The herd instinct

I recently heard some tourists speculating about the next celebrity-inspired fad. A futile endeavour in my view. You may as well try to predict where the next outbreak of genital cooties will occur (not necessarily in Paris Hilton’s briar patch, for those tempted to skewer a sitting duck). Remember when Britney Spears and Madonna kissed open-mouthed on stage? Who would have thought it would inspire girls to start smooching each other all over the place? There’s no telling what event will spark off copycat behaviour among the human masses.

Back in my circus days, I remember a clown over-balancing during a performance and falling out of the ring. In doing so, he accidentally massaged the enormous bosom of a middle-aged lady in a ringside seat – an honest mistake that could have happened to anyone. Most of the audience laughed like mad, but the woman was visibly shocked by the incident. Ashamed of his faux pas, the clown punished himself by bending over in the centre of the ring and slapping his buttocks with both hands. This deed provoked a tumultuous chorus of delighted shrieks from the kiddies in the crowd. They were bending over and spanking themselves throughout the rest of the show, and no doubt for many days afterwards at home. I suppose it saved their parents the bother of punishing them. Anyway, the moral of the story is that humans instinctively follow crazes from their infancy.

One activity I predict will not become the next big thing is
nude barbecuing, a pastime promoted by madcap comedian Adam Sandler. There is something rather desperate about a celebrity self-consciously trying to get others to copy him. The human herd can sense it’s not the behaviour of a true pack leader and will assume the person doing it is a bit of a dick. Speaking of which, what sane man would allow his todger to dangle unprotected near the sizzling heat of an open-air stove? Risk-taking in pursuit of glory has its merits, but doing it in the cause of grilling a piece of meat is gratuitous bravado. Even Scott and Amundsen dressed to ensure that their willies would be the last bits to get frostbitten in the Antartic. I suspect that Mr Sandler has unresolved “penile issues” from childhood, which have resulted in a perverse desire to expose his member to the naked flame.

Of course, humans who follow the latest fashions and trends are often decidedly mediocre themselves. I avoided such types in the circus and sought out the society of misfits and eccentrics instead, much as Jesus did at the height of his own crowd-pulling fame. Whether you’re Portia de Rossi or a warthog, the important thing is to be comfortable in your own skin and develop a personal style that works for you. There was a tightrope walker with whom I was friendly who wore a beret when he wasn't performing – it made him something of a social pariah. When I decided to wear one myself it instantly became trendy and people started asking the high-wire man where they could buy one. At this point I went back to my sans chapeau condition.

Although few humans are lucky enough to have a gorilla to lend them moral support, I hope that the individualists among them will nevertheless persevere in the face of public derision. As
Witch Hazel wisely said: “Different means heartache, different means pain, but I’d rather be different than be the same”.

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