Alcove Activities: First Level: Paraphrasing a Text, The True Believer
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First Level: Paraphrasing a Text, The True Believer
In this set of activities you will be both paraphrasing and explicating the thesis of several classic texts. You will paraphrase each excerpt section by section, followed by explicating the texts by stating your understanding of each one in your own words, then elaborating, exemplifying and illustrating them. In other words, for each of the texts in this section, you will begin by articulating them in your own words, sentence by sentence, or in parts, as we have presented them. Then you will explicate each one at level two.

After writing out your paraphrases in your own words, and explicating them, click on the thinker icon to see our specimen answers. You will first read the text as a whole at the beginning of each section, along with its background information, and then you will find the same text divided into parts for your practice.

The True Believer

Background Information:
This is an excerpt from the preface of a book entitled The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.

All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance... Though there are obvious differences between the fanatical Christian, the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical Communist and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet true that the fanaticism which animates them may be viewed and treated as one. The same is true of the force which drives them on to expansion and world dominion. There is a certain uniformity in all types of dedication, of faith, of pursuit of power, of unity and of self-sacrifice. There are vast differences in the contents of holy causes and doctrines, but a certain uniformity in the factors which make them effective. ...However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing.

Now that you have read the full text above, you will find the same text in sections below. Write out your paraphrase of each section in the box provided. Then see our specimen answers by clicking on the thinker icon.


All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: All uprisings by large groups of people foster in their followers a willingness to die for their cause, and an inclination to act as a cohesive unit in achieving their goals.




...all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: All of these uprisings—regardless of their underlying ideals, values, and beliefs, and regardless of the changes they are calling for—foster bigotry, narrow-mindedness, over-zealousness, rigidity, loathing of those who oppose them, and an unwillingness to consider alternative ways of looking at things.




...all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Because of the development of fanaticism in mass movements, they can generate an enormous amount of energy and force in what they do.




...all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: All such movements require followers to unquestioningly accept dogmas and adhere to the rigid beliefs of the group.




Though there are obvious differences between the fanatical Christian, the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical Communist and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet true that the fanaticism which animates them may be viewed and treated as one.



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Fanatical believers in any belief system have more in common with their (fanatical) counterparts in opposing belief systems than they do with those who refuse to believe in an unquestioning manner. In other words, fanatical mindsets are essentially alike, despite dissimilarities in the content of what they are fanatical about.




The same is true of the force which drives them on to expansion and world dominion.



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: It is predictable that fanatical groups will develop grandiose ends, such as attempting to control all events in the world. Because they think they are absolutely right, and sometimes even that they speak with the voice of God, they force their beliefs on anyone and everyone in the world.




There is a certain uniformity in all types of dedication, of faith, of pursuit of power, of unity and of self-sacrifice. There are vast differences in the contents of holy causes and doctrines, but a certain uniformity in the factors which make them effective. ...However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing.



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: When groups of people come to believe that they possess a holy doctrine and a holy cause, they begin to act in the same fanatical way. The fact that they are all ready to blindly follow orders, and to do whatever leaders deem necessary to the cause, makes them look very much mirror images of each other—independent of what it is they fanatically believe in. In some sense, all fanatics share the same underlying assumption: that everyone ought to agree with them, and ought to think and act as they do. Whenever people in a mass movement believe they possess the absolute truth, fanaticism is engendered in their members—a willingness to conform their behavior to the group rules, and even a willingness to die for the cause.