Seneca, on consorting with the crowd

“To consort with the crowd is harmful; there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith. Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger.”

Seneca (2014-10-23). Letters From A Stoic: Epistulae Morales AD Lucilium (Illustrated. Newly revised text.


A favorite topic of mine. The crowd. It’s interesting how morals and reason are often thrown to the wind when we sign on with a crowd in support of some system of beliefs or ideals which would easily fall apart under the scrutiny of common sense or simple reason. We frequently see this in the political arena. Really, in any political environment, from work to family to government – groupthink is highly contagious, not necessarily dangerous, though often so, eg. Hitler and his nationalism (Nazism). And yes, I do bring up Hitler even though many would suggest referencing his rise to power is an overused gesture and shows a lack of effort on my part to dig deeper into this topic. But I am wont to never set such tragic history aside, especially in regards to the current American political climate where history seems to be repeating itself, where a large number of people are indeed forgoing reason and fundamental human decency to fall in stead with a crowd that has become enamored of a charismatic personality that is absent of any substance, with the power to make real a set of vague ideals through the use of emotionally-laden language meant to inspire the masses by triggering a kind of primeval, reptilian-brained anger.

Why is this the case, that we would forgo our own beliefs, our own ability to reason, to fall in with the crowd? To do that question justice would take pages upon pages, and I’d prefer to keep these quote responses as short and sweet as possible. A proper response, however, is coming – it’s my current area of exploration.

With all of that said, I will always prefer the company of individuals, not so much that of people. I will never give up my own ability to reason to allow another to do my reasoning for me. I will accept input and listen compassionately, I’m not an asshole, but ultimately, it is I who must determine the rightness or wrongness of a thing.

John

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