THE TRUE BELIEVER _____ Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements ERIC HOFFER To MARGARET ANDERSON without whose goading finger which. The True Believer. Thoughts on the nature of mass movements eric hoffer. We live in a world of change. It is perhaps the most unremarkable and self-evident. 2. People join mass movements to escape a powerless individual self. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer PDF Download Get the book summary as a PDF here.
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[PDF] The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements () -- Eric Hoffer (kaz-news.info). submitted 4 years ago by. The True Believer:Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer; 18 editions; First published in ; Subjects: In library. Editorial Reviews. From the Back Cover. A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while.
The book was published in , during the Cold War, yet the theories and principles, that Hoffer proposes to explain the phenomena of mass movements, are as relevant today as they were then. There are several threads on this forum that discuss aspects of Hoffer's statements and theories.
Hoffer identifies this frustration as the primary individual motivator - frustration with the self and a desire to eliminate or reduce the 'self' - that allows a mass movement to supply the answers for their lack of control over self and environment. I highly recommend this book to be added to a person's reading list. There are many excellent quotes in Hoffer's book, but the one I want to highlight is one about doctrine. The WT doctrine consumes people - both in and out of the cult.
The hours and time invested into de-tangling the obscure and confusing doctrine of the WT is a necessary exercise for most in order to de-program cult thinking, but, ultimately The objective of doctrine is not that it is valid Once a person understands doctrine, it not longer requires belief.
And belief in the unknown - in the unknowable future and the unknowable past - is vital in order for a mass movement to take place. The WT's doctrine is deliberately obscure - they cannot afford to have their followers truly understand it. It sees in the established institutions and privileges an encroachment of a senile, vile past on a virginal present.
But, to pry loose the stranglehold of the past, there is need for utmost unity and 6 By which he means crime. Where public opinion and law enforcement are not too stringent and poverty not absolute, the underground pressure of malcontents and misfits often leaks out in crime.
It has been observed that in the exaltation of mass movements whether patriotic, religious or revolutionary common crime declines. This means that the people called upon to attack the past in order to liberate the present must be willing to give up enthusiastically any chance of ever tasting or inheriting the present.
The absurdity of the proposition is obvious. Hence the inevitable shift in emphasis once the movement starts rolling. More still: the present is driven back as if it were an unclean thing and lumped with the detested past. The battle line is now drawn between things that are and have been, and the things that are not yet. People who live full, worthwhile lives are not usually ready to die for their own interests nor for their country nor for a holy cause.
Craving, not having, is the mother of a reckless giving of oneself. Satan did not digress to tell all he knew when he said: "All that a man hath will he give for his life. But he sooner dies than yield aught of that which he hath not yet. It is strange, indeed, that those who hug the present and hang on to it with all their might should be the least capable of defending it.
And that, on the other hand, those who spurn the present and dust their hands of it should have all its gifts and treasures showered on them unasked. He who is free to draw conclusions from his individual experience and observation is not usually hospitable to the idea of martyrdom.
All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world.
They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. This passionate attachment is the essence of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. An individual existence, even when purposeful, seems to him trivial, futile and sinful.
To live without an ardent dedication is to be adrift and abandoned. He sees in tolerance a sign of weakness, frivolity and ignorance.
What matters is not the contents of the cause but the total dedication and the communion with a congregation. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass.
Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. It is true both of those who have just come within sight of the promised land, and of the disinherited who are still within sight of it; both of the about-to-be rich, free, etcetera, and of the new poor and those recently enslaved. We are less dissatis ed when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.
Often when we renounce super uities we end up lacking in necessities. The di erence is between the immediate hope and the distant hope. A rising mass movement preaches the immediate hope. It is intent on stirring its followers to action, and it is the around-the- corner brand of hope that prompts people to act. Later, as the movement comes into possession of power, the emphasis is shifted to the distant hope—the dream and the vision.
Stalinism is as much an opium of the people as are the established religions. The absolute equality among the slaves, and the intimate communal life in slave quarters, preclude individual frustration. In a society with an institution of slavery the troublemakers are the newly enslaved and the freed slaves. In the case of the latter it is the burden of freedom which is at the root of their discontent.
Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure and frustration. Freedom alleviates frustration by making available the palliatives of action, movement, change and protest.
Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ine ectual? 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? It would seem then that the most fertile ground for the propagation of a mass movement is a society with considerable freedom but lacking the palliatives of frustration.
It was precisely because the peasants of eighteenth century France, unlike the peasants of Germany and Austria, were no longer serfs and already owned land that they were receptive to the appeal of the French Revolution. Nor perhaps would there have been a Bolshevik revolution if the Russian peasant had not been free for a generation or more and had had a taste of the private ownership of land.
Fanatics, says Renan, fear liberty more than they fear persecution. This sense of liberation comes from having escaped the burdens, fears and hopelessness of an untenable individual existence.
It is this escape which they feel as a deliverance and redemption. The experience of vast change, too, conveys a sense of freedom, even though the changes are executed in a frame of strict discipline.
It is only when the movement has passed its active stage and solidi ed into a pattern of stable institutions that individual liberty has a chance to emerge.
The shorter the active phase, the more will it seem that the movement itself, rather than its termination, made possible the emergence of individual freedom. This impression will be the more pronounced the more tyrannical the dispensation which the mass movement overthrew and supplanted.
If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: They who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society.
The frustrated, oppressed by their shortcomings, blame their failure on existing restraints. Where equality is real, freedom is the passion of a small minority. Equality without freedom creates a more stable social pattern than freedom without equality. The Creative Poor 30 Poverty when coupled with creativeness is usually free of frustration. This is true of the poor artisan skilled in his trade and of the poor writer, artist and scientist in the full possession of creative powers.
Nothing so bolsters our self-con dence and reconciles us with ourselves as the continuous ability to create; to see things grow and develop under our hand, day in, day out. The decline of handicrafts in modern times is perhaps one of the causes for the rise of frustration and the increased susceptibility of the individual to mass movements. Here the connection between the escape from an ine ectual self and a responsiveness to mass movements is very clear.
The slipping author, artist, scientist—slipping because of a drying-up of the creative ow within—drifts sooner or later into the camps of ardent patriots, race mongers, uplift promoters and champions of holy causes.
Perhaps the sexually impotent are subject to the same impulse. The role of the noncreative in the Nazi movement is discussed in Section The less a person sees himself as an autonomous individual capable of shaping his own course and solely responsible for his station in life, the less likely is he to see his poverty as evidence of his own inferiority. It requires more misery and personal humiliation to goad him to revolt.
The cause of revolution in a totalitarian society is usually a weakening of the totalitarian framework rather than resentment against oppression and distress. The strong family ties of the Chinese probably kept them for ages relatively immune to the appeal of mass movements. The ideal potential convert is the individual who stands alone, who has no collective body he can blend with and lose himself in and so mask the pettiness, meaninglessness and shabbiness of his individual existence.
Where a mass movement nds the corporate pattern of family, tribe, country, etcetera, in a state of disruption and decay, it moves in and gathers the harvest. Where it nds the corporate pattern in good repair, it must attack and disrupt. On the other hand, when as in recent years in Russia we see the Bolshevik movement bolstering family solidarity and encouraging national, racial and religious cohesion, it is a sign that the movement has passed its dynamic phase, that it has already established its new pattern of life, and that its chief concern is to hold and preserve that which it has attained.
In the rest of the world where communism is still a struggling movement, it does all it can to disrupt the family and discredit national, racial and religious ties. Almost all our contemporary movements showed in their early stages a hostile attitude toward the family, and did all they could to discredit and disrupt it. They did it by undermining the authority of the parents; by facilitating divorce; by taking over the responsibility for feeding, educating and entertaining the children; and by encouraging illegitimacy.
Crowded housing, exile, concentration camps and terror also helped to weaken and break up the family. Still, not one of our contemporary movements was so outspoken in its antagonism toward the family as was early Christianity. Jesus minced no words: He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother, and my brethren!
They argued that the principle of universal love would dissolve the family and destroy society. When St. He actually broke up so many homes that the abandoned wives formed a nunnery.
The Japanese invasion undoubtedly weakened the compact family pattern of the Chinese and contributed to their recent increased responsiveness to both nationalism and communism. In the industrialized Western world the family is weakened and disrupted mainly by economic factors. Economic independence for women facilitates divorce. Economic independence for the young weakens parental authority and also hastens an early splitting up of the family group. The drawing power of large industrial centers on people living on farms and in small towns strains and breaks family ties.
By weakening the family these factors contributed somewhat to the growth of the collective spirit in modern times. At the same time, the Anglo-American air raids, the expulsion of nine million Germans from the east and south of Europe and the delayed repatriation of German prisoners of war did to Germany what Hitler had done to Europe.
It is di cult to see how, even under optimal economic and political conditions, a continent strewn with the odds and ends of families could settle into a normal conservative social pattern.
It is rather the result of a crumbling or weakening of tribal solidarity and communal life. The ideal of self-advancement which the civilizing West o ers to backward populations brings with it the plague of individual frustration.
All the advantages brought by the West are ine ectual substitutes for the sheltering and soothing anonymity of a communal existence. Even when the Westernized native attains personal success—becomes rich, or masters a respected profession— he is not happy.
He feels naked and orphaned.
The nationalist movements in the colonial countries are partly a striving after group existence and an escape from Western individualism. The Western colonizing powers o er the native the gift of individual freedom and independence. They try to teach him self- reliance.
What it all actually amounts to is individual isolation. It is very possible, therefore, that the present nationalist movements in Asia may lead —even without Russian in uence—to a more or less collectivist rather than democratic form of society. The policy of an exploiting colonial power should be to encourage communal cohesion among the natives.
It should foster equality and a feeling of brotherhood among them. For by how much the ruled blend and lose themselves into a compact whole, by so much is softened the poignancy of their individual futility; and the process which transmutes misery into frustration and revolt is checked at the source. The breaking up of a village community, a tribe or a nation into autonomous individuals does not eliminate or sti e the spirit of rebellion against the ruling power.
An e ective division is one that fosters a multiplicity of compact bodies—racial, religious or economic—vying with and suspicious of each other. Even when a colonial power is wholly philanthropic and its sole aim is to bring prosperity and progress to a backward people, it must do all it can to preserve and reinforce the corporate pattern.
It must not concentrate on the individual but inject the innovations and reforms into tribal or communal channels and let the tribe or the community progress as a whole. It is perhaps true that the successful modernization of a backward people can be brought about only within a strong framework of united action. The spectacular modernization of Japan was accomplished in an atmosphere charged with the fervor of united action and group consciousness.
It can disregard, and indeed deliberately sweep away, all existing group ties without the risk of breeding individual discontent and eventual revolt.
For the sovietized native is not left struggling alone in a hostile world. He begins his new life as a member of a closely knit group more compact and communal than his former clan or tribe. The device of encouraging communal cohesion as a preventive of colonial unrest can also be used to prevent labor unrest in the industrialized colonizing countries. The employer whose only purpose is to keep his workers at their task and get all he can out of them is not likely to attain his goal by dividing them—playing o one worker against the other.
It is rather in his interest that the workers should feel themselves part of a whole, and preferably a whole which comprises the employer, too. A vivid feeling of solidarity, whether racial, national or religious, is undoubtedly an e ective means of preventing labor unrest.
"The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" - a book by Eric Hoffer
Experience shows that production is at its best when the workers feel and act as members of a team. Any policy that disturbs and tears apart the team is bound to cause severe trouble. Group incentive plans in which the bonus is based on the work of the whole team, including the foreman … are much more likely to promote greater productivity and greater satisfaction on the part of the workers.
It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or by remedying the di culties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ine ectual selves— and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole.
It is obvious, therefore, that, in order to succeed, a mass movement must develop at the earliest moment a compact corporate organization and a capacity to absorb and integrate all comers. It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises. What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated.
Where new creeds vie with each other for the allegiance of the populace, the one which comes with the most perfected collective framework wins. Of all the cults and philosophies which competed in the Graeco-Roman world, Christianity alone developed from its inception a compact organization.
No other gave its adherents quite the same feeling of coming into a closely knit community. The compact city states had been partly merged into one vast empire … and the old social and political groupings had been weakened or dissolved. The villagers pagani and the heath-dwellers heathen clung longest to the ancient cults. A somewhat similar situation is to be observed in the rise of nationalist and socialist movements in the second half of the nineteenth century: Experiencing grave economic insecurity and psychological maladjustment, these were very susceptible to demagogic propaganda, socialist or nationalist or both.
When a church which was all- embracing relaxes its hold, new religious movements are likely to crystallize. Their movements against the church, within it and without, were movements not for release from a religious control, but for a fuller and more abundant religious control.
The French Revolution, which was also a nationalist movement, came as a reaction not against the vigorous tyranny of the Catholic Church and the ancient regime but against their weakness and ine ectuality. When people revolt in a totalitarian society, they rise not against the wickedness of the regime but its weakness. Where the corporate pattern is strong, it is di cult for a mass movement to nd a footing. The communal compactness of the Jews, both in Palestine and the Diaspora, was probably one of the reasons that Christianity made so little headway among them.
The destruction of the temple caused, if anything, a tightening of the communal bonds. The synagogue and the congregation received now much of the devotion which formerly owed toward the temple and Jerusalem. Later, when the Christian church had the power to segregate the Jews in ghettos, it gave their communal compactness an additional reinforcement, and thus, unintentionally, ensured the survival of Judaism intact through the ages. Suddenly, and perhaps for the rst time since the days of Job and Ecclesiastes, the Jew found himself an individual, terribly alone in a hostile world.
There was no collective body he could blend with and lose himself in. The synagogue and the congregation had become shriveled lifeless things, while the traditions and prejudices of two thousand years prevented his complete integration with the Gentile corporate bodies.
Thus the modern Jew became the most autonomous of individuals, and inevitably, too, the most frustrated. It is not surprising, therefore, that the mass movements of modern times often found in him a ready convert. The Jew also crowded the roads leading to palliatives of frustration, such as hustling and migration. He also threw himself into a passionate e ort to prove his individual worth by material achievements and creative work.
There was, it is true, one speck of corporateness he could create around himself by his own e orts, namely, the family—and he made the most of it. But in the case of the European Jew, Hitler chewed and scorched this only refuge in concentration camps and gas chambers.
Thus now, more than ever before, the Jew, particularly in Europe, is the ideal potential convert. Israel is indeed a rare refuge: The recent history of Germany also furnishes an interesting example of the relation between corporate compactness and a receptivity to the appeal of mass movements. There was no likelihood of a genuine revolutionary movement arising in Wilhelmian Germany. The Germans were satis ed with the centralized, authoritarian Kaiser regime, and even defeat in the First World War did not impair their love for it.
The revolution of was an arti cial thing with little popular backing.
The years of the Weimar Constitution which followed were for most Germans a time of irritation and frustration. Used as they were to commands from above and respect for authority, they found the loose, irreverent democratic order all confusion and chaos.
So long as the ruling Nazi hierarchy was willing to shoulder all responsibilities and make all decisions, there was not the least chance for any popular antagonism to arise.
A danger point could have been reached had Nazi discipline and its totalitarian control been relaxed. What de Tocqueville says of a tyrannical government is true of all totalitarian orders—their moment of greatest danger is when they begin to reform, that is to say, when they begin to show liberal tendencies. There is hardly an instance of an intact army giving rise to a religious, revolutionary or nationalist movement.
On the other hand, a distintegrating army—whether by the orderly process of demobilization or by desertion due to demoralization—is fertile ground for a proselytizing movement. The man just out of the army is an ideal potential convert, and we nd him among the early adherents of all contemporary mass movements.
He feels alone and lost in the free-for-all of civilian life. The responsibilities and uncertainties of an autonomous existence weigh and prey upon him. He longs for certitude, camaraderie, freedom from individual responsibility, and a vision of something altogether di erent from the competitive free society around him—and he nds all this in the brotherhood and the revivalist atmosphere of a rising movement.
There are rst the temporary mis ts: Adolescent youth, unemployed college graduates, veterans, new immigrants and the like are of this category. They are restless, dissatis ed and haunted by the fear that their best years will be wasted before they reach their goal. They are receptive to the preaching of a proselytizing movement and yet do not always make staunch converts.
For they are not irrevocably estranged from the self; they do not see it as irremediably spoiled. It is easy for them to conceive an autonomous existence that is purposeful and hopeful. The slightest evidence of progress and success reconciles them with the world and their selves. The role of veterans in the rise of mass movements has been touched upon in Section A prolonged war by national armies is likely to be followed by a period of social unrest for victors and vanquished alike. The reason is neither the unleashing of passions and the taste of violence during wartime nor the loss of faith in a social order that could not prevent so enormous and meaningless a waste of life and wealth.
It is rather due to the prolonged break in the civilian routine of the millions enrolled in the national armies. The returning soldiers nd it di cult to recapture the rhythm of their prewar lives.
The readjustment to peace and home is slow and painful, and the country is flooded with temporary misfits. Thus it seems that the passage from war to peace is more critical for an established order than the passage from peace to war. No achievement, however spectacular, in other elds can give them a sense of ful llment. Whatever they undertake becomes a passionate pursuit; but they never arrive, never pause.
They demonstrate the fact that we can never have enough of that which we really do not want, and that we run fastest and farthest when we run from ourselves.
The permanent mis ts can nd salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually nd it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement. By renouncing individual will, judgment and ambition, and dedicating all their powers to the service of an eternal cause, they are at last lifted o the endless treadmill which can never lead them to fulfillment.
The most incurably frustrated—and, therefore, the most vehement —among the permanent mis ts are those with an unful lled craving for creative work.
Both those who try to write, paint, compose, etcetera, and fail decisively, and those who after tasting the elation of creativeness feel a drying up of the creative ow within and know that never again will they produce aught worth- while, are alike in the grip of a desperate passion.
Neither fame nor power nor riches nor even monumental achievements in other elds can still their hunger. Even the wholehearted dedication to a holy cause does not always cure them.
Their unappeased hunger persists, and they are likely to become the most violent extremists in the service of their holy cause. The more sel sh a person, the more poignant his disappointments. It is the inordinately selfish, therefore, who are likely to be the most persuasive champions of selflessness. The ercest fanatics are often sel sh people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves.
They separate the excellent instrument of their sel shness from their ine ectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause. And though it be a faith of love and humility they adopt, they can be neither loving nor humble. When opportunities are apparently unlimited, there is an inevitable deprecation of the present. The attitude is: Hence the remarkable fact that, joined with the ruthless self-seeking which seems to be the mainspring of gold- hunters, land-grabbers and other get-rich-quick enthusiasts, there is an excessive readiness for self-sacri ce and united action.
Patriotism, racial solidarity, and even the preaching of revolution nd a more ready response among people who see limitless opportunities spread out before them than among those who move within the xed limits of a familiar, orderly and predictable pattern of existence. IX Minorities 40 A minority is in a precarious position, however protected it be by law or force.
The frustration engendered by the unavoidable sense of insecurity is less intense in a minority intent on preserving its identity than in one bent upon dissolving in and blending with the majority. A minority which preserves its identity is inevitably a compact whole which shelters the individual, gives him a sense of belonging and immunizes him against frustration.
On the other hand, in a minority bent on assimilation, the individual stands alone, pitted against prejudice and discrimination. He is also burdened with the sense of guilt, however vague, of a renegade.
The orthodox Jew is less frustrated than the emancipated Jew. The segregated Negro in the South is less frustrated than the nonsegregated Negro in the North. Again, within a minority bent on assimilation, the least and most successful economically and culturally are likely to be more frustrated than those in between. The man who fails sees himself as an outsider; and, in the case of a member of a minority group who wants to blend with the majority, failure intensi es the feeling of not belonging.
A similar feeling crops up at the other end of the economic or cultural scale. Those of a minority who attain fortune and fame often nd it di cult to gain entrance into the exclusive circles of the majority.
They are thus made conscious of their foreignness. Furthermore, having evidence of their individual superiority, they resent the admission of inferiority implied in the process of assimilation. Thus it is to be expected that the least and most successful of a minority bent on assimilation should be the most responsive to the appeal of a proselytizing mass movement.
"The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" - a book by Eric Hoffer
In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed. To a deliberate fomenter of mass upheavals, the report that people are bored sti should be at least as encouraging as that they are suffering from intolerable economic or political abuses.
When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored. The consciousness of a barren, meaningless existence is the main fountainhead of boredom.
People who are not conscious of their individual separateness, as is the case with those who are members of a compact tribe, church, party, etcetera, are not accessible to boredom. The di erentiated individual is free of boredom only when he is engaged either in creative work or some absorbing occupation or when he is wholly engrossed in the struggle for existence.
Pleasure-chasing and dissipation are ine ective palliatives. Where people live autonomous lives and are not badly o , yet are without abilities or opportunities for creative work or useful action, there is no telling to what desperate and fantastic shifts they might resort in order to give meaning and purpose to their lives. Boredom accounts for the almost invariable presence of spinsters and middle-aged women at the birth of mass movements. Marriage has for women many equivalents of joining a mass movement.
It o ers them a new purpose in life, a new future and a new identity a new name. The boredom of spinsters and of women who can no longer nd joy and ful llment in marriage stems from an awareness of a barren, spoiled life.
By embracing a holy cause and dedicating their energies and substance to its advancement, they nd a new life full of purpose and meaning. Restlessly, they applauded innovators. Fervent patriotism as well as religious and revolutionary enthusiasm often serves as a refuge from a guilty conscience.
It is a strange thing that both the injurer and the injured, the sinner and he who is sinned against, should nd in the mass movement an escape from a blemished life.
Remorse and a sense of grievance seem to drive people in the same direction. It sometimes seems that mass movements are custommade to t the needs of the criminal—not only for the catharsis of his soul but also for the exercise of his inclinations and talents. The technique of a proselytizing mass movement aims to evoke in the faithful the mood and frame of mind of a repentant criminal. Here, as elsewhere, the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then o er the movement as a cure.
It depicts the autonomous self not only as barren and helpless but also as vile. Bernard, the moving spirit of the Second Crusade, thus appealed for recruits: Crime is to some extent a substitute for a mass movement.
Where public opinion and law enforcement are not too stringent, and poverty not absolute, the underground pressure of malcontents and mis ts often leaks out in crime.
It has been observed that in the exaltation of mass movements whether patriotic, religious or revolutionary common crime declines. When we ascribe the success of a movement to its faith, doctrine, propaganda, leadership, ruthlessness and so on, we are but referring to instruments of uni cation and to means used to inculcate a readiness for self-sacri ce.
It is perhaps impossible to understand the nature of mass movements unless it is recognized that their chief preoccupation is to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacri ce. To know the processes by which such a facility is engendered is to grasp the inner logic of most of the characteristic attitudes and practices of an active mass movement.
With few exceptions,1 any group or organization which tries, for one reason or another, to create and maintain compact unity and a constant readiness for self-sacri ce usually manifests the peculiarities—both noble and base—of a mass movement.
On the other hand, a mass movement is bound to lose much which distinguishes it from other types of organization when it relaxes its collective compactness and begins to countenance self-interest as a legitimate motive of activity. In times of peace and prosperity, a democratic nation is an institutionalized association of more or less free individuals.
The same is true of religious and revolutionary organizations: The important point is that in the poignantly frustrated the propensities for united action and self-sacri ce arise spontaneously. It should be possible, therefore, to gain some clues concerning the nature of these propensities, and the technique to be employed for their deliberate inculcation, by tracing their spontaneous emergence in the frustrated mind.
What ails the frustrated? It is the consciousness of an irremediably blemished self. Their chief desire is to escape that self—and it is this desire which manifests itself in a propensity for united action and self-sacri ce.
Moreover, the estrangement from the self is usually accompanied by a train of diverse and seemingly unrelated attitudes and impulses which a closer probing reveals to be essential factors in the process of uni cation and of self-sacri ce.
The True Believer Summary
In other words, frustration not only gives rise to the desire for unity and the readiness for self-sacri ce but also creates a mechanism for their realization. Such diverse phenomena as a deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible, and many others which crowd the minds of the intensely frustrated are, as we shall see, unifying agents and prompters of recklessness.
In Sections 44— an attempt will be made to show that when we set out to inculcate in people a facility for united action and self-sacri ce, we do all we can—whether we know it or not—to induce and encourage an estrangement from the self, and that we strive to evoke and cultivate in them many of the diverse attitudes and impulses which accompany the spontaneous estrangement from the self in the frustrated. In short, we shall try to show that the technique of an active mass movement consists basically in the inculcation and cultivation of proclivities and responses indigenous to the frustrated mind.
He is likely to feel that much has been exaggerated and much ignored. But this is not an authoritative textbook. It is a book of thoughts, and it does not shy away from half-truths so long as they seem to hint at a new approach and help to formulate new questions. When we hear of a group that is particularly contemptuous of death, we are usually justi ed in concluding that the group is closely knit and thoroughly uni ed.
Both united action and self- sacri ce require self-diminution. In order to become part of a compact whole, the individual has to forego much. He has to give up privacy, individual judgment and often individual possessions. To school a person to united action is, therefore, to ready him for acts of self-denial. On the other hand, the man who practices self- abnegation sloughs o the hard shell which keeps him apart from others and is thus made assimilable. Every unifying agent is, therefore, a promoter of self-sacri ce and vice versa.
Nevertheless, in the following sections, a division is made for the sake of convenience. But the dual function of each factor is always kept in mind. It is well to outline here the plan followed in Sections 44—63, which deal with the subject of self-sacrifice. The technique of fostering a readiness to ght and to die consists in separating the individual from his esh-and-blood self—in not allowing him to be his real self.
He must cease to be George, Hans, Ivan, or Tadao—a human atom with an existence bounded by birth and death. The most drastic way to achieve this end is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. The fully assimilated individual does not see himself and others as human beings.
When asked who he is, his automatic response is that he is a German, a Russian, a Japanese, a Christian, a Moslem, a member of a certain tribe or family.
He has no purpose, worth and destiny apart from his collective body; and as long as that body lives he cannot really die. To a man utterly without a sense of belonging, mere life is all that matters. It is the only reality in an eternity of nothingness, and he clings to it with shameless despair. The student Raskolnikov wanders about the streets of St. Petersburg in a delirious state. He had. He feels cut o from mankind. As he passes through the red-light district near the Hay Market he muses: Only to live, to live and live!
Life whatever it may be! In every act, however trivial, the individual must by some ritual associate himself with the congregation, the tribe, the party, etcetera. His joys and sorrows, his pride and con dence must spring from the fortunes and capacities of the group rather than from his individual prospects and abilities.
Above all, he must never feel alone. Though stranded on a desert island, he must still feel that he is under the eyes of the group. To be cast out from the group should be equivalent to being cut off from life.
This is undoubtedly a primitive state of being, and its most perfect examples are found among primitive tribes. Mass movements strive to approximate this primitive perfection, and we are not imagining things when the anti-individualist bias of contemporary mass movements strikes us as a throwback to the primitive.
The people who stood up best in the Nazi concentration camps were those who felt themselves members of a compact party the Communists , of a church priests and ministers , or of a close-knit national group.
The individualists, whatever their nationality, caved in. The Western European Jew proved to be the most defenseless. Spurned by the Gentiles even those within the concentration camps , and without vital ties with a Jewish community, he faced his tormentors alone—forsaken by the whole of humanity.
One realizes now that the ghetto of the Middle Ages was for the Jews more a fortress than a prison.
Without the sense of utmost unity and distinctness which the ghetto imposed upon them, they could not have endured with unbroken spirit the violence and abuse of those dark centuries.
When the Middle Ages returned for a brief decade in our day, they caught the Jew without his ancient defenses and crushed him. His only source of strength is in not being himself but part of something mighty, glorious and indestructible.
Faith here is primarily a process of identi cation; the process by which the individual ceases to be himself and becomes part of something eternal. It is somewhat terrifying to realize that the totalitarian leaders of our day, in recognizing this source of desperate courage, made use of it not only to steel the spirit of their followers but also to break the spirit of their opponents. In his purges of the old Bolshevik leaders, Stalin succeeded in turning proud and brave men into cringing cowards by depriving them of any possibility of identi cation with the party they had served all their lives and with the Russian masses.
These old Bolsheviks had long ago cut themselves o from humanity outside Russia. They had an unbounded contempt for the past and for history which could still be made by capitalistic humanity.
They had renounced God. By humbling themselves before the congregation of the faithful they broke out of their isolation. They renewed their communion with the eternal whole by reviling the self, accusing it of monstrous and spectacular crimes and sloughing it off in public. Similarly, in the case of the Jews, their behavior in Palestine could not have been predicted from their behavior in Europe.
The British colonial o cials in Palestine followed a policy sound in logic but lacking in insight.The curtain is both physical and psychological. The association of believing and lying is not characteristic solely of children. Maureen Direro. There is less risk in being discredited when trying the impossible than when trying the possible.
Hence it is that people with a sense of ful llment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change. The fact that they understand a thing fully impairs its validity and certitude in their eyes. Marriage has for women many equivalents of joining a mass movement.
It is di cult to see, therefore, how the present Labor government in England can realize its program of socialization, which demands some measure of self-sacri ce from every Briton, in the colorless and undramatic setting of socialist Britain. All mass movements deprecate the present by depicting it as a mean preliminary to a glorious future; a mere doormat on the threshold of the millennium.
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