Rendered Fat Content


Michelangelo: Libyan Sibyl (circa 1511)-from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
"I know almost for certain that greater belief won't resolve this one."

I've been reading (finally) Eric Hoffer's The True Believers, a remarkable read that has sat on my dustier library shelf for thirty or more years. I'd occasionally take it down to search for some quip which I intended to use to bolster some argument, but had never sat myself down to plow through the actual content from cover to age-stiffened cover. The front cover detached itself when I opened it, so I've been using it as my bookmark, for I've been pausing frequently, since the prose seems the rough equivalent of heavy cream. One might be well-advised not to chug anything with the consistency of heavy cream, but to swallow it following demure sips, savoring it, and letting it slowly sink in. The author was a San Francisco longshoreman and was in his time a much-revered everyman philosopher, though he hardly qualified as an everyman. Between age five and fifteen, he was blind, an affliction that came and eventually went without explanation or diagnosed cause. He therefore missed his primary education. Shortly after regaining his sight, he lost both parents and set out on his own, wisely choosing to leave New York for California, where he figured at least the weather might suit him. He worked as a migrant farm laborer, being uneducated and all, though he carried a pocketful of library cards he'd collected as he moved between crops. Longshoring amounted to upward mobility, for he could settle down and engage in his heart's passions, studying and writing, when he wasn't laboring.

The True Believer reads as if it was penned by a self-educated man, with wide references to ancient texts few colleges delved into even then.
He references and quotes The Enlightenment French as well as ancient Greeks and Romans, producing a foundational authenticity impossible for me to question. He obviously put his library cards to better use than I've ever put any of mine to, and this underpinning lends a believability to his ruminations. He insists that he serves only speculation, personal observation informed by considerable contemplation. He offers more questions than answers, but his questions, like a Talmudic scholar's, beg more than simple acceptance from his reader, but inquiry. The answer's not the point, neither is belief. Hoffer makes the provocative assertion that the actual content of a belief does not matter, firm belief in either Christianity and Communism tends to produce the same behavior pattern, one convinced of a certain unquestionable—dare I suggest absolute?—rightness of perspective.

This conviction seems to liberate its holder from ever needing to answer many of the more troubling questions complicating living, for their belief seems to resolve these. These beliefs elevate some ideal future which obviates any past or present frustrations, producing an overriding sense of something like salvation while severely diminishing individual identity and importance. He notices that those who engage in True Belief, The TrueBeliefers, often revile their former selves, the ones who had so severely disappointed them before they experienced their grand revelation, so they abandon them to become, cognitively at least, reborn. Interestingly, though their beliefs seems undeniably true, the concepts supporting their true beliefs might well prove utterly and ridiculously false, and easily provably so. Climate change deniers probably fall within this sphere, for they seem to carry a certainty bordering on blessed, maybe even exceeding this: received wisdom. To the non-believer, such decisions simply seem pathetic. To the TrueBeliefers, they seem down-right beatific and render them like happy idiots to the rest of us, fools. They beam when they blaspheme.

Nazi soldier's belt buckles proclaimed Gott Mitt Uns, God Is With Us. TrueBeliefers live in deepening paradox because their cognitive foundation denies the obvious. Try to convince them otherwise and you'll learn that they do not subscribe to the predicate calculus, they reject reason as in any way reasonable if it brings their convictions into question. They experience an unreasonable assault on their freedom, their very liberty. They poison more wells than they ever sweeten. They will not be talked out of what they know, for they know better than any heathen nonbeliefers could. Those who question render themselves beneath contempt, faithless, feckless in the TrueBeliefers' eyes. One TrueBeliefer's trouble, but they tend to naturally accrete into mass movements. These enjoy a long history of eventually proving to be catastrophic, ultimately more than merely self-destructive. Unchecked, they tend to wreck mass destruction.

We've recently been experiencing a pandemic of TrueBeliefers: Truthers, Birthers, Deniers, False Saviors who've gained considerable political clout. They steadfastly refuse to wear masks to prevent viral spread because they know better, becoming innocent superspreaders for the rest of us. They invented Fake News to protect their delicate disbeliefs, for TrueBeliefers disbelieve far more than they ever actually believe. They might insist that they'll believe something when they finally see it, but TrueBeliefers insist upon maintaining a seriously selective blindness, if only to maintain their etherial countenance. To not believe after committing both their pasts and presents to 'beneath contempt' amounts to a damning death, something no-one enjoying the many benefits of salvation, even one rooted in self-deception, would ever voluntarily agree to accept. They tend to fight their perspective unto death, and proudly. They tenaciously follow, finding in their devotion ample freedom and satisfying liberty. Hoffer suggests that they might be fleeing from the tyranny of having to decide and choose for themselves, a curious liberation from the more troubling aspects of living.

Our separation of church and state might not have fully appreciated the effect should the state become some's religion. Republicanism seems to have become a faith, one for which fealty insists upon its citizens becoming TrueBeliefers. The left sometimes exhibits similar qualities, but I will not attempt to construct any false equivalences. Revelations, the much-touted end times, seem set with a collision between reality and TrueBelievers. Beliefers hold an upper hand, for they already inhabit their promised land. They might feel put-upon, but they seem to savor subjugation, since it seems to prove the rightness of their convictions. Their oppression seems to satisfy them, since they tend to seek it out and prominently display it so everyone can see just how righteously they believe. I know almost for certain that greater belief won't resolve this one. Us non-beliefers carry most of the TrueBeliefers' burden. They already inhabit their Heaven, which seems Hellacious to the rest of us.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver