Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mass Believers, Tribes and Hoffer

Around twenty years ago, long after my college days, I picked up the book....True Believer, by Eric Hoffer.   Hoffer wrote this as his first book.....on the track of an intellectual (without a degree) and published this in 1951.  It's his personal study of fanatical mass movements and how they get started, and where they start to run out of hype or enthusiasm.  Oddly, someone recommends True Believer to President Eisenhower at the time.....he reads it....and soon recommends it to each member of his staff.
Hoffer was a guy who read a great deal of history, with works by literally hundreds of different historians.  He was also a guy who sat down and spent a great deal of time assembling the information, and asking himself what all of this added up to and where it went in terms of society and our remarkable world.  

I read True Believer before 9-11, and in recent months....I kept going back to read portions of the book, and finally decided that I'd read it from cover to cover once again....this time from the prospective of radical Islam, and the multicultural environment of Germany within the background of Hoffer's vision.

I've come to this vision of the society's interactions, within a "lab" of sorts, and would like to add one single chapter onto the end of Hoffer's book.  My vision would add the term "tribalism".  

Tribalism typically means a state of being.....organized or advocating for.....a tribe or group of tribes.  This is usually where people think or act-up or behave in a way more closely associated to their tribe, rather than their friends, their country, their culture, or some 'other' social grouping.

In the case of Germany today, there are a number of 'tribes'.

There's the multicultural tribe, which talks up a rather large group and tries to stay focused on the happiness of this large tribe.  There's communications and fellowship going on, where everyone seems to share in this vision ahead.  There's limits to "multi-culty", but you keep reinforcing the discussions with a party-like atmosophere and hope that people will drain out their personal culture enough, and water things down enough.....that things just continue to slide forward.

There's the Germanic tribe, which talks up only Teutonic and Germanic values.  It's Kaiser this, and Weimar-Republic that, with a sprinkle of enthusiasm for good side of National Socialism (Nazi), and a liking anything that is pure Germanic in nature.

There's the Turkish tribe, which really isn't Turk anymore but people visit the relatives once in a while, remember five-hundred words of Turkish, like Turkish-German comedians, and go fairly lite on religious talks, culture, or social business.

There's the elite and intellectual tribe, which owns most the authority over state-run TV, hypes up opera, ballet, classical music, and literary classics.  They can never understand why you aren't attracted to their message or enthusiasm for whatever they hype this week.

There's the mild form of Islam tribe, which wants to point off bad stuff to their associates in the bad form of Islam tribe.  They try to keep their conservative edge....whine about radical lifestyles, utter criticism over too much boobage being shown, and get negative about far-right extremists.

There's the wild and far extreme Islam tribe, which just wants everyone non-Muslim to get whacked and fantasize about a world that is set to 700 AD standards and mostly features cloaked women.

These tribes are all in conflict....around the clock....twenty-four hours a day, and those who don't fit into these tribal 'theater' groups....are mostly sitting there and shaking their heads over fake nature of warfare being waged and conducted by the tribes.

Americans aren't much better....our tribal conflict mess is treated more as entertainment than anything else.

I think if Hoffer was around today....he'd probably work a revision of his book and you'd see tribal conflict as the centerpiece of mass believers.

So, anyway.....I advocate a reading of True Believer as a book because it probably will bring you to a fair amount of pondering.  It's a book you can purchase off Amazon's Kindle Reader unit for 99-cents and read over a long week.  If you questioned how so many people have fallen into a mass movement and why it's so enticing.....the book would help you in understanding the mess.

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