crowd monologue from White Noise
Picture Hitler near the end, trapped in his führerbunker, beneath the burning city. He looks back to the early days of his power.
When crowds came–mobs of people overrunning the courtyard, singing patriotic songs, painting swastikas on the walls, on the flanks of farm animals.
Crowds came to his mountain villa, so many people that he had to stay indoors.
Crowds came to hear him speak, crowds erotically charged, the masses he once called his only bride.
Crowds came to be hypnotized by the voice, the party anthems, the torchlight parades.
But wait. How familiar this all seems to us, how close to ordinary.
Crowds come, get worked up, touch and press – people eager to be transported. Isn’t this ordinary? We all know this. We’ve been part of those crowds. There must have been something different about these crowds.
What was it?
Let me whisper the terrible word, from the Old English, from the Old German, from the Old Norse.
Those crowds were assembled in the name of death. They were there to attend tributes to the dead. But not the already dead. They were not mourning brothers, fathers, husbands, those who had fought and died. But the not yet dead. The future dead. The living dead amongst us.
Processions, songs, speeches, dialogues with the dead, recitations of the names of the dead. They were there to see pyres and flaming wheels, thousands of flags dipped in salute, thousands of uniformed mourners.
They were ranks and squadrons, elaborate backdrops, blood banners and black dress uniforms. Crowds came to form a shield against their own dying. To break off from the crowd is to risk death as an individual, to face dying alone.
To become a crowd is to keep out death. Crowds came for this reason above all others. They were there to be a crowd.