The True Believer

By Eric Hoffer, sometime gold miner, migratory field laborer, longshoreman, and a thinker whose insights into the nature of political mass movements and natural grasp of their psychology has yielded a work as important to understand today as when it was first written in 1951. What follows are a few tender morsels which I hope will induce you to go out to a used bookstore and pick up a copy for a couple bucks. It's well worth your time.

On Poverty

"...A popular upheaval in Soviet Russia is hardly likely before the people get a real taste of the good life. The most dangerous moment for the regime of the Politburo will be when a considerable improvement in the economic conditions of the Russian masses has been achieved and the iron totalitarian rule somewhat relaxed."

On Hatred

"...It is easier to hate an enemy with much good in him than one who is all bad. We cannot hate those we despise. The Japanese had an advantage over us in that they admired us more than we admired them. They could hate us more fervently than we could hate them. The Americans are poor haters in international affairs because of their innate feeling of superiority over all foreigners. An American's hatred for a fellow American is far more virulent than any antipathy he can work up against foreigners. It is of interest that the backward South shows more xenophobia than the rest of the country. Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life."

On Tolerance

"...Unity and self-sacrifice, of themselves, even when fostered by the most noble means, produce a facility for hating. Even when men league themselves mightily together to promote tolerance and peace on earth, they are likely to be violently intolerant towards those not of a like mind."

On Leadership

"...In a more or less free society, the leader can retain his hold on the people only when he has blind faith in their wisdom and goodness. A second-rate leader possessed of this faith will outlast a first-class leader who is without it. This means that in a free society the leader follows the people even as he leads them. He must, as someone said, find out where the people are going so that he may lead them. When the leader in a free society becomes contemptuous of the people, he sooner or later proceeds on the false and fatal theory that all men are fools, and eventually blunders into defeat."

Well, there you have a little taste. Now by all means read the book!

"The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" by Eric Hoffer, 1951.
Harper and Row, Publishers, New York and Evanston

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