Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Crowd

From 'The Silence of Animals, On Progress and Other Modern Myths', by John Gray:

"The machine-like condition of modern humans may seem a limitation. In fact it is a condition of their survival. Kayerts and Carlier (the characters from Joseph Conrad's 'An Outpost of Progress' who break down when trapped in the heart of the Belgian Congo jungles) were able to function as individuals only because they had been shaped by society down to their innermost being. They were:

"two perfectly insignificant and incapable individuals, whose existence is only rendered possible through the high organization of civilized crowds. Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every insignificant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd: to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals, in the power of the police and of its opinion."

When they stepped outside of their normal surroundings, the two men were powerless to act. More than that: they ceased to exist.

Page 2, 'An Old Chaos'

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