Signs of Bad Signs III : Panurgism & Sheeple

François Rabelais (1483-1553), says Wikipedia, was a French Renaissance writer, physician, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar.

His literary legacy is such that today, the word Rabelaisian has been coined as a descriptive inspired by his work and life. Merriam-Webster defines the word as describing someone or something that is “marked by gross robust humor, extravagance of caricature, or bold naturalism”.

Who’s Panurge? He is one of the principal characters in Gargantua and Pantagruel, a series of five novels by François Rabelais.

“Suddenly, I do not know how, it happened, I did not have time to think, Panurge, without another word, threw his sheep, crying and bleating, into the sea. All the other sheep, crying and bleating in the same intonation, started to throw themselves in the sea after it, all in a line. The herd was such that once one jumped, so jumped its companions. It was not possible to stop them, as you know, with sheep, it’s natural to always follow the first one, wherever it may go”.

Francois Rabelais, Quart Livre, chapter VIII

In French, it’s a very well know idiom. People who behave like sheeps – herd behavior, herding, flock mentality.

We call them Moutons de Panurge (Sheeps of Panurge) and their behavior as Panurgism.

Of course it’s funny to see this in these fields : Fashion. Marketing (“cattle displacement”). Mainstream Medias. Consumers. Advertising.

It also leads to concepts to study : Discernment.

Wiki : Discernment is the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well (or the activity of so doing). In the case of judgment, discernment can be psychological or moral in nature. Within judgment, discernment involves going past the mere perception of something and making nuanced judgments about its properties or qualities. Considered as a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.

Herd Behavior the same :

In animal behavior, panic movements, human societies, the Archetype of The Crowd, stock market bubbles, decision making, mass hysteria – there are many links to click at the bottom of this Wikipedia page.

One sure thing : if in a crowded store there’s a bargain announced, you see many people running, and you see only a few watching the consequentially disgraceful and unworthy mess.

Let’s have fun saying the one who claim they are NOT Sheeps of Panurge are herding in another way :

Asymmetric aggregation of animals under panic conditions has been observed in many species, including humans, mice, and ants. For example, when panicked individuals are confined to a room with two equal and equidistant exits, a majority will favor one exit while the minority will favor the other.

Characteristics of escape panic include:

  1. Individuals attempt to move faster than normal.
  2. Interactions between individuals become physical.
  3. Exits become arched and clogged.
  4. Escape is slowed by fallen individuals serving as obstacles.
  5. Individuals display a tendency towards mass or copied behavior.
  6. Alternative or less used exits are overlooked.

Have fun. Thanks for reading!


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