Monday, January 09, 2006

The Danger of Having True Believers in Positions of Power

The True Believer is a term that was made famous by Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) in his well known book entitled, The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951). The true believer can be thought of as an individual who passionately embraces a set of principles even when the ideas they espouse are proven false in the light of experience. Such extreme belief can not be swayed by argument no matter how eloquent or erudite. As a matter of fact, the more a set of beliefs is assaulted by reality, the more tenacious becomes the true believer’s support of these beliefs, for it is not the force of logical argument that binds the believer to the tenets he holds dear but rather the solace that such belief provides for the troubled mind.

The real danger that currently haunts this country is the fact that we now have in positions of power a cadre of true believers who passionately espouse and promulgate policies that represent a set of extreme beliefs that they fervently embrace. Examples of some of these policies are given below:

• Dismantling of the regulatory functions of government in the belief that unfettered capitalism is the only meaningful avenue for economic growth and national prosperity even though this paradigm has proven to be erroneous on numerous occasions.
• The use of overwhelming military force to demonstrate and impose American political and economic will whether or not such use of destructive force conforms to international law and justice. Such extremist and renegade behavior in the international arena is motivated by the underlying belief that the expansion of the American Empire is of the utmost urgency and importance regardless of the ultimate cost born domestically as well as internationally. Corollaries to this reckless behavior is the extravagent increase in military expenditure and the dismantling of international arms control agreements in the name of national security
• Undermining the cumulative impact of laws that have been put in place to protect the natural environment. The enforcement of such laws are seen an unnecessary inhibition in the way of economic productivity. The result of such blind adherence to the belief in the absolute supremacy of the American capitalist economic system and its uninhibited expansion is a profound disregard for the cumulative body of scientific knowledge that advises intelligent caution and judicious planning.

These extremist beliefs can only be sustained in a pluralistic society by the use of fear as a way of mobilizing public opinion. The fear of international terrorism as a weapon has also been used to erode away the civil rights of ordinary citizens: rights that are so crucial in order to sustain a truly democratic social order.

We certainly live in dangerous times, and our nation is in serious crisis. It is only through the involvement of an informed and intelligent citizenry that a rational, balanced and humane leadership be chosen to ultimately replace the extremist ideologues currently in power.

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