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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

fanaticism

Since I've been worrying about getting all the preparations done for our strata's AGM this month, Kimmie (who was back at work today) suggested that I devote today to doing the work. I did so. I spent most of the day drafting documents and preparing a spreadsheet showing the past year's income and expenses, along with a proposed budget for the coming year.

I resist using my morning writing time for anything but writing. I've just had a 4-day break because of Kimmie's time off, and am also worrying about my book. However, I did get most of my strata work done, and it did take me all day. By law, the package has to be sent out the membership at least 18 days before the AGM itself, which is scheduled for Thursday 23 June.

But over morning coffee I did notes as usual: Origins of Scientific Thought, Rubicon, and Alexander the Great. All excellent.

Yesterday morning I finally finished keying notes from The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. The book itself is only 177 pages, including notes, and my Word document for it is 42 pages. I find Hoffer's ideas to be relevant--and disturbing.

Consider these closing words:

J. B. S. Haldane counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 BC and 1400 AD. It was a Judaic-Christian invention. And it is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead--an instrument of resurrection.

Chilling. Is there really some benefit to fanaticism, some upside to the murderous, vacant-eyed roboticism of an Osama bin Laden? Hoffer suggests that as long as there are people who are frustrated--who feel that their lives are spoiled beyond repair--there will be fodder for mass movements, with all their orgies of mayhem.

According to Liz Greene, the symbolism of Neptune speaks of an innate urge within each of us to lose our individuality, to merge with something greater, something higher. It would seem that this desire to merge is heightened by the experience of alienation (ruled astrologically by Pluto). Hoffer gives his own shopping-list of those most likely to be fodder for a mass movement with its attendant fanaticism:

- the poor
- misfits
- the inordinately selfish
- the ambitious facing unlimited opportunities
- minorities
- the bored
- the sinners

This is a large basket of personnel. (How many of these categories do you fit into?) The question is not whether Nazism or some movement like it will reappear, but when. You just need frustrated people, and a charismatic, fanatical leader. Then: whoof! the flames of the mass movement spread, consuming everything in their path. Guillotines are set up in the market square, and revolutionary justice is meted out, one head at a time, in the name of fraternity, liberty, equality. Whump!...thud.

And yet, and yet. Is humanity capable of emancipation, or not?

2 Comments:

  • I've been doing research on secret societies for my WIP. You've given me a perspective I had not yet considered regarding such societies. Thx, d:)

    By Blogger Debra Young, at June 03, 2005 12:06 PM  

  • Yes--by all means check out The True Believer. btw I enjoyed reading your own research list from your blog. Cool books--and I have a few of those myself.

    By Blogger paulv, at June 03, 2005 4:09 PM  

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