Palm Sunday 25 March 2018
The Wisdom of Crowds is a book written by James Surowiecki published in 2004, about the way information in groups can result in better decisions than could have been made by any single member of the group. The first example given is of the crowd at a county fair that accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged, even though no individual got close. James Surowiecki identifies some exceptions when groups form a kind of “rational bubble” leading to bad decisions. An example of this was the failure of the intelligence community to notice and prevent the September 11 destruction of the World Trade centre. Such ‘bubbles’ can occur when key information is falsified, restricted or controlled by a central power-base; or when major prejudices go unchallenged; or when a powerful persuasive individual arises; resulting in a kind of ‘collective hysteria’. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, at first the crowds applauded and supported him. This is what we celebrate on Palm Sunday. However, a week later when the crowd gathered at his public trial powerful forces had changed the cry of the crowd from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify!” What would it take I wonder to make such a change; and with which crowd would I have gone? Palm Sunday is a good time to reflect on our openness to wisdom, whether of the crowd or of God.