A growing crowd of people acts on their feelings...and their feelings only.
The Lost Crowd
There once was an ever-growing crowd of people who felt that the world had betrayed them. Some grew up in poorer neighborhoods, some in middle-class neighborhoods, and some in rich neighborhoods. Some went to university, some were out of university, and some had not even begun university. Some were younger, some were older, yet none had grown up. Unsure as to why they felt this feeling of betrayal, they did not know where to channel their subsequent anger and hostility. So, they decided to take to the streets on this hot summer day, as they had heard of a debate being held by two local politicians. Upon hearing the chants and cries of the two opposing crowds around the corner, they joined with their side, flaunting their signs and fists. After causing such a stir, our crowd’s leader was eventually handed a microphone:
“Tell us, sir, how do you see the world?” he asked of his side’s politician.
“I see the world for its hard-working citizens that put in countless hours of work to maintain their country’s freedom and economy,” said the man behind the podium. “I see the world as something to serve publicly in order to uphold the highest degree of honor that I can. But at the same time, I see the world for its grave injustices and inequalities that the human spirit fights so diligently against, like your group is doing right now.”
A roar of passion erupted from the crowd, followed by a similar sentiment from the opposite side, as they also wished to be recognized for their human spirit. Once the noise had died down, the leader continued: “And how does that affect the world?”
“Well, it allows me to listen to the people’s desires and try to figure out the best way to satisfy them. By doing so, it allows me to continue the ongoing fight for freedom and uphold our country’s sacred values. We must do everything we can to win the war against the inequalities that have plagued us for years now; inequalities that have been relentlessly perpetuated by my fellow contender over here. His side has done nothing but fan the flames of the fire that needs to be put out—the fire of injustice!”
Yet another wave of cheer washed throughout the crowd, and another wave of protest from the other side. The hostility was only increasing between the two groups now, and threats were close to being acted upon. The leader shifted his attention towards the other politician, and both crowds followed suit.
“Tell us, sir, how do you see the world?”
“I see the world for its people—for its dedicated and diligent individuals who are working hard every day to do their part for society. Being in office, that means I must do my part as well; it is crucial that my administration and I strive for virtue and excellence in our efforts. However, I must say, I do not believe inequality and injustice are the sole reason for our society’s problems. I believe it is the constant failed policies of your political representative’s ideology that have undermined our nation from the inside out—policies my administration has done everything we can to reverse.”
At this remark pure violence erupted throughout the people: battle cries were let out, signs were trampled, and fists were thrown. The two politicians met at the middle of the stage, smiled and shook hands, and walked together in perfect lockstep to continue their day. The blatant combat between the two groups, however, seemed to only continue, and a squadron of law enforcement was forced to intervene.
Our particular crowd, still rife with rage and resentment, and pleasantly unaware of how to control it, marched onward down the street until the leader heard a faint voice singing a tune they had never heard before. He and his followers became determined to find the person who could be singing such an upbeat tune on such a terrible day. Moments later, they encountered a shopkeeper atop his ladder, painting a fresh coat of red on his sign.
“We demand you to tell us how you see the world,” said the leader. The tune stopped, and the shopkeeper looked down to see the enraged faces waiting for an answer.
He said to the leader: “That’s not a very good way to approach a potential exchange my friend.”
The leader turned to his companion and laughed. “Well, there’s roughly thirty of us and only one of you, so I don’t think it matters how we approach the ‘exchange.’”
The shopkeeper descended his ladder so he could speak face to face with the leader. “You must understand; your hostility is a recipe for ignorance. You are choosing to blind yourselves—to be slaves to lies. It is obvious you and your crowd desire something, but I’m not sure you know what it is, and your collective rage severely hinders your ability to see it. I will tell you how I see the world if you choose to cast aside your blinders and simply listen.”
This time, one of the followers spoke up, saying, “We are privier to the injustices of the world than you can even imagine! That is why we roam these streets: to make our voices heard and represent our community!” More passion exploded from the crowd, then in a decrescendo was reduced to a few scattered cries.
“And what profit do you gain from that?” continued the shopkeeper. “There may be thirty of you, yet if every individual in your group is of the same opinion, one I assume that is given to you on a silver platter, then your cries are nothing new, and in fact, quite destructive toward the impact of your argument. What can be new, however, is your approach to these injustices that you claim have been bestowed on you. The path you are currently on is one that is drastically ineffective and childish, in which you are trying to get a neglectful parent’s attention but yields no true result other than social status. On the contr—”
Before the crowd could bear any more, per the leader’s command, they charged and broke through the windows of the shopkeeper’s business. Filing in the shop one by one, they vandalized his items and left insignias in order to mark their newfound territory.
“You fools! You’re missing your eyes, ears, and common sense!” yelled the shopkeeper from outside his window. “Can’t you see what you’re doing?”
Once they had pillaged and plundered his shop and in turn, filled their hungry bellies with another’s food, they decided to pursue yet another end that would leave them satisfied. Onward the group marched towards the library, and upon the sidewalk in front of the building they encountered a hunched, slightly more heavyset gentleman carrying with him a brown book bag.
Before he could walk any further, the crowd abruptly blocked his path.
“Good evening, sir, what do you do?” they asked the man, their tempers calming and their eyelids beginning to droop from so much activity.
Clutching his bag and still processing the crowd in front of him, he said: “I am a historian.”
“And how do you see the world?”
“Why I see the world in lots of different ways. Firstly, I see it for its notable characters who will stand the test of time and greatly sway the direction of human civilization. Secondly, I see it as a current sliver of time in the grand timeline in which we are currently playing a major role. And thirdly, from that, I see it as an intricate chain of cause and effect.”
The crowd became uneasy, and a hushed murmur was dispersed throughout. “And how does that affect the world?”
A confused expression came over the historian’s face. “Perhaps you’ve already forgotten the past; the implications were very clear in what I just said. If I do not play my part in understanding and interacting with history then that is one less person who may be able to step foot on a new path for the future; for those who lack even a basic knowledge of the events of our ancestors are bound to limit the progress of civilization.”
Another murmur rippled among the crowd, and the leader again shifted to whisper something. He then nodded and turned back to the historian.
“Let us see some of these historical figures that you hold in such high esteem, and we shall see how they have affected the world.”
From his book bag, the historian pulled three books: The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest, Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and finally The Little Red Book by Mao Tse-Tung. The leader and two of his fellow crowd mates each took a copy, examining the covers as if they had come across some foreign specimen; quickly they flipped through the pages, muttering back and forth. The two subordinate members seemed entirely indifferent to what they were reading, however the leader seemed to have a pronounced fascination in his eyes as he skimmed the pages between the red cover.
Much to his surprise, the historian received the two books back in fine condition, but the crowd, reminiscent of their acts of justice towards the shop, now had a clearer understanding of their own power and influence and threatened to inflict serious harm if he did not allow them to keep The Little Red Book. After forcing the historian to leave their presence, they decided to call it a day and return to their homes.
Over time, this group came to grow larger and larger, until its whims eventually became a considerable disturbance to the daily life of the town. Realizing the power they wielded by means of sheer quantity, any obstacle standing in their way was bound to be bulldozed by the irrefutable striving towards equality and a free society, and they did not plan to give up any time soon. Their efforts were so noble and courageous that anyone who labeled them otherwise would be sentenced to social death; their rhetoric was so influential, their objectivity so apparent, and their intellectualism so inclusive, how and why could anyone possibly disagree?
One day, however, something unexpected began to take place: a member disagreed with another member concerning the group’s operations. This extremely undesirable occurrence went against one of the crowd’s unspoken rules, which states that all members must never disagree about anything whatsoever, and in effect, agree on all feelings or ideas at all times. The leader, as the tacit mediator, hurried to the scene to try to put out the fire, and after listening to both sides found himself stricken with such a severe case of cognitive dissonance that he nearly fainted.
“Well, how do you see the world?” he asked of one of the two comrades, frustrated in the midst of recovering from his mental turmoil.
“I see it as a place of fierce oppression, especially towards my people. We have been fighting for years to make our stake in society, and I am not about to allow him to overtake our efforts,” said the first comrade of his now opponent.
The second comrade retorted: “You think your people are oppressed? Mine have faced the utmost injustices throughout our history and we will stop at nothing to claim what has been taken from us!”
Acknowledging the arguments as best he could, the leader came to the conclusion that both parties were correct, and therefore both of their desires could be implemented within the group. The members, having a different notion in mind, decided to part ways and lead their own groups based on these differing ideas. In a state of pure panic, the leader was forced to choose between the two crowds with which to march, and overcome by a great deal of genuine sorrow, he chose one group at the expense of the other. Not too long after the decision was made, however, members within these groups also began to dispute with one another, as they now realized they had the freedom to do so. Although, before their quarrels had even been fleshed out, there were now groups present for every idea or feeling that entered into these individuals’ minds—the ultimate non-conformity.
After a continual expansion of this non-conforming freedom, the members of these groups began to feel a certain paranoia toward their crowd mates, as there were now simply too many feelings with which to keep track. Eventually, on a scheduled evening protest, the crowd gathered, and everyone was a stranger to one another; their faces were alien, their language was foreign, and most of all, their feelings were indistinguishable. In pure horror, the members frantically began to touch and feel their faces. What is this? Who are these people? Recognizing no one, they helplessly scrambled throughout the streets to return to their homes. The frequency of the marches began to slowly dwindle, and their newly coined feelings quickly evaporated of their substance.
Much to their minds’ dismay, however, these substantive feelings would simply have to do, as fear always outweighs courage, and they voted both silently and unanimously to uphold this as their number one rule. They would replace the old feelings with reformed ideals: why take time to accept myself and my flaws when the crowd will accept me this very moment? Better yet, why improve my own conditions when I can deteriorate those of others? Within a few days they could be seen marching even more valiantly throughout the streets, their clenched fists high in the air, representing equality and justice.