Sunday, 25 September 2016

Coming soon on Samizdat Broadcasts: An analysis of "The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer

What follows is a teaser excerpt from an analysis of Eric Hoffer's brilliant work The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, which includes discussion of how Hoffer's work continues to be relevant today.

"Once people start to become satisfied with their conditions of life, the psychic fire that animates the true believer begins to wane.  The present must be seen, at best, as a bridge between a once glorious past and a destined to be glorious future.  The bridge between the two is the true believer’s willingness to sacrifice contentedness in the present.  As a corollary to this, Hoffer notices that “the boundary line between radical and reactionary is not always distinct. The reactionary manifests radicalism when he comes to recreate his ideal past. His image of the past is based less on what it actually was than on what he wants the future to be. He innovates more than he reconstructs. A somewhat similar shift occurs in the case of the radical when he goes about building his new world. He feels the need for practical guidance, and since he has rejected and destroyed the present he is compelled to link the new world with some point in the past. If he has to employ violence in shaping the new, his view of man’s nature darkens and approaches closer to that of the reactionary.”  
This truism is born out in any observation of the curious mix of appeal to the pre-and-postmodern that one sees in far right reactionary modernism, which used leading edge technologies such as radio in the 1930s or internet memes in our time to spread decidedly not leading edge social ideas.  The radicals, in an interesting contrast, have been in a decades long retreat from modernism under the auspices of “postmodernism”, until what we now have is the barely disguised fascism of the social justice warriors.
The true believer cannot take solace in the present, and this is what insulates them from recognizing the validity of any actual real world successes the movement has enjoyed.  They can only truly be motivated by what Hoffer describes as “Things which are not.”  People are, Hoffer claims, less likely to fight to the end for the things they have and value in the present real world, because their practical value is ultimately subordinate to the ultimate value that the person reconciled to the present places on their lives, or those things that make their lives possible.  This is in stark contrast to the true believer, who so recklessly dispenses with the present and thus has, they feel nothing to lose.  As an example, Hoffer cites “It was not the least of Hitler’s formidable powers that he knew how to drain his opponents (at least in continental Europe) of all hope. His fanatical conviction that he was building a new order that would last a thousand years communicated itself both to followers and antagonists. To the former it gave the feeling that in ‑ fighting for the Third Reich they were in league with eternity, while the latter felt that to struggle against Hitler’s new order was to defy inexorable fate.” 
This could shed some light on why it is that academic, media, business and government leadership in the very late 20th and early 21st centuries have cowed so quickly and readily before even the most absurd demands of the politically correct social justice warriors.  For professionals and administrators in these governing organizations are examples of the irony that Hoffer observes “that those who hug the present and hang on to it with all their might should be the least capable of defending it.”  Militant social justice activists, on the other hand, however much they too have, are truly fighting for “cities yet to be built and gardens yet to be planted.”  
When late 20th century feminism, accustomed only to victory after victory - at least in the social and professional spheres - all the way back to the 1960s finally encountered serious resistance a few short years ago in obscure backwaters of cyberspace, the crux of that resistance was, despite what its supporters or opponents might tell you, neither about misogyny in gaming culture, nor about “integrity in video game journalism”, but about the stewing mix of hope and resentment in hearts and minds every bit as alienated from the present and therefore every bit as willing to pull out all the stops as the radfems themselves have been for the attainment of things they have not."
The completed analysis will appear on my YouTube channel, Samizdat Broadcasts.  In the meantime, read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements on PDF here.

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