Monday, September 29, 2008

Mob Mentality

Pritesh wrote this piece on mob mentality. I tried posting this comment. But seems it's too long. So, I am posting it as an independent post.

I had a very close encounter with mob behaviour some time back when Dr. Rajkumar passed away. We were sipping coffee at the
Coffee Board and the procession was passing through the adjacent main-road. Suddenly, they started pelting big stones on us.
Each stone would have caused severe wound if it had found its target. However,
thanks to the sun-shades, no one got hurt. We quickly ran to safety near inside the building. In that process, I had a
glimpse of the people who were throwing the stones. They were smiling and laughing, like small kids.
Soon afterwards, there was a lathi-charge, and the mob started scattering. Many of them jumped the IISc boundary-wall into
the campus. Many of them were caught hold of by the security-guards, and even some students. They were slapped, kicked, and
abused. One slap and they would fall down and start begging for mercy!
I was really astounded to see these 'monsters' becoming so insecure and weak when caught away from the security of
anonymity (as you have rightly pointed out).

Looking at the scenario from another angle, I realised that these poor people lead an utterly uninteresting life. There
life must be such a meaningless drudgery and ethics and morality are theoretical banters for them. A slight bit of
excitement, even if it's got through destruction, gives them that thrill we used to feel drawing on the walls or doing
anything mischievous when we were kids. The sight of that smile which showed that childlike innocence, and that helplessness
when faced with the slightest punishment, made me feel very unhappy at how their life hasn't seen many things interesting
after their childhood that they jump at this first opportunity of excitement, without giving a heed to its implication.

Another example of mob mentality is seen every day on roads. Be it breaking the signal, or be it clogging the traffic by violating
lane discipline, it's a pure example of mob mentality. I feel the presence of that instinct in myself when the red-light in front is
about to turn green, a few seconds to go, and my side traffic has already started moving, of course against the rule. At
that time it's very difficult to resist the temptation to fly myself. I have held stead against the temptation most of the
time; but haven't succeeded always!

Mob mentality is a basic-instinct. It comes from the age-old wisdom of behaving similar to the majority, since, it's the
majority which survives. Its parent instinct is the instinct to immitate, which again is also the greatest tool of learning
for humans ('apes') and other species. The people who turn into mobs are no different people. We all are susceptible to this strong
tendency. It's only that when this is topped with ignorance, boredom and frustration, we become puppets to the signs
from anyone who wishes to make use of it.

The act of preventing oneself from turning into a mob just involves a moment of thought, as you have rightly pointed out.
But just like any other thing which involves just a small change in the thought pattern (corruption, violence, suicide etc)
these are the very things which will take the most fundamental changes in the people and society, since the circumstances
which brew these instincts are there for a long time. They are related with poverty and ignorance.

The real solution of mob-mentality can't be expected before these precursors are taken care of. And I even think, that once
(if and when) these precursors are somehow solved, mob-mentality is so fundamental in us, that it will find another way to
manifest itself.

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