I have often thought that it might help the political discussion if things were discussed in terms which produce realistic associations. Our upper classes are since a long time busy trying to apply that thought, e.g. by calling a demand for a more equal distribution of wealth just “envy” (an idea which one could even be tempted to defend by means of logics, but luckily there are also statistics which demonstrate that a more even distribution of wealth is good for ALL members of the society – see “The Spirit Level” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett – , so that one can luckily base one’s demands on facts instead of philosophical/logical lines of reasoning).
My motivation for wanting to write about this matter just now comes from impressions I get from a flood of emails from USA, where the representatives of the Republican party are trying to kill any possibility for women to decide themselves how many children they want (if any). As reasons for such attempts are often given religious reasons, such as the wish to protect the lives of unborn children (usually not accompanied by demands to help children once they are born). This is of course in line with the Catholic tradition (where theoretically the meaning of life is obviously considered to be that one should be baptized to be a Catholic and then die while still being a Catholic – by that becoming a useful member of the heavenly armies), where in practice extramarital pregnancy or descent was treated as a shame and the prohibition of abortions was treated as a convenient way to punish the mothers for their sinful ways (this not only in Catholicism but also Protestantism) – and never mind the consequences for the children … . One could call this “moralizing”, but as well “an invitation to mob” – after all one is encouraging all those who have kept to the prescribed mainstream behaviour to look down on, to shame, even to mistreat those “deviants” (presumably hoping to stabilize certain power structures by this way of punishing deviant behaviour in general). But there is also the aspect that those who then do this “punishing” often enjoy it – I do have very clear memories how very much some bullies at school were enjoying simply to molest their habitual victims, and I have impressions about members of certain parties’ youth organizations that also they just eagerly grab at every “reason” which gives them a possibility to be aggressive.
One can try to become very understanding about such behaviour, e.g. saying that those bullies just react to all those frustrations which they had so endure because of the bad social conditions under which they had to grow up. There may be truth in this, it also might explain why it is often members of the less-privileged classes who are so very eager to molest others who are still less privileged (e.g. White Trash being especially eager racists). But it cannot either be denied that the bullies do enjoy their aggressive doings, and it may not be possible to prevent that in any society there will be growing up people who had to suffer frustrations. And to appeal to the resulting aggressiveness and to encourage it should, I think, not be called “populism” (in the USA the left wing of the Democrat perty has meanwhile fully accepted to be called “populist”, simply because they do care about the fate of average people – in contrast to the Republicans) nor “moralizing” (because it detracts from the actual consequences of this encouragement), but “inviting to mob”. Simply because that is the actual consequence.
And who is now inviting to mob? Well, anybody who calls somebody else “a problem”, such as Jussi Pajunen, mayor of Helsinki, talking about Rumanian beggars as a problem. Or the media mentioning refugees or immigrants as a problem. It invites to see those who are referred to in this way as something like “easy prey”, on whom to crack down in promising fun. It further gives then to others the opportunity to depict the thus-described groups as a “threat” (to be somehow eliminated, although that is not promising much fun, but anyway relief). Admittedly it may be difficult to avoid the term “problem” altogether, but even if one may have to say that some people “have” problems (also e.g. with other people), and that some politicians are “producing/creating” problems (e.g. by inviting to mob), one certainly should avoid to say that some people “are” problems.