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Mobs that empower December 18, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, rant, reminisces-2000.

For a long time I thought that rediff has the worst online community in terms of the quality of the discussion forums/message boards. Turns out I forgot about the usual suspects – TOI. A member from the “Times of India sucks” orkut community sends me this link, while requesting me to take a stand on this issue. Visit the link and you will truly wonder if there are indeed so many people who will have spent so many hours writing/copy-pasting material.

What are these people like in real life I wonder (I know we are again revisiting topics we have in the past week, but let me use the occasion to make a related comment). I suspect a good number of them could be any of us, or our close friends and that won’t surprise me. Among two circumstances under which I don’t trust most people, even some of my good friends – anonymity and mob membership.

Mob is empowering ; its trading sovereignty for power. A mob accomplishes far more than the individual constituents can – not because of the larger physical presence, but its the alternate mental space that it inhabits. One of the most inhuman practices I have witnessed time and again (never been party to either way) was the manner in which the presumably happy occasion of one’s birthday is celebrated in most Indian colleges with lifting the person and handing him kicks on his bum – “Birthday Bumps”. Repeatedly kicking one person as hard as one possibly can, the whole occasion inviting even until now uninterested onlookers to contribute their kicks – some of who may not even know who the landing surface belongs to. I know people who will defend this practice (after all its consensual adult activity on a large scale with (almost) no victims). Yet, my point is that it brings out the most raw instincts and the worst in people and when it involves some of your good friends, its not a pretty sight.

This video here – where one of the kickers had planted 6 kicks so hard that he is almost limping by the end of the video.

Actually being in a group and anonymity are really much the same thing. In the end, its boils down to absence of accountability because of the aggregation, of becoming one among the many. A benign version of this is how as a child you are relieved to know that you are not the only one in class to have not completed your assignment. 🙂



1. Vishnu - December 19, 2007

First and foremost a comment regarding the links provided (I am commenting here because there is no provision to comment on the rediff link).
Here is how I perceive it, the government is not to be blamed. When you move from one community to another community (meaning country) you embrace the cultures of the other community. And maybe add a little bit of your flavor to it but you coexist in harmony and blend into your host’s community and embrace its values. You can follow the rigid laws laid down by devout clergymen back from your own country. But you can’t expect your children to adhere to such strict laws at the cost of alienating themselves from the rest of their friends or curbing their freedom.
One should know the limitations of their “success stories” and return back to their countries to bring up their child in the manner which they want them to grow up. It is totally baseless to inflict your rigid views on your children in foreign lands and go to extremes such as killing your own “apple of the eye” when they refuse to do so. And it is equally absurd to expect governments of foreign countries to intervene in such issues.

2. Sanjay - December 20, 2007

The video is disgusting. What is the mental state of these guys.

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