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I Hate Any Kind of Mob

September 16, 2011

IT’S KIND OF A PARADOX, this flavor of misanthropy Your Host suffers from. It kind of weird, right, to genuinely like nearly every individual one has had the fortune to get into a conversation with, yet despise Us All for our incurable, often irrational fear of uncertainty, desperate greed, and self-destructive tribalism?

Let’s trot this quote out once more:

As I ran, I thought how I hate any kind of mob–I hate mobs of sports fans, mobs of environmental demonstrators, I even hate mobs of supermodels, that’s how much I hate mobs. I tell you mankind is only bearable when you get him on his own. [Toltz]

Most of the people waiting outside Wal-mart at midnight on Black Friday, or outside the gates before a rock concert, don’t want to trample another human being to death. Given the choice they wouldn’t do so, even if it cost them the opportunity to get hold of a $150 widescreen tv, or prime floor space up near the stage. (This much faith I have in our humanity.) Of course, once that crowd rushes the door, who knows exactly what induces the rush, but once that moment of hysteria begins, it’s a dangerous game to stop, or try to stop, or hesitate at all. You risk being trampled yourself. Going with the flow becomes a matter of self preservation.

Upon finding out later that the older guy who fell down in front of the entrance during the rush fucking died, you may feel a twinge of regret, but it wasn’t your feet that trod on him as he lay defenseless. Despite the possibility that the person you leaned against when you got jostled in turn pressed against someone else propelling them into yet another, actions and reactions rippling through the crowd of humanity to the heavy set woman who wanted to stop to help the man up from the ground but got bumped from behind and instead dropped to one knee right on the guy’s ribcage then was only barely able to scramble over his crumpled form to reach her own safety, you can ultimately rest easy knowing that it wasn’t your fault. Someone else started the push. You couldn’t help but go along with it.

Now apply this principle to a certain idea of Nation which arises out of a sense of having done great things together and wishing to do more. Where many of the things that have been done can’t rightly be considered “great,” but where the individual whose belief buttresses the notional Nation isn’t culpable in any of its evils. Because going with the flow is simply a matter of self preservation. A nation is a mob.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2011 2:59 PM

    if a nation is a mob, the state, or government, is a group of yahoos yelling, pushing and shoving, starting a stampede.

  2. September 19, 2011 8:41 AM

    One-one-one, units of the mob are certainly much more enjoyable. I will admit to liking Mob Rules, though.

    • September 19, 2011 9:09 AM

      the Sabbath album, or the German prog-metal band?

  3. Christopher M permalink
    September 20, 2011 11:50 AM

    You’re being overly generous, Montag. A nation isn’t a mob, it’s a legal fiction pretending to be a mob.

    • September 20, 2011 12:23 PM

      true, true, true.

      Ernest Renan, who said that “having done great things together” thing also said, (i’m told by the very same wikipedia article!) that “the existence of a nation was based on a ‘daily plebiscite.'” based on how many citizens wake up in the morning believing in the legal fiction.

      so i would draw a distinction here, though i’m not sure whether it’s worth making or not, between “nation” being an idea a group of people hold in their heads, and “the state” being the legal fiction.

    • September 20, 2011 12:59 PM

      “The state is the entity that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, force and coercion.” (via:

      in my view “has” should be “claims”

      where the idea of nation that people hold in their heads is what actually confers the legitimacy.

      of course, mine should read that it’s the ideas in the heads of “powerful people” that matter in terms of allowing a state to effectively function, so the idea of “legitimacy” is itself a fiction.

      lost m’ train of thought here.

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