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Crowds and the unconscious mind

02 Apr, 2018 - 00:04 0 Views
Crowds and the unconscious mind Self-deception is a necessary step in crowd formation and is a sine qua non of becoming a crowd. MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa must have studied that and he applies it remarkably

The Herald

Reason Wafawarova on Monday
ABRAHAM Brill spent most of his entire adult life doing psychoanalysis, and he wrote widely on it, and is well respected in the field of psychology in general.

One of the issues he wrote on IS the psychology of the unconscious, borrowing heavily from Sigmund Feud. Today I will dwell a bit on Brill’s psychogenesis of crowds.

There are mental processes by which crowds are formed, mental processes by which people are mobilised to be part of political crowds, faith-based crowds, tribal crowds, crowds of parliamentarians, student activist crowds, and so on and so forth.

In every crowd there are always traits, tendencies and ways of thinking which crowds often so uniformly display. Crowds are unconsciously determined towards a certain goal, and rationale is hardly ever a factor in the way crowds behave.

Slogans, song, dance and chanting are often used to cultivate remarkable blindness of organised crowds. Organised crowds are remarkably blind to the most obvious of their own performances in such a common way that it has become a regular expected thing of them, often elevated to a social norm – yet only acceptable to crowds other than one’s own. One’s own crowd is always the exception, the one guided by principle, truth and common integrity – of course only visible to members of that crowd.

Long and extensive operations can go on for years, yet members will declare such things are not being done. We saw very ugly scenes of violence at the burial of Morgan Tsvangirai a few months ago, and we heard some members of the MDC crowd saying such a thing did not happen, and if it happened, then whoever did it was either an infiltrator from the country’s intelligence services or a member of the rival crowd at Zanu-PF.

This was despite that prior to the burial itself the then Harvest House MDC head office had become a no-go area manned by rowdy ruthless hoodlums claiming to be doing the bidding for Nelson Chamisa; beating up passers-by and barring MDC officials seen as opposed Chamisa from entering the building.

The deceased Morgan Tsvangirai himself had immensely benefited from the brutality of the same thugs and hoodlums during his lifetime as leader of the opposition, with people like Welshman Ncube, David Coltart, Trudy Stevenson, Elton Mangoma, Toendepi Shonhe, among a lot others having either been witnesses to the violence by these thugs or victims themselves. Their testimonies are well documented.

A country will prepare for war, organise its whole life on military basis with tremendous cost and effort like what Israel and the United States do – all the time declaring the only intention is peace, vehemently denying any war like intentions. It will then pick up a quarrel with its neighbours, or with some other country, goes on to accuse the other party of wantonly planning to attack it, goes to war, blames the other country for it all, and kills scores of thousands of innocent people in the process.

American colonists had no declared intention or conscious thought of separating from Great Britain in the decade leading to the Declaration of Independence. Almost to the very last they professed their loyalty to the King. But history now records it well that independence was the motive all along.

Independence for America could not possibly have been achieved more opportunely or with greater finesse if it had been openly planned from the start.

Equally, I have my doubts that Nelson Chamisa’s rise to the leadership of the MDC-T hours after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai could have been achieved more opportunely or with greater finesse if it had been openly declared that all along his intentions were to take over the party from Morgan Tsvangirai. We know that up to the death of Tsvangirai all his three deputies professed loyalty to the man, and Khupe and Chamisa continue to opportunely do so every time they address crowds. They need a rock to stand on.

Biblical history tells us of the children of Israel in bondage in Egypt, and how they simply wished to go for a day or so just to worship their God. All they asked for was religious liberty, it appears. How unjust for the authorities to assume they were planning to run away from their masters!

At the last moment they incidentally borrowed some jewellery from their Egyptian neighbours. Of course, they would return the jewellery or pay it back after the religious holiday. Then the unforeseen happened. It was scandalous. The jewellery was melted and made into an idol. It does not take a psychologist to figure out what the motive for borrowing the jewellery was all along. It is just self-evident.

There are a lot of examples of crowds and evidence of unconscious motivation. It is always important to take notice of crowd behaviour when the crowd spirit comes upon a crowd.

Certain crowds are fascinated with ideas such as democratic freedoms, patriotism or revolutionarism; others claim they are after renewal of generations in leadership, after all sorts of freedoms and forms of happiness and so on and so forth. Unconsciously they often do just exactly what they publicly denounce. They play with and welcome the ideas of violence, dishonesty, class wars and even proletarian dictatorship.

So we hear there is a vanguard youth movement that gets angry on behalf of certain leaders, maim and kill on behalf of those leaders – yet proclaim to be members of a movement that promotes democratic freedoms.

Conservatives among us ostensibly defend liberation legacy values and traditions, and they stand against any destructive foreign influence – yet with their own hands daily desecrate many of the values of the liberation struggle itself; be it justice, freedom, respect for the masses, or self-rule.

Our former president was very articulate on matters of our traditional liberation war values and traditions until his wife and her man friends alienated him from his liberation wartime colleagues – leading to his unfortunate but expected downfall. But even during his time there was nauseating lip service to the nobility of conservative liberation struggle traditions and values.

Members of each crowd, while blissfully unaware of the incompatibility of their own motives and professions have no illusions about the counter-crowd.

So the MDC Alliance have no illusions about the shortcomings in the Zanu-PF camp, and even wonder publicly how any sane person would even ever think of supporting the ruling party. Come a little dissenting voice within the MDC power corridors and dissenters are beaten and knocked down into submission. No one is supposed to wonder why any sane person should ever support such an outfit of thugs like the so-called Vanguard Youths of the MDC.

Each crowd sees in the professions of its antagonist convincing proof of the insincerity and hypocrisy of the other side. Zanu-PF accuses the MDC-T of rank hypocrisy when the party preaches dream development at rallies at a time they are lobbying the Americans to keep economically crippling sanctions in place. On the other hand, the MDC-T says sanctions are a good punishment for their self-serving political rivals in the leadership of the ruling party. Both crowds are right and both are wrong.

All propaganda is lies, every crowd is a deceiver, but its first and worst deception is that of itself. So we see a crowd that criss-crosses the country on a campaign trail with the clearly excited Nelson Chamisa. The campaign propaganda rages on as wild promises are dished out left, right and centre. It is one cheap lie after another backed with unhelpful cheerleading from bussed supporters.

It would be interesting to know what a true Murehwa villager thinks of a Murehwa Tomato Cargo International Airport as promised by Chamisa, or what a Gadzema resident of Chinhoyi thinks of getting to Bulawayo in 35 minutes on a bullet train, or what an ordinary Zimbabwean thinks of Chamisa’s claims that he sits on a Donald Trump promise of $15 billion should he be elected as president of the country.

Self-deception is a necessary step in crowd formation and is a sine qua non of becoming a crowd. Chamisa must have studied that and he applies it remarkably.

It is only necessary for members of a crowd to deceive themselves and one another for the crowd mind to function perfectly. So the crowd in this context must be allowed to chant, “Nelson Chamisa is unstoppable!” For goodness sake the fine gentleman is doing an excellent job of stopping himself. Very soon that will be a lot clearer.

I really doubt if crowds are often successful in deceiving anybody else outside their own realm and ranks.

It was this common crowd phenomenon of self-deception that led Gobineau and Nietzsche to the conclusion that the common people are liars. These two renowned psychologists would probably not agree with the notion “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. To them common people in a crowd are liars, and the devil is the father of lies.

Crowds can be elitist, working class, faith based, lawmakers, or even made up of employers. The deception in crowds is not exactly conscious and deliberate. If people deliberately set about to invent lies to justify their behaviour I have little doubt that someone like Chamisa would be clever enough to conjure up something more plausible than tomato cargo planes flying internationally from villages.

These naïve and threadbare hypocrisies and lies are a commonplace mechanism of the unconscious. Sigmund Freud wrote a lot about such unconscious behaviours. It is interesting to note that the delusions of the paranoiac likewise deceive no one else but himself, yet within themselves form a perfectly logical a priori system.

Crowd delusions are necessary to maintain crowd ideas intact. However, they do not necessarily translate into reality.

One follows Chamisa from Chinhoyi to Gweru, from Gweru to Plumtree, from Plumtree to Tsholotsho, from Tsholotsho to Nzvimbo, and from Nzvimbo to Murehwa and they get so intoxicated with crowd delusions that they begin to see landslide electoral victories everywhere.

They begin to believe that their unstoppable obsession with Chamisa’s rallies is, in fact, a countrywide endorsement of the excitable politician. So they unconsciously start shouting “Nothing can stop Chamisa.” These delusions are necessary to keep Chamisa happy at his rallies, but they hardly deceive anyone else outside the rally crowd.

The people of Zimbabwe vote largely on values and ideology, and there is not much happening in that area at the moment.  Zanu-PF has always been ideologically stronger than its opponents, but it remains to be seen how the current leadership of the party is going to pursue the traditional ideological trajectory in this election. The balance with the neo-liberal approach to investment will be interesting to observe and analyse.

The nation must applaud the new faces of politics in Zimbabwe. We are seeing the contest of ideas and policies for the first time in many years. We had reduced this great nation to the politics of demonisation, slander, malice, name-calling, hate, spite and intimidation.

Now we are faced with a Zanu-PF preaching investment, business and re-engagement on one end, and Chamisa’s MDC Alliance preaching sophistication of cloud cuckoo land proportions upon our villagers on the other.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia

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