Eric Hoffer (on fearsome & fearful enemies)

“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”

I don’t know an awful lot about Eric Hoffer, or about where and when I came across this quote. Perhaps it was the one memorable line in another’s book, one that I’ve forgotten, but this citation has stayed in my mind. And now that, shamed by the ignorance I’ve confessed here, I know a little more about this mainly self-taught American intellectual (and migrant worker) and philosopher (who worked for decades as a longshoreman), I’m hungry to know more. His most famous book, published in 1951, was called The True Believer.

In my immediate surroundings, I can’t help but think of another quote, from my buddy Joe Pearce, that “China is a fear-based society”. Observing the alternating fear and boredom that oppress my Chinese students and friends, I try to determine what is their “enemy” — “fear itself”, the Roosevelts might have argued — and what that enemy, be it philosophical, historical, or institutional, most fears.

I fear that this is about to turn into an excuse not to write what I was going to write, so here I end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *