followers/leaders (was You may not believe in God but She still believes in you, most of the time)

From: altamira (
Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 09:24:40 MDT

Along those lines, here's a quote from Eric Hoffer's _The True Believer_:

"It is easy to see how the faultfinding man of words, by persistent ridicule
and denunciation, shakes prevailing beliefs and loyalties, and familiarizes
the masses with the idea of change. What is not so obvious is the process
by which the discrediting of existing beliefs and institutions makes
possible the rise of a new fanatical faith...A wide diffusion of doubt and
irreverence...leads often to unexpected results. The irreverence of the
Renaissance was a prelude to the new fanaticism of Reformation and Counter
Reformation...When we debunk a fanatical faith or prejudice, we do not
strike at the root of fanaticism. We merely prevent its leaking out at a
certain point, with the likely result that it will leak out at some other
point. Thus by denigrating prevailing beliefs and loyalties, the militant
man of words unwittingly creates in the disillusioned masses a hunger for
faith. For the majority of people cannot endure the barrenness and futility
of their lives unless they have some ardent dedication, or some passionate
pursuit in which they can lose themselves."

We were talking a bit on this list about human nature recently and of traits
which served well in tribal times but which might not be so useful now or in
the future, but we haven't talked about the need for a leader that seems to
be present more often than not in the human psyche. I expect this topic has
been discussed on the list before, but if old-timers wouldn't mind covering
old territory, it would be interesting to talk about it.

I would like to discuss the following three types of personalities:
followers, leaders, and independent thinkers.

At some point in the future, people will have the ability to engineer the
personalities of members of the succeeding generations. If you were, say,
creating the members of an expedition that would colonize a new planet, how
would you handle the independent thinking vs. "true believer" trait?

What is the difference between a tribal leader and a political leader, with
respect to personality? I'm assuming here that a tribal leader does not use
force to get people to follow her but is followed voluntarily, and only so
long as her leadership is beneficialy to the other members of the tribe. A
political leader, by definition, uses coercion.

Would it be better to have a group of independent thinkers (who could, for
example, figure out how to best utilize the resources of the new planet), or
would it be better to have just one or two independent thinkers and the rest
followers and leaders (presumably only a couple of leaders and the rest
followers)? In nomadic tribal cultures leaders generally have the same
material possessions as followers and do the same sorts of work as far as
gathering and hunting food. Thus, there would be less reason for a follower
to resent his or her role as follower than in a more complex culture where
the leader has a better house, better clothes, etc.

In the hypothetical planet colonizing expedition, would the people
engineered to be followers resent the sort of roles they'd been genetically
assigned to?

In a civilization rich with the fruits of nanotechnology, would leaders
enjoy any special privileges? If the option existed for a person who had
been born and educated to be a follower to be re-engineered into a leader,
would many followers choose this option? What of independent thinkers?
Would they want to change? Would followers and/or leaders have any
incentive to become independent thinkers?

To what extent do people living at this very moment have the ability to
change from followers to independent thinkers? How about the other way
around? From independent thinkers to followers? What incentives are there
to change from one to the other?

These are a few of the questions that are on my mind this morning as I
prepare to go out to my garden.


> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of
> Sent: Monday, June 19, 2000 1:01 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: You may not believe in God but She still believes in you,
> most of the time
> A Christian is afraid you'll go to Hell. An atheist is afraid you'll make
> hell on Earth to save him from the Hell that doesn't exist. Try
> reading "A
> Skeleton in God's Closet", although it may be hard to find (I borrowed it
> from my church). The crux of the book is that an incredibly talented and
> obsessed atheist engineers evidence proving Jesus was not
> resurrected. His
> motivation was to destroy religion because it was holding back humanity
> (ironically the suicides he wound up creating were incalcuable
> and when he
> was exposed the Church was almost entirely vindicated and achieved a
> popularity rivalling the martyrdom of early Christendom).

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