“I believe that as Nature has given men different faces,so she has given them different temperaments.”—Niccolò Machiavelli to Piero Soderini (January 1513)
Saying that an activist has a big ego is like saying that a professor (like me) loves to talk (I do), is long-winded (I am), and loves the sound of his own voice (I do). All these things are true. But aren’t they also sort of like job requirements? The activist’s intensity, moral clarity, teflon temperament—and ego—are, to my mind, extremely well suited to what they do. After all, neurotic Woody Allen types make terrible activists, just as the excessively squeamish make terrible surgeons. If you’re going to be effective at something in life, your temperament has to be well suited to whatever it is that you set your mind to do (e.g., job, profession, calling, cause). And, though it’s sometimes hard to face up to this, some things (hard as you try) just won’t be for you. For instance, if you’re deathly afraid of heights, your dream of joining the Cirque de Soleil probably isn’t going to work out. Likewise, if you’re super social and can’t stand to be alone for long stretches of time, the life of an accountant probably isn’t for you. Just as there are temperaments well suited to the life of an accountant or an acrobat, there are also temperaments that are well suited to the life of a muckraking journalist, a political strategist, and an activist. If you often lack confidence, if you’re exceptionally humble, if you’re continuously second-guessing yourself, you really shouldn’t go into politics. Seriously, public life isn’t for you. But don’t get me wrong, you’ll probably make a stellar spouse, an excellent parent, and, for what it’s worth, an exceptionally conscientious roommate. That being said, you really shouldn’t attempt to change the world. The activist’s life is a hard life, a warrior’s life. And it’s not for you. You just don’t have the temperament for it.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Village Explainer (2016)