Empty Days

Sunday, July 18, 2004



The silent voice.

I am still rummaging through alt.fan.unabomber archives on google - the group is of course nearly dead at this hour, but back in the trial days and all the hype it attracted quite a few people. Vintage quote that, I think, illustrates the whole Unabomber phenomenon:
Though I do not support the Unabomber's actions, I greatly appreciate his manifesto. I have been waiting for that to be written to so many people for a long time. He ranks up there with the great manifesto writers.
That's true, the man struck a chord in many hearts. Eric Hoffer explains (from The True Believer):

III.13.51. A deprecating attitude toward the present fosters a capacity for prognostication. The well-adjusted make poor prophets. On the other hand, those who are at war with the present have an eye for the seeds of change and the potentialities of small beginnings.
more >>>

III.13.53. That the deprecating attitude of a mass movement toward the present seconds the inclinations of the frustrated is obvious. What surprises one, when listening to the frustrated as they decry the present and all its works, is the enormous joy they derive from doing so. Such delight cannot come from the mere venting of a grievance. There must be something more - and there is. By expatiating upon the incurable baseness and vileness of the times, the frustrated soften their feeling of failure and isolation. It is as if they said: "Not only our blemished selves, but the lives of all our contemporaries, even the most happy and successful, are worthless and wasted." Thus by deprecating the present they acquire a vague sense of equality.

The meas, also, a mass movement uses to make the present unpalatable (section 48) strike a responsive chord in the frustrated. The self-mastery needed in overcoming the appetites gives them an illusion of strength. They feel that in mastering themselves they have mastered the world. The mass movement's advocacy of the impracticable and impossible also agrees with their taste. Those who fail in everyday affairs show a tendency to reach out for the impossible. It is a device to camouflage their shortcomings. For when we fail in attempting the possible, the blame is solely ours; but when we fail in attempting the impossible, we are justified in attributing it to the magnitude of the task. There is less risk in being discredited when trying the impossible than when trying the possible. It is thus that failure in everyday affairs often breeds an extravagant audacity.

One gains the impression that the frustrated derive as much satisfaction - if not more - from the means a mass movement uses as from the ends it advocates. The delight of the frustrated in chaos and in the downfall of the fortunate and prosperous does not spring from an ecstatic awareness that they are clearing the ground for the heavenly city. In their fanatical cry of "all or nothing at all" the second alternative echoes perhaps a more ardent wish than the first.
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That basically explains why Unabomber's manifesto was such an immense pleasure to read - almost inexplicably so. But the man and his words harbor such enormous reserves of frustration it was bound to resonate with all the discontented minds out there - of which I am most definitely one. Enigma solved. And by the way: doesn't it also describe the ever-militating "leftist" as portrayed by the Unabomber? I would contend that it does - just as much as it describes Ted himself.

Hoffer is really a very good read - not everything makes sense but some bits are just too sharp to ignore. It looks like Unabomber learned from him how to speak directly from the mind (which also explains why so many academics first thought the Manifesto was written by an autodidact without a college degree. Hilarious - shows you what academia is really about: the schooling in how *not* to speak one's mind.)





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