Monday, October 22, 2012

False messiahs

We feel a constant tension. Thoreau called it a “quiet desperation” that plagued the “mass of men.” It’s the deep yearning in all of us—the missing piece to the puzzle, only larger and less distinct. We fight it because we rightly know it can never be satisfied. It entices us, and when we deny ourselves it mocks us. It’s the curse of being human. So much lies just outside our reach. Imagine the possibilities if only...

If only what, exactly? It’s difficult to say. But the urge to rewrite our natures is so powerful the specifics don’t matter. When a messianic figure takes the stage and offers a fuzzy program to “empower” us, we buy into it with minimal hesitancy.

The huge followings false messiahs generate reinforce the attraction of new converts. The lure of mass movements, as Eric Hoffer notes, is their transcendental property. If the self obstructs the self, which is true, it follows intuitively that a mass movement will free the self, which it won’t.

False messiahs know this better than most. They understand how to profit by appealing to what motivates people at the most basic level. Their object is to enslave, not to free. They more or less shun the true remedy to human nature, a covenant with God. Hence Communism’s tacit atheism.

“The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation.” –Adolf Hitler, 1933

Four years ago, “We are the ones we have been waiting for” was a key line in Barack Obama’s stump speech, imploring his followers not to search within themselves as individuals, but to find new identity in themselves as a collective whole.

The statement implies questions: What do we want? and Why are we waiting for it? The answer to the first question is simple: We want everything. We want the elusive, indefinable it, which makes life not a burden, but a pleasure.

The answer to the second question is complicated. Why are we waiting? We wait because it’s all we can do, really, without giving up.

“Madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” –Ecclesiastes 9:3

Obama’s call to meet the ache in our souls with membership in the body politic can only lead to failure. The false messiah is human and limited by reality as much as we are. He always falls short of otherworldly expectations. Remember the woman who thought she wouldn’t have to worry about paying for gas or paying her mortgage if she helped Obama? She didn’t think Obama would really pay for those things. She thought Obama’s election would fill the God-shaped hole in her heart. She thought her personal struggle—indeed, everyone’s struggles—would end. In short, Obama would usher in heaven on earth. Not having to worry about paying for gas or paying her mortgage was just her way of quantifying what she felt.

She must feel pretty foolish now.

Cross-posted at the Red Pill Report.

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