Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gustave Le Bon is my hero

Recent developments in geopolitics has directed me to read Gustave Le Bon's opus magnum The Crowd again. I have always meant to read it since I am generally in agreement with the author and thought there was no need to reinforce your own opinion; now I fully and truly regret not reading more earlier. Especially for the following passage:

"The whole of the common characteristics with which heredity endows the individuals of a race constitute the genius of the race. When, however, a certain number of these individuals are gathered together in a crowd for purposes of action, observation proves that, from the mere fact of their being assembled, there result certain new psychological characteristics, which are added to the racial characteristics and differ from them at times to a very considerable degree...

...the great upheavals which precede changes of civilisations such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the foundation of the Arabian Empire, seem at first sight determined more especially by political transformations, foreign invasion, or the overthrow of dynasties. But a more attentive study of these events shows that behind their apparent causes the real cause is generally seen to be a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. The true historical upheavals are not those which astonish us by their grandeur and violence. The only important changes whence the renewal of civilisations results, affect ideas, conceptions, and beliefs. The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought. The reason these great events are so rare is that there is nothing so stable in a race as the inherited groundwork of its thoughts...

...a crowd is always ready to revolt against a feeble, and to bow down servilely before a strong authority. Should the strength of an authority be intermittent, the crowd, always obedient to its extreme sentiments, passes alternately from anarchy to servitude, and from servitude to anarchy.

However, to believe in the predominance among crowds of revolutionary instincts would be to entirely misconstrue their psychology. It is merely their tendency to violence that deceives us on this point. Their rebellious and destructive outbursts are always very transitory. Crowds are too much governed by unconscious considerations, and too much subject in consequence to secular hereditary influences not to be extremely conservative. Abandoned to themselves, they soon weary of disorder, and instinctively turn to servitude. It was the proudest and most untractable of the Jacobins who acclaimed Bonaparte with greatest energy when he suppressed all liberty and made his hand of iron severely felt.

It is difficult to understand history, and popular revolutions in particular, if one does not take sufficiently into account the profoundly conservative instincts of crowds. They may be desirous, it is true, of changing the names of their institutions, and to obtain these changes they accomplish at times even violent revolutions, but the essence of these institutions is too much the expression of the hereditary needs of the race for them not invariably to abide by it. Their incessant mobility only exerts its influence on quite superficial matters. In fact they possess conservative instincts as indestructible as those of all primitive beings. Their fetish- like respect for all traditions is absolute; their unconscious horror of all novelty capable of changing the essential conditions of their existence is very deeply rooted. Had democracies possessed the power they wield to-day at the time of the invention of mechanical looms or of the introduction of steam-power and of railways, the realisation of these inventions would have been impossible, or would have been achieved at the cost of revolutions and repeated massacres. It is fortunate for the progress of civilisation that the power of crowds only began to exist when the great discoveries of science and industry had already been effected."

I don't really care if Shakespeare was to be removed from curriculum,but Le Bon should be taught in every school if we are to avoid breeding another generation of goons.

P.S. To clarify my views on the issues mentioned at the beginning:

1. Not withstanding the shaky principle of "ad coelum et ad inferos", one simply cannot own water. One might be able to claim ownership of a creek, pond or billabong, but how could anybody justify ownership (i.e. exclusive right of use and sale) a span of water itself that theoretically you cannot even make two crossings?

2. The film was made and uploaded to YouTube back in April this year and it sort of just stayed there without much incident (I tried to watch but had to give up two minutes into it because it was so bad, if it did really cost millions I'd report money laundering). Fast forward to a week before Sep.11, everybody was talking about it. If this does not seem fishy, the Danish cartoons that caused quote a bit of stir were published on Sep.30, 2005, there were some exchanges of criticism however the riots did not take off until February 2006 after two Danish imams personally disseminated information (a mixed bag of truth and blatant lies) abroad. Coincidence much? I doubt that.

3.People will have to embrace nuclear power once fossil fuel runs out (which will eventually). Those short-sighted who disinvest themselves now will suffer by then. At least the additional import of coal and gas to generate power will fix their current account balance for the moment.

4. Translated:           
(You idiot, that balaclava is totally uesless for daylight robbery.)
(What should I wear then)

The rest is self-explanatory