My fascination with depravity started when I watched mob killings in Western and Central Africa. I was stationed there with Army units for a while.
I thought your account had the "ring of truth" to it. I respect your experience a great deal.
There is usually some reason for the crowd to gather - a killing, a theft, an enemy, etc.
Yes, most people would rather sit on their butts than go to the trouble to do something, whether "something" is building a warp drive or lynching a bothersome nigger.
It doesn't really matter what the original reason, the crowd almost always moves towards killing the victim.
It's the path of least resistance, once movement itself has been initiated.
And it isn't that the mob loses control of itself - rather, it is about 5 people, usually men who seem to be in control of everything, and call for knives, and petrol or nails to torture the thief/murderer/enemy.
Yes, these would figure into Wilson's theories in two ways. First of all, most people are sheep and won't be bothered to lynch the bothersome interloper unless someone spurs them into action. Wilson provides several interesting anecdotes suggesting that about 5% of humans are naturally dominant, and will tend to take control of any unusual situation. Taken in context with our nearest animal relatives, this is perfectly believable.
In another vein, any violent person (and I would think this always applies in the lynch-mob situation) may be acting as a "Right Man." Wilson characterizes this kind of action as "the decision to be out of control." You should really read the book; it's a bit loopy in some ways but Wilson spent a lifetime writing true crime accounts, and ACHOM is his attempt to frame a coherent set of rules by which violence comes to pass from the many accounts in which he's immersed himself.
Contrary to your assertion, the mob is out of control; by the time the noose is hung any individual member of the mob who recants and suggests altering the mob's course runs a real risk of ending up with a noose of his own. This even applies to the "Right Men" who whipped the mob up.
Now, what does desperation have to do with this? Look at places where everybody is well fed and content. You don't hear of such mobs in small swiss villages, do you?`
As a matter of fact, the mobs who lynched bothersome niggers in my neck of the woods not that long ago were made up of people who were well-fed, content, and at the top of their own local social order. It was a perceived threat to that order that instigated those mobs, but the threat was neither immediate nor very real.
The psychology of people en masse is very different from that of individuals. It's certainly true that a lot of individuals will get off on cruelty; where I differ is your implication that this is universal and inevitable. Most of the participants in a mob are in a state Wilson would liken to hypnosis; they are not really thinking about what they are doing. Once the mob is formed there is really nobody in charge, not even the men who rounded up the miscreants and called for the petrol. It's amazing and frightening and awe-inspiring that humans can be fomented into such an uncontrollable force, but their participation doesn't really have much to do with what happens in "Real Life." A lot of those lynching picnickers will go back to their squeamish vegetarian ways when the circus is over. A lot of them won't even remember being there, and most won't remember what happened accurately, because the event is so contrary to their sense of self.
When people suffer, they want others to suffer also. A man who has starved all his life is more likely to want to starve people as punishment.
I don't think there is actually a connection. You happen to have seen cruelty in this context, but the account cited by Wilson was perpetrated by someone at the top of his society's heirarchy. Read the accounts of both the awful slayings and unaccountable last-minute reprieves by Genghis Khan.
Desperation can spur violence, but boredom is much more likely to do so. And some men find the other path even when all forces point toward violence. Humans are capable of great cruelty, but we are also capable of rising above ourselves.
Other highly evolved empathetic creatures are capable of cruelty; if you've had any experience with cats, you cannot fail to agree. But unlike cats we are capable of doing better. Our programming may have a default, but it is not fixed. And in that there is some hope for us.
I can haz blog!
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