Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Hoffer on Stupidity
I have written from time to time about one of my favorite authors - Eric Hoffer, the self-educated thinker known as The Longshoreman Philosopher. His major work was The True Believer, a critical analysis of the formation and dynamics of mass movements and religious and political fanaticism that is one of the most insightful - and shortest - books I've ever read. Another of his books is The Passionate State of Mind, a collection of aphorisms on a wide range of topics which leads me to today's subject: stupidity. In The Passionate State of Mind, Hoffer writes that,
"The hardest thing to cope with is not selfishness or vanity or deceitfulness, but sheer stupidity. One needs the talents of an animal trainer to deal with the stupid."
Hoffer wrote that in 1955. Heaven knows what he would have thought in 2012.
I've often wondered how Eric Hoffer, who in 1950 wrote so insightfully about the nature and characteristics of political and religious mass movements, would view the present-day rise of the Tea Party and the extreme right wing of the GOP*, the Occupy Movement, and extreme fundamentalist religion. He might have viewed it like this ...
... But chances are he'd have been a good deal more analytical and philosophical about it. Tomorrow, we'll continue a discussion of Eric Hoffer's ideas with a look at his thoughts on the relationship between power and weakness ... which is a bit different than what you might think.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.
* Eric Hoffer wrote more than half a century ago: "The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than of deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without." I don't think he foresaw today's political situation, but he would have understood it.