The key to a modern time is the psychology of crowds. Because we have thrown out social order, caste, hierarchy, even culture itself, we are now all equal individuals standing on a level playing field that suspiciously resembles a shopping mall.
As a result, we form ad hoc groupings, or crowds, to achieve our needs. We no longer trust social hierarchy like government, religion or art. We trust a personal army running to smash the other guy. And we form crowds by getting like-minded people, offering them equal participation in what we want for ourselves, and then off to the races.
The secret to the psychology of crowds is understanding that they are made of individuals. People don’t join a crowd to join a crowd; they join a crowd to get what they want. And the key way to do that is to offer equality: we all get the same reward if we achieve our goal.
That approach will always be more appealing than “do it yourself.” If your part in the crowd is to show up, chant a few slogans and help crush some skulls, and then you get the full reward everyone else gets, that seems pretty smart, doesn’t it?
Our society, by having adopted this ideal of the Crowd in 1789 and affirmed it into 1968, has opened up this ideal to the form of entropy known as mass interpretation. It has taken an already simple philosophy and boiled it down to a few basic tenets:
- Anyone who says anything but “Do whatever you want, there are no consequences” is a Nazi.
- Anyone who wants anything but exactly what everyone else gets is a Nazi.
- Anyone who wants some ideal that not everyone can understand is an elitist Nazi.
- It is always — always — someone else’s fault, because we the crowd demand and they did not provide.
- In the absence of real values, whatever seems new and weird or trendy is what we should all pay attention to. Anyone who wants more is a Nazi.
- Anyone who insists that we are not all equal is a Nazi.
This thinking is addictive like sugar, heroin or TV watching because its hook — we’re all the same so you get the same as everyone else — makes us feel accepted without having done anything, and its threshold for participation is really low: just be one of the crowd.
If you want to know why gangs, lynch mobs, literary cliques, fads, trends and mass neurosis are the same, you’ve found your answer: the crowd. It is the defining trait and the greatest destructive factor in the modern time.
For example, if we choose to limit what cars people can drive, we’re Nazis. If we decide to cut back on breeding, that requires we tell people not to breed, so we’re Nazis. If some people want to have only people with a similar values system in their community, they’re Nazis.
Who aren’t the Nazis? Well, the people advocating the least amount of social order, the “do whatever you want and there are no consequences” people, the Crowd!