Nov 30, 2009

The Crowd - The Individual

"The crowd" is really what I have aimed at polemically, and that I have learned from Socrates. I want to make men aware so that they do not waste and squander their lives. The aristocrats take for granted that there is always a whole mass of men who go to waste. But they remain silent about it, live secluded, and act as if these many, many human beings did not exist at all. This is the wickedness of the aristocrats' exclusiveness — that in order to have an easy life themselves they do not even make people aware.

That is not what I want. I want to make the crowd aware of their own ruin, and if they are unwilling to respond to the good, then I will constrain them with evil. Understand me — or do not misunderstand me. I do not intend to strike them (alas, one cannot strike the crowd) — no, I will constrain them to strike me. Thus I will still be constraining them with evil. For if they strike me first — they will surely become aware — and if they kill me — then they will become unconditionally aware, and I will have won absolute victory. In that respect my constitution is thoroughly dialectical. Already there are many who say, "What does anyone care about Magister Kierkegaard? I'll show him." Ah, but showing me that they do not care about me or taking the trouble to get me to realise that they do not care about me is still dependence. It will work out just that way if one simply has enough ataraxy. They show me respect precisely by showing me that they do not respect me.

Men are not so corrupt that they actually desire evil, but they are blind and really do not know what they are doing. Everything centers on drawing them out into the area of decision. A child can be somewhat unruly toward his father for a long time, but if the father can only get the child to make a real attack, the child is far closer to being saved. The revolt of the "masses" is victorious if we step aside for it so that it never comes to know what it is doing. The crowd is not essentially reflective; therefore, if it puts a man to death, it is eo ipso brought to a stop, becomes aware, and deliberates.

The reformer who, as they say, fights a power (a pope, an emperor, in short, an individual man) has to bring about the downfall of the mighty one; but he who with justice alone confronts "the crowd", from which comes all corruption, must see to it that he himself falls.

— Kierkegaard, 1847