Start your review of The Ordeal of Change Write a review Shelves: favorites The Ordeal of Change is a collection of essays by Eric Hoffer which examine the patterns and influences involved in social and cultural change. Hoffer is especially interested in what causes a nation of people to rise up against their government and what causes them to remain passive. He also spends a good deal of time looking at Communism in China and in the Soviet Union. The book is fairly short, only around pages, but it covers a good deal of ground. Much of what Hoffer discusses has more The Ordeal of Change is a collection of essays by Eric Hoffer which examine the patterns and influences involved in social and cultural change. Much of what Hoffer discusses has more to do with human nature in general than history.
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The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a "have-not" type of self.
If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power. Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight.
Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others. To sum up: Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power. We think him more a savior who shoulders our responsibilities than him who shoulders our sins.
If instead of making decisions we have but to obey and do our duty, we feel it as a sort of salvation. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of inadequacy and impotence.
We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression. Vincent De Paul cautioned his disciples to deport themselves so that the poor "will forgive them the bread you give them. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.
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