Chapter 20: Crime: A Crowd Psychology
Let me repeat Kahlil Gibran and show you how he goes on, being a Gautam Buddha, missing again and again. I don’t feel sad and sorry for everybody, but Kahlil Gibran has the potential, and is unaware of it. He says:
It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind that you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.
The truth is, it is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind that you, alone - absolutely alone - for the first time know what virtue is.
Man has never committed crimes unto others and unto himself in his absolute aloneness. He commits crimes in the crowd, with the crowd, because in the crowd and with the crowd he does not feel responsible for what he is doing. He is simply a cog in the machine. He can easily say, “I was doing something which was being done by everybody else.”
In India, almost every day somewhere or other there are riots amongst Hindus and Mohammedans, Jainas and Mohammedans. I used to live in a city which was famous only for its riots. A small excuse and the whole city was on fire, because the city was almost balanced in population between Mohammedans and Hindus. And small and stupid things, which are thought to be religious, spiritual.
For example, if you - with your music, your drums, your songs, your flutes - pass a Mohammedan mosque and don’t stop your music, it is enough to kill hundreds of people, to burn dozens of houses.
And the first victim of all these riots is the woman. She is raped, taken away. And Hindus cannot accept a woman who has been raped by a Mohammedan. Even if he has not raped her but the woman has stayed in the house of a Mohammedan just for one night, that’s enough for the primitive Hindu mind to condemn her. She has lost her soul, her spirituality. She cannot be accepted.
I was watching these riots for almost twenty years continuously, and I was wondering - nice, beautiful, very loving people, how do they suddenly change? Just a rumor is enough, and killing and murder and violence start.
In the university, one of the professors, a very nice, loving human being - when I saw him setting fire to a Hindu temple I could not resist the temptation to ask him. After the riots were over and the curfew was withdrawn, I said, “I could have believed anybody to be so ugly and violent, but not you. I want to ask a few questions: one is could you, alone, burn a Hindu temple, which has not harmed you or anybody?”
He said, “Why are you asking this?”
I said, “I want to understand the psychology of crime.”