Monday, February 27, 2017

Amazing! More Relevant Today Than Ever Before . . .

An article by Reuven Brenner (The 'Longshoreman Philosopher' Saw Trump Coming in 1970) in today's Wall Street Journal reintroduced us to Eric Hoffer, the blue-collar philosopher who authored the classic "The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of Mass Movements" in 1951 and followed that up with numerous articles and essays into the 1970s. We studied Hoffer in college but then he seemed to have faded from view as liberals (who never liked him in the first place) deemed him out of fashion.
But in his article today, Brenner shows how incredibly relevant Hoffer's observations are to what is happening in our own country right now.
For example, in a 1970 essay in the New York Times, Hoffer concluded: We must deflate the pretensions of self-appointed elites. These elites will hate us no matter what we do, and it is legitimate for us to help dump them into the dustbin of history."

Here are some other pertinent quotes from Hoffer's many writings:

"The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated. They hanker for the scribe's golden age, for a return to something like the scribe-dominated societies of ancient Egypt, China, and Europe of the Middle Ages. There is little doubt that the present trend in the new and renovated countries toward social regimentation stems partly from the need to create adequate employment for a large number of scribes. And since the tempo of the production of the literate is continually increasing, the prospect is of ever-swelling bureaucracies."

"The attitude of the intellectual community toward America is shaped not by the creative few but by the many who for one reason or another cannot transmute their dissatisfaction into a creative impulse, and cannot acquire a sense of uniqueness and of growth by developing and expressing their capacities and talents. There is nothing in contemporary America that can cure or alleviate their chronic frustration. They want power, lordship, and opportunities for imposing action. Even if we should banish poverty from the land, lift up the Negro to true equality, withdraw from Vietnam, and give half of the national income as foreign aid, they will still see America as an air-conditioned nightmare unfit for them to live in."

"There is, for instance, the fact that there is a greater readiness to work in a society with a high standard of living than in one with a low standard. We are more ready to strive and work for superfluities than for necessities. People who are clear-sighted, undeluded, and sober-minded will not go on working once their reasonable needs are satisfied. A society that refuses to strive for superfluities is likely to end up lacking in necessities. The readiness to work springs from trivial, questionable motives. … A vigorous society is a society made up of people who set their hearts on toys, and who would work for superfluities than for necessities. The self-righteous moralists decry such a society, yet it is well to keep in mind that both children and artists need luxuries more than they need necessities."

"Man is a luxury-loving animal. Take away play, fancies, and luxuries, and you will turn man into a dull, sluggish creature, barely energetic enough to obtain a bare subsistence. A society becomes stagnant when its people are too rational or too serious to be tempted by baubles."

"The history of this country was made largely by people who wanted to be left alone. Those who could not thrive when left to themselves never felt at ease in America."

"One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world's problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive — it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men."

"The monstrous evils of the twentieth century have shown us that the greediest money grubbers are gentle doves compared with money-hating wolves like Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, who in less than three decades killed or maimed nearly a hundred million men, women, and children and brought untold suffering to a large portion of mankind."

"Ours is a golden age of minorities. At no time in the past have dissident minorities felt so much at home and had so much room to throw their weight around. They speak and act as if they were "the people," and what they abominate most is the dissent of the majority."

"The beginning of thought is in disagreement — not only with others but also with ourselves."

"The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax."

"Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority.
"They who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society. The frustrated, oppressed by their shortcomings, blame their failure on existing restraints. Actually, their innermost desire is for an end to the 'free for all.' They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society."

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