Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Problem with Bats, Birds and Beasts, or: A lesson About Extreme Attitudes.

'He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends.'

“The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts” is an ancient fable attributed to Aesop:

The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts.

A great conflict was about to come off between the Birds and the Beasts. When the two armies were collected together the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed his perch said: "Come with us"; but he said: "I am a Beast." Later on, some Beasts who were passing underneath him looked up and said: "Come with us"; but he said: "I am a Bird." Luckily at the last moment peace was made, and no battle took place, so the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join in the rejoicings, but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to beat a retreat, or else they would have torn him to pieces. "Ah," said the Bat, "I see now,

"He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends."

Some entertaining counter-wisdom in support of the "poor", indecisive and divided Bat (Alert: tongue-in-cheek post, but with a message to hardliners of any ilk; those who insist that if you’re not on their “side”, and completely share their attitudes and worldviews, then you’re not only wrong, but unworthy of their so-called “friendship”):

Collective unity is not the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty of the true believer is to the whole — the church, party, nation — and not to his fellow true believer. True loyalty between individuals is possible only in a loose and relatively free society.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Section 101

We do not usually look for allies when we love. Indeed, we often look on those who love with us as rivals and trespassers. But we always look for allies when we hate. – Eric Hoffer.

All mass movements avail themselves of action as a means of unification. The conflicts a mass movement seeks and incites serve not only to down its enemies but also to strip its followers of their distinct individuality and render them more soluble in the collective medium. – Eric Hoffer.

The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than a deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without. – Eric Hoffer.

Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority. – Eric Hoffer.

Avoid popularity if you would have peace. - Abraham Lincoln

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong. - Abraham Lincoln

Peace is much more precious than a piece of land... let there be no more wars. - Anwar Sadat.

There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, not as many separate ones. - Anwar Sadat.

It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations - past and present - are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual's hunger, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millennia. Thus, we are up against the paradox that the individual who is more complex, unpredictable, and mysterious than any communal entity is the one nearest to our understanding; so near that even the interval of millennia cannot weaken our feeling of kinship. If in some manner the voice of an individual reaches us from the remotest distance of time, it is a timeless voice speaking about ourselves.

Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 183 (1973)

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Section 9

Every extreme attitude is a flight from the self. – Eric Hoffer.

And finally,

“With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

Further Reading:

Laird Wilcox on Extremist Traits. 

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