Twice this week I’ve come across this quotation from Eric Hoffer[1]:

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

The more I think about this statement, the more I realize how much it applies to religion, politics, pop music…even websites and magazines. As soon as a great idea spreads, it gains followers, and as soon as something has followers, it tends to lose focus, gain weight, and die. If power corrupts, then apparently popularity kills.

Upon reading more on Hoffer, I came across this little gem:

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

This is a perfect distilling of what I have always suspected to be the case among people who are excessively prideful in their nationalism, religious fervor, or racial superiority. When you have nothing to call your own, when you have nothing about yourself to take pride in, you have no choice but to attach your identity to the various labels and teams assigned to you by fate.

1.) His Wikipedia entry screams conflict, as it appears that conservatives and liberals are fighting to prove their positions with his words.