Reaching a tipping point

Every child has probably played a game stacking pebbles on the ground or expensive Lego building blocks so high that the tower eventually falls over. The stack reaches the “tipping point”, which, in physics, is simplistically the point at which an object goes from “stable equilibrium” to a state that is completely the opposite. The standing stack falls over.

In sociology, a tipping point is when a group of people changes and adopts a previously rare behavior or attitude. The implications for a society are remarkable.

Studies have shown that if 10 percent of the population holds an absolutely unshakeable belief in something, the majority adopts that same belief. In 2009 61 percent of Americans were opposed to same-gender marriage including 25 percent against any sort of legal recognition. Thirty-three percent approved.

By 2011, though, the group wanting “no recognition” fell to the 10-percent threshold, and from that time, approval steadily climbed to the current 64 percent in favor of same-sex marriage.

The point is that a small but adamant group thinking all the same way has great influence on what the rest of the people think.

A post on social media caught our eye the other day, which could reflect the view of a group that unfortunately might be nearing the 10-percent mark. “Why am I always angry? I think the better question is: Why aren’t you?”

There is a biological reason to track “bad news” as it alerts us to danger. We could also want to be angry at the fact that we have to put up with so many negative situations and conditions around us from every outside source. We see wrongs that we want to be made right.

However, listening to every “everything sucks” headline and comment is also dangerous.

Consider that if every day you practice being mad and pessimistic, you are going to get really good at it. That is exactly what the darkest forces of society want us to feel. If things are hopeless on an individual level, then obviously the only alternative is “Big Brother” government taking control, which may be from where the anger originated in the first place.

Here are some facts to keep in mind every time the media, politicians and the people around you start dragging you into the pit of despair.

Globally, an average of 130,000 real people have been lifted out of poverty every single day since 1990. The job is not finished and we may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. But humanity is moving forward. In 1820 94 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty. Less than 10 percent live in extreme poverty today.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game of winners and losers. Grow some vegetables in your garden and see how wealth is actually created. Freedom creates wealth and must be guarded. But tyranny feeds on anger as easily as it feeds on complacency.

Sometimes, people get caught inside a bubble and only consider the negatives that we are facing. This thought deserves remembering. “Fear of the sheepdog is what makes the sheep run to the slaughterhouse. The worst thing you can do is believe all the fear mongering coming from the media and politicians.”

Fear is how they control you. When the tipping point of a negative attitude by the 10 percent is ever reached, then we really will be in trouble.



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