July 17, 2018


The Wisdom of Eric Hoffer--Part I: Eric Hoffer was fascinated by the fanatic. (Lawrence W. Reed, 7/17/18, FEE)

To the hardscrabble longshoreman, the phenomenon of fanaticism was rooted in a crisis of confidence in one's self, a kind of "self-renunciation." The "true believer" believes that sinister forces, not any shortcomings of his own, are the cause of his victimhood--the remedy for which is to replace his helpless individuality with the power of a collective juggernaut (especially if he can lead the parade himself). There being no shortage of fanaticism in the news today, it should go without saying that Hoffer's observations are as relevant as ever. Now, let's read a sample of them in Hoffer's own words, excerpted from The True Believer:

"A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

"Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?"

"Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority."

"Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both."

"People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief of the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility."

"Collective unity is not the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty of the true believer is to the whole--the church, party, nation--and not to his fellow true believer. True loyalty between individuals is possible only in a loose and relatively free society."

"Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil."

"The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world." [...]

"The frustrated, oppressed by their shortcomings, blame their failure on existing restraints. Actually, their innermost desire is for an end to the 'free for all.' They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society."

Food for thought?

This self-loathing is what you've heard this week, as Donald raged against America, the Atlantic Alliance, etc.  The fanatics of Right and Left are united by their hatred of the America we live in.

Posted by at July 17, 2018 4:45 AM