What are You Marching For?

By Toa Lohe (@Toamatapu) | 4 min read

Everyday someone or something is attempting to tether its important cause or product to us. There will be events that will demand us to take part in a crowd to have our voice be heard by representatives in government. But we need to remain wary of the many organizations and marches advertised to us to participate in. Can you retain your individuality when part of a crowd? Gustave Le Bon, the author of The Crowd admits that there are only a few individuals who can. Joining a crowd makes us rely on unconscious instincts instead of conscious logic. Learn the characteristics of a crowd below. Whenever you feel a crowd pulling you in a direction away that is questionable have the courage to step away.

The Crowd Pulls You In

A crowd can be made up of three people or a million. Once you join a crowd, you are “acting by instinct.” Even educated individuals will “assume all the characteristics of crowds.” Remember the only way you can retain your rationale is with isolation. When part of a crowd, an unconscious transformation occurs: it can “change the miser into a spendthrift, the skeptic into a believer, the honest man into a criminal, and the coward into a hero.” When people ask you to march, consider not only the issue but the people as well. Do you want to associate yourself with these individuals? They may be “foolish, ignorant, and envious persons” using the opportunity to be “freed from the sense of their insignificance and powerlessness” and be “possessed by the notion of brutal and temporary but immense strength.” Special characteristics of crowds will lead to “impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgement and of the critical spirit, [and] the exaggeration of the sentiments.” You may feel that joining a crowd was for your own personal interest. But the restless energy of a crowd seeking to explode will have devastating effects. Keep in mind, we are not referencing cheerful crowds that can be found at concerts, cinemas or stadiums. Those places exemplify how being apart of a crowd is positive. Le Bon is pointing to the times when politics is involved; when the crowd will submit to vague promises and defend half-baked policies on social media and the streets.

The Crowd Imprisons You

After joining the crowd, you may quietly attempt to retain your own original independent views. But the leaders of a crowd have an incredible influence over you. Their “single opinion” will “acquire sufficient prestige to enforce its general acceptance.” This becomes dangerous since it will gain a “tyrannical” strength. A single opinion will then “transform itself into an act. Whether the act is that of setting fire to a palace, or involves self-sacrifice, a crowd lends itself to it with equal facility.” You will participate in whatever the crowd does because of its “invincible power.” The biggest problem is the power you wield will not be fair and tempered. “The crowd is always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual.”

Your Schooling Introduced The Crowd

“From primary school till he leaves the university, a young man does nothing but acquire books by heart without his judgement or personal initiative being ever called into play. Education consists for him in reciting by heart and obeying.” Our education has failed us since it produces “nothing but discontented men.” It encourages us to follow the crowd, and to achieve the standards set by the crowd. But repeating what you read in a book will never prepare you for “the conditions of success in life” that demand “the possession of judgement, experience, initiative, character–qualities which are not bestowed by books.” American schools are only preparing its youth for “public functions, in which success can be attained without any necessity for self-direction or the exhibition of the least glimmer of personal initiative.” The working man no longer becomes a working man and aims for only a job provided by the State. Since competition for those jobs will be tough, the unemployed will become enemies of the state.

How You are Introduced to Ideas

The ideas that crowds base their formation on are introduced well before their grouping. In the Internet age, the crowd has become invisible and digital. We learn of ideas independently on our phones which we touch and look at. The discovery of ideas is akin to unearthing treasure. This makes it have a lasting impression. Le Bon states that ideas are obtained by “trifling perceptions of details of the eyes, the ear, the hands, and even the sense of smell, which picked up involuntarily, and silently elaborated, take shape within the learner, and suggest to him sooner or, later this or that new combination, simplification, economy, improvement, or invention.” The idea is then reaffirmed in conversations with colleagues, friends and family. It is important to note “judgments accepted by crowds are merely judgments forced upon them and never judgments adopted after discussion.”

Avoid the Heterogeneous Crowd

The heterogeneous crowd is made up of people from different walks of life. We regularly see these crowds march and advertised as exhibiting a time when citizens united for a cause. But since these groups are not made up of similar individuals, they do not demand high intellect and will encourage dangerous action, adhering to only their unconscious instincts. “The individuals who take part in such crimes are afterwards convinced that they have acted in obedience to duty.” It’s an alarming revelation to comprehend since an “ordinary criminal” would face severe consequences. If you participate in the crowd, read up on the idea they are supporting and discuss with the principal followers why they are marching. When you learn that their “sentimental considerations” outweigh rational and they are unwilling to argue their points sensibly, it’s best for you to not participate.

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