A mass of men is thus always more afraid of novelty than the men that compose it: these may change their feelings and their ideas, but they come together; the feelings and ideas acquired by the individuals will have no influence, or but little, upon their conduct. What is the cause of this contradiction? Why is a mass of men always more conservative than its components? Man, according to the law demonstrated by M. Lombroso, hates all novelty and tries to preserve everything that exists—his ideas and feelings—so long as he can, without changing them. Yet, when very strong necessities urge him, man succeeds in disturbing his inertia: he changes his habits and his ideas, and rebels against institutions and laws which he had once venerated; but it is always a painful task, a disagreeable effort for every man, even the best endowed, to carry this revolution into the system of his ideas and habits. Difficult as this change may be for each man, it is still more so when a collective usage is concerned; for then the opinion of all the other men to the same effect and imitation re-enforce the neophoby (or fear of novelty) natural to the man. The struggle is not only against one's own conservative instincts, but also against the fear of being alone in neglecting a usage which all others observe. "Everybody does it," is the answer most persons will give you when you ask them why they practice some quite absurd and ridiculous ceremonies. Further, no one has any particular interest in these collective usages, and therefore no one has special reasons for abandoning them; for these usages to pass away there must, therefore, be causes acting upon the whole mass of those who observe them, producing gradual decadence. Now these causes would naturally act more slowly than those which produce individual changes of manners, ideas, etc.; they will act more slowly, too, as the aggregate of men subject to their influence is greater.
So the genesis of criminal festivals is explained. When crimes become the object of legal repression and then of moral repulsion, men begin, each on his own account, to abstain from committing them; their views in relation to criminal actions gradually change, and those acts which formerly appeared honorable and glorious become gradually blamable. But these criminal festivals, to which the ancient liberty and the ancient glory of crime have given rise, being usages common to a whole tribe or people, enjoy the advantage of the greater stability we have remarked in collective usages. Each man removes himself slowly from crime but to return to it, as a member of the tribe, when the time for these civil or religious festivals of a criminal character returns. Thus, the Dahomeyan, who is no longer a cannibal, becomes an anthropophagist again in the great public festivals that are celebrated after a victory; the East Indians slay men upon the