This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The tyranny of public opinion

 “In the United States, the majority takes upon itself the task of supplying to the individual a mass of ready-made opinions, thus relieving him of the necessity to take the proper responsibility of arriving at his own.”

~ Alexis de Tocqueville[1]

Here Tocqueville identifies the passivity of the American citizen. The justification for such a claim is provided in the surrounding text, which we will provide at length:

When conditions are unequal and men have dissimilar outlooks, there are a few very enlightened, learned, powerfully intelligent individuals while the masses are very ignorant and extremely limited. People who live under this aristocratic rule are naturally inclined to take as a guide for their opinions the superior reason of one man or one class, whereas they are not persuaded to recognize the infallibility of the masses. In times of equality, the opposite prevails.

Gradually, as citizens become more equal and similar, the inclination for each man to have a blind belief in one particular man or class lessens. The predisposition to believe in mass opinion increases and becomes progressively the opinion which commands the world.

Not only is commonly held opinion the only guide to the reason of the individual in democracies but this opinion has, in these nations, an infinitely greater power than in any other. In times of equality, men have no confidence in each other because of their similarities but this very similarity gives them an almost limitless trust in the judgment of the public as a whole. For it appears likely, in their view, that, since they all have similar ideas, truth will reside with the greatest number…

This very equality which makes him independent of each of his fellow men delivers him alone and defenseless into the hands of the majority.

In democratic nations, the general public possesses an unusual power which aristocracies could not imagine. It does not impose its beliefs by persuasion but inserts them in men’s souls by the immense pressure of corporate thinking upon the intelligence of each single man.[2]

De-individuation would be the proper sociological term for this process, and it is a much-overlooked effect of the successful imposition of equality. Inequality by its nature diversifies the mental climate of a society, while equality homogenizes it.

[1] Democracy in America, 2.1.2.

[2] Ibid.

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