American Samizdat

Wednesday, January 17, 2007. *
Trevor Blake (who has a slight interest in atheism) poses an interesting question:

"What matters much more is why a large number of people with ready access to the fact they are being lied to are not objecting to being lied to. Why do 'the masses,' the 'working class,' 'the people' endure and even prefer being lied to? Why do they prefer the decisiveness of tyrants over the compassion of democracy? Why does religion still exist? This is a question for anyone but particularly for those who claim that 'the people' are the hope of a better world. It sure seems like no amount of deception or oppression leads 'the people' to overthrow their rulers, and that 'the people' aren't the ones I should turn to in my hopes for a better world."

There are a number of books I could recommend that address that question. One book is called "Escape from Freedom" by Erich Fromm, of the so called Frankfort School.

I can't remember what I read in college (and I think high school) but here's a synopsis I found on the Internets that catches the money shots so to speak:

His initial book, and likely his most influential work, was called Escape From Freedom, published near the beginning of World War II. In it he described freedom as the greatest problem for most individuals. With freedom, according to Fromm, comes an overwhelming sense of aloneness and an inability to exert individual power. He argued that we use several different techniques to alleviate the anxiety associated with our perception of freedom, including automaton, conformity, authoritarianism, destructiveness, and individuation.

But wait, there's more:

Authoritarianism is a technique that others use to ward off the anxiety. Following an entity outside of the self and perceived greater than the self is the main feature of authoritarianism. As the individual feels alone and powerless, he gains strength from the belief that there is a greater power beyond himself. This entity could be a religious figure, a political leader, or social belief. By giving up power to the powerful, we become the powerful and no longer feel alone. In this sense authoritarianism is two sided or what Fromm describes as sadism/masochism, where we submit to our leader (such as Adolph Hitler) and demand power over our perceived enemies (Jews).

IN other words, people may be hardwired for both fascism and religion. And then there's Eric Hoffer's book on the whole mindset:

Not fun reads I should note.

posted by Philip Shropshire at 9:38 PM
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