Crowd Formation and Dissipation

Posted: July 3, 2016 in Consumerism, Culture, Environment, Idle Nonsense
Tags: , , ,

The holiday weekend (July 4th) is one of several spots on the calendar given to unusual crowd formation as events ranging from barbecues, concerts, parades, festivals, and fireworks displays invite multitudes to assemble. The combo concert/fireworks display is perhaps the most well attended, as the fetish for watching shit blow up never flags. The Taste of Chicago is about to begin and is a notable example of severe overcrowding; the pics on the website do not show sun-baked, sweaty, overfed attendees elbowing each other for room to move or just to stand still and eat, but that’s been my experience. In honor of their 100-year anniversaryOutside Magazine also devoted a recent issue to the National Parks, which are setting attendance records. I’ve written before about the self-defeating result of drawing unmanageable crowds together. Consider this frightening image of a crowded beach in China, which is a frequent problem around our overpopulated globe:

crowded_beach_china_02

So what’s going on here? My suspicion is that sheer popularity breeds a sense of excitement and must-see fervor despite the quality of the experience at hand being ruined by too many people present. I’ve never understood the willingness to queue (often for hours) for a movie on opening night, a product release, a night club, or a restaurant. In a way, crowds reinforce one’s decision to join the throngs, but they simultaneously undermine the very things people are there to experience, spoiling all the fun. In addition, security and traffic control personnel quickly develop hardened attitudes, like TSA and airline employees, because of the difficulty of herding cats people quietly and calmly into their places. When someone transgresses normal decorum and traffic flow or acts up out of frustration, the collective mood can turn ugly very quickly.

The flip side of jamming too many people together may be seeking out the relative solitude of sparsely populated spaces and nature. (What remains of it, anyway, which is still a lot, though it’s grossly depopulated of wild animals, just like the emptied-out oceans). Again, Outside Magazine offers plenty of encouragement in this regard, profiling out-of-the-way and off-the-beaten-path trips that immediately lose their appeal once too many people start showing up. Pity the hipster traveler who must abandon his or her favorite spots once they are published and popularized. It’s an unusual person who is comfortable being alone, away from the comforts and support of civilization. Even small towns and backwaters of America are left behind at the first chance to move to any city, typically in search of economic opportunities that scarcely exist anymore outside of population centers. Oddly, I find myself pining for the opposite: to relocate outside the city where I can grow a garden and have far less to do and fewer people pressing on me than what’s found in today’s sprawling megacities.

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