I just today discovered this blog. I can see I’ll be spending some time there getting caught up. Her essays on “A Mind is a Difficult Thing to Change” especially. But I’ve found one piece in particular that rang the gong of absolute truth. From Condescension and leaving the political fold:
(A)t the time I didn’t see it coming, and it was extremely shocking and disturbing to me. But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I think that I actually would have gotten a better response from them if I’d skipped the “I’ve always been a liberal Democrat” intro. Because there are few things more hated than an apostate, a turncoat, a traitor.
Someone who leaves the fold is much worse than someone who was never in it. There’s a special rage reserved for those who have rejected the ideas that others hold dear.
From Eric Hoffer’s book, True Believer on the difference between an army and a mass movement:
It is well at this point, before leaving the subject of self-sacrifice, to have a look at the similarities and differences between mass movements and armies.
The similarities are many: both mass movements and armies are collective bodies; both strip the individual of his separateness and distinctness; both demand self-sacrifice, unquestioning obedience and singlehearted allegiance; both make extensive use of make-belief to promote daring and united action; and both can serve as a refuge for the frustrated who cannot endure an automomous existence. A military body like the Foreign Legion attracts many of the types who usually rush to join a new movement. It is also true that the recruiting officer, the Communist agitator and the missionary often fish simultaneously in the cesspools of skid row.
But the differences are fundamental: an army does not come to fulfill a need for a new way of life; it is not a road to salvation. It can be used as a stick in the hand of a coercer to impose a new way of life and force it down unwilling throats. But the army is mainly an instrument devised for the preservation or expansion of an established order — old or new. It is a temporary instrument that can be assembled and taken apart at will. The mass movement, on the other hand, seems an instrument of eternity, and those who join it do so for life. The ex-soldier is a veteran, even a hero; the ex-true believer is a renegade. The army is an instrument for bolstering, protecting and expanding the present. The mass movement comes to destroy the present. Its preoccupation is with the future, and it derives its vigor and drive from this preoccupation.
Being an instrument of the present, an army deals mainly with the possible. Its leaders do not rely on miracles. Even when animated by fervent faith, they are open to compromise. They reckon with the possibility of defeat and know how to surrender. On the other hand, the leader of a mass movement has an overwhelming contempt for the present — for all its stubborn facts and perplexities, even those of geography and the weather. He relies on miracles. His hatred of the present (his nihilism) comes to the fore when the situation becomes desperate. He destroys his country and his people rather than surrender.
When I finally get around to updating the blogroll, she’s going on it.