ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: Law and Unreason.

Editorial from Volume XI, No's 43 & 44, October 24, 1959.

What stirs the public mind, arouses the mass-es who are normally sunk in apathy? We think we know. The intelligentsia claims to have the light. The oracles of the press never tire of telling Government what the latter should do from the supposed knowledge they have of the public mind. The leaders of Gov-ernment themselves claim the ability to feel the pulse of the people and more, to guide it. Hence the spate of legislation, economic and social, the continuous attempt to mould the life of the people into patterns of Govern-ment’s choice... Economic and social change through legis-lation, supported in varying degrees by ad-ministrative measures, presumes the knowl-edge of what it is that people want, how they think, feel and act and what stimulation or in-centive may make them act and what deter-rent will restrain them from acting in a cer-tain manner. And then something happens, of not much consequence in itself, which makes us sit up and take notice. A girl in a vil-lage comes to be credited with supernatural powers. The word gets abroad, the ignorant and the superstitious or the merely credulous pass it around, and it catches on. Thousands of people, eager to witness a miracle, start pour-ing into that village, there is pandemonium and many are trampled under feet by the mill-ing crowds. Death toll mounts, the whole country is shocked, the administration is alerted after the tragedy has occurred; and there is talk of bringing the offenders, presum-ably those who spread the story in the first in-stance, to book, and the warning that they would be dealt with severely under the law. But the tragedy remains a perpetual reminder of what we chose to forget – the credulity and superstition in which not only the ignorant and the illiterate, but even the educated of the country still remain sunk.

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