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Group and Individual Thinking: Mob Psychology Essay

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Updated: Dec 5th, 2021

Introduction

I recently added a new phrase to my precious list of big words: mob psychology. This particular new phrase has a special significance to me, since I happen to have experienced it first hand. And having done so, I concur with everything ever written about mob psychology. It is evil. It is retrogressive. It can tarnish your personality for life. It reads off a script from hell. And it can happen to anyone.

Background

A year ago, I had some pretty intriguing friends. These friends cared nothing about formal education. According to them, the world out there has all the lessons that one needs in this life. And so they used to live a carefree life, bound only by the rules of survival. Surprisingly, they came from quite affluent families, and their parents should have given them a better perspective on life. But as it happened, their parents had their hands full with marital disagreements or career commitments or just total indifference.

One of those friends in particular was a real fiend. Jack’s favorite pastime was causing as much misery as possible. If you saw his eyes glistening with joy, someone nearby must be suffering. At first, his unique take on the world had me at a loss. But with time, and prodded on by his “disciples”, I slowly assimilated his opinions and perspectives on life. A favorite saying of his was that rules were made to be broken or at least bent. It became my favorite saying too. A day spent within the boundaries of normal rules became inconceivable.

Day of reckoning

One day, we went a bit too far. The day started just like any other: with a splitting hangover. After nursing our wayward heads back to normal, we charted out the activities for the day. There were innocent people to hurt, little puppies to kick around, and little children to bully. At the end of it all, there were all sorts of mysterious drinks to put in our systems. A perfect day hence. With Jack as the leader, we set off to accomplish the day’s goals.

Trouble began brewing very early on that particular day. Jack snatched a purse from an old lady and began to run away. We all took off after him. Three seconds later, two Alsatian hounds were on to us. We hadn’t seen them before, but obviously they must have been lurking around the old lady. At the sight of the hounds, our excitement turned into terror, and survival took on a whole different meaning. Down the street we all sprinted, our breaths coming fast and hard, and adrenaline pumping everywhere.

I realized one thing almost immediately. I was at a clear disadvantage. My buddies had torpedoes somewhere around their feet. In no time at all, I was lagging behind everybody else, and could soon imagine the Alsatians sniffing at my heels. This picture gave me some added stamina, and I gunned down after my buddies. But not for long. An object on the street soon brought me down in a resounding crash.

For several moments, I blacked out. When I came to, I was flat on the street. When I tried to lift my head, pain shot up from everywhere, and several colored lights appeared in my vision. The lights may have been imaginary, but the dog staring at my nose wasn’t. I snapped into a sitting position, terror flooding my system again. An Alsatian was taking an unhealthy interest in my leg, while the other breathed down on my left ear. To make matters worse, a small crowd was starting to gather around. The Alsatians were clearly waiting for a command from their owner. I dared not move a muscle.

After what seemed like an eternity, I heard a sharp command, and the hounds backed off. Turning around, I came face to face with the old lady. She was staring at me, an unreadable expression written on her face. In the background, I saw Jack and the other buddies being bundled into a police car. I came to learn much later that my buddies had had the misfortune of running straight into a blind alley. But at that time, the old lady was just staring at me.

I also stared at my body for the first time. I noticed the torn shirt, turning crimson from my breeding nose. The knuckles on my left hand were peeled, and blood from them mixed with the dust around. My trousers were also torn at the knees, and were barely recognizable under the layer of grime. I was missing one shoe and, incredibly, even the sock for that foot was lost. From my once-over, I knew exactly what I looked like: a native street urchin.

During those interminable moments before the old lady did anything decisive, I thought about my situation. The implications hit me like a thunderbolt: that from a relatively respectable kid, I had, in one stroke, descended right down to the dregs of society. No longer could I hold my head up in the society, even if I got off on a light penalty. I had just lost an image that had taken me years to build. I resolved right there and then that, whatever happened, I would strive to change my ways.

Redemption

The old lady must have been reading my thoughts. With nothing more than the cool, inscrutable gaze, she called her Alsatians to her side, and began to walk away. As if on cue, all the other people who had gathered around me also dispersed. At long last, I stood up on shaky feet, shook what dust could come off my clothes, and walked homewards. Luckily, my parents were not yet there. I got a bath ready and scrubbed myself sore.

Conclusion

Since then, I’ve frowned upon group thinking. I have come to value the process of thinking as an individual. Although peer pressure is still a real force in my life, I at least try to put everything in perspective before giving in. The costs of allowing myself to be led by a peer are too stiff for me. Jack and the other buddies are still paying for their misdemeanors. Hence I may have turned into a loner somewhat, but at least I’m not out there in the streets, denying my very existence as an intelligent human.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Group and Individual Thinking: Mob Psychology." December 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/group-and-individual-thinking-mob-psychology/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Group and Individual Thinking: Mob Psychology'. 5 December.

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