8/16/2006

Passionate Hatred


Eric Hoffer (1902-1983), the Philosopher and Author wrote a classic book in 1951 on the nature of mass movements. It was first brought to national attention when cited by President Dwight Eisenhower and it speaks to what is happening today, not only in the Middle East, but in far too many places in our world.

"Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find 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... "There is a deep reassurance for the frustrated in witnessing the downfall of the fortunate and the disgrace of the righteous. They see in general downfall an approach to the brotherhood of all. Chaos, like the grave, is a haven of equality. Their burning conviction that there must be a new life and a new order is fueled by the realization that the old will have to be razed to the ground before the new can be built..."A sublime religion inevitably generates a strong feeling of guilt. There is an unavoidable contrast between loftiness of profession and imperfection of practice. And, as one would expect, the feeling of guilt promotes hate and brazenness. Thus it seems that the more sublime the faith the more virulent the hatred it breeds."Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Perennial, 1951, pp. 96-8

9 comments:

Dave said...

The Hoffer quote is even more appropriate today than it was during his lifetime, but it has been true throughout human history. Think of the atrocities of the French Revolution, which were far worse than the legitimate grievances the Revolution started out intending to correct. Power in the hands of mobs, or in the hands of people who had nothing going for them until they got the power, is the scariest thing on earth.

Behind Blue Eyes said...

Wow! That is great! I will have to read that book! It puts into words so eloquently what we see happening around us in big ways and in small ways! Thanks! I never heard of the book before! Now I have a new book to look forward to!

Amishav said...

Huh, kinda explains hamas, nazis, hezbollah, iran...

Ricardo said...

A very wise man....

Diane S. said...

Excellent and thoughtful quote. Wish I had run across the book when I was doing research in political movements.

The thing about social movements is that they tend to get increasingly radical. The American Revolution is a rare exception to that. We were very lucky. Consider the French and the Reign of Terror.

Sherril said...

Dave,
Power in the hands of those who feel like they have nothing to lose, may result in the most dangerous outcomes of all.

BBE,
Hoffer's book was a new find for me as well.

Amishav,
I'm afraid it explains the actions of most, if not all, of the "mass movements", done in the name of GOD, in whatever name he/she is found.

Ricardo,
Yes, it makes one want to do more looking into the life and writings of Eric Hoffer.

Diane,
Yes, I think that is what Dave, above,was referring to. Oftentimes, social movements start out with justifiable causes, but then their furvor takes over and their violence subverts the goodness of the original cause.

Anonymous said...

Is this like what happened to Sarah Palin?

Sherril said...

What happened to Sarah Palin?

Sherril

Steve said...

The downfall of the fortunate, The disgrace of the righteous,.... The main stream press portrays Palin as the Religious Right anti-abortion etc... What?, she gave birth to a downs syndrome child? So it is not her child.. etc etc...
But really, what did she do wrong? She was thrust into the lime light , and she lost.
For the life of me i can't understand the "hatred" that people have for this woman. What did she do to you to deserve this? She and others have a different opinion, that is all.
Hey, you guys won! OK So CAn We All Just MOVE ON?
Don't Be Hatin'
Steve