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.


Chances are he'd have been 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.

Bilbo

* 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.

9 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

That's why you should stay away from Congress....lots of stupid people there.

Gilahi said...

Well then, just to continue in the Oscar Wilde vein that I was in yesterday, here's an apropos quote: "I never came across anyone in whom the moral sense was dominant who was not heartless, cruel, vindictive, log-stupid, and entirely lacking in the smallest sense of humanity. Moral people, as they are termed, are simple beasts. I would sooner have fifty unnatural vices than one unnatural virtue."

Duckbutt said...

Stupis is as stupid does. Over and over. I have the sense that many of the participants in those movements you mention are only half committed. This is good; it reduces those groups' impacts.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Frank Zappa once said that there is a certain charm to stupidity; but never for ignorance. I don't know in what context.

Banana Oil said...

The True Believer is a good, easy to read book.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I'm going to the library today. You just gave me another book to add to my list. Thx Bilbo!

Bilbo said...

Andrea - I wish there were a vaccine I could get...

Gilahi - Oscar Wilde is always good for a quote on almost any topic, isn't he?

Duckbutt - good point. The degree of commitment to a movement or idea is something that isn't always considered by the media when looking at some of these loudly active groups.

Angelique - Frank Zappa was a smarter guy than I perhaps gave him credit for!

Kathy - You are officially the only other person I've ever run across (other than my Mother) who has actually read "The True Believer." I'm very impressed!

Peggy - please let me know what you think after you've read them. I'm always interested in another opinion!

Mike said...

Isn't that a picture of Reagan? The orginal founder of the new stupid movement.

allenwoodhaven said...

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits."

"Nothing is idiot-proof because they keep making better idiots."

"Remember, half the people in the world are below average."

I don't who originally said these, but they are certainly accurate.