Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On the Rise of Socialism in Asia

In his article, “The Awakening of Asia,” (Chapter 2; The Ordeal of Change by Eric Hoffer), Eric Hoffer examines the reasons for which the masses in several Asian nations were eagerly embracing the communist system and accepting the hegemony of the Soviet Union. The article was written in the 1960s, but it contains wisdom that is relevant to our times. Here’s an excerpt:

“It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression.”

Hoffer goes on to note that the intellectual and cultural weakness is so deep-rooted in some of the Asian countries that it is difficult to stop the march of communism through any kind of direct intervention:

“Nor can we win the weak by sharing our hope, pride, or even hatred with them. We are too far ahead materially and too different in our historical experience to serve as an object of identification. Our healing gift to the weak is the capacity for self-help. We must learn how to impart to them the technical, social, and political skills which would enable them to get bread, human dignity, freedom, and strength by their own efforts.”

I think Hoffer’s arguments can be summarized in this modification of Lord Acton’s words: Weakness tends to corrupt, and absolute weakness corrupts absolutely.

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