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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The (Third) Wave

If I had to pick one single thing that had the most dramatic and long-lasting effect on me (other than very personal stuff like losing my husband or mom or brother, falling in love, etc.) it would probably be seeing The (Third) Wave in school.

The (Third) Wave was an experiment by a high school teacher, Ron Jones, in Palo Alto, CA in 1967.  Years after it all happened, Mr. Jones wrote of his experiment in a short story called The Third Wave, published nationally in 1976 as Take as Directed in an alternative publication called the Whole Earth Review.  From there, the story was embraced worldwide, reprinted in its original form and used as the basis for various dramatizations, including Todd Strasser's novel pictured on the left. 

*In 1981, Norman Lear made a television adaptation of Jones' original story simply called The Wave.  The movie is described by the publishers as follows:

"A thought-provoking dramatization of an actual classroom experiment on individualism vs. conformity in which a high school teacher formed his own "Reich" (called "The Wave") to show why the German people could so willingly embrace Nazism. This unflinching yet sensitive 1981 Emmy Award-winner raises critical questions: When does dedication to a group cross the line from loyalty to fanaticism? Does power corrupt? What is the nature of propaganda and mass persuasion? Can something like the Nazi Holocaust happen again? Grades 7-12. Color. 46 minutes."

The Wave won the 1981 Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program and the 1981 Peabody Award.

Before seeing this movie/documentary/adaptation, you probably couldn't have convinced me it could happen again - in any shape or form. Especially in the U.S.  I was shocked and deeply affected. My entire perspective changed that day - it was as if I'd been looking at the world through a knothole in a fence, thinking I was seeing the whole thing and suddenly, I was lifted up so I could see over the fence - take in the entire view.  It was earth-shattering in my tiny little world.

Unfortunately, since then I find myself reminded of that film often. Maybe it isn't on that same scale, but it's there in all its ugliness. This is going to sound completely random and silly, but it's one of the reasons I watch Big Brother. I am convinced that people really ARE "like that." Big Brother is like a microcosm of society.  It's sped up and filmed (creative editing aside) so that it's much more apparent how humans can be. It's magnified and therefore easily recognizable. Or so you'd think.  And yet people STILL will say "people aren't really like that," "these people are not normal," "I would never behave like that!"  Yeah, right.

Obviously, with so much Pollyanna still left in me, I can also see the good in people, but the ugliness should never be ignored. I think that's why I watch Big Brother still - to remind myself. So that I am NEVER again a part of that type of behavior - even on a small scale.  I say "again" because it HAS happened, as ashamed as I am to admit it. I've been guilty of "piling on" - or at the very least NOT speaking up when I saw others piling on. One person in your group decides they don't like someone, usually The Narcissist, so that someone becomes The Target. From that moment on, no matter what The Target does, it's ridiculed, twisted, taken out of context. I've seen it happen. Frequently.

As long as there are still "mean girls," narcissists, sociopaths and people who just can't or won't think for themselves, this type of behavior will always exist.  Usually it's on a small scale, but to the target, it's always major. Unless you really watch for it, the individual components may seem benign, but I guarantee it won't seem benign if/when it happens to you.

I'm attaching the YouTube videos if any of you would like to see it again.

Part One

Part Two

*taken from

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