What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
A “granfalloon” — a term coined by author Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat’s Cradle — is a group of two or more people who feel a bond because they share some circumstance that, beneath it all, has little to no real significance. Vonnegut’s shorter definition is “a proud and meaningless association of human beings.”
The author of the article lists several examples of granfalloons, and then proceeds to mention how marketers (as well as Hitler and slavery mongers) have used granfalloon tactics to compartmentalize people.
It got me thinking, recalling times when I’ve seen this play out. One day I was riding a motorcycle in Sunny San Diego. During my outing, I passed about four other bikers, all of whom nodded or waved to me as I passed by. Here I am, some novice biker and scrawny white kid (contrasting their bearded, leather-clad appearances) who they acknowledge simply because I was a “fellow motorcyclist”.
Another example: the iPod. Although the fad has beaten to a lifeless pulp, back in the day when only the uber-cool Apple fans had them, you could identify with other people in your “granfalloon” by their white earbuds. In the library, on the bus, at the gym, you could relate to complete strangers simply because they were also cool enough to own an iPod.
A third and final example: members of the Church. We are often inclusionary (or exclusionary, as the case may be) based on this granfalloonistic identity we proudly wear as a badge. If you and your family pack up and move to Belgium, have no fear: your LDS granfalloon will make you feel right at home amongst complete strangers.
In the gospel sense, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (unless you use it to isolate others). Having the common foundation of the gospel in our lives brings unity, and ultimately, Zion.
Moral to the story? I don’t know. Just something interesting to observe.. And hey, you’ve added a new word to your vocabulary.