Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who let the beast out?

I'm a story junkie. Infact we all are. Any significant incident, and you can trace it back to some familiar story, novel, movie where something similar could've happened. There's a novel about armageddon, wherein a scientist discovers a faraway star that's speeding towards earth on a collision course. He tries to transfer this vital information to the concerned authorities without letting the general public know about it. But somehow the news leaks out, and as the government tries to find measures to deflect the star and save our planet, mayhem breaks out. The media portrays this future event as the end of the world and civilization. People go berseck. All morality and fear is lost as the beast hidden inside man comes out. If we're going to die tomorrow, why care about anything, any consequences, any guilt or any hell-heaven? It's a bizzare story but absolutely feasible. Completely normal, healthy people can go mad and they have done it.

Last week, when Dr. rajkumar, the popular kannada movie hero passed away at 78, the way people behaved brought this story into memory. The beast had come out and there was going to be no control over it. Six people including a policeman died in the mayhem and several others were injured. Life came to a standstill in otherwise unsympathetic, carefree Bangalore. The visual media showed live pictures of the mob clashing with the police, pelting stones at a policevan and attacking a police constable who was trying to escape the stones.

It was not the end of the world when rajkumar died but what prompted these people to go berseck is still unknown. Maybe the mob needs a reason, however trivial it may be, to forget all the learnt ways of civic behaviour and go back to its primitive roots. Such extreme behaviour was visible even some 15 years ago when, Rajkumar was at his peak and anything said against him wasn't tolerated by his ardent fans.

Maybe the beast is hidden within all of us and is only waiting for an opportunity to emerge out. It needs a slight prompting, ---religion, caste, hero-worship, nationality, etc provide that impetus for the beast to emerge. I can take care of the animal inside me and ensure that under no circumstance does this negative energy come out. But if the same is happening with the other person, with a mob in the streets, what can I do? Or what can we, as commoners do about it?


  1. I'm glad you posted about this incident. I heard about it on UK news, and wondered if it had an impact on your everyday life, and what was behind the story. Thanks.

  2. That’s a frightening situation when the death of a movie star can create such chaos. Years ago I read some sociologist’s study of what he called “mobthink.” One of the factors he noted was that in many of the riots and mob-violence instances that he studied was that a large number of the people joined in without any awareness of what the disturbance was about. That is truly alarming.

  3. This is indeed a worrying incident.A death of a movie star?I can understand fanaticsm in religion.According to me such behaviour stems from frustration in the general public.These frustrations can be due to any cause.If one needs to control such antisocial behaviour one needs to get to the root of cause of it.I doubt it is the mere death of a single person that could create such mayhem.I think its about losing a role model,an inconspicuous support system that bring out the insecure us.

  4. val...i wish i could write more about this incident as well as the persona and contradictions of Rajkumar. Maybe sometime later.

    Nick...I think your idea of Mobthink is accurate. Have seen it firsthand.

    Edu... People need a reason to become free from all bonds of morality. NOt everone but most would just rejoice if today, all morality is lost and everyone is given a free hand to do anything. Sounds cynical but i strongly feel so. We're still far away from living in a society where there's no need of any police or judicial system.

  5. I have no answer for your question.....
    mob behaviour is so unpredicted that even if we the sane ones are trapped in it wuold be a tough battling the temptations....

    dont know...

  6. Ash.....It is at times like these that we realise how helpless and tiny we are. If a mob doesn't think twice about attacking the police and killing them, what can we, the ordinary people do?