Monday, June 28, 2004

Hoffer on the Artist as Extremist

While waiting for exams to begin this morning, I came across this fascinating passage in The True Believer, Eric Hoffer's excellent study of extremist movements; I think it relates quite well to what I mentioned in my post Beyond Satire, where I noted the strangely apolitical nature of most Chomskyites, and their tendency to occupy non-political roles in society - artists, musicians, teachers, etc:
The most incurably frustrated - and, therefore, the most vehement - among the permanent misfits are those with an unfulfilled craving for creative work. Both those who try to write, paint, compose, etc, and fail decisively, and those who after tasting the elation of creativeness feel a drying up of the creative flow...are alike in the grip of a desperate passion. Neither fame nor power nor riches can still their hunger. Even the whole-hearted dedication to a holy cause does not always cure them. Their unappeased hunger persists, and they are likely to become the most violent extremists in the service of their holy cause. (p. 50)
I think this goes a long way towards explaining the fact that Chomsky tends to be quoted more often by rock bands than by anyone involved in politics or foreign policy, and the tendency of his most dedicated followers to be young - and sometimes not so young - members of the alienated or disillusioned middle class, rather than the legions of poor and downtrodden for whom Chomsky claims to advocate.