The protests around the globe are inspiring for many people. Thousands of souls rallied around a common theme: ridding themselves of dictatorial rule—mostly. There is a disturbing aspect too: individuals tend to act differently in groups. In crowds there lurks the potential for violence, destruction and death.
Why do individuals behave differently in crowds? Men who otherwise live peacefully have been known to gather in lynch mobs. One justification might be that each shares in the responsibility and this makes it proper, another example of “might is right”. It is not. Each is still guilty of murder.
Another argument is that the group represents a separate entity upon which each projects his actions. But, social structures and institutions do not have minds. The group cannot take action apart from the actions of individual members. Institutions, formal or informal, are only as good and as effective as the members forming them.
In times of political oppression, when leadership has reached a level of indifference and brutality that citizens find intolerable, they are justified in organizing themselves in revolution. Even so, such revolutions require a leadership and hierarchy built around an objective that is demonstrably just—if they are to succeed in the long run.
Without rational leadership and purpose, people in crowds can easily sink to the lowest common denominator and act as lickerish animals. Irrational leaders with irrational objectives can lead to total anarchy. “Protests” such as displayed regularly at G20 meetings, for example, are nothing more than shows of anonymous, nihilistic rage directed at symbols of human progress. Organized leadership was probably behind them, but it was irrational.
Even “peaceful assembly” with no rational purpose represents little more than pointless congregation. Importantly, such leaders as may emerge from peaceful assembly or revolution must possess extraordinary integrity. In political terms it means leadership must be willing to be constrained by the institutions morally formed or proposed.
Without moral leadership there is a risk of deterioration into further chaos. This is the case now in several US states, starting with the union-backed protests in Madison, Wisconsin.
The existing system of government-sanctioned unions, bargaining with the party they support financially is corrupt on its face. There is no division of management and labour, no market information to determine what is negotiable. Leaders acted in a corrupt vacuum, with no connection to reality. They came to lavish agreements which depend on the power of government to tax future generations to pay for such loot as bloated pension obligations and other forms of jobbery.
Protest leaders in the Wisconsin drama have their ostrich heads planted in sand, particularly the 14 Democratic Senators playing hooky to avoid voting on Governor Walker’s bill. The US President, a Democrat, has characterized the bill as an “assault” on unions. It also appears that the President indirectly supports the charade through the activist “Organizing For America,” a project of the Democratic National Committee.
The highest common denominator should be sought. Political institutions need to be realigned toward reality. Governor Walker is trying to take such a step. He has the electorate behind him both in original campaign support as well as presently, according to recent polls.
Political leaders should lead by appealing to the best among men: their power of reason. The job of political leaders is not to take sides with the financial contributors to their election campaign. Such a debt admits corruption of politics. What after all, was bought? The structure of government ought not to allow vote-buying, bribery, privilege or influence-peddling.
Today, most governments take a primary role in distributing the income and wealth of citizens. Such welfare states must first take from some by force in order to give to their political favourites. Classes of haves and have-nots are the inevitable result. A conflict society is created, no less than the logical extremes represented now in the Middle East. Political conflict is a serious matter. A society built on conflict eventually breaks down into anarchy, revolution or dictatorship. All political leaders should be held accountable.
©Copyright 2011 Edward Podritske
2 thoughts on “Dost Thou Protest Too Much?”
“government-sanctioned unions, bargaining with the party they support financially”–This is the best statement I have seen of what is wrong with this system. Brilliantly succinct. It deserves the widest possible circulation.
Great article! I’ve witnessed the “mob mentality” and find it quite frightening.