Preparing for Hurricane Irene and Herd Mentality

I often hear derision for people who follow the pack—I’ve been one of them. I’ve had my snarky, self-inflating moments, calling folks “lemmings”, or worse, “sheeple”. Not to their faces, mind you. I admit it now that it’s cowardly behavior, lacking any respect for the individual decisions that make up the mass phenomena of herd mentality. Using the words “lemmings”, “sheeple”, “pack”, and “herd” reduces people to animals, and mitigates any shame I may feel for the name-calling. I am taking full responsibility for that now. I will work on altering my language and perspective from here on out.

As I write this, my partner is at The Price Chopper supermarket shopping for non-perishables, and other supplies we’ll likely need to get through Hurricane Irene’s damage. He’d heard a rumor last night that most of the local groceries were already out of bottled water. I’m sure we’ll make do with whatever he brings home.

Several times this year, we’ve done this sort of preparedness. We call it Apocalypse Shopping, which usually results in dinners of Apocalypse Food over the ensuing weeks. Usually a mix of Doritos, apples, granola bars, soda, and what he calls “hobo beans” (canned baked beans). This is not likely the sort of food that Emergency Management teams suggest, but it’s what we’re driven to.

A friend posted online asking if she really ought to stock up, too. If so, with what? My initial reaction was: Of course you should; better safe than sorry. I didn’t reply, though, for I had read this inquiry from the lens of my own insecurities. I saw that if I had been bold enough to ask a thousand people this question, my underlying message would have been:

Is this emergency genuine enough for me to finally do as everyone else is doing and prepare for the worst? I’ll feel a fool if I do when it wasn’t warranted, for it will reveal how easily I can be swayed by the behavior of others, which I see as a weakness of character.

Talk about projection.

I’m sure my friend truly wanted guidance. Perhaps I did her a disservice by not answering. I’m sorry. Go. Buy up the stores. Come home safely, and get ready.

I suspect someone also felt that same flicker of vulnerability. I want to tell that person what I’ve learned from my meager preparations:  The stillness before the storm is a gift. A time to reflect on what is essential. I am not concerned about wind and rain damage to my possessions, or that I’ll have the right food or supplies to help me “survive”—I have enough blind faith to believe that I will outlast this event.

What I cannot live without is knowing the error of my thinking and not having righted them. I have observed and condescended the group-think of people who are genuinely looking after themselves. I have seen that my behavior is stemmed from my fears of succumbing to a trick of some sort and being humiliated by falling for it. Now that I write it, I know this to be the truth. I’ve never liked tricks. I have not linked it to my dislike for group compliance until now.

While my neighbors are bringing in the lawn chairs and recharging their batteries, I am preparing for the storm in confession. You, Reader, are witness. This is not the full list of my failings, I know. But life is long, and there will be many hurricanes.

Good Karma for Sale by Daniel Barlow

Good Karma for Sale by Daniel Barlow


Update: This blog post was reprinted in The Commons (Brattleboro, VT)


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