Friday, December 11, 2009

David and Goliath and the Underdog Phenomenon

The phenomenon of the "underdog" is seen throughout the world quite often. In movies, the underdog team, or the team no one expects to win, who is too small to compete with the "big boys" and is unorganized, romantically finds their way to victory. In the classic cartoon "Tom and Jerry," the natural order of things seems to be swapped as the dominant feline is constantly thwarted by stronger, slower rodent. The Bible's David was sent to fight the giant, Goliath, by himself. He was the classic underdog, yet with strength and support, he took out the far superior soldier Goliath. In fact in many wars, small countries being threatened by a bully power, or some greater power, can produce more fight than anyone would really have expected. But why does this "underdog phenomenon" exist? It has to do with the group polarization within a small group. When a smaller group has something to lose, they innately act stronger together for defense. Let's exam the definition of group polarization, and then some examples to support my idea.

Group Polarization is defined as the tendency of people, in a group, to be more extreme in their decisions. So, if some group has a common goal, the members within it may actually act upon the group's conviction stronger than they would their own. People are willing to give a little more for the sake of the group they identify with than they are for their own, completely personal beliefs. Group Polarization always takes place in war, as the act of killing someone for a cause is never acceptable for an individual, but millions of lives may be lost in a war conflict. But their are degrees of polarization a group may see. A large group with a common interest is more likely to have difference in opinion and beliefs among the individuals than would a close-knit smaller group that all have common beliefs. Therefore, those smaller groups may be influenced by group polarization even stronger. This can aid in a war because emotion and concentration are greater

Lets take the American Revolution as our first example. The great British empire wanted the new American colonists to basically pay the British taxes because they claimed control of the Colonies. But the colonists, most of which had begun a life their with the common desire to escape the corrupt monarchy in England, would not have this. They were poor, untrained, understocked in resources, but very passionate about their convictions. Together as a group, their convictions boiled into incredible actions. They fought against the Redcoats, the armies being shipped across the world to fight people they really know nothing about for a Parliament only offering instructions. They had nothing to lose but their lives, and were not connected by any common goal. The Americans won their independence and were finally able to achieve the independence they desired by signing and adopting the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.

Next, lets take the Vietnam war. The Vietnamese in the 1960's came from an environment of nations grabbing for their land and never having a local National Power, other than the underground Viet Mihn, a group led by a Vietnamese local fed up with the irregularity of power. In 1945 the Viet Mihn finally regained control of Vietnam after WWII and declared it the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. They had support across the small country, by nearly all of the 9 million civilians. The following year however, their power was again threatened by the French, Chinese, UN and US all at the same time. These people wanted their land. They were willing to fight for it and though they were small, they polarized into a strong, passionate force. The Vietnam War waged for more than 15 years, while the underdog, unorganized troops in Vietnam lost millions of lives and the combined total death toll of all other nations involved was less than 500,000. But despite the odds against them, the Vietnamese did not lose, the war officially ending with the capture of Saigon in 1975 by the North Vietnamese.

These examples and more illustrate the power of small, threatened groups. It is evident that having a close-knit group can be more potent than that of a large impersonal group when a common goal polarizes the groups actions. It's astounding to believe this seemingly illogical phenomenon can occur, but we must all watch out for those Underdogs.

Works Cited

"Battlefield: Vietnam." December 5, 2009.

"Group Polarization Phenomenon." December 9, 2009.

"Historical Events of the American Revolution." December 9, 2009.