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85. Imitation Of Movements

Imitation of movement is not observed as frequently as imitation of «words». It consists in the imitation of movements produced by persons, animals, and things. The initial imitated movement may be produced by other persons with the definite purpose of obtaining an imitative reaction. One of the important conditions of success of the reaction is that the person susceptible to it must be unprepared for the movement.

For illustration I will now give some instances.

Case I. A young man (Birarchen), about 22 years old anthropologically type beta [481], healthy, well fed, stout, showing perfect normality of reflexes (knee-reaction, eye-reaction, equilibrium); medium intelligence; a good, steady worker. When he was eating his millet, the other men would suddenly attract his attention and begin doing as if they would fill up their mouths with millet with a speed that would not permit the swallowing of the food. He would immediately imitate stuffing millet into his mouth, till no more place would be left in the mouth and the breathing would become impossible. Then he would leave his laughing companions and run away to empty his mouth. After which he would return to the table in order normally to continue his meal The performance is not very often done was his «number». No were observed in this case. I do not venture to assert that the man was, in my presence at least, ashamed of the happening, but he did not protest. The performance was observed by myself several times, — the Tungus wanted to show me his talent.

Case II. A man (Khingan), about 42 years old, type gamma; rather weak, not attractive, shy; usually quiet and normal; self-sustaining by hunting; no observations as to the reactions and mentality. He performed erectio penis in public. One of the men present would do as if he was masturbating. The man would take cut his penis and in a few seconds produce erectio, to the great satisfaction of all present men and especially women. A burst of general laughter would bring the man to his «normal condition» and he would run away. I have seen several times this performance. In so far as I could find out, it was done especially for the amusement of the women present.

Case III. A Manchu middle aged man, apparently normal. When there was a gathering of people, one of them would suddenly but slightly strike the man. Then he would do the same to his neighbour. The chief attraction was to surprise the persons who did not know the «number» and would react on olong by anger or indignation; or transgress the social customs, e.g. when the olong would touch a woman or a senior who became an object of general joke and laughter. In this case the olong is used as a means to see the reactions of other persons. The man in his movements was really «very funny», and it was still funnier to see those who reacted.

Case IV. A man, Birarchen, of about middle age, from a family where many abnormal cases, and «bad temper» are observed. He used to imitate movements of other people, but showed a definite inclination for the knife (long hunting and table knives), axe, etc., which was dangerous for other people. One day he was sitting alone, with his small son, in the wigwam. A knife fell down in front of him (evidently, the knife had been in the hanging hunting belt). He seized it and thrust it into his son's body. The man soon afterwards died.

In the first case, as well as in the second, the subjects were encouraged and even provoked by the audience to produce their «number». In the first case the interest was confined to seeing the unusual sight of a man, who does not know how to eat, to fill up his mouth with millet and to watching his very fast movements which produced an unusual and queer impression. In the second and third cases the main interest was in the psycho-sexual and social sides respectively: showing erectio penis to the women present and observing their surprise and violation of social conventions. In all cases the subjects attract attention of their communities and become for a while a centre, — they are actors, sometimes envied actors, such as in the case II. The case IV is different, because of its dangerous nature for the community, which is evident from the final result: the murder of the son, and the subsequent death of the subject.

I have pointed out that in the three first cases the performers are «actors». This is rather an important condition at the beginning of «imitative mania». The Tungus observers told me that usually «they began by showing something», after which they assumed this practice as a habit. Many children would try to imitate, but the parents would stop this habit and it receives no further development. Indeed, the eating of millet is just a minor, harmless distraction, which introduces a joyful element of variety into the life of the Tungus confined to small groups. Yet the man is of importance as an actor, for he has something distinct and individual, — his own invention. Still more interesting is the second case in which a new complex is added, namely, sexual exhibitionism. So the motivation of «imitative mania» receives a new support, individually from the side of inhibited sexual complex, and publicly a possible (potential) sexual excitement of the women in the presence of men, and an exhibition of what is suppressed by the social conventionalism.

That such an exhibitionism as a psychological phenomenon exists among the Tungus, may be seen from the fact that among all Tungus groups a certain attention is paid to the sexual organs of children. The children, under the pretext that they are children and do not understand what they do, are asked to exhibit their genitalia in the presence of adult persons, who enjoy in seeing children — performers. However, among the Tungus groups this practice is not equally in vogue. Its greatest development is observed among the Khingan group, - i.e. exactly in the group where erectio penis was performed, — the children, especially girls sometimes of the age often and even twelve years, are requested to show their genitalia. They willingly do it, for the adult people do approve it (I cannot now assert that the parents always are present and frankly approve their children). As to whether the children are absolutely conscious of what they do -personally I think that a Tungus child of ten or twelve years may be so — is not of importance, for we are interested in the social side of the exhibitionism. However, no adult person may be allowed to do it, unless such a person is supposed to be affected by «olonism» or «imitative mania». I do not think that such an effect as erectio penis can be performed without involving any sexual complex of the individual, especially in an individual of forty two years, and in a few seconds. So that on the part of the subject there is a strongly manifested condition of sexual exhibitionism, which has been developed by exercise and general social approval. Indeed, such a public manifestation of exhibitionism approved socially is not yet a «pathological» condition. In other cultural complexes it may assume only a different form, - it may be «sublimated» [482]. Thus the fact itself is not yet indicative of a pathological condition of subjects who practice it. Some forms of European exhibitionism — direct and symbolized — may be regarded as mass psychosis by the Tungus who practice different forms. Even among the Tungus the forms of exhibitionism, as observed for example, among the Khingan group, may be regarded as an «abnormal» phenomenon, as it would be regarded by a foreign observer thinking and acting according to his own ethnical complex.

It should also be added that in the Case II, the subject is not only an exhibitionist among those who want him to be so, but he is also an artist, as in the Case I. The artistic stimulus ought not to be overlooked when we analyze the situation. No doubt that he was stimulated in his first steps by approval, as a particularly endowed actor.

Such cases are not considered by the Tungus as abnormal ones, but they are appreciated as a social distraction. In observing various cases of this kind and that of Case I, I have come to the conclusion that the performer is not always unconscious of what he is doing; yet he is not in a state of perfect consciousness of what he is doing, but he cannot stop it. In a great number of similar cases the performers could stop it, but they did not actually need to do so, and they were ready to pay something for the privilege of being social performers of the groups. To this question we shall come still nearer, when other forms are discussed. For the time being it may be only pointed out that in some cases «olonism» was merely «performed».

It is different with the Case IV. First of all, the act committed by the man was not socially approved, and he was not willing to commit it. It was against his will. However, even in this case not everything was beyond the ethnographic complex. I mean an interesting detail, namely, the operation with the knife. It is a fact of importance that among all Tungus groups the knife occupies the chief place in the complex «killing in the state of an imitative mania». The knife figures in a great number of «stories-facts» recorded by the Tungus. However, among the Yakuts [according to Sieroszewski, quoted by M. Czaplicka, op. cit. p. 310] another implement is added — the axe. While among some other groups the spear may also be used. This fact is interesting, for all those who are affected by «imitative mania» know the implement or weapon which ought to be used when an occasion of its being used appears. This is a condition well known in other cases which are not at all regarded as abnormal ones. So, in the «imitative mania» an element of consciousness does appear, even in the heaviest cases when the subjects act as «abnormal» at their own peril and that of people near to them.

Besides the knife which can be used as a weapon, any other thing may be used, even a piece of wood, water, or fire, or, in general, that may be at hand for throwing against the person who actually harms the subject or is supposed to do so.

Since the above indicated means of self-defence and the performance are rather inoffensive, the cases of «imitative mania» in which they are practiced are not considered as harmful and merely serve as a source of amusement. From this point of view, as to the mechanism of imitative mania described in Case IV and others, when weapons are used, it remains the same, for the subject knows what kind of weapon may be used. However, between Case IV and all the other cases of the same group there is a difference, namely, in all cases, except IV, the subjects know that their action is harmless, while in the Case IV they know that it is harmful.

The question is how far and how long the subjects preserve consciousness? And whether they are conscious at the first moment of committing an act? From the observation of a great number of facts and evidences published by other observers it may be supposed that at the first moment, immediately after the loss of psychomental equilibrium due to the unexpectedness of some change in the situation, e.g. when a person of the milieu in which the subject finds himself, makes a sudden movement or produces an unexpected sound or complex act, — there is a moment of shaken consciousness when the act of «imitation» is committed. It is difficult to say how long this lasts, but it may be supposed that it is not a very long time, for at the next moment the subject may take measures for stopping his state of uncontrolled imitation. There are evidently different means for reaching this aim: (1) the subject may direct his fury against the cause of his state, whence an aggression may sometimes result in the murder of the actual producer of trouble, or who is wrongly supposed to be so (Case IV); or an aggression may be connected with the complex «weapon», when it may be directed against the ground, wood, utensils found at hand; (2) imploration of the producer of trouble to cease his influence by giving a contrary order, which is a conscious act (a great number of cases already published; vide M. Czaplicka, op. cit.); (3) avoiding of a direct influence of the producer of trouble by running away (e.g. Cases I and II). From these facts it is evident that the subject restores, at least partially, his equilibrium almost immediately after committing an act implied by a momentaneous disequilibrium. However, the restoration of self-control may be complete, as in the case of running away, or it may be partial, as in the case of imploration, which supposes that the subject must receive a contrary order. The last case is rather complex, for it presumes a subjugated («mastered») will of the subject. It is a remarkable fact that «imploration» is observed chiefly in females. It is evident that there again is an element of consciousness in the continuing state of imitation, and it is only supposed by the subject to be an uncontrollable state. We may thus point out that the initial condition of the act — the use of a weapon, form of the «number», etc. — are consciously perceived, and the following state is also consciously perceived, so that there remains only a short period, perhaps covering a fraction of a second, when the subject is «unconscious». This may be proved by the method usually practiced, namely, when one wants to maintain a state of «imitation» one must produce subsequently a series of sudden acts for connecting the states of «imitation» into a chain. Indeed, if there is presumption that the subject loses his will (theoretically it may be so), the chain may be formed with long intervals; when there is no such presumption, the chain must be continuously renewed without leaving the time for taking a rest. If it is presumed (a conscious act) that the aggression is allowed, an act of aggression may be committed at the moment of completion of the period of «unconsciousness». For avoiding it, new acts must be produced for connecting the state of imitation with the physical exhaustion of the subject. The Tungus experimentally know of all these particular cases which they describe, as far as it is possible, in their language. I am certain that for them, at least for the more intelligent individuals, the carrying of experiments on olong is not a simple amusement, but a large field of observation of this peculiar manifestation of human psychology. In a great number of cases I did not fail to observe the fact that many Tungus were observing and wanted to find an explanation of this phenomenon.

Considering the above given analysis of the phenomenon and its complexity I am rather reluctant to use various terms introduced in ethnography and psychiatry, such as «imitative mania», «chorea imitatoria», echokinesia, etc., for they represent pathological conditions, while the condition here described cannot actually be so generalized. Putting aside social effects of this condition and individual variations, I am rather inclined to accept the Tungus approach of the problem in which they designate by the term olong the initial condition of a sudden disequilibrium produced by a sudden change of the situation, voluntary or unvoluntary. In the further treatment I shall therefore use the term «olonism» [483].

Some new light on «olonism» is thrown in the analysis of the «origin» of this condition in individual cases. I have already pointed out that, according to the Tungus, it is a habit. Let us see how far this statement can be accepted. In the instances of cases I and II we have already seen that they presume a preexisting practice in this direction, before reaching the necessary technical perfection in the performance. In the Case IV such a preliminary training is not needed. However, as in the other two cases, there is a preliminary condition: such an act as the using of a knife is known from a previous experience of other olong. I need not point out that in the case of very simple forms of «olonism», as seen in the echolalia and coprolalia analyzed before, the examples for imitation are handy. Thus, the olong has predecessors — the knowledge of previous experience and training in a definite direction. However, there may be some individual invention — based upon an imaginative process, or upon the trial-error method, which is not important — which may be confined to one or several numbers dependent on the individual ability. Such inventors and well trained olong are particularly appreciated.

First of all, the children are not affected by «olonism»; they are not permitted by the adult people. The olonism may originate gradually, beginning with a joke approved by the audience, and it may originate suddenly after some striking event, as in the case related by R. Maack (cf. his Viluisk District of the province of Yakutsk p. 28), when a woman, being terrified by a bear, threw herself between his paws. However, olonism can soon become a condition harmful for the group in which the subject is living. We have already seen that in this case the Tungus would not call it olong, but kodu olong, and if the subject does not perish, owing to an accident, he will be taken under the care of the clan and his neighbours, who would try to create around him a milieu of quietness and avoidance of sudden changes. Yet, in so far as he would be affected by the condition xodu, he would be, very likely, treated by an experienced shaman. In the further description I shall revert to this condition, which is «etiologically» quite different from olonism. In all cases of olonism the element of social approval and disapproval plays the most important part — society may stop or develop it. In case the subject causes too much harm to himself, it is very likely that he will be surrounded by conditions of control and will have no chance to manifest any signs of olonism [484]. Yet, as shown, without a social stimulus, i.e. the recognition of subjects as «performers» and their feeling of being so, olonism is not likely to develop as a phenomenon.

1. It is supposed that any act must be repeated.

2. Inhibition of certain acts is introduced.

3. It is supposed that certain acts ought to be committed.

4. Possibility of doing them may require preliminary practicing.

5. It is supposed that the will power of the actor may not be «mastered» by the producer of starters.

6. Arrest of a further «acting» is made by the producer of starters, if he would «master» the actor's will power.

Anyone among the Tungus may become olong, and some foreigners are also subject to this condition, whence there are two important conclusions: olonism, as a phenomenon, does not presume a special individual predisposition, and this state may be assumed by individuals belonging to different ethnical groups and possessing different complexes.

For illustration, I shall now quote a case of mass olonism related by Dr. Kashin to Priklonskii (Three Years, etc., 1890, pp. 49-50). «One day, during a parade of the 3rd Batallion of the Transbaikal Cossacks, a regiment composed entirely of natives, the soldiers began to repeat the words of command. The colonel grew angry and swore volubly at the men, but the more he swore, the livelier was the chorus of the soldiers repeating the curses after him» (quoted by M. Czaplicka, op. cit. p. 313). There is not the least doubt as to the condition of nervousness and general state of health of the men (probably Buriats and Tungus) who had been carefully selected by the Russian military to the strain: the Buriats and Tungus wanted to show, before the gathering of the public, the promptness of their reaction. Instead of the required automatism in response to the command, they repeated it. Being frightened, they repeated also the swearing. If the colonel had wounded himself with his weapon, they would have reproduced the action as well, and if he had led them to an attack against a superior enemy, they would have followed him and perhaps would all have perished automatically, in performing what had been done by their leader. Such a state may be interrupted only by the suppression of the source of subsequent reactions; or by a still stronger source of new reaction. I do not want to carry further this discussion which may bring us to the most interesting problem of automatism caused by a certain starter of reflexes, well known in the phenomena of the unorganized crowd and especially in the organized units which possess more or less similar psychomental complexes and well-established systems of reflexes [485].

The phenomena of mass olonism may also be observed in some conditions of shamanistic performances, but I shall revert later to this particular case.

Another interesting aspect, already mentioned, is that olonism is easily assimilated by foreigners. These facts can be observed among the Russians settled in Siberia near the groups practicing «olonism». By mere imitation of olong which at the beginning may seem quite amusing, the practice may become a habit. In simple cases it may be seen in the form of «echolalia» and «coprolalia», — their nature being varied, — which may become a habit beyond the possibility of subduing it. When movements (conventionalized and even symbolised) are produced by a sudden change of situation, then a classical form of olonism appears. Its technique (in so far as psychological and training conditions are concerned) is so simple and so generally applied that the subject does not need to be familiar with the ethnical group whose pattern is imitated for the first time.

As to the social character of the phenomenon we have some evidences in the facts regarding frequency in different groups and sexes. Among the Manchus «olonism» is much more frequent with the males, — the women are disapproved if they practice it. It is particularly true of «coprolalism», — the Manchu woman is much more «decent» than the Tungus women. If we include «coprolalism» in the complex of «olonism», the frequency of this condition will be found higher among the women than among the men in Northern Tungus groups. One more fact of interest is that the forms of «olonism» threatening the well-being of persons affected are more frequent among the males than among the females. Naturally in all groups and in all individual cases there are great variations of forms and these evidently depend on the existing cultural complexes.authorities. The whole situation is clear: the colonel, who was a Russian, produced an unusual impression on the men, for at a parade the form of command might be more expressive, than in everyday life, and the situation was different with respect From the analysis of this phenomenon we can also see that it may easily spread among neighbours, as well as among any other ethnographical complex. In fact, olonism has been recorded in all parts of Siberia, arctic and subarctic; in Manchuria which cannot be characterized even as «subarctic»; it has been observed in North America as well. The most different groups are familiar with it, e.g. the cattle-breeders, Yakuts, the hunters, Eskimos, the «civilized» agriculturists Manchus, and so forth. However, I do not presume that this was due to the diffusion alone [486], for although the mechanism of spreading is clear in the instance of Russian settlers, still the historic evidences are lacking, and for the time being linguistical [487] facts give us no reliable hint for suggesting a history of this phenomenon. Owing to its simplicity and potential universality it may originate in distinct ethnographical conditions as well. In fact similarity of this phenomenon among the Malays and the above indicated groups is such that one cannot distinguish them. As it has been shown, it is also known in other complexes, but in other forms, and is not so frequently observed. The form may become mis-leading, but the phenomenon remains the same. The form may result in primary adaptation, and yet, it may result from secondary adaptation. Finally, in one complex it may have some social function, while in another complex it may appropriate a different function, the psychological condition being everywhere the same. Functional difference may camouflage, to the eyes of observers, similarity of psychological conditions too.

In conclusion I want to point out once more that in so far as pure and simple olonism is concerned, i.e. when no other «pathological» conditions are intermixed, it is not an abnormal phenomenon in the Tungus complex- as it is regarded by the Tungus, it has a certain social function, - as a performance and instructive observation, — without which the Tungus life would be empoverished; it is liable to diffusion, fashions, and variations, both individual and ethnical, is rooted in the normal psychomental complex and, as such, it must be separated from the facts gathered under the name of hysteria [488].

481. For reference to the anthropological types vide my publication Anthropology of Eastern China and Anthropologische und gynaekologische Beobachtungen an Chinesinnen etc. where characteristics of males and females are given respectively.

482. Indeed, the whole theory of «sublimation» is particularly ethnographic in its foundation and principle, But we do not need to discuss it here. As to the forms of exhibitionism they are sometimes really camouflaged under such symbols, as showing of shoes, special ornamentation of stockings (which is sometimes even not understood), etc. that the initial form cannot be realized. However public exhibitionism of parts of the naked body is not banished altogether. Music halls and theatres allow quite frank demonstrations of front and back views by means of abrupt movements of very short skirts. This method is supposed to be a simple and artistic form of classical choreography which is also a mere justification. Still further this public exhibitionism is carried in particular cases in theatres and even cafes, where naked women, even a waitress, may appear for a moment with a certain justification or without any justification. Exhibitionism may be rationalized, as it is with the modem movement of nudism, and it may be socially conventionalized as it is with the bath-costumes on the sea-beaches in all parts of the world, and so forth.

Indeed, for hot tempered puritans these forms of exhibitionism are not admissible, for they use other symbolisation. However, the multiformity of exhibitionism does not suppress still older forms, such as for example the denudation of the posterior as a sign of disdain in disputes among the Scandinavian farm women, still practiced in recent years, a gesture which was not unknown in other parts of Europe. Indeed, cases of active and passive exhibitionism, must be distinguished, for in the case of passive exhibitionism the hired naked women may remain professionally indifferent, - the chief stimulus of their exhibitionism is a new form of social adaptation. Yet, the public «indecency» of the type of my Khingan Tungus, and rare practices of copulatio modo bestiarum, as it is done e.g. among the Chukchi in some important performances, are not absolutely unknown phenomena among the «civilized mankind», among whom they may appear in secluded but still public institutions and under disguise the theatrical stages and especially in «movies and talkies», — a real source of ethnographic information.

483. I want to point out once more that I am introducing this term with a certain reluctance (vide supra where I make the remark regarding a new term mafarism). But the old term gives a misleading idea as to the discussed phenomenon. The fundamental character — «imitation» - is not observed in all cases of «olonism». On the other hand, in cases of chorea, echokinesia etc. the initial condition of a sudden frightening (i.e. change of situation) may also be absent. It is clear, we have a special condition in which socially and psychologically a pathological condition may be altogether absent, but the phenomenon will be present.

484. Many of the reports regarding olonism are made by travellers who were sometimes accompanied by cossacks and other Russians. Before such an interesting audience the Yakuts and Tungus would wish to make a show and produce necessary sets for inspiring a «number». The local Russians like these «numbers» and provoke them. The impressions of such travellers may be quite erroneous as regards the frequency of real olonism. In my practice I have observed many cases, but some individuals did not show their «numbers» for weeks, not to say for months, while the cases of «echolalic» and «coprolalic» «olonism» were observed every day, their symptomology being the same, but the etiology being of quite different order, e.g. individual sexual repression, social conditions, etc.

485. Although the psychological nature of these phenomena is not always clear, the benefit or their use is known to all those who professionally deal with masses of human beings. In such cases there is no question about «conviction», hypnotic influence», «leadership» etc. These conditions may sometimes facilitate the working of the «olonistic» mechanism but they are not its primary condition a all. These methods are practically known, but not every one knows how to use them practically. In this connection it may be pointed out that certain conditions which are ascribed to the «psychology of the crowd» are not typical of the crowd alone. Reflexal automatism is not characteristic only of the crowd; in a great many cases the key is the inducer of reaction and the individual reactions.

486. In studying the geographical expansion and the statistics of the frequency of this phenomenon one confronts the impossibility of comparing published data. Some investigators of the Yakuts assert that almost all Yakut women are liable to this condition. The same cannot be stated with respect to the Tungus. It may be thus inferred that the present real centre is among the Yakuts. However, such an inference may be erroneous, for the observers do not agree as to the symptoms sufficient for the authentication of this condition. It is something like two opposite opinions with regard to the European women, e.g. «almost all women are hysterical» and «hysteria is a relatively rare occurrence». I may say that almost all Tungus may become olong, but not all of them are so. Perhaps it is also true of Yakut women. Therefore, for the present, our information as to the geographical and statistical diffusion of this condition does not permit to make a statement as to the present centre of the phenomenon. Still less can we speak of the meaning of the present diffusion and frequency.

487. For this reason I omit the linguistical analysis of the parallels from other languages.

488. I shall revert to the question as to why such a great number of investigators collected all facts under this heading.

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