The fanatic does not trust his/her own self-structure, or his ability to act effectively. Joint action seems the only course, but a joint action in which each individual must actually be forced to act, driven by frenzy, or fear or hatred, incensed and provoked, for otherwise the fanatic fears that no action at all will be taken toward “the ideal.”
Through such methods, and through such group hysteria, the responsibility for separate acts is divorced from the individual, and rests instead upon the group, where it becomes generalized and dispersed. The cause, whatever it is, can then cover any number of crimes, and no particular individual need bear the blame alone. Fanatics have tunnel vision, so that any beliefs not fitting their purposes are ignored. Those that challenge their own purposes, however, become instant targets of scorn and attack. Generally speaking in our society, power is considered a male attribute. Cult leaders are more often male than female, and females are more often than not followers, because they have been taught that it is wrong for them to use power, and right for them to follow the powerful.
We have religious and scientific cults, and the male-oriented scientific community uses its power in the same way that the male Jehovah used his power in a different arena, to protect his friends and destroy his enemies. Some of our sexual beliefs affect our behavior.
The male scientist considers the rocket his private symbol of sexual power. He feels he has the prerogative to use power in any way he chooses. Now many scientists are “idealists.” They believe that their search for answers, however, justifies almost any means, or sacrifices, not only on their parts but on the parts of others. They becomes fanatics when they ignore the rights of others, and when they defile life in a misguided attempt to understand it.
Women make a grave error when they try to prove their “equality” with men by showing that they can enter the armed forces, or go into combat as well as any man. War always makes us less as a species than we could be. Women have shown uncommon good sense in not going to war, and uncommon bad sense by sending their sons and lovers to war. To kill for the sake of peace only makes us better killers, and nothing will change that. In any war, both sides are fanatical to the extent that they are involved. I am quite aware that often was seems to be our only practical course, because of the set of beliefs, war will seem to have some practical value — a value which is highly deceptive, and quite false.
Fanatics always use ringing rhetoric, and speak in the highest terms of truth, good and evil, and particularly of retribution. To some extent capital punishment is the act of a fanatical society: The taking of the murderer’s life does not bring back the victim’s, and it does not prevent other men from [committing] such crimes. I am aware that the death penalty often seems to be practical solution — and indeed many murderers want to die, and are caught because of their need for punishment. Many, now — and I am speaking generally — are in the position they are because they so thoroughly believe what all of us believe to a large extent: that we are flawed creatures, spawned by a meaningless universe, or made by a vengeful God and damaged by original sin.
Criminals act out those beliefs to perfection. Their “tendencies” are those that each of us fears we possess. Science and religion each tell us that left alone we will spontaneously be primitive creatures, filled with uncontrolled lust and avarice. Both Freud and Jehovah gave us that massage. Poor Darwin tried to make sense of it all, but failed miserably.
Fanatics cannot stand tolerance. They expect obedience. A democratic society offers the greatest challenges and possibilities of achievement for the individual and the species, for it allows for the free intercourse of ideas. It demands much more of its people, however, for in a large manner each must pick and choose from amid a variety of life-styles and beliefs his and her own platform for daily life and action.
There are periods in which it certainly seems to some that all standards vanish, and so they yearn for old authorities. And there are always fanatics there to stand for ultimate truth, and to lift from the individual the challenge and “burden” of personal achievement and responsibility. Individuals can survive without organizations. Organizations cannot survive without individuals, and the most effective organizations are assemblies of individuals who assert their own private power in a group, and do not seek to hide within it.
Organized action is an excellent method of exerting influence, but only when each member is self-activating; only when he or she extends individuality through group action, and does not mindlessly seek to follow the dictates of others.
Fanatics exist because of the great gap between an idealized good is projected into the future, while its exaggerated opposite is seen to pervade the present. The individual is seen as powerless to work alone toward that ideal with any sureness of success. Because of his/her powerlessness [the fanatic] feels that any means to an end is justified. Behind all this the belief that spontaneously the ideal will never be achieved, and that, indeed, on his/her own man and woman are getting worse and worse in every aspect: How can flawed selves ever hope to spontaneously achieve any good?