The Violent Proselytizers Are Winning

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.
– William Hazlitt

That quote is not true, strictly speaking, for these emotions are known to be expressed by other primates. But the point is well taken.

For the sake of discussion, let’s divide everyone into two groups. There would be those who, as Hazlitt said, see the great differences between what things are and what they ought to be. And there would be those who know exactly how things should be and concern themselves at some length to see that what they believe should become what is.

On one side we have people (the vast majority, I believe) who know what should be but do little or nothing to see that it comes about. On the other we have people who are driven to make something happen.

Why are the latter group so driven, managing to carry on with their message when the rest of us would be exhausted? The message they carry is not thier own. They were waffling around with their lives, wondering what the truth about life could be, wondering why we are here at all, wondering where they could fit into a grand scheme. Then someone came along with an answer.

The answer sounded good. Sounded wonderful, in fact. It sounded as if heaven itself was about to open up and take in all that believed in it. All they had to do was to believe.

Spread the word, these people were told, as were those before them who had told them. They did, and they do. They take the message to anyone and everyone, whether their message is wanted or appreciated. Whether they can teach it to willing listeners or must wage war to use force to convince the others to accept their own set of beliefs.

Those who are prepared to go to war for their beliefs (whether in reality or figuratively) are most convinced that their cause is right. The more resistance they find, the more convinced that they are right and that their message must get through to the ignorant and unwashed multitudes.

They never stop to question whether their way might be right. They never doubt that the others may not want to share their beliefs or that they are happy with their own beliefs. They never hesitate about whether their beliefs are correct, accurate or beneficial over the long term, to themselves, their people or the world. They need to win.

It has been said that those who are most aggressive about spreading their beliefs to others have grave doubts. They want others to join them so that they can believe with greater confidence that their way is correct. By their reckoning, numbers are important. They want allies, not necessarily friends.

Those who are uncertain about many things in life remain quiet, for they have little to teach to others. When and if they do find a path they can believe in, they tend to remain quiet about it because doing otherwise would place them in conflict with the other group, who is already known to be prepared to go to war for their beliefs.

If the quiet ones remain quiet, never joining with others who have also found their way, never wanting to impose anything on anyone else, very little changes. Or so they believe. Eventually, those who have the strong beliefs and are aggressive about spreading them convince enough people to join them that they gain political and military power as well as the psychological power they have from the strength of their beliefs.

Hitler tapped into that in Germany with his National Socialists (who followed a path that was anything but socialist). Mussolini used it in Italy. The power brokers of the Japanese military also found ways to take over their country and subsequently much of Asia, with the three countries forming what became known as the Axis Powers. The Serbian leaders of the former Yugoslavia pumped up their Serbian culture mates to kill the Muslims. The emerging leaders among the Hutus of Rwanda filled the heads of their fellow tribesmen with it, using radio broadcasts, so that nearly a million Tutsis were slashed to death with machetes. Saddam used his abilities to convince the minority Sunnis that they should totally dominate the majority Shias as well as the Kurds in Iraq.

In each case the silent ones remained silent because they did not feel it their place to tell others how to run their countries. It wasn’t their business. They were prepared to allow millions of slaughtered victims be burned or buried, but they assuaged their consciences by prosecuting the perpetrators who survived when the slaughter was over.

At least the leaders died too, they believed. They vowed to remember each event so that it would never happen again.

These movements all began with a few zealous individuals who had power in mind for themselves and a set of beliefs with which to convince their future supporters. It didn’t matter whether their teachings and beliefs were correct, were acceptable or would be approved by the majority because they planned to take control of the majority.

The uncertain ones remained silent in every case. The aggressive ones never do.

The aggressive ones always have that message they want to reach so many others. The doubtful ones and those who have found the path to peace remain silent.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the motives of the power seekers plain before they take too much control over too many people and too much history.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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