Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

January 27, 2013


On leaders, on authorities and on misanthropy

...it is the human race that is vile. It is a disgrace to belong to it. Being busy is like taking opium, it enables one to live in a land of golden dreams - I must get busy again. The truth is not the sort of thing one can live with.
   -- Bertrand  Russell  [1]









Sections

Introduction   
1.
On leaders
2. On authorities
3. On misanthropy
About ME/CFS



Introduction:

I am a little worse than yesterday, not having slept enough because of the problems with my eyes, and for today I only reproduce three lemmas from my Philosophical Dictionary, because I think they are worth reading, and because I wanted to change the subject from psychiatry.

My opening quotation is discussed, very briefly, in section 3.

1. On leaders

Leaders: In human society: Those with power or influence, whose commands are followed or whose ideas adopted.

It is a curious and important fact about the human animal that most men follow leaders, and are conformists and followers. In part this seems due to humans being social animals; in part to the fact that relatively few are intelligent, independent, or strong; and in part to the fact that every human being spends the first 15 or 25 years of his life as a weak dependent of stronger and larger adults.

Also, there are three other things about leaders that should be noted:

First, there is Lord Acton's observation, as he in fact made it: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority."

Second, and conversely, it is especially the corrupt that seek power and that acquire power: They desire it to be able to abuse it, and they have better chances than the non-corrupt to acquire it because they have fewer or no inhibitions to lie, to pretend or to use or - more often - to incite to violence to get their own way.

Third, since political parties are voluntary associations of people that seek social power for their leaders, so that the leaders and their followers can realize their political ends and/or acquire personal advantages (after Max Weber), the chances are that both the leaders and the members of political parties are a particular type of person, that are more like psychopaths - characterized in terms of "coldheartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle " (Wikipedia) - than the  members of non-political voluntary associations.

---

2. On authorities

Authority: Leader, holder of power, someone with influence over opinions.

There are many kinds of authorities, but two distinctions are useful.

1. Authorities through power or influence: There are leaders who owe their leadership in the end to some kind of military, political or other kinds of power or violence, all of which are kinds of power, and there are leaders who owe their eminence to their abilities to influence the ideas of others, which is a kind of influence.

2. True and false authority: There are real and false authorities. Real authority is based on real power, force or knowledge, and is legitimate if claimed in these senses, however misled or evil the authority may be in effect, while false authority is based on a pretense of power, force, knowledge or insight, that is in the end based on the inability of those who are deceived to see through the deception.

By far the largest part of authority is based on authority about ideas or opinions, i.e. influence, and is mostly, when rationally investigated, a false authority: Even if, say, a medical doctor is honest and says all (and someone who is honest and does not hold back anything about a subject is rare), then still the patient lacks the medical and scientific knowledge to understand the judgements and recommendations of the doctor.

There are genuine authorities in fields of science and other knowledge, but the ordinary following of opinions of ordinary men is mostly based on the irrational following of leaders, often based on wishful thinking (to the effect that Our Leaders and Our Experts are obviously Benevolent and Good men and women with true or rational opinions, not because the sincere believers in this can prove this, but because this is what they have been told and like to believe).

An important reason for faithful following of false leaders in opinions, politics, religion and fashions of all kinds is the lack of general knowledge and education of their publics - many lies and poses of politicians and priests could have been seen through by their deceived publics if only the members of the public had given themselves more trouble to become informed about the subjects they are deceived about by those they believe to be authorities, or at least more informed about what makes an argument for something rational and non-fallacious.

---

3. On misanthropy

Misanthropy: Hatred of human beings, or contempt or disdain for ordinary men and their doings.

Ordinary men, religious leaders, professional politicians, and con-men generally purport to despise misanthropists, but it may make a considerable difference what manner of men any given supposed misanthropists dislikes and what manner of men he lives amongst.

In any case, Chamfort, a very witty French 18th Century aphorist, known as "the laughing misanthropist", correctly wrote

"Pour avoir une idée juste des choses, il faut prendre les mots dans la signification opposée à celle qu'on leur donne dans le monde. Misanthrope, par exemple, cela veut dire Philanthrope; mauvais Français, cela veut dire bon Citoyen, qui indique certains abus monstrueux; Philosophe, homme simple, qui sait que deux et deux font quatre, etc."

"La faiblesse de charactère ou le défaut des idées (..) sont les choses qui préservent beaucoup de gens de la misanthropie."

It may well be that ordinary men, their intelligence, knowledge, interests, concerns, and ways of acting, especially to foreigners or when they believe themselves not to be found out, are such as to necessarily inspire something not far from detestation, contempt or disgust in any highly gifted, learned and kind man, and that, for such a man, it is natural and wise to hold, again with Chamfort, that

"La meilleure Philosophie, rélativement au monde, est d'allier, à son régard, le sarcasme de gaité avec l'indulgence du mépris."

And indeed, for good and intelligent men who know a lot about the ways of the world and human history, it is not easy to escape from something that resembles misanthropy with regard to the human average, or the ordinary types of political, religious or business leaders.

---

In my introduction I said I would, very briefly, discuss my opening quotation, that may have shocked some. 

As it happens,  I am not a misanthropist, and the last paragraph of the above quoted lemma on the subject does state the position I do hold - and the reason for that position is that the great majority of mankind's problems are due to the qualities of the human average and their
political, religious or business leaders, with very few exceptions.

Then again, one cannot blame the average: Nobody asked to get born; nobody asked for such qualities and shortcomings as he has; nobody asked for the circumstances he was born in.

One can blame the leaders, or at least diagnose them, and the truth seems to be as I stated: With few exceptions, the powerful are corrupt, because all power corrupts, and because the corrupt seek power most, and are most likely to get it, for lack of intellectual and moral inhibitions.
---------------------------------------------------

Note
[1] From a letter by Russell to Catherine Marshall, written in 1917, quoted on p. 490 of "BERTRAND RUSSELL: The spirit of solitude", by Ray Monk, ISBN 0 09 9731312, first published 1996.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)


       home - index - summaries - mail