The 'Legitimate' Crowd

What legitimises an act for an individual is if its part of social behaviour. For example, a child who finds it normal to beat another may have either experienced or witnessed violence in the family. And such violence may have been used so often that it may seem as if its use is legitimate. Many of India's institutional problems arise from practices having survived generations only because there's crowd (read social) legitimacy backing up.

Social Behaviour by default means its general behaviour. Meaning the majority engage in it. The interesting point to note in such settings is what happens to fence-sitters who aren't quite sure of how they must behave. What the undecideds generally tend to do is follow majority (general) behaviour. A 'general' public engaging in certain behaviour paves way, and provides direction to those who are trying to make up their mind. In fact it will indeed be rare occurrence if the undecideds go against what is general behaviour. Remember, in Rome its exhorted 'we do as the Romans do'.

Take the Anna Hazare movement for example. What's dangerous about this movement is its effect on fence-sitting citizenry. It almost seems as if most people have come to believe the fasting route to legislation is perfectly legitimate. The fact it isn't is lost, drowned by a 'legitimate' crowd. Now consumption behaviour too runs on the same lines. General consumption behaviour has a legitimacy to it. If most sport sneakers, maybe I must too. If its hookah along with coffee that's in vogue, I probably should be doing the combination. Its the rare consumer who decides to the contrary.

Crowds somehow seem legitimate. Its a pity they can ruin us. Its again a pity they can decide for us our ways of consumption.


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