Human beings have a peculiar duality. We love to imagine ourselves as rugged individuals, but we’re extremely susceptible to herd instincts. We are after all, social creatures, and our instinctive need to “go with the crowd” has helped us survive and thrive in a world where going it alone can be a death sentence. Unfortunately, that same urge often drives us to do things that are violent, stupid, and ultimately self-destructive.
That sort of behavior was on full display in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve, when a mob of around 1000 people, many of them refugees from Middle East, lit fireworks, robbed and assaulted pedestrians, and groped dozens of women (at least two cases of rape have been reported). They essentially formed a gauntlet of several mobs that passengers coming out of the Cologne train station had to fight through.
Frankly, it’s shocking that such an event could happen in Germany, a country that is (or at least was) prosperous, stable, and orderly. It just goes to show that no nation is immune to mob-like behavior, even when there is no natural or man-made disaster to inspire these acts.
The politics surrounding this incident have been thoroughly discussed already, so there’s no need to tread that ground again. Instead, I want to talk about what you can do to protect yourself, if you ever find yourself wrapped up in a belligerent crowd. Here’s what you need to know:
When faced with a mob, the normal rules of human behavior are thrown out the window. That’s because you’re no longer dealing with a group of individuals. When people join the mob, they stop thinking for themselves, and start acting in the interest of the group, even when it doesn’t necessarily benefit them as individuals. What you’re really dealing with, is one person with many bodies. This is what makes the mob so cohesive and dangerous, but as you’ll see in a moment, it’s also its greatest weakness.
Don’t Fight the Crowd
Any situation that involves dangerous people is going to spark your fight or flight response. With a mob, both of those options could end disastrously, though fighting a crowd of people is arguably worse. You’re not going to win that fight. In some cases, brandishing a weapon might convince members of the crowd to snap out of their groupthink, but it’s often the case that a mob can’t be reasoned with, even if their lives depend on it. Inhibitions are low for members of the mob (even without the influence of drugs and alcohol, which are often present) and these people feel safe, and sometimes invulnerable. I don’t care how much of a badass you are, you can’t fight everybody. If you try going toe to toe with a mob, they’ll tear you to pieces.
Don’t Run From the Crowd Either
The moment you try to flee the mob, it becomes blatantly obvious that you are not a part of the mob, and are thus a target. This is where the uniformity of the crowd becomes its weakness. The best advice I’ve heard on escaping a mob comes from this article from offthegridnews.com. Rather than fleeing, start acting like everyone else in the crowd so you don’t stand out.
Then, slowly drift away from everyone else until you reach the edge of the mob. Eventually you can duck out and hide by slipping into an alley way or store front. If the mob starts moving into a different direction, go with them, but at a slower speed. Eventually they’ll just leave you behind.
Stay Calm and Aware
In case you haven’t noticed already, normal human instincts don’t serve you well in this situation. If anything, it’s normal human instincts that cause mob violence in the first place. Since your fight or flight response will get you in trouble, it’s important to remember that you have to stay cool, and be aware of your surroundings. In a sense, everyone in the mob has tunnel vision. They’re very focused at the task at hand, whatever that may be.
If you keep it together, you’ll have a significant advantage over them, because you’ll have so much more awareness. You’ll see gaps in the crowd that you can drift through. You’ll see where the mob is moving to before any individual within the group knows it. You’ll notice when the police arrive before they do. And more importantly, you’ll see opportunities to escape while the mob is preoccupied or distracted. So stay calm, blend in, and drift away before anyone notices you. It’s not guaranteed to save you in every situation, but it’s still the best way to escape the grasp of any mob.