Slogans can kill. They often do. A simple slogan like Ek dhaka aur do, Jama Masjid tod do killed a few thousand people in addition to demolishing a five-century-old architectural heritage in the year 1992 under the pontificate of luminaries like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. No less than 150,000 people who called themselves kar sevaks metamorphosed into a cloud of frenzied hornets, mesmerised by a slogan.
A mob has no brain. A mob only has a libido. A mob is an emotional surge, a monstrous unconscious, a mindless leviathan. Any pied piper can get that monster to plunder and flatten, rape and kill. The mob will commit atrocities that the individuals in it will shy away from with visible horror.
Fellow blogger Amit Pattnaik raises a question at a bloggers’ platform: Why is the herd mentality phenomenon so rampant in India? So many just blindly follow what others are doing! Or they mindlessly do what others tell them to, without questioning it. Is it the Bandwagon Effect? Has rationality died?
The herd mentality is rampant among the entire species that calls itself Homo Sapiens, not only in India. What killed millions of Jews in Hitler’s expanding territory was this mentality. Even the most benign Buddha’s followers turned mass killers in Myanmar last year following the universal herd mentality of the species. There are murderous evangelist groups in America that show no signs of intellectual development.
The herd mentality comes primarily from a lack of brains. Watch people who join violent mobs and it won’t take long for you to realise how like wild beasts they are. What kind of a man can enter a total stranger’s house, sledgehammer the men to death, rape the women, slam children against rocks, tear open wombs and snarl at spilled foetuses?
A century back, French polymath Gustave Le Bon said that “by the mere fact that he forms part of an organised group, a man descends several ladders of civilisation. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian – that is, a creature acting by instincts. He possesses the spontaneity, the ferocity and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings.”
Advanced minds stay clear of groups, let alone mobs. Groups are for the less sophisticated ones. Mobs are for the savages. You won’t ever find Einstein and Picasso in mobs. Mobs don’t sway to Beethoven’s symphonies. You will find mobs lapping up hollow political rhetoric. Hideous villains have been exalted as national heroes by vacuous mobs. Flagrant frauds have been worshipped as yogis and gurus by flash mobs.
A mob cannot think. A mob moves like an avalanche set in motion by a force unknown to it. More and more elements join it as it tumbles down and moves on like a hellish juggernaut. Devastation as well as folly has a gravitational pull not unlike that of a black hole.