“Man would fain be great and sees that he is little; would fain be happy and sees that he is miserable; would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections: would fain be the object of love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt. The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a moral hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.”
Quoting from Blaise Pascal’s treatise, Penseés, Eric Hoffer (July 25, 1902-May 21, 1983) begins one of his most famous books; “The True Believer-Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements,” first published in 1951. Like many of the classics, the ideas put forth are as relevant today as when they were first written.
Eric Hoffer was a longshoreman by trade and a philosopher and social writer by night, on his breaks, or when he found himself in fields waiting for a truck. Publishing 10 books in his life time, Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983 by then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
Influenced early in his life by the essays of Michel de Montaigne, Hoffer often made reference to his writings in his works. Summing up the preface to, “ The True Believers,” he quotes Montaigne, “All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.”
Hoffer offers as his working hypothesis for his seminal work:
“Staring out from the fact that the frustrated predominates among the early adherents of all mass movements and they usually join of their own accord, it is assumed:
- that frustration of itself, without any proselytizing prompting from the outside, can generate most of the peculiar characteristics of the true believer;
- that an effective technique of conversion consists basically in the inculcation and fixation of proclivities and responses to the frustrated mind.”
Throughout his book Hoffer emphasizes the role that low self-esteem (what Alfred Adler called the inferiority complex) plays in both the formation of and recruitment into mass movements-be the Communist, Nationalist, Religious or Nazi and by extrapolation, our own Tea Party movement.
According to Hoffer, these movements have and do spontaneously germinate but when they are planned, aided and abetted by purported main stream news sources in television, radio and the internet (by the puppeteers behind the scenes) we are in serious trouble.
Witness the Frankenstein who the irresponsible members of the republican party have created. They thought they had the answer to President Barack Obama’s popularity and centrism but instead the hysteria that their monster created has caused many adherents to turn on their own. By taking responsibility for their creation, these few republicans have committed an act of hubris in the process.
Locally here in Utah, the repercussions and backlash generated, resulted in Senator Robert Bennett, in all probability, losing his seat in Congress. Mr. Bennett hewed to the republican party line virtually all the time yet the delegates demanded candidates more radically extremist. Neither Bridgewater or Lee, who face one another in the republican primary, want to lead Utah into the future but rather return us to our past.
Wishful thinking but the world is changing around us and we must, as a nation and state, change with it or we will lose out economically, morally and militarily to the rest of the world. Eric Hoffer foretold all of this and more over 60 years ago.