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To Error and Back Again, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Christopher Hitchens, Part 3

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[8] And, at the stage of struggle, probably a lot of non-religious "conservatives" too (meaning those who are psychologically conservative--i.e. rigid, doctrinaire, obedient to ingroup authority).  Though the latter are somewhat more prone to intolerance, intolerance can fuel revolutionary energy when properly contoured and harnessed.  Since intolerance can also fuel tyranny and/or mass murder after revolutions are over (the Jacobin-Bolshevik problem), keeping the tolerant at least two or three steps ahead of the intolerant is usually a good idea, e.g. by committing a movement to Gene Sharp-style nonviolent methods and strategies, as the Arab Spring and Occupy movements have done.

[9] The emergence of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements fit this model somewhat.   The Egyptian revolution grew from an alliance between the religious conservative Muslim Brotherhood, moderate Coptic Christians, and left-leaning labor unions among others.   The Occupy movements incorporate regular interfaith services and alliances with various houses of worship, as well as extensive cooperation between those with conservative and liberal styles of comportment and even political identification.   Generally, mass movements inevitably have to overcome the cultural and ideological divisions that the political classes exploit to stay in power, though, as noted in footnote 6, some divisions need to remain divisive.

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Ian Hansen is an Associate Professor of psychology and the 2017 president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

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