THE INTOLERANCE, DICTATORIALNESS AND CONSERVATISM OF CROWDS.





Crowds are only cognisant of simple and extreme sentiments; the

opinions, ideas, and beliefs suggested to them are accepted or

rejected as a whole, and considered as absolute truths or as not

less absolute errors. This is always the case with beliefs

induced by a process of suggestion instead of engendered by

reasoning. Every one is aware of the intolerance that

accompanies religious beliefs, and of the despotic empire they

exercise on men's minds.



Being in doubt as to what constitutes truth or error, and having,

on the other hand, a clear notion of its strength, a crowd is as

disposed to give authoritative effect to its inspirations as it

is intolerant. An individual may accept contradiction and

discussion; a crowd will never do so. At public meetings the

slightest contradiction on the part of an orator is immediately

received with howls of fury and violent invective, soon followed

by blows, and expulsion should the orator stick to his point.

Without the restraining presence of the representatives of

authority the contradictor, indeed, would often be done to death.



Dictatorialness and intolerance are common to all categories of

crowds, but they are met with in a varying degree of intensity.

Here, once more, reappears that fundamental notion of race which

dominates all the feelings and all the thoughts of men. It is

more especially in Latin crowds that authoritativeness and

intolerance are found developed in the highest measure. In fact,

their development is such in crowds of Latin origin that they

have entirely destroyed that sentiment of the independence of the

individual so powerful in the Anglo-Saxon. Latin crowds are only

concerned with the collective independence of the sect to which

they belong, and the characteristic feature of their conception

of independence is the need they experience of bringing those who

are in disagreement with themselves into immediate and violent

subjection to their beliefs. Among the Latin races the Jacobins

of every epoch, from those of the Inquisition downwards, have

never been able to attain to a different conception of liberty.



Authoritativeness and intolerance are sentiments of which crowds

have a very clear notion, which they easily conceive and which

they entertain as readily as they put them in practice when once

they are imposed upon them. Crowds exhibit a docile respect for

force, and are but slightly impressed by kindness, which for them

is scarcely other than a form of weakness. Their sympathies have

never been bestowed on easy-going masters, but on tyrants who

vigorously oppressed them. It is to these latter that they

always erect the loftiest statues. It is true that they

willingly trample on the despot whom they have stripped of his

power, but it is because, having lost his strength, he has

resumed his place among the feeble, who are to be despised

because they are not to be feared. The type of hero dear to

crowds will always have the semblance of a Caesar. His insignia

attracts them, his authority overawes them, and his sword instils

them with fear.



A crowd is always ready to revolt against a feeble, and to bow

down servilely before a strong authority. Should the strength of

an authority be intermittent, the crowd, always obedient to its

extreme sentiments, passes alternately from anarchy to servitude,

and from servitude to anarchy.



However, to believe in the predominance among crowds of

revolutionary instincts would be to entirely misconstrue their

psychology. It is merely their tendency to violence that

deceives us on this point. Their rebellious and destructive

outbursts are always very transitory. Crowds are too much

governed by unconscious considerations, and too much subject in

consequence to secular hereditary influences not to be extremely

conservative. Abandoned to themselves, they soon weary of

disorder, and instinctively turn to servitude. It was the

proudest and most untractable of the Jacobins who acclaimed

Bonaparte with greatest energy when he suppressed all liberty and

made his hand of iron severely felt.



It is difficult to understand history, and popular revolutions in

particular, if one does not take sufficiently into account the

profoundly conservative instincts of crowds. They may be

desirous, it is true, of changing the names of their

institutions, and to obtain these changes they accomplish at

times even violent revolutions, but the essence of these

institutions is too much the expression of the hereditary needs

of the race for them not invariably to abide by it. Their

incessant mobility only exerts its influence on quite superficial

matters. In fact they possess conservative instincts as

indestructible as those of all primitive beings. Their fetish-

like respect for all traditions is absolute; their unconscious

horror of all novelty capable of changing the essential

conditions of their existence is very deeply rooted. Had

democracies possessed the power they wield to-day at the time of

the invention of mechanical looms or of the introduction of

steam-power and of railways, the realisation of these inventions

would have been impossible, or would have been achieved at the

cost of revolutions and repeated massacres. It is fortunate for

the progress of civilisation that the power of crowds only began

to exist when the great discoveries of science and industry had

already been effected.





THE IMAGINATION OF CROWDS THE LEADERS OF CROWDS. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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