Our social status is a reversion to savagery of the most degenerate type, an atavistic lapse towards the paleolithic and neolithic man, only more brutal, because of the greater power for evil possessed by modern man. What Hun or Vandal ever dreamt of such colossal destruction! Over three hundred billions wasted by war and depredation, about seventeen to twenty million men lost by slaughter and disease! The fame of God's scourges, Attila, Jenghiz Khan, Batu, and Tamerlane pales and fades before the glories of modern warfare. In a few years Kultur and culture have caused more ruin to humanity than all the invasions of the yellow peril in the history of mankind.
Some future historian in describing and estimating our times will place us below the moral level of the Bushmen, the Hottentots, the Todas, and the Australian savages. He may say: "Towards the end of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century there took place a vast accumulation of wealth, due to a rapid development of applied science and practical arts. Instead, however, of improving their condition, European nations deteriorated intellectually and morally.
"Liberal education gave way to technical training. Science served on greed. Education became mechanical and military in character. The thinker gave way to the reporter, the scientist to the mechanic, the artist to the artisan, the genius to the Philistine. Industrial and commercial interests inspired by patriotism and chauvinism became the standard of nations. An insane frenzy of militarism obsessed the minds of men.
"The state enslaved the individual. Blind obedience became a virtue. Drill and discipline trained people into automatism of the subconscious with its abnormal suggestibility and extreme sensitivity to direct and indirect suggestions, intensified by brilliant parades, hypnotizing oratory, and by all the artifices of a militant chauvinistic press. Nations were thrown into a social trance, the subconscious came to the surface, yielded to the noxious suggestions, wriggled in hysterical convulsions of nationalism, became obsessed with the fury of homicidal mania, and plunged into the abyss of the world war with all its horrors and atrocities. Nations boasting of refinement and culture, of great achievements in philosophy and science and of general world 'Kultur' and culture broke treaties, attacked, destroyed, deported, and enslaved whole populations. Women and babes were drowned like rats in the middle of the ocean by sneaking submarines. Zeppelins and aeroplanes showered explosive missiles on defenceless people, on civilian populations. Nations gloried in such brutal acts. Every fiendish deed was greeted with an ever rising wave of patriotic enthusiasm. For such cowardly, inhuman, and diabolical acts, the craven miscreants were decorated and honored as heroes by their alleged superiors. Man could not have fallen to any lower level of vice and depravity.
"The very elements of nature were let loose for the ruin of nations. Man gloried in his fiendish, military, inventive power of depredation and destruction. Science supplied virus, venom, toxins, poison, gas, rifles, cannons, tanks, and long range guns. Hell was let loose on earth. Professors of philosophy and science carrying high the patriotic banner of Kultur and culture gloried in the system of compulsory, universal, military service, first made in Germany exulted in the degrading, vicious process of training by which the individual is hypnotized into submission to a brutal organization of military junkers, hallowed by the name of state and Fatherland, it was the darkest period in the history of mankind. Man was crazed with the lust of blood, frenzied with rapine and murder."
Such are the terrible consequences when in fear of invasion the subconscious becomes awakened to its irrational defence by the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct, the prestige of the gregarious aggregate, the overwhelming awe and terror of the herd, mob, community, the loss of individuality in the mob and the crowd, along with the conditions favorable to a dissociation of the upper, reflective self from the suggestible, automatic, reflex subconsciousness go to form the main sources of all mental epidemics, scourges, plagues, panics, frenzies, and manias, political, religious, and military. With the increase in mass of the human aggregate the mob-energy grows like the momentum of an avalanche in its downward course. Witness the overwhelming migratory obsession of swarming multitudes of hordes of barbarians, an obsession akin to the uncontrollable, migratory instinct of birds, or of buffaloes, an obsession which has seized periodically on barbaric tribes, such as the migrations of Semites, Aryans in the early dawn of history, the Lust-Wanderung of Celts, Goths, Normans, and Germans, Huns, Mongols, Tartars in the early ages of our era; the flood of Arabs, obsessed with a fervor of military, religious mania; the Crusades of medićval European humanity, rolling waves after waves of crusaders in a fury of religious, delusional excitement, forcing their way towards the entrancing object, the grave of the Savior in Jerusalem; the bloody religious wars of the Reformation; the political revolutions in England and France with the terrible excesses of mob-rule; the mob spirit running riot in economical crisis, financial bubbles, industrial panics, religious revivals; Napoleonic wars; the recent exaltant, social mania of empire-building and world-dominion, infected by the most virulent or pestilential germs of triumphant militaristic nationalism which first seized on the imperial aggregates of Central Germanic tribes, and spread like a virulent miasma to other nations, wafting its poisonous emanations across land and oceans, culminating in the worst world-epidemic,—the so called world-war.
The central and centralized, imperial governments, guided by the big interests of the country, induced in their unfortunate subjects this last pestilential epidemic of military mania by means of a persistent course of direct and indirect suggestion in which the conditions of normal and abnormal suggestibility were specially emphasized, laying bare the social subconscious, stimulating in it the fear of invasion and attack by neighboring nations, stirring up the impulse of self-preservation, rousing the entranced, hypnotized mind of the populace to a frenzy of self-defense, while the junkers, the officers, the soldiers, the professors, the journalists of the middle-classes were entranced with beatific visions of world-dominion. Nothing stirs so much to the very depths of its soul the poor, naked, irrational subconscious as self and fear. Nothing is so suggestive, so appealing to the social subconscious a fear and self which alone have the power to set society into intense excitement of maniacal fury.
With the growth of social institutions there is an ever increasing tendency towards formation of rigid rules and regulations for almost every step, for every act in all walks of life. Man's behavior is prescribed for every occasion of life. He is commanded by direct and indirect suggestion what to say and how to say it, what to do and how to do it, what to wear and how to dress, what to eat and drink and what manners to have at the table and in company, he is prescribed what to believe and what to think in fear of social condemnation and eternal damnation. Man is brow-beaten, leashed, muzzled, masked, and lashed by boards and councils, by leagues and societies, by church and state. Man is driven by orders and commands, rules and laws, customs and fashions. Man is crushed under the burden of statutes and terrorized by fear of taboos.
Aristotle takes it for granted that it is absurd and ludicrous to force a person to cure himself. He had no suspicion that many centuries later man will be forced into treatment by benevolent organizations, charity boards, philanthropic societies, hygienic and eugenic societies, boards of health, and municipal councils. In fear of disease and in the interest of his health man will be muzzled and masked like a vicious dog, and that without any murmur of complaint. Breathing freely will become a social offense, punished by fine and by jail in their communities of the free West. With a scanty supply of laws in Hellenic commonwealths or city states what an immense vista for an Aristotle, of that grand, complex, efficient machinery of law, turning out yearly thousands of laws and taboos for the paternalistic control and alleged welfare of the citizen! What a joy to watch our bureaucratic governments piling law on law fit for the wastebasket and the scrap heap! Edicts, ordinances, regulations are issued by the thousands by states, cities, towns, boroughs, organizations, societies, associations, and leagues for all imaginary human ills. Society staggers under the burden of laws and taboos. Individuality is stifled by the endless, massive excretions of its lawgivers. Our lawgivers take special pride in the ever active manufacture of new bills and laws. Recently even the legislators begin to object to the labor involved in the work on the ever growing mass of bills, introduced into the legislature of one state alone. Thus a senator of a western state complained that in one year alone over seventeen hundred bills had to pass through the mill of his legislature. Multiply that figure by the number of states, add the municipal edicts, and the numerous laws turned out by the federal government, and one can form some faint idea of the vast burden laid on the shoulders of the individual citizen. It were well if the legislators were specially instructed by their constituencies that instead of piling bills upon bills and laws upon laws, like Pelion on Ossa, they should repeal as many as they can. At the present stage of "law-mania" the rational legislator would be far more useful if he made up his mind to devote his time and energy to the clearing of the Augean stables of law products. The overproduction of laws is one of the great evils of modern civilization.
In one of the ancient Greek republics he who wished to introduce a new law had to appear before the popular assembly with a rope around his neck rope around his neck, probably as an emblem of the hangman and the criminal. We have hardly made an improvement by shifting the rope to the neck of the helpless citizen. We may possibly be forced to come round to the ancient Greek practice by putting once more the rope round the neck of the legislator,—and tighten it too. Traditions, laws, taboos, statutes, commandments, rules, regulations, ordinances, manners, and fashions, all enacted by an inordinate philanthropic zeal for the good and improvement of society and race, press heavily on individuality and originality, forcing them down into the general mire of mediocrity. The home, the school, the church, the club, business, profession, trade, and union, all insist on strict, correct conformity to standard; all demand authoritatively implicit obedience and submission to rule and regulation.
The individual is so effectively trained by the pressure of taboo, based on self and fear, that he comes to love the yoke that weighs him down to earth. Chained to his bench, like a criminal galley slave, he comes to love his gyves and manacles. The iron collar put around his neck becomes a mark of respectability, an ornament of civilization. Tarde finds that society is based on respect, (respectability I should say), a sort of an alloy of fear and love, fear that is loved. A respectable citizen is he who is fond of his bonds, stocks, and shekels, and comes to love his bonds, stocks and shackles of fears and taboos. In fact, he attacks and fights those who wish to free him from his social, religious, and political fetters. Some criticize justly the militaristic regime with its heavy weight of obedience and strict discipline, pressing on the individual. What is the burden of militarism compared with the endless screw of the socio-static press ceaselessly and pitilessly forcing individuality into the narrow, crooked moulds of social mediocrity and respectable commonplace?
In "The Psychology of Suggestion" I pointed out an important law in Social Psychology, namely, that greatness of individuality is inversely proportional to the mass of the social aggregate. Great genius appeared not in the empire of Assyria, Babylonia, or Persia, but in the small city-states of Greece and Judea. It is not immense modern China that gives great men, but the small states of Chinese feudalism. This Law of Mass versus individuality falls in line with my work on the subconscious and its conditions of dissociation: Limitation of Voluntary Activity, Monotony, and other conditions, requisite for the weakening and final disaggregation of the primary, upper self from the lower, subconscious self leave the latter bereft of control and critical sense.
This law may be modified under conditions in which the individual is given freedom and more scope than in societies hitherto known to us. In this respect we may agree with the great French psychologist, Ribot, who in reviewing my work thinks that the law admits of exceptions. Professor Ross, however, seems to adopt the law without any qualification: "It is perhaps the dwarfing pressure of numbers" he writes "that explains why vast populous societies seem to produce small individualities, whereas little societies permit great men to arise. Compare great homogeneous aggregations, such as Egypt, China, Persia, Babylonia, India, with the diminutive communities of Judea, the Greek city-states, the Italian cities of the Middle Ages, the free towns of mediaeval Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Switzerland."
However the case may be with societies under widely different conditions of development the law of mass and individuality holds true of the social facts known to us. The law is of far greater importance than the psychologist and sociologist are inclined to admit. It is certainly important to remember this law when dealing with social progress. The individual is getting dwarfed and stunted in proportion as the social aggregate is getting larger and more organized. The larger the empire the more dwindles the mind of the citizen. This is especially true of empires formed by conquest in which the individual is reduced by military discipline to the role of an automaton, where the automatic subconscious is alone cultivated and is in direct relation with the external world, with the commands, orders, suggestions given to him by his superiors. Such empires soon crumble, sometimes in the life time of a single generation. The empire of Alexander Macedon, the empire of Charlemagne, the empires of Djenghis Khan and Tamerlane; in modern times the empire of Napoleon, the Russian and Ottoman empires are good illustrations.
The insecurity, the instability of militaristic empires is brought out strongly in aggregates held by force for a few generations: the catastrophe of the empire. The empire falls at one blow, and is gone forever. The Assyrian, the Persian, the Carthaginian in ancient times, the Austrian, the German, the Russian empire in our own times are cases in point. The empires go to pieces, they crumble into dust. From a superficial standpoint it may be said that an empire upheld by the sword perishes by the sword. This, however, is not the full truth. A deeper insight discloses the fact that the spirit of the empire building citizen has been dead long before the final collapse. In fact it is this death of individuality that is the real cause of the fall of the empire.
The fall of the empire is sometimes so sudden and so complete, and the spirit of individuality before its departure is so small and dwarfed, that no spirit is left to transmit the history of the imperial achievements. When a couple of centuries after the fall of the mighty Assyrian empire Xenophon passed the ruins of the once Nineveh the great, the capital of Assyria, the terror of nations, he was unable even to find out its name. Assyria was wiped out from the memory of man as if it had never existed. If it were not for Greek accounts, what would have been left of the great Persian empire, but a few rums and inscriptions on the rock of Behistan? If it were not for modern excavations the very name of Assyria would have been like a dream of the past, long gone and forgotten. What would have been left of the Carthaginian empire, if not for the Greek and Roman historians? Those empires passed away at one single blow, and with the sudden collapse vanished all the glory of imperial power. But long before that fall the real glory had departed,—the glory of the individual. Empires may often look grand and magnificent, but they are built with poor material,—with small men and petty minds. Military aggregates or societies, held together by the sword are doomed to disolution at the moment of their birth. The destruction is not due so much to luxury and effeminacy, as is usually assumed, but to the dwarfing and suppression of the spirit of the free, living individuality which alone constitutes the active nucleus of social life.
With the growth of the social aggregate, social structure and functions become
varied, differentiated, and rigid; social pressure increases, while
individuality and originality are ever on the decrease, sinking to a uniform
level of dead mediocrity and commonplace. There is limitation of the field of
consciousness, limitation of voluntary activity, monotony, routine, and
inhibitions, all growing with the increase of mass, structure, and social
pressure on individual units. With the progressive intensification of these
conditions the personal, uncritical consciousness gets more and more dissociated
from the impersonal, automatic, reflex subconscious, and becomes subject to all
sorts of absurd suggestions. If now some brilliant object fixes the involuntary
attention of the subconscious mind of the social aggregate, the mental energy of
the constituent units, becoming polarized, turning in one direction, develops a
momentum, uncontrollable and overwhelming in its disastrous effects,—the
subconscious self becomes the luckless hysterical actor in all the vulgar farces and horrible tragedies: of historical life.
Society is not a community of living beings only (for the sake of making a living as we would say, for the sake of work and trade), society is a community of equals, aiming at the best life possible for each
individual citizen. . . . Now in man reason is the end after which nature strives, so that the education of the citizen (in a good
community under a good constitution) should be with a view to that end, namely, the cultivation of
the mind, more especially of reason."
In societies of the structural organic type centralization and organization with hypertrophy of structure are above rationalization ane individualization with an ever greater tendency to cleavage of the conscious self from the subconscious self. Roughly classified, civilized structural, organic societies may be theocratic, aristocratic, timocratic and democratic. In theocratic societies, the priests representing the conscious activity, usurp the government, such as in Egypt and India. In aristocratic societies the nobility of birth and wealth, representing the intelligence of the people, assume the role of social control, while the rest of the population are kept in bondage and ignorance. Such conditions are found in many Greek states, in the Roman state, and in the societies of the Middle Ages, as well as in the states of modern Europe before the revolutions, in England, Germany, France, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. In timocratic societies the rich, or propertied classes represent the conscious control, relegating the other classes to the regions of the passive subconscious. In democratic societies of modern times the power is in the hands of the people, really dominated by the middle classes, business men, professionals, labor aristocracy and their leaders who possess control of the masses which form the subconscious strata of social life activities. Thus throughout the forms and history of structural, organic societies there is present a cleavage of the conscious from the subconscious,—the conscious control of classes as against the subconscious activities of the masses.
Classes versus Masses may be characterized as the main cleavage of organic societies. That is why the whole history of humanity which, until our present times presents the evolution of societies, associations, and generally of social aggregates, based on structural organic lines, is full of conflicts of classes and masses. History is full of struggles of the powers of the conscious classes with the subconscious forces of the masses. This massive subconsciousness predominating in the type of organic societies, gives to the society as a whole the psychological tone of the subconsciousness, the character of which is suggestibility, normal and abnormal, subject to the nature, conditions, and laws of subconscious trance states. In other words the plane of cleavage in structural organic societies is along the lines of the conscwus and the subconscwus with consequent dissociation of the two. Hence, the ever present danger of predominance of abnormal suggestibility, and precipitation in a general state of social hypnosis. Social suggestibility and social somnambulism form the main traits of structural, organic societies.
From this standpoint we may well understand why Tarde and many other sociologists lay so much stress on social imitation and even somnambulism as the very nature of society; for imitation is but another term for what may be more fundamentally described as suggestibility.
As a matter of fact when the great sociologist, Tarde, comes to examine more closely the basis of social imitation, he falls back on social hypnotization as the nature of social life. This social hypnotization, as we have found, depends on the stage of the social dissociation of the upper, controlling self from the lower, suggestible, subconscious self, or mass-subconsciousness. "The social, like the hypnotic state" writes Tarde "is only a form of dream (Tarde should rather say trance-state), a dream of command and a dream of action. Both the somnambulist and the social man are possessed by the illusion that their ideas, all of which have been suggested to them, are spontaneous. . . . Because this magnetization (or hypnotization) has become more general or mutual we err in flattering ourselves that we have become less credulous and docile, less imitative than our ancestors. This is a fallacy, and we shall have to rid ourselves of it." Tarde comes to the conclusion that "Society is imitation, and imitation is a kind of somnambulism." There is a good deal of truth in Tarde's view of social life. What Tarde does not realize is the fact that his generalization holds true only of organically constituted societies, but not of all societies, and it is certainly not true of humanistic communities. Tarde's sociological generalization is but part of the truth. The definition of society in terms of hypnotization or somnambulism holds true of societies in which social dissociation is present. In other words, in structural, organic societies there is a weakening, or lack of development, or inhibition of the upper, critical self from the lower suggestible self with the consequent manifestation of subconscious elements and predominance of subconscious activities. In this condition, as we have pointed out, and which cannot be emphasized too much on account of its importance, holds good in most, if not all societies, known to us from history, societies in which the organic, institutional structure of centralization predominated over the freedom of individual activity and the critical independence of personality.