-By Stephen Pizzo
July 8, 2011- One of father's favorite nostrums was that "the more things change the more things stay the same." I got a fresh lesson in that truism when I turned to an old book and it gave me the first clear understanding of the mass movement we have come to know as The Tea Party. It also opened up for me the wider implications of our current "Great Recession" and events like it worldwide.
The book was written in 1951 by crusty old philosopher/longshoreman, Eric Hoffer, clearly a man both of, and beyond his time. As I read his short book, "The True Believer: Thoughts on Mass Movements," last night I marked a few paragraphs I felt could be pulled right out of today's papers.
Here are few, which I hope enlighten you as much as they enlightened me. My annotations are in BOLD.
What sparked the Tea Party movement?
"The reason that inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course is that they are wholly without reverence toward the present. They see their lives and the present as spoiled beyond remedy and they are ready to waste and wreck both; hence their recklessness and their will to chaos… They also crave to dissolve their spoiled, meaningless selves in some soul-stirring, spectacular communal undertaking – hence their proclivity for united action."
What motivates they middle class/working class Tea Party folk?
"For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking. Experience is a handicap.
"Their innermost craving is for a new life – a rebirth – or, failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. An active mass movement offers them opportunities for both. If they join the movement as full converts they are reborn to a new life in its close-knit collective body, or if attracted by sympathizers they find elements of pride, confidence and purpose by identifying themselves with the efforts, achievements and prospects of that movement."
"It is true that among the early adherents of a mass movement are also adventurers who join in the hope that the movement will give a spin to their wheel of fortune and whirl them to fame and power. ..(but) When a mass movement begins to attract people who are interested in their individual careers, it is a sign that it has passed its vigorous stage; that it is no longer engaged in molding a new world but in possessing and preserving the present. It ceases then to be a movement and becomes an enterprise… Mass movements are usually accused of doping their followers with hope of the future while cheating them of the enjoyment of the present."
But why follow the very conservatives who cause their misery in the first place?
The despair brought by unemployment comes not only from the threat of destitution, but from the sudden view of a vast nothingness ahead. The unemployed, therefore, are more likely to follow the peddlers of hope than the handers-out of relief.
Why are Tea Party people so rigid and adverse to compromise?