The types of people involved in mass movements

It is interesting to see the different types of people who make up campus movements. The first 3 blockquotes are from the book The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, 1951. The...

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It is interesting to see the different types of people who make up campus movements.

The first 3 blockquotes are from the book The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, 1951.

The people (activists) involved in these movements can be split into 3 groups:

“The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.” 

Firstly, the thugs who enjoy using mindless intimidation and violence to participate in a cause they likely don’t even understand. They are often outsiders who are just there to make up the numbers; they have no skin in the game. These people are often those who have failed at life, and they blame the world for their failure. They are convinced that those who are successful can attribute their success to a fortuitous combination of circumstances (‘privilege’). This group also tends to bring singing and dancing to the party.

“The frustration of misfits can vary in intensity. There are first the temporary misfits: people who have not found their place in life but still hope to find it. Adolescent youth, unemployed college graduates, veterans, new immigrants and the like are of this category. They are restless, dissatisfied and haunted by the fear that their best years will be wasted before they reach their goal.”

Secondly, there are the useful idiots (progressives) who consider themselves the intellectuals of the movement. They are the lifeblood of the movement; they are the only ones who really believe in what they are fighting for. They tend to repeat the privilege and patriarchy jargon like parrots and will self-righteously lecture those who dissent onto an irrational guilt trip. If you question their assertions or come up with counter arguments that rock their flimsy boat, you will be labelled ‘ignorant’ or ‘racist’ and told to ‘take a seat’ and ‘educate yourself’ (whatever that really means). These people are interchangeable and expendable. Once ‘normalisation‘ occurs, or they have achieved their goal, they will be left empty handed and pushed aside, getting no meaningful reward or recognition. Most of them will eventually grow up, and leave their narrow minded obsession with identity behind. 

“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.” 

Thirdly, the leaders of the movement. They are manipulative, and most likely don’t fully believe in what they are fighting for. They can be somewhat deluded in calling themselves ‘revolutionaries’, and won’t hesitate to stab their fellow leaders in the back.They may, at first be successful at getting things done, but often the negativity that flows into what they say and do and their unconscious need for enemies and conflict ultimately just create more opposition to their cause. They enjoy the attention however, and are often doing so to make a name for themselves as they seek to further their political careers.

From A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle:

“Whatever behaviour the ego manifests, the hidden motivating force is always the same: the need to stand out, be special, be in control; the need for power, for attention, for more. And, of course, the need to feel a sense of separation, that is to say, the need for opposition, enemies.  The ego always wants something from other people or situations. There is always a hidden agenda, always a sense of not enough yet, of insufficiency and lack that needs to be filled. It uses people and situations to get what it wants, and even when it succeeds, it is never satisfied for long.”

See also: Irrational emotions get the better of UCT

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