Mob Spring

How India of our dreams may look like in the times of mobocracy

There was a country in the heart of Asia where all the residents were of a single religion. There was not even a mention of any other religion. All the Muslims in the country had just vanished. Youngsters either married the girls of their parent’s choice or that girl that brought the highest dowry. Girls had absolute freedom inside their rooms and they had stopped using cellphones and internet to celebrate their freedom. Everybody indulged in sexual activities but they were not allowed to do it consensually. Love was reserved for cows. Intellectuals used to live in museums. The land was not occupied by stupid things like forests and tribals. Those who had committed sins like benefiting from caste based reservation used to wash the toilets of true Hindus to repent for their sins. The judges of various courts used to base their judgments on Manusmriti. It was the duty of every ideal citizen to know what their neighbors were eating or drinking or wearing and to object to their choices. It was a sin for a normal citizen to mind his own business and he was looked down in the same way as a cannibal. Rama and Krishna were not fictional characters but Gandhi was. The country had got freedom despite the efforts of traitors like Nehru and Patel. There was a grand temple in Ayodhya whose turnover was bigger than all of PSUs combined. Anybody could be beaten anywhere by anyone for reasons ranging from a Facebook post to non-attendance of Diwali pooja.

Thankfully, this country does not actually exist. No country has the power to exist with the things I have described. Yet, all of these events seem possible in the kind of environment we live in. A grim spectre has crept upon us slowly, and soon my imaginary country may come to life. Thought experiments no longer remain thought experiments when democracy starts turning into a mobocracy, consisting of an angry mob, an uncontrollable mob.

Why a society does get attracted toward mobocracy? What are the reasons that inspire people come together to form a mob? Are they angry? Are they sad? Do they feel betrayed? Or is it simply related to their animal instincts?

Maybe they are angry because Rajput kings were defeated by Muslim conquerors or because they are unemployed. They may feel betrayed because of the partition or because their kids married partners of their own choice. Or they feel sad that they could never gather up the courage to talk to the girl they liked, or maybe they have a Dalit boss in their office and they could never digest that fact. There need not be any big reason for their anger. It does not take much effort to offend a person living in the subcontinent.

And who are these people? The people who form majority of a mob?

The great polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski writes about the people who form a mob in his final book :

At any moment and for whatever reason, these people, to whom no one pays attention, whom no one needs, can form into a crowd, a throng, a mob, which has an opinion about everything, has time for everything, and would like to participate in something, mean something. Dictatorships just have to reach out to these people searching for some significance in life. Give them the sense that they can be of use, that someone is counting on them for something, that they have been noticed, that they have a purpose. In this relationship, the man of the street starts to feel at one with the authorities, to feel important and meaningful, and furthermore, because he usually has some petty thefts, fights, and swindles on his conscience, he now acquires the comforting sense of immunity.

How do we restore logic and law in a mob-ruled State? How do we bridge the gaps between the different communities when mutual trust has been broken?

No one seems to have a definitive answer. The great German philosopher Hegel‘s thinking process called as dialectical method provides a logical explanation of the process we as a society are going through. Hegel explains to us why human progress cannot be linear, while encouraging us to trust that it does occur, nevertheless. For him, history moves forward in what he termed a “dialectical way”. It is an argument that is made up of three parts : a thesis, an antithesis and a synthesis. At first there is a beginning action called a thesis, and then, there is a negative reaction of that thesis called the antithesis. At last, there is a synthesis whereby two conflicting ideas are reconciled to form a new situation. Both thesis and antithesis need to clash and interact until their best elements find resolution in a synthesis. One cannot get there in one leap. The world makes progress from one extreme to another as it seeks to compensate for previous mistake. We are merely seeing the pendulum swing back for a time.

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