Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lesson #17: Symbology only works if everyone agrees on the symbol

Following a lazy stream of Internet links from one site to another this morning, I found myself on The Weekly Standard web site where this week’s cover showed a 19th century line drawing of a riotous crowd, and the headline read, “The Unwisdom of Crowds.” The image made me shiver. Last night I dreamed I was at the brunt of a roiled crowd’s animosity; it certainly was not a pleasant dream.

In my nightmare, as often occurs, my rational mind tried to reason through the animosity, to find a solution to the issues that arose for my subconscious character trapped by that dissenting crowd. Part of the dream involved me leading a “sensitivity training” in an attempt to educate my adversaries to drop their prejudices against me. My feeble voice was useless against the roar of the crowd until a bullhorn found its way into my hands. I used metaphors and storytelling to try to get the people to relate to me. I used symbology – a very successful tactic for organized religion to control crowds – by introducing a “talking stick” in an unsuccessful effort to keep speakers from talking over one another (and me). I used force by screaming at the top of my lungs as the crowd milled away from me, drawn by someone else’s false cry that lunch was ready.

In the end, they still hated me. Their source of prejudice? I was in San Diego (ironically, where the head office of my employer is located), and my coworkers wouldn’t take me seriously because I was from Merced. Everybody hates Merced.

So, what does it mean, this dream and these images of crowds mocking me for my geographical origination? Is Merced symbolic of my self-image? Were the coworkers in the dream symbolic of my impossibly high standards and the frustration they cause?

Or was it just a dream?