Friday, November 11, 2016

THERE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN A COLLECTIVE VOLCANO ERUPTION...How mass mindedness can dehumanize us...Nov 9, 2016

In mass, people who by themselves would be civil and reasonable, can become the worst they can be and unfortunately it is very much unconscious. So when we are caught up in any emotionally strong group mentality we are in a real sense a victim of it and easily loose sense of our individuality, personal responsibility and ethical values. Some of the worst things I've done have been as part of a group large or small. This is how a 'lynch mob' , now a metaphor for any group activity against undefended victims, comes to be. History and life are full of examples at various levels of seriousness.

We can associate with a group in a healthy way without falling into identity with it but it is tempting to give ourselves to it somewhat totally for security and sense of connectedness. Only by being aware that this psychological dynamic can and does happen to all of us at times and ways can we best catch ourselves from identifying unconsciously with the group. A close bonded group is always the potential seed of a mob mentality. Only greater consciousness or awareness can best protect us from falling victim.

Try having a reasonable conversation of different view points when one or both are so connected emotionally to a group that also holds their views. Typical political and religious arguments are a common example. Persons in such a state of mind are not just speaking for themselves but what they feel is their whole group's support. This gives a false 'rightness' to ones attitude and actions and reduces genuine personal responsibility for ones words and behaviors. ( The world is made safer and more sane when anyone comes to realize that all his/her views are opinions and not more, not really. Hopefully personally derived thoughtful opinions based on sound sources and real experience and not primarily on our supporting group or news feed.)

Without this kind of unconscious group bonding Hitler would not have been possible. It was otherwise normal intelligent people overtaken by a mass mindedness which reinforces all kinds of denials of sober reality that made that and all ethnic cleansing activities possible. With the present emotional state of our nation and world it becomes very important that we consider how easily any of us can fall prey.

Such emotional and physical turning against undefended others can happen anywhere, especially where people do not think it can happen. A novel by Sinclair Lewis form 1935, before Hitler's assent, describes these very mass dynamics and political America is the setting. Appropriately the book's title is " It Can't Happen Here.' The U.S. constitution is amazingly well designed to help counter act such a happening in America but no system is a guarantee. Only increased consciousness by many of such unconscious dynamics can bring the strongest preventative.

The change of character brought about by the uprush of collective forces is amazing.
A gentle and reasonable being can be transformed into a maniac or a savage beast.
One is always inclined to lay the blame on external circumstances, but nothing could explode in us if it had not been there.
As a matter of fact, we are constantly living on the edge of a volcano, and there is, so far as we know, no way of protecting ourselves from a possible outburst that will destroy everybody within reach.
It is certainly a good thing to preach reason and common sense, but what if you have a lunatic asylum for an audience or a crowd in a collective frenzy?
There is not much difference between them because the madman and the mob are both moved by impersonal, overwhelming forces.

 Carl Jung... Psychology and Religion  (1938)  

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