Hannah Arendt commented on how early supporters of Hitler in Germany demonstrated astonishing selflessness. She described that this way:
“The peculiar selflessness of the mass man appeared here as a yearning for anonymity, for being just a number and functioning cog, for every transformation, in brief, which would wipe out the spurious identification with specific types of predetermined functions within society. War had been experienced as that “mightiest of all mass action” which obliterated individual differences so that even suffering, which traditionally had marked off individuals through unique unexchangeable destinies could now be interpreted as “an instrument of historical progress.”
This desire to be part of a movement—to belong to a group—is of course of vital significance. Humans have strong desires to be part of groups. Groups are desired to heal feelings of alienation and isolation. They are exhilarating. If you have any doubt about this go to an American football game. You will be convinced. The feeling is that this is “us” against “them” and the excitement is palpable. These feelings are beyond reason. Cheering for your team has nothing to do with reason. That is what the rapture must feel like.
Bakunin, the Russian anarchist expressed this feeling deeply. He said, “I do not want to be I, I want to be We.”
To us from afar this seems insane. It is insane. But it was real for those members of the movement. Will it be the same for modern authoritarians and their followers such Donald Trump’s Trumpsters? We cannot know that in advance, no matter what Arendt has told us about earlier mass movements, but it certainly must make us consider what comes next?