[…] By the mere fact that he forms part of an organised crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilisation. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian — that is, a creature acting by instinct.
– Le Bon, G. (1895). The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind
Only as individuals we are human – this is how I prefer to read Le Bon’s words. It’s a soft interpretation that also allows for an optimistic corollary: the group has the potential to give the individual a super-human capacity. There is, however, two sine qua non conditions: first, the individual should be capable of thinking; second the individual should be prepared to change their own thoughts.
Thinking is a lonely business that only truly happens when we are free from the shackles of the group. Only the Individual thinks and only the thinking Individual has an opinion. Opinions, however, will have more strength if the group finds in them a meaning. The group is also responsible for challenging opinions and finding new meanings.
Possibly this is what is missing in today’s democracies: we want to think in group what we cannot think individually.
(Note: this post was initially published in Portuguese in http://www.150palavras.blogspot.com)