougheach can understand, in reading, maybe six times that many. In their aggregate actionthe element of intellect is practically negligible.
This is the mind of the unthinking majority inAmerica after more than a century of public school education, with compulsory attendancein most states, and after an expenditure of public funds for popular education thatis not equalled in any other nation nor in any period of recorded history.
The predatory individual has a set of biggerthough not necessarily better aspirations than John Doe. The values which he cherishesare often the values of John Doe, swollen to heroic proportions. Both want automobiles,but he wants really gorgeous ones. Both want homes, but he wants mansions. The predatoryman sees himself an heroic individual. He takes what he can, and rationalizes histaking on the ground of "service" to the state, "service" tothe church, or "service" to society. Partly because of this conventionaljustification of his conduct, and partly because John Doe can understand such aspirations,the leadership and dictation of the quantity-minded man are accepted by John Doeand the great masses of average men and women.
Because it is impossible to justify the tastesand interests and activities of the superior man by conventional standards, the averageman and woman distrust and fear him. John Doe envies the millionaire, but he dislikesor hates the philosopher. The peculiar relish of the intellectual for new and apparentlybizarre ideas; his preoccupation with ideas generally in preference to things; histaste in music, in literature, in art, is incomprehensible to the generality of mankind.John Doe lacks the psychical equipment to perceive the values that motivate the culturedman and woman. Since he cannot recognize any superiority in their values, he deniestheir existence, and naturally hates the "high-brow" who he thinks is seekingto impress him with a mythical superiority.
It is possible to say that the great masses ofAmericans, like the great masses of peoples everywhere and at all times, are herd-mindedlike John Doe for the very good reason that all the evidence of history and all theevidence of contemporary life prove that they are. From birth to death John Doe isa follower of custom and convention. He permits others to make his thoughts for him,his emotions for him, his decisions for him. He cherishes the delusion that he doeshis own thinking, feeling, and deciding merely because he thinks, feels, and actsin accordance with tradition, custom, and fashion, or as he is told to think, feel,and act by business men, clergymen, politicians and propagandists. He is not acquisitiveand predatory enough to rise above the rut in which he lives. He is not sensitive,not intelligent enough, not aspiring enough to develop tastes and interests abovethat of the group to which he belongs. He distrusts, when he does not hate, the reallylearned man. He is born to his politics--Republican or Democratic. He is patriotic;he is industrious; he is honest; he is credulous. He has conventional likes and dislikesin music, literature, art. He has an essentially traditional set of taboos and sins,and a largely conventional adherence to the ethical principles he professes. Herein America his values are generally those of whites, Protestants, and 100 per centers.
A vulgar scoundrel like D. C. Stephenson, a GrandDragon of the Ku Klux Klan, by exploiting the myth of Nordic superiority and thehatred of John Doe for the negro, the Catholic, and the Jew, was able to persuadethe state of Indiana to vote the Knights of the K.K.K. into political power--to puthis henchmen into nearly every office in the state from that of Governor down tothat of the village constable. Had he not made the mistake of committing rape andmurder, he would still be master of the commonwealth.
No wonder it was possible for the Emperor Constantineto make the European masses embrace Christianity en bloc; for a tough old goat likeHenry VIII to make the masses of England accept a special kind of Protestantism bya kingly ukase; and, to bring the historical illustrations up-to-date, no wonderit was possible for Woodrow Wilson, who had had himself re-elected to the presidencyby persuading the American people that "he kept them out of the war," inless than a year after his election, to make John Doe enlist apparently wholeheartedlyin a war "to make the world safe for democracy!"
Is there any doubt that those who look to theeducation and improvement of the masses of herd-minded individuals as the hope forthe building of a more beautiful civilization, suffer from a foolish delusion?
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