Eric Hoffer was an American dock worker. An everyman. Not a rich man, not a man you would have noticed in the streets in the 1930s and 1940s. One of the nameless, voiceless masses we live and work with every day.
But he was more than that. He was also a keen observer of human nature. He wrote The True Believer, late in life, while living in obscurity, and went on to win world-leaders ears due to the wisdom and simplicity of his message.
We are never quite out of the shadow of totalitarianism and fanaticism. We are never too evolved to forget the lessons of our past (oh! what arrogance, to hear “futurists” today saying that we can learn nothing from the past! shame on them, they will learn, they will learn… hopefully, before it is too late.)
You should read this book, and give a copy to someone who needs to learn from the past to live in a better future.
Just listen to this:
” The discarded and rejected are often the raw material of a nation’s future.” (now that is what you call foresight from hindsight.)
“The intensity of discontent seems to be in inverse proportion to the distance from the object fervently desired…. It is true both of those who have just come in sight of the promised land, and of the disinherited who are still within site of it; both of the about-to-be-rich, free, etcetera, and of the new poor and those recently enslaved “ (South Africa, I’m looking at you, in both directions.)
“Freedom aggravates at least us much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual…. Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.” (fellow Millennials, I am looking at YOU.)
“Dreams, visions and wild hopes are mighty weapons, and realistic tools.” (And we get the leaders we deserve, the power-hungry men who understand and exploit this.)
“It is startling to realise how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.” (a hint at the new gods ahead.)
“The effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but my how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is.”
“There is an illiterate air about the most literate true believer.” (remind you much of the current moral panics originating in academic institutions?)
“Although they seem at opposite poles, fanatics of all kinds are actually crowded together at one end.” (oh, yes, indeed, communism, socialism and fascism are all just different flavours of authoritarianism, different marketing, same product underneath the wrapper.)
But there is hope to be found in the men and women of the future who, like their forebears, “fought, and died for cities yet to be built, and gardens yet to be planted.”
What a man, what a book.