In The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements, Eric Hoffer wrote:
Where freedom is real, equality is the passion of the masses. 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.
This is a thought I spent a lot of time with. It’s one to roll around in your mind for a bit and savor. It isn’t obvious, but it seems likely to be true.
What do we do with this fact if it is accurate? Does it help us create the society we want? Is there anything we can do about it if it doesn’t?
Get the book from Amazon here, or borrow it from your local library like I did.
When I first started my blog, Really Wonderful Things, many months ago, I also started browsing and following many others via the WordPress Reader. One of those blogs led me to The True Believer, though I failed to note the link and can’t find it now.
This is one of the most powerful reads I’ve enjoyed in the past several years. I made note of nine sections in a file I keep for absolutely brilliant thoughts. I noted excerpts from §12, 18, 29 (above), 30, 47, 56, 91, 93, and 98.
As I understand it, Eric Hoffer was a self-taught philosopher employed as a manual laborer. His book became a bestseller after President Eisenhower quoted it in a speech.
I don’t typically read Philosophy for entertainment. I’m simply not drawn to the abstruseness of others, preferring instead to wade through disparate straightforward and concrete facts to construct my own syntheses. It’s how I keep myself entertained as a stay at home mom.
Here is a plainly written collection of observations on the nature of mass movements that, at least in my opinion, still speaks directly to some of the major issues of our time.
I’ll leave you with this thought on political leaders and why they can get away with blatant untruths:
…The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.
Charlatanism of some degree is indispensable to effective leadership. There can be no mass movements without some deliberate misrepresentation of facts. No solid, tangible advantage can hold a following and make it zealous and loyal unto death.
Does it strike you as relevant to current world leaders?