I watched one of Chuck Colson’s “Two Minute Warnings” recently, and then went and read an article that was referenced. The article, “Reversing the Decay of London Undone” was published as an Essay in the Wall St. Journal, and it was written by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Lord Sacks is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. So he’s definitely worth listening to is what I’m trying to say. What he said stirred a lot of thought in me so far, here’s a small sampling that I sent to a friend in reply to the article:
We live in such a strange world. It’s amazing how, for me at least, since I was a non-believer up until I was 34 years old, the world used to make “sense” (sort of) in that it didn’t bother me so much. After becoming a Christian, the world bothers me enormously, it’s so foreign now! We truly are, strangers in a strange land, we don’t belong here. The point that Rabbi Sacks makes is that the immorality of the few can dictate to the masses (as in Hitler’s case too). A few, dedicated, fanatical individuals, when operating as a cohesive group, can greatly influence society and cause great harm, or it would be implied, great good.
We have a long ways to go. The most positive thing is probably that the rules don’t really change, it’s just the technology does change, and it’s difficult to keep up with all the “trendiness” of everything in order to be relevant to those who would take advantage otherwise. It’s not that they wouldn’t be moral if it were seen by them as the “best” alternative at any one time. I remember reading in my psychology texts that criminals, bad people, they do bad things because it seems like the best alternative at the time. It’s not a breakdown in morality per se, it’s a conscious choice based on perceived results for any particular action. The best result is always the goal it would seem, so they act, out of self-interest naturally, to effect the best possible outcome.
How does that relate to the “Mob” mentality, and how a mob operates, that is the real question. I’ve always wondered if a mob doesn’t tend to operate at the IQ level of the “lowest” member of the group. In other words, do mobs become stupid because they’re made up mostly of stupid people? In the absence of leadership, it would seem so. But, as in the case of Hitler, we saw something different. I’m not naive enough to think that Hitler was operating on his own agenda, I think positively that he was operating under the “Spirit of antichrist.” But, does that mean that a genius level intelligence like that can take over mobs and woo them and tell them what they want to hear and they’ll do anything the leader then says? Up to a point. Near the end of the war (WWII) when most in the German military realized that the war was long since lost, they still listened to this man and did what he wanted – because their allegiances were still with the group, the idea, and not necessarily to the man any longer. They also were driven by fear, fear for their families mostly, if they didn’t do what Hitler ordered.
It’s just … fascinating stuff to me. There are, of course, a few Preachers out there that catch on to the ideas that you can use your persuasiveness to “lead a mob” to do anything. Some take advantage and use that for personal gain. Others, like Billy Graham, used that power for good, for positive change and led countless thousands to belief in Jesus Christ. There are those of us who wish we had the gift, but are terrified that if we had it we would misuse it. I think that’s probably true for most of us. I guess it’s a sad commentary that we usually see the gift used for destruction and violence as in the case of the riots in London. The few learn how to control the mob and use it to great advantage to themselves.
Our hope is that more would find and use this gift for good, and that we could turn this world around. That, at least is my hope and prayer today.
2015-05-19 Added a PDF of the original WSJ article to my Media Library