The stories activists tell and believe

Posted July 14, 2007

From John Gardner, former secretary of health, education, and welfare under Lyndon B. Johnson. He pinpoints what’s wrong with virtually every activist group.

The possibility of coherent community action is diminished today by the deep mutual suspicions and antagonisms among various groups in our national life.

As these antagonisms become more intense, the pathology is much the same… . The ingredients are, first, a deep conviction on the part of the group as to its own limitless virtue or the overriding sanctity of its cause; second, grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others; third, a chronically aggrieved feeling that power has fallen into the hands of the unworthy (that is, the hands of others)… .

Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: An excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all… . Blind belief in one’s cause and a low view of the morality of other Americans—these seem mild failings. But they are the soil in which ranker weeds take root … terrorism, and the deep, destructive cleavages that paralyze society.

Stories are powerful; for truth and for error.

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Kyle's profile picKyle Mathews lives and works in Seattle building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter. Currently exploring what's next and open to consulting.