A devastating effect of the collectivist mindset is the emergence of massive societal turmoil and heinous crimes. Collectivists often unleash brutal force against people who are not of “their” kind and instead belong to some “inferior” group.
In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, an untouchable man once slapped a higher-caste thief for stealing beans from his field. The self-righteously offended community responded by stripping the man’s mother and parading her through the village amid a hail of stones and mud hurled in her direction.
In a society which upholds the collectivist premise, even when a hierarchically-designated inferior is legitimately wronged, he will not be dealt justice, and his attempt to obtain it on his own accord will be met with vehement reprisal.
This tragic event also portrays another element of collectivist perception: the delusion that all members of a group are accountable for an alleged misdeed of one, with no link of those individuals to the “crime” but the accident of their birth or relation. Since one untouchable had “wronged” a higher-caste member, thought the villagers, all untouchables must be seditious vermin. Hence the fact that the brutal punitive humiliation was directed at the man’s mother instead of the man himself.
More widespread turmoil based on caste occurs throughout modern India. In Bihar state, skirmishes between lower-caste peasants and landlords have resulted in over one hundred deaths on both sides in 1998. The peasants involved considered themselves perpetually oppressed by the merciless group on top, and hence perceived no means of resolving their land dispute peacefully.
Likewise, the landlords involved approached the peasants in arrogant contempt, perceiving every single one of them as unintelligent vermin whose grievances are to be suppressed rather than addressed. The economic antagonism between the two groups was not irreconcilable, but the caste-based antagonism, so long as it festered in their minds, was. When one is viewed as inherently evil due to circumstantial characteristics, naught but the brute employment of force can be directed toward one.
Yet some grounds exist for the hope that the menace of collectivism might play less of a role in India’s future. In modern India, individuals involved in high-tech urban professions are beginning to act on the profit motive instead of age-old stereotypes and to regard caste as irrelevant in a marketplace where professional skills and a dedicated work ethic are the overwhelming considerations. Where institutional compulsion does not prohibit individuals from associating across circumstantially erected lines or damage their livelihoods for doing so, courageous persons of sound moral premises will rise to dethrone the behemoth of collectivism and lead to a more peaceful, tolerant society.