Human history is full of mass psychosis. We are initiated in a mythical environment which is still in our veins and manifests from time to time. The only difference today is the global mass media, instant mobile communications, the internet and social media, writes Kancho Stoychev, President of the Gallup International Association
Yesterday, 3,287 people died in car accidents across the world. And 15 times that number were seriously injured, many of them handicapped for life.
Today it’s the same. And tomorrow it will be the same.
Facts, simple statistics. Terrifying. But nobody is terrified. Nobody is closing schools, cities, borders... Nobody is banning the cars.
Yesterday, about 100 people across the world died because of a new virus. Maybe. Not that they “died maybe” – because, sorry, dying “maybe” is not yet possible. But the cause of the death is “maybe,” because most of those people were both quite old and significantly ill due to various diseases.
Schools are closing, events are postponed, megacities are blocked, normal life is cancelled...
Billions are terrified.
Human history is full of mass psychosis. We are initiated in a mythical environment which is still in our veins and manifests from time to time. The only difference today is the global mass media, instant mobile communications, the internet and social media.
The mechanism of mass psychosis is well studied and described. Basically, it’s about a synchronisation of beliefs, fears and expectations.
In their normal day-to-day lives, people look like quite different, individualised, unique. And in fact they are. In every society there are different waves of synchronisation, but they are usually localized in both regional, cultural and social class terms. And the element of a fear is always present – whether in a hidden or explicit way. Most typically, it’s provoked by a high level of uncertainty.
Because the essence of so-called public opinion is always some sanction. And when it comes to life and death fears, these sanctions are maximising.
The second half is a similar process among the different powers in every society and on the global stage. Panicked masses led by panicked elites – the result is similar to resonance in physics: the amplitude is increasing significantly.
Which at the end of the day, usually leads to irrational behaviour and further damage.
Panic is always the worst response to a real or not-so-real problem because it significantly aggravates the situation and provokes massive collateral damage. And it’s a common illusion that a centralised power or an authoritarian regime is better-positioned to deal with it. The synchronisation of the fears of the power elites is much more difficult in a democratic society and never becomes absolute, which is a warrantee which keeps rationality alive.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 is a danger and requires serious action, which are indeed being taken. But we should realise that the bigger danger and enemy is the irrationality which we humans carry in our genes. It’s normal to panic when faced with danger, but it’s dangerous to normalise the panic. Keep calm and carry on is not enough, but is a precondition for effective and rational action in a crisis environment.