Why isn’t The True Believer taught to 7th graders? Eric Hoffer wrote this marvelously illuminating book, and an understanding of it, achieved by even a small segment of the population, would make America a better place. It’s one of the books I always keep a copy of, around the place, in case I run across somebody who might get something out of it.
Here are some of the best quotations, all by Eric Hoffer.
The tendency to look for all causes outside ourselves persists even when it is clear that our state of being is the product of personal qualities such as ability, character, appearance, health and so on.
The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.
The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.
Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual.
Not one of our contemporary movements was so outspoken in its antagonism toward the family as was early Christianity.
Marriage has for women many equivalents of joining a mass movement. It offers them a new purpose in life, a new future and a new identity.
It sometimes seems that mass movements are custom-made to fit the needs of the criminal – not only for the catharsis of his soul but also for the exercise of his inclinations and talents.
Not only does a mass movement depict the present as mean and miserable – it deliberately makes it so. It views ordinary enjoyment as trivial or even discreditable, and represents the pursuit of personal happiness as immoral.
The rule seems to be that those who find no difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others.
Though they seem at opposite poles, fanatics of all kinds are actually crowded together at one end. It is the fanatic and the moderate who are poles apart and never meet.
Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without belief in a devil.
The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness.
Men of thought seldom work well together, whereas between men of action there is usually an easy camaraderie.
However much the protesting man of words sees himself as the champion of the downtrodden and injured, the grievance which animates him is, with very few exceptions, private and personal.
In the eyes of the true believer, people who have no holy cause are without backbone and character… On the other hand, the true believers of various hues, though they view each other with mortal hatred … recognize and respect each other’s strength.