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Valar Qringaomis

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Hatred and Mass Movements

"Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. It pulls and whirls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his weal and future, frees him of jealousies and self-seeking. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass. Heine suggests that what Christian love cannot do is effected by a common hatred.

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: “No…. We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.” F. A. Voigt tells of a Japanese mission that arrived in Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought of the movement. He replied: “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.” It is perhaps true that the insight and shrewdness of the men who know how to set a mass movement in motion, or how to keep one going, manifest themselves as much in knowing how to pick a worthy enemy as in knowing what doctrine to embrace and what program to adopt. The theoreticians of the Kremlin hardly waited for the guns of the Second World War to cool before they picked the democratic West, and particularly America, as the chosen enemy...

Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements. To share a common hatred, with an enemy even, is to infect him with a feeling of kinship, and thus sap his powers of resistance. Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify his Germans but also to sap the resoluteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. He made a similar use of anti-communism.

It seems that, like the ideal deity, the ideal devil is one. We have it from Hitler—the foremost authority on devils—that the genius of a great leader consists in concentrating all hatred on a single foe, making “even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category.” When Hitler picked the Jew as his devil, he peopled practically the whole world outside Germany with Jews or those who worked for them. “Behind England stands Israel, and behind France, and behind the United States.” Stalin, too, adheres to the monotheistic principle when picking a devil. Formerly this devil was a fascist; now he is an American plutocrat.

Again, like an ideal deity, the ideal devil is omnipotent and omnipresent. When Hitler was asked whether he was not attributing rather too much importance to the Jews, he exclaimed:

“No, no, no! … It is impossible to exaggerate the formidable quality of the Jew as an enemy.” Every difficulty and failure within the movement is the work of the devil, and every success is a triumph over his evil plotting.

We do not usually look for allies when we love. Indeed, we often look on those who love with us as rivals and trespassers. But we always look for allies when we hate.

It is understandable that we should look for others to side with us when we have a just grievance and crave to retaliate against those who wronged us. The puzzling thing is that when our hatred does not spring from a visible grievance and does not seem justified, the desire for allies becomes more pressing. It is chiefly the unreasonable hatreds that drive us to merge with those who hate as we do, and it is this kind of hatred that serves as one of the most effective cementing agents...

Even in the case of a just grievance, our hatred comes less from a wrong done to us than from the consciousness of our helplessness, inadequacy and cowardice—in other words from self-contempt. When we feel superior to our tormentors, we are likely to despise them, even pity them, but not hate them. That the relation between grievance and hatred is not simple and direct is also seen from the fact that the released hatred is not always directed against those who wronged us. Often, when we are wronged by one person, we turn our hatred on a wholly unrelated person or group. Russians, bullied by Stalin’s secret police, are easily inflamed against “capitalist warmongers;” Germans, aggrieved by the Versailles treaty, avenged themselves by exterminating Jews; Zulus, oppressed by Boers, butcher Hindus; white trash, exploited by Dixiecrats, lynch Blacks.

Self-contempt produces in man “the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults”...

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

Whether it is true or not as Pascal says that “all men by nature hate each other,” and that love and charity are only “a feint and a false image, for at bottom they are but hate,” one cannot escape the impression that hatred is an all-pervading ingredient in the compounds and combinations of our inner life. All our enthusiasms, devotions, passions and hopes, when they decompose, release hatred."

--- The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements / Eric Hoffer
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