THE RENEGADE WHO WROTE "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds"
“We're the renegades we're the people
With our own philosophies
We change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me”
RENEGADES OF FUNK – Lyrics by Zac de la Rocha from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Like the brilliant rapper and philosopher says above, there are many people throughout our history who have changed and evolved human thought processes over our long history. Right now, I have become fascinated with a book written in the 19th Century called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by George Mackey. Even though there is some outdated material in the book due to the time period it was written (1841), there are quotes inside this book that are incredibly insightful in the same way that Thoreau’s Walden written in 1854 still holds up. Here are some quotes from this book that may give you some insight on our present-day circumstances (The insightfulness of this book makes you wonder if we have been “devolving” over the past 180 years). All quotes are attributable to George Mackey.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”
“In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”
“Three causes especially have excited the discontent of mankind; and, by impelling us to seek remedies for the irremediable, have bewildered us in a maze of madness and error. These are death, toil, and the ignorance of the future..”
“Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers with impunity. Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later.”
“The dangerous practice of stockjobbing would divert the genius of the nation from trade and industry. It would hold out a dangerous lure to decoy the unwary to their ruin, by making them part with the earnings of their labor for a prospect of imaginary wealth.”
Five amazing quotes ranging from the dangers of mob thinking, insanity, the follies of nations and governments and my personal favorite, the dangers of a society worshipping short term profits while sacrificing long term economic stability. Reading the incredible perceptions of this author who has been dead for well over 100 years, you can see the repetition of history. You can see the errors in our supposed evolved present-day logic and the fact that history often does repeat itself. The purpose of this 19th Century book was to learn why people in large groups were susceptible to believing in false truths since there was an epidemic in this type of 'magical' thinking during the early to mid-19th Century. If you look at present day conservative and liberal individuals, can you really argue in this time of ‘cancel culture’, death threats against video game developers and beliefs in disproven and violent authoritarian political ideologies, that we are better than the society described in Mackey’s book?
I will leave you on a final note. A quote from a publication written by The Cheka in 1919, the first Soviet secret police. When you look at any country’s past (Which is filled with violence and repression no matter what country you live in) through a cynical and negative lens, you can often fail to appreciate the things in life that you have. Don’t these quotes sound incredibly similar to the worst ramblings of the conservative and liberal movements?
“We reject the old systems of morality and ‘humanity’ invented by the bourgeoisie to oppress and exploit the ‘lower classes.’ Our morality has no precedent, and our humanity is absolute because it rests on a new ideal. Our aim is to destroy all forms of oppression and violence. To so, everything is permitted, for we are the first to raise the sword not to oppress races and reduce them to slavery, but to liberate humanity from its shackles … Blood? Let blood flow like water! Let bloodstain forever the black pirate’s flag flown by the bourgeoisie, and let our flag be blood-red forever! For only through the death of the old world can we liberate ourselves from the return of those jackals.”
Did they ever deliver on this threat!
More on this topic in the near future! Have a great week.
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