Maybe he was making a big deal out of nothing, but on the other hand, there had been that feeling, that group unity. (5.85)
David is attracted to The Wave because he likes the feeling of being part of something, of being part of a team and having all that team support. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that feeling. It only becomes a problem when loyalty to a group makes you turn on yourself or the people you care about. Then it's time to reevaluate.
David knew that if he could get the team half as charged up as Mr. Ross history class had been that day, they could tear apart most of the teams in their league. (5.85)
David is super committed to his football team. No matter how much they stink up the field, he has faith that things can change.
"You know why we've done so bad this year? Because we are twenty-five one-man teams all wearing the same Gordon High uniforms." (6.43)
The Gordon High football players have no loyalty to each other: they're only looking out for themselves and so they don't do well as a team. This definitely seems to be part of their problem, but in the end, a newfound sense of teamwork doesn't make up for their real problem – they're just no good at football. Hey, it happens!
"Community is the bond between people who work and struggle together for a common goal." (6.10)
Ben wants his students to feel loyal to each other, as a group. What nobody asks, though, is what their common goal is! The goal of The Wave is never actually stated. Students seem to assume that the goal of The Wave is simply to get larger. They begin to use strong-arm tactics to force loyalty to The Wave from people who just aren't feeling it.
"Well, you know […] this country was built by people who were part of a group – the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers. I don't think it's wrong for Laurie to be learning how to cooperate." (7.11)
At first, Laurie's dad thinks The Wave is A-okay. He makes a point that you may have already been considering: it takes organized activity and loyalty to a group in order to accomplish certain goals. But what he fails to ask is this: what are the goals of The Wave?
Remember, in The Wave you are all equals. No one is more important or more popular than anyone else and no one is to be excluded from the group. Community means equality within the group. (8.44)
This equality-for-all idea appeals to many of the students (duh!). They are tired of having to compete all the time, for grades, friends, popularity, and all the rest. But The Wave pretty quickly turns into another sort of competition. Loyalty to the group causes Wave members to feel like they are better than the rest of the school.
On his own, Ben had tried to find out what it was that attracted students to The Wave. Some of those he asked said it was just something new and different, like any other fad. Others said they liked the democracy of it – the fact that they were all equals now. (9.6)
Ben claims to be patterning his experiment on Germany under the Nazis. So this talk of group equality is rather confusing in that context. As you know, the Nazis believed that Jews, people of color, homosexuals, Communists, Roma Gypsies, the mentally ill, and many others should not only be excluded from German citizenship, but not even allowed to live. Ben is probably drawing on what he read about German Nationalism, which involved a loyalty to one's nation. But, aren't we all supposed to be loyal to our nations? And under the Nazis, weren't acts of disloyalty (such as criticizing the Nazis) punishable by imprisonment or death? Is that real loyalty? <em>The Wave </em>sure<em> </em>brings up lots of complicated questions.
"[…] If our experiment has been successful […] you will have learned that we are all responsible for our own actions, and that you must always question what you do rather than blindly follow a leader, and that for the rest of your lives, you will never allow a group's will to usurp your individual rights." (17.39)
Ben wants his students to be independent thinkers. He wants them to question people in authority. He wants them to develop strong personal codes of ethics – of what is right and wrong. Ben is suggesting that the best way to be loyal to human beings in general is by first being loyal to ourselves.