A crowd of people behaves differently from a single person. I have been in crowds before and I know that the collective behavior of a crowd depends on the situation at hand. I find that what a crowd does also depend largely on the leader, or leaders, of the crowd.
In an ordered crowd of people, like that in a school assembly, their behavior is predictable. Nobody does anything contrary to established rules. In such an assembly everyone, Well almost everyone behaves exactly as expected. We sing the required School Song, National Anthem, State Anthem and listen to the speeches and announcements by the teachers. Sometimes, as if to lift the boredom: someone might faint and that will be a welcome distraction to the dull proceedings.
Then there are crowds who are merely onlookers. This type of crowd gathers whenever an accident occurs on the road. I remember one occasion when I was one of the witnesses to an accident involving two motorcycles. These motorcycles had somehow collided and one of the riders was lying on the road with a bloody face. He was conscious but seemed to be in shock. A crowd gathered quickly Most of the people just stood there staring at the unfortunate man. Only one man, who was the rider of the other motorcycle, tried to help the injured man. The rest of us seemed to be in shock too. The sight of blood rooted me to the ground. I wanted to do something but did not know what to do. So I just stood and stared with the others.
After what seemed an eternity, a man pushed his way through the crowd to the victim. This man commanded respect. He was a natural leader. After checking the victim for a moment he ordered the crowd to disperse. The authority in his voice was clear. We dispersed and left the leader to flag down a passing car to send the injured man to the hospital. I felt that 6 could have done something, but I was too late. Somebody else had done it already.
Finally, there is a type of crowd that nobody in his right mind would condone, this crowd is more appropriately known as a mob. A mob is a group of people who have forgotten the law and are bent on doing something terrible and stupid.
There was a time when I was a member of a mob. It all happened one evening when the sun had just set. I was watching television when I heard a commotion outside my house. On investigating I realized that my neighbors had caught a burglar. From snatches of conversation, I gathered that this burglar was found to be inside one of my neighbor’s house a few hundred meters away. When the occupant surprised the burglar in the house, the burglar ran out of the house. He was chased by other neighbors and was eventually caught just outside my house.
This burglar was a young man. He wore no shoes and his general appearance was slovenly. On top of that one of my neighbors kept on kicking him while he was being held by another neighboUr. Temper was high and everybody was worked up. Somebody suggested that we should bash him up. In the heat of the situation, nobody objected. I too wanted to join in, not realizing that we might harm the now defenseless man, I was too intoxicated by power and bloodlust to even think properly. Such was the mood of the mob.
Fortunately for the burglar, and us, my father came out of the house and demanded in a loud voice what the commotion was all about. My father was a big man and was much respected by all. When he discovered what we were about to do, he immediately scolded us and told us all to go home and leave the burglar with him. Nobody argued. The mood was broken. A wise leader had defused a potentially fatal situation.
Later on, my father handed the burglar over to the police and told me never to get myself involved with a mob ever again. I understood him very well. I could very well have committed a criminal act because I let the mob rule my emotions.