Friday, August 25, 2006

The Wave

I just finished the scariest book ever, The Wave by Todd Strasser. Don't misunderstand, it's not a horror story or anything like that. It's scary because it's a true story, and it's scary because it could happen anywhere, anytime.

Click the image to see amazon reviews.


Perhaps the blurb would tell you more:

The Wave is based on an incident that took place in a high-school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969.

Ben Ross and his history class are about to learn a lesson they will never forget.

As they study World War II, Ben Ross' students can't seem to understand how the German people could have followed Hitler and the Nazis. So Mr. Ross creates an experimental movement called The Wave. What begins in a single classroom quickly gathers momentum. Before the end of the week, The Wave's motto, "Strength Through Discipline, Strength Through Community, Strength Through Action," governs the entire school. Only two students, Laurie Saunders and David Collins, recognize The Wave for what it is and set out to stop it before it's too late. But is history destined to repeat itself?

There's also a foreword by Harriet Harvey Coffin that I really want to include because it's a really scary lesson that I don't want to ever experience, but that I will always keep in mind:

The Wave is based on a true incident that occurred in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969. For three years afterward, according to the teacher, Ron Jones, no one talked about it. "It was," he said, "one of the most frightening events I have ever experienced in the classroom."

The Wave disrupted an entire school. The novel dramatizes the incident, showing how the powerful forces of group pressure that have pervaded many historic movements and cults can persuade people to join such movements and give up their individual rights in the process - sometimes causing great harm to others. The full impact on the students of what they lived through and learned is realistically portrayed in the book that follows.

It was an extremely interesting read, other than being scary, of coz. About the psychology of the human species, how a single person can influence a huge group, how a minority can be more powerful than the majority, most importantly, how we can turn ourselves into robots. It's ironic that with all the technology now in this world, we have all the sci-fi flicks of robots becoming human-like and taking over us, when in fact, the only dangerous thing in this world, is ourselves. We humans are the only beings on this planet capable of destroying it. Nothing else.

Another interesting point, in the book, they mentioned how wonderful it was to be part of The Wave, to be part of a group and equal with everybody else, as opposed to being separated into cliques, which a lot of us are definitely familiar with. I mean, which of us weren't called either geeks, or nerds, or jocks, or goths...etc. (Obviously here in M'sia our terms are different, but the cliques are the same.) And there is always a hierarchy, the popular crowd, then the not so popular...etc. Which one of us has never been bullied? I'm willing to bet none, unless you're part of the popular crowd, and even then, I'm pretty sure you've been bullied at least *once* in your life. It doesn't feel good, does it? But I bet you've bullied someone before too, didn't you? Because your friends were doing it? Or maybe you wanted to look cool in front of them?

So would you jump on a chance to be equal to everyone? And being part of a group, so that no one will bully you, everyone likes you and no one will go against you because you're all in the same team. You'd love to be part of The Wave, I'm sure.

But you know what? For all that none of us like being part of an hierarchy, esp. if we're somewhere at the bottom of it, I believe in it. Trust me, there's no such thing as 'equality'. True equality does not exist. There will always be an alpha male in any group. The dynamics will change with each different group, but there is always a hierarchy. And I'm all for it because I totally believe in individuality, and the survival of the fittest. Ask any animal on the planet, it's all about the survival of the fittest. In our case, being fit doesn't just mean being physically fit, but being mentally and emotionally fit as well.

We can't be robots, it doesn't work. We're not meant to be robots, we're not meant to be programmed. We are human beings, supposedly one step above all other animals in the evolution process, being extra gifted than any other animal with brains that can revolutionize the world. We should use our gifts. Think for ourselves, analyse the things we study and experience, decide for ourselves, exercise good judgement.

Not follow blindly any doctrine that a leader has specified us to follow. (This is where I get just a *little* controversial.) Like *some* Christian churches. I'm not anti-Christianity, mind you. I love stories from the bible, and I do pray to Jesus sometimes too, although I'm not a Christian. I'm just anti-dogmatism. And I do know some really great Christians. It's the few of dogmatic Christians that give the rest of the Christians a bad name. And guess what, it is happening, there have been cults formed in the name of Christianity.

And seriously, any cult is not much different from the cult that Hitler started, albeit on smaller scales of coz, and definitely not as horrifying. But the potential is there, and there's nothing stopping them from getting out of control. Dogmatism is the worst thing that anyone can do. How can anyone follow blindly without questioning themselves, their actions and their consequences?

I believe I have a strong personality, and I will never follow anyone blindly, but although none of us think that we will do anything like this, we cannot honestly know if we will until it happens. I hope it never does happen. It's too scary. It's definitely given me so much food for thought that I've written the longest blog in my history of blogging. And the longest book review in my history of reviewing books. And trust me, I could go on, but I won't. It will never end, coz there's just too much to think about. Read it for yourselves.