My Take On Collective Social Behaviour

A couple of days prior, I watched a video online that showed a crowd coming up to assault an innocent individual. What astonished me is the way random strangers can come together when they have a common intention.

In this personal reflection blog post, I want to share my perspectives on what I have learnt and experienced when I took a lucid look at the conundrum of crowds.

If you ever travel on the train during the morning peak hours and it suddenly comes to a sudden halt, you may notice something like this:

There was once, when I was in such a situation when I encountered the train reaching an unexpected stop between two stations and I began to see that my fellow commuters temperament began changing as the minutes passed by. Just minutes prior, the same individuals were drenched in their smartphones and now I could detect disappointment among every one of them which was targetted towards getting the train to begin running once more.

That is just one of my personal experiences when I saw a crowd forming.

A fault in a track point disrupted rush-hour services on the East-West Line on Sep 19, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

A fault in a track point disrupted rush-hour services on the East-West Line on Sep 19, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

A crowd does not require to have many individuals. It happens when a gathering of individuals have a similar aim which is more prominent than the amount of their individual parts. At that time, you will see that they will set aside their differences and every one of them enjoy the same standing inside the group.

While writing this post, I began to ponder where do crowds come from? Even before people started living in enormous cities with a huge number of individuals, forming crowds have always been profoundly rooted in human association from the beginning of time.

Then, I took a look at every one of the great religions of the world, I understood this in a much better light. Take Islam. As a Muslim, we gather five times on a daily basis for our prayers in small groups. On Friday, our gatherings consolidate to shape an immense group. The group likewise assumes a significant part in Hajj, the great pilgrimage to Mecca. Once there, the crowd of pilgrims is equal and united in its pursuit of worship and rounding the sacred Kaaba.

What’s more, if we are to look at nations, we will discover something comparable. Nations are crowds that individuals identify with through the crowd’s symbols.

To have a place within a nation is to be part of a unit that goes beyonds an individuals identity. Its members feel themselves to be equals and continually try to grow and expand. Since a country is not a literal crowd of people, images become key to the manner in which individuals connect with this apparent crowd.

When I looked within as a Pakistani, I saw symbols around me too that are related to the struggle of the Muslim League for a separate Muslim state in the Indian Subcontinent. To identify with this struggle, a prominent tower was constructed in Lahore.

The Minar-e-Pakistan or Tower of Pakistan is a 60 metre tall concrete minaret in Iqbal Park in Lahore. The Minar was built on the site where the Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution, demanding the creation of Pakistan. Pakistan now celebrates this day as a national holiday each year under the name of Pakistan Day which is also the day in 1956 when the country became the first Islamic Republic in the world.

And every nation, has its own crowd symbols. For the French, it’s revolution, for the Dutch, dikes and for the Spanish, the image of the matador.

To close on what I learnt and experienced about our collective behaviour with regards to crowds, mankind’s history is defined by the groups we as people enter and the aims we pursue once we are in these groups. From ancient hunting packs to mass religious gatherings and the modern nation state, our experience of the world has consistently been dictated by our participation in large crowds.

Thanks for reading,

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