Sunday, July 26, 2020

Who's your Evil Empire?

• In The True Believer, a seminal book on mass movements by social philosopher Eric Hoffer, Hoffer writes: “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually, the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.” (quote from this article on


Everybody has an 'Evil Empire'. It might be led by Trump or Boris. Or Corbyn or Sturgeon. Or Carson or Connolly. Hitler has got to feature because everyone's a Fascist, even the supposedly anti-Fascists of 'Antifa' behave a lot like their adversaries. It could be the masterminds of the Chinese germ laboratories or maybe the Russians election-hacking bots. It could be the Hard Left or the Far Right. It might be the 'Western' male patriarchy or it might be the Middle Eastern version. Maybe the Illuminati? Capitalism or Communism? It could be the British Empire or maybe even the Vatican. It might even be all of these. All of them must be in some way evil, because all humans are flawed (aka sinners) and so all human systems are flawed. All systems are ladders for the few to gain to power, and therefore all oppress somebody.

The extract below is from ATQ Stewart's The Ulster Crisis (published 1967) a book I had heard much about but had never bothered reading. I had no idea that the Pope wanted to seize the Belfast shipyards ;). In today's world which is gripped by global conspiracy theories, it seems apt to show that paranoias are a universal human condition. "It is doubtful if the Ulster Protestant had much desire to persecute his neighbour because of the way he worshipped, but he certainly had an excessive fear of ... the powerful and world-wide organisation behind him". 

When your ideology convinces you that your neighbours aren't sovereign individuals, but covertly they are the willing emissaries of an Evil Empire, then you're not far away from a very dark place.