- May 14th, 2017
“If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”
- Terry Pratchett, “The Thief of Time’.
Somewhere in the United States today, some ‘Antifa’ member who has watched ‘V for Vendetta’ far too often, is muttering about how the country needs a good civil war. Some loudmouth with Black Lives Matter has probably shouted that it is time to start killing police and whites.
Meanwhile some of the ‘Brothers’ are undoubtedly sharing a day-dream about blowing up the Vatican and then killing and raping to their Jihadist hearts’ content, until all Europe is subjugated and paying the Jizya. Dreams like this inspire counter-dreams and no doubt some defender of the status quo that never was is entertaining one about scattering terrified Black Bloc members or Salafists with gun fire.
This last dream should be kept separate from the daydreams many of us have about massing outside various Legislatures or tax offices with pitchforks, torches and tumbril carts. However, this dream normally involves letting our legislators and administrators know they should be humble and respectful, rather than hanging their heads up on lamp-posts… so it’s not that harmful to dream it although implementing it is something else and not recommended.
The late great Eric Hoffer, in his slender 1951 essay ‘The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements’ gave a lot of careful consideration to the psychology of fanaticism. By and large, the fanatics who flock to causes that want to bring the world down in blood and fire are the failed and inadequate (unless the economy really has gone wonky… in which case, watch out!)
The Antifa activist, the Black Lives Matter types, the Jihadist and the White Supremacist believe in faith over reason, and cannot be argued with, but they are only too happy to shout you down. They also take courage from numbers and a lack of concrete opposition, so if they are getting bold and finding leaders somewhere, we are in trouble.
There is, however, a solution in several parts. First, everybody needs to read their Hoffer to know what they are dealing with. Second, we need to treat these contemptible people with the contempt they deserve.
One thing that Hoffer clearly pointed out is that the hatred of a true believer is a disguised self-loathing, projected externally. So a good ‘bop!’ to the head and six weeks of picking up litter in an orange jumpsuit might well be the sort of therapy they need. At the very least, they must understand that we do not take them nearly as seriously as they take themselves. Shock treatment to be sure, but it would be for their own good.
Pratchett had another word on the leadership values of ‘True-Believers’. If they do get their revolution started, their own hides suddenly become valuable but everyone else is now dispensable for the good of the cause.
“I know about people who talk about suffering for the common good. It’s never bloody them! When you hear a man shouting “Forward, brave comrades!” you’ll see he’s the one behind the bloody big rock and the one wearing the only really arrow-proof helmet!”
- Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times.
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