June 27, 2007


Caption: This is a bad crowd.

Large groups of people have a pretty bad reputation in many circles.

The Christian existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said "The crowd is untruth."

In 1841, Charles Mackay wrote the popular Extradordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, wherein he said,

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Our old pal Nietzsche said that "Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule."

Freud, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, saw in any crowd a potential mob, noting that

when individuals come together in a group all their individual inhibitions fall away and all the cruel, brutal and destructive instincts which lie dormant in individuals as relics of a primitive epoch, are stirred up to find free gratification.

Gustave Le Bon, an earlier writer who influenced Freud, said "In crowds it is stupidity and not mother wit that is accumulated."

Erich Fromm, in Escape from Freedom described the ways people sometimes seek to evade anxiety by seeking submersion in a larger group.

The dangers of the egotism and imperialism of groups was the theme of the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr's classic Moral Man and Immoral Society (although Niebuhr had some doubts about the morality of individuals as well).

Earlier series and posts in this blog looked at the problems caused by obedience to authority and conformity.

Some interesting things have been written recently, however, that talk about the good side of groups. But that will keep until tomorrow. As Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day."

THIS COULD GET INTERESTING. West Virginia native and country music star Kathy Mattea is starting to speak out about mountaintop removal mining and climate change, as Ken Ward reports in today's Charleston Gazette. She is currently working on a project of coal-related music.

ATTACK OF THE GIANT PENGUINS. This is not a burning issue of our time, but scientists have discovered a 5 foot tall penguin that lived 36 million years ago in Peru. This baby had bigger jaw muscles than the current crop and a foot long beak.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the giant penguin fossil alert. I wonder what Those great 19th century minds would have had to say about a crowd of 5-ft. tall penguins?


Jspiker said...

Can't wait to hear and see Kathy Mattea....Music is a powerful medium and I do some coal mining songs myself.

El Cabrero said...

Chrissie--That would be quite an encounter, wouldn't it? Nietzsche might have written abou the Uber-Penguin!

JSpiker--I've been known to strum a gitbox and croak out "Coal Tattoo" myself.

Jspiker said...

Tennesse Ernie Ford and John Prine are my favorites.

I have an old Italian EKO Acoustic I play a lot, just for fun. NEVER quit your day job...There's a LOT of GOOD poor guitar players in the world.

It's a tuff way to make a living!

El Cabrero said...

Do you remember this joke:

What do you call a musician without a girlfriend?