Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Common Soul of a Crowd

"Convention" is very nearly the same word as "democracy." It has again and again in history been used as an alternative word to Parliament. So far from suggesting anything stale or sober, the word convention rather conveys a hubbub; it is the coming together of men; every mob is a convention. In its secondary sense it means the common soul of such a crowd, its instinctive anger at the traitor or its instinctive salutation of the flag. Conventions may be cruel, they may be unsuitable, they may even be grossly superstitious or obscene; but there is one thing that they never are. Conventions are never dead. They are always full of accumulated emotions, the piled-up and passionate experiences of many generations asserting what they could not explain. To be inside any true convention, as the Chinese respect for parents or the European respect for children, is to be surrounded by something which whatever else it is is not leaden, lifeless or automatic, something which is taut and tingling with vitality at a hundred points, which is sensitive almost to madness and which is so much alive that it can kill.

G. K. Chesterton, "The Philosopher" in George Bernard Shaw.


  1. vojtas11:38 AM

    Chrysologus to Chesterton? Please, a warning next time.

  2. branemrys1:18 PM

    I'm not sure I really have much to say about it; the views expressed are fairly common, even if the expression is very Chestertonian.

  3. Timotheos9:31 PM

    I got about halfway through the post and I thought, this is Chesterton isn't it. His style is so distinct that I always seem to be able to pick up when he's the author of a passage.


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