Personality Cults

I came across that picture on my twitter feed. An old man bending to touch the feet of a man who has no particular accomplishments at all.

I dislike cults, and that goes double for personality cults. I feel revolted by the pitiable groveling of the followers. I suppose by debasing themselves, they elevate the person and thus justify their worship. They crawl so low out of ignorance, fear and greed. Their display of loyalty also demonstrates their abject lack of virtue.  Here’s a bit hauled out of the archive, from nearly 13 years ago:

I have a very deep-seated distaste for personality driven movements, as opposed to idea driven movements. Personalities are people and people are human and therefore fallible. When the core is a person, and the masses follow that person, grave danger lurks. From what little I know of the world, it appears to me that all movements that center around a person invariably end up in disasters. Just to name a few names, in no particular order: Lenin, Marx, Gandhi (the Mahatma first, later Indira, Rajiv, and in a few years Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka, their children, their children’s children), Nehru, Mohammed, Jesus, David Koresh, etc. They degenerate into cults one definition of which is an “obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.”



Author: Atanu Dey


7 thoughts on “Personality Cults”

  1. I could not believe the picture I was looking at. I am aware of people touching feet on occasion, especially in the North but this picture of a grey haired elderly man touching a novice politician feet in public somehow looks odd. It should have been the other way around as we respect age above everything. Let me continue on my soap-box and say you will never see this happening in the South.


  2. Religions could NOT be separated from CULTs(with exception I’ll expound in the 2nd part of this post) simply because someone or at least a group of people must be around to established the religion. The cultic figures could be such founders of religion or ancients the founders claim to pledge loyalty to.
    A simple test if a person is a cultist: Would that person feel offended if some one publicize writings or images to lampoon/criticize that person’s favorite god/gods/goddesses/prophets…?
    I’m not an atheist for simple reason: Humans are tiny beings in the universe, so there must be powerful entities with abilities we presently can’t fathom(I’m not saying god is a green skin alien jumped out from a flying saucer but the notion of ‘heavenly’ god clearly say ‘god/gods’ are not of this earth and hence technically extra-terrestrial aliens. ). You can call such entity(ies) god/gods… But I don’t worship such entities because I don’t think they’re necessarily benevolent to humans. God is like a biologist, Earth is ‘his’ petri dish and humans are like the micro-organisms inside the petri dish. After ‘his’ experiment is concluded, ‘he’ will say:”That’s all, folks..” and then throw Earth the petri dish into the ‘Hell’ incinerator.

      Humans need to break out from Earth the petri-dish


  3. I want to comment on the topic of cults and personality cults and hero worship. An idea is the starting point for any movement and human societal development. But ideas have to be imbued with human forms, symbols. A person (leader) should stand for an idea and become identical with the idea. Otherwise minimal impact on society. History says organizations and even governments can’t be run by committees alone.

    Once the aim is achieved half-way through, there will be heretics who will high jack the movement in the wrong direction. On the other hand there will be true-believers, also known as fanatics who will start literal interpretation of narratives, however improbable and unnecessary and start reacting violently. That makes us conclude hero worship is bad. A person symbolizing an idea and the resulting hero-worship is subject to interpretation, where one ends and the other starts. At one time, Subhas Chandra Bose personified independent India, that served a purpose of rallying the populace. Now some true believers talk about conspiracies about his disappearance and still think he is alive today in some cave near Himalayas.


      1. Going through different articles by you,careful omissions of RSS and BJP elements out of discussion even when the context demands is surprising and gives away your persuasion !
        In the Personality Cults list, Mahatma Gandhi is present,but not Hitler !
        Gandhi killers, Golwalkar, Savarkar idolised Hitler. Any surprise ?
        I have seen your reply comment on Modi, but second thoughts are second thoughts. You are in good company with Koenraad Elst !


        1. Do you mean to imply that I don’t criticize the BJP? Surely you jest. And about the RSS: can you point to just one instance that will justify your claim that I have omitted mentioning them “even when the context demands” it?

          Regarding Gandhi and Hitler. Do you realize that hagiographical books on Gandhi would fill libraries, whereas there are none on Hitler? Why would anyone want to waste time on Hitler when he is uniformly and universally despised? Gandhi needs to be taken down a notch or two (perhaps a few million notches.)

          Perhaps it is a fact that some people idolized Hitler. The fact that some Hitler-admirer killed Gandhi does not, to my mind, elevate Gandhi. Gandhi was an evil genius, and so was Hitler. The former’s celebration sticks in my craw.

          About Modi. I have changed my assessment of his based on new evidence. I don’t have the power to predict someone’s future behavior. I judge based on evidence on hand. It isn’t a case of second thoughts. It’s a case of first thought on evidence A, and then a different first thought on evidence B which comes later.

          I don’t understand the implications of “you are in good company with Koenraad Elst.” I could never hope to compete with him on his scholarship (in his domain). I am an economist and I know the extent of my ignorance, not just in my discipline but in everything else.


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