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Modern education has taught us to embrace individuality and avoid conformity. Each are us are born unique and should therefore forge our own paths. However, the power of crowd cannot be underestimated.
At the time of writing this article, the Hong Kong protests has been raging on for 13 weeks now. Both sides have accused each other of violence and misdoings which both sides vehemently denies. So who is right?
They might both be right.
There is strength when protestors head out into a protest knowing that they are not alone. One feels afraid if they are alone but to walk into a big crowd gives a warm fuzzy feeling and that when everyone is fighting for the same cause, they cannot be wrong together. The same is true for other side of the fence with the police defending the constitution and public facilities.
However, now that the crowd is perceived as a group, any individual action becomes the collective responsibility of the entire group.
An arsonist who happens to be in the protest group sets something on fire? The entire peaceful protest goes haywire.
A frustrated policeman who had a bad day takes it out on protestor? The entire police force is seen as violent.
A lot of goodwill may have been given on both sides but it is often that lowest denominator of their actions that will be remembered and casted as the image of the entire group.
The escalation by individuals within the group grows out of proportion from what it is meant to be. A single protester might have started throwing eggs at the police officers to insult them. The next protestor thought since eggs are fine, he starts to throw plastic bottles or big plastic objects which might cause some pain but not hurt. The next one who comes along raises the bar and starts throwing bricks which will hurt the officers but not kill them. Finally, someone decides that a molotov cocktail is something the officers deserve. From an egg to a molotov cocktail, small little incremental steps from insult to extreme violence.
So any individual who partakes in the crowd have to accept responsibility that is was their own individual decision to be in the crowd and now seen as part of the big behaviour. You need to have both together or drop it both together and there is no way to shirk the collective group responsibility when you are part of the crowd.
Crowds are stupid, it does not have a brain and is unable to think for itself.