Tuesday, 8 January 2008
Happy New Year
"To our human mind, personal friendship represents one of the most cherished values and any social organisation not built upon its basis inspires us with a chilling sense of the inhuman. However, even the simple and innocuous mechanisms of anonymous flocking can turn into something not only inhuman but truly terrible. In human society these mechanisms remain more or less hidden, being superseded by non-anonymous well-organised relationships between individuals, but there is contingency in which they erupt with the uncontrollable power of a volcano and gain complete mastery over man, causing behaviour that can no longer be called human. This horrible recrudescence of the ancient mechanisms of flocking behaviour occurs in mass panic. I was once an unwilling witness of the sudden emergence and rapidly snowballing effect of this process of dehumanization, and if I was not drawn into its vortex it was only because, thanks to my knowledge of flocking behaviour, I had seen the approaching danger sooner than the others and had time to guard against my own reactions. To me there is small pride in the memory ; on the contrary, no one can put much trust in his own self mastery who has ever seen men more courageous than himself, men fundamentally disciplined and self controlled, rushing blindly along, closely huddled, all in the same direction, with eyes protruding, chests heaving, and trampling underfoot everything that comes in their way, exactly like stampeding ungulates, and no more accessible to reason than them."
Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression. 1963.
Squeezing out human principles