Friday, January 29, 2010

Eric Hoffer on "The True Believer"

From Eric Hoffer's The True Believer via A Conservative Lesbian:

Hoffer explains on p. 138 how the media are able to create the grounds for a fanatical mass movement like Obama’s:
It is easy to see how the faultfinding man of words, by persistent ridicule and denunciation, shakes prevailing beliefs and loyalties, and familiarizes the masses with the idea of change. What is not so obvious is the process by which the discrediting of existing beliefs and institutions makes possible the rise of a new fanatical faith. For it is a remarkable fact that the militant man of words who “sounds the established order to its source to mark its want of authority and justice” often prepares the ground not for a society of freethinking individuals but for a corporate society that cherishes utmost unity and blind faith.
However, while ridicule is Obama’s Kryponite, since he is now the prevailing order, Hoffer explains why it does not affect the masses he has inflamed with “hope” for “change” (pp. 138-140):
When we debunk a fanatical faith or prejudice, we do not strike at the root of fanaticism. … The freedom the masses crave is not freedom of self-expression and self-realization, but freedom from the intolerable burden of an autonomous existence. They want freedom from “the fearful burden of free choice.” freedom from the arduous responsibility of realizing their ineffectual selves and shouldering the blame for the blemished product. They do not want freedom of conscience, but faith — blind, authoritarian faith. They sweep away the old order not to create a society of free and independent men, but to establish uniformity, individual anonymity and a new structure of perfect unity. It is not the wickedness of the the old regime they rise against but its weakness; not its oppression, but its failure to hammer them together into one solid, mighty whole. [Continued]
The religious fervor of Christianity in nineteenth-century America fused into the secular faith of socialism during the Progressive Era; as Darwinism and science ate into the edifice of the other-worldly religion, there was a concomitant rise in the intellectual fashion of building a paradise on earth. All things standing in the true believer's way: freedom, the individual, all institutions, traditions, and attachments, must be swept aside if we are to usher in a new dawning of history and an elevation of man's consciousness. So argues the man willing to destroy all, including himself, for the empty promise of hope and change. The Christian and the Marxist do not differ on the matter of their faith in a future utopia; they only differ only on the when and where of it. The why is a deep-seated and unstated refusal to take responsibility for one's life and to see the real world for what it is; the how is a secondary consideration not to be entertained, unless one wants to be branded a reactionary or a heretic.


Anonymous said...

I have heard of this guy but have never read his books; one comment I think I found on amazon about the book noted it fueled "dr. laura's conversion to christianity" (my paraphrase) ; if that is true, it is a good reason in and of itself never to read his books.

Reasonsjester said...

Or to read books in general, I might add.

Seriously though, one should always make a concerted effort to engage material that doesn't jibe with one's worldview. Then again, you do read this blog, and I am sure you disagree with most of what is written on it.

Ultimately, one should always strive to live in truth, as painful as that may be sometimes.

Reaganx said...

By the way, it's no coincidence that Stalin became increasingly "socially conservaive" as his regime progressed (as opposed to the early Bolshevik era, a form of socialist Puritanism developed) and even ended up addressing Soviet citizens as "brothers and sisters" (Russian Orthodox Church lingo). The regime's cruel crackdown on the church soon ended since it was found to be basically harmless, since church leaders did not oppose the regime and many of them were even incorporated into it. The Russian Orthodox Church became an affiliate of KGB and still remains closely linked to the Kremlin's FSB-led criminal gang.
This also illustrates fundamental affinity between these two kinds of fanaticism.