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RC practice Passage with Explanation -21

At its inception, a mass movement seems to champion the present against the past. It sees in the established institutions and privileges an encroachment of a senile, vile past on a pristine present. But, to pry loose the stranglehold of the past, there is need for utmost unity and unlimited self—sacrifice. This means that the people called upon to attack the past in order to liberate the present must be willing to give up enthusiastically any chance of ever tasting or inheriting the present. The absurdity of the proposition is obvious. Hence, the inevitable shift in emphasis once the movement starts rolling. The present—the original objective—is shoved off the stage and its place taken by posterity—the future.

More still: the present is driven back as if it were an unclean thing and lumped with the detested past. The battle line is now drawn between things that are and have been, and the things that are not yet. To lose one's life is but to lose the present; and, clearly, to lose a defiled, worthless present is not to lose much.

The very impracticability of many of the goals for which a mass movement sets itself is part of the campaign against the present. All that is practicable, feasible and possible is part of the present. To offer something practicable would be to increase the promise of the present and reconcile us with it. Faith in miracles, too, implies a rejection and a defiance of the present. When Tertullian proclaimed, "And He was buried and rose again; it is certain because it is impossible, " he was snapping his fingers at the present. Finally, the mysticism of a movement is also a means of deprecating the present. It sees the present as the faded and distorted reflection of a vast unknown throbbing underneath and beyond us. The present is a shadow and an illusion.

However much we lament the baseness of our times, if the prospect offered by the future is that of advanced deterioration or even an unchanged continuation of the present, we are inevitably moved to reconcile ourselves with our existence—difficult and mean though it may be. All mass movements deprecate the present by depicting it as a preliminary to a glorious future; a mere doormat on the threshold of the millennium. To a religious movement the present is a vale of tears leading to the heavenly kingdom; to a social revolution it is a mean way station on the road to Utopia; to a nationalist movement it is an ignoble episode preceding the final triumph.

A mass movement also fashions a pattern of individual existence that is dour, hard, repressive, and dull. It decries pleasures and comforts and extols the rigorous life. It views ordinary enjoyment as trivial or even discreditable, and represents the pursuit of personal happiness as immoral. To enjoy oneself is to have truck with the enemy—the present. The prime objective of the ascetic ideal preached by most movements is to breed contempt for the present. The campaign against the appetites is an effort to see that this cheerless individual life runs its course against a colorful and dramatic background of collective pageantry, and serves to accentuate its worthlessness.


The passage puts forth many arguments regarding mass movements. For which of the following statements does the passage provide some evidence or explanation?

[A] I only
[B] II only
[C] I and II
[D] II and III
Option: 1

Remind yourself of the key points of the passage before looking at the Roman numerals. Start with RN II, which appears in three out of the four choices. The author never mentions anything about the size of these movements' leadership. Eliminate all choices except (A). RN I, featured in (A), is simply the main point of the passage.

Wrong answers:

(B): Out of Scope. The author never mentions the size of the leadership.

(C): Out of Scope. As above.

(D): Out of Scope. RN III makes an irrelevant distinction not mentioned anywhere in the passage.


The author would be least likely to disagree with which one of the following statements?

[A] The future always turns out to be better than the present.
[B] Most mass movements eventually fail to achieve their ultimate goals.
[C] There are similarities among religious, social, and nationalist mass movements.
[D] The achievements of the past are too often invoked by mass movements.
Option: 3

Pause before answering to consider the author's tone and general points. The author seems somewhat dismissive towards mass movements, lumping them all together as more or less the same in their methods of operating. A quick look at (C) shows this idea, which is mentioned more specifically in paragraph 3.

Wrong answers:

(A): Faulty Use of Detail. While mass movements might possibly believe this, the author certainly doesn't.

(B): Out of Scope. Although the author mentions many impracticalities of the mass movement, he doesn't pronounce them ultimately a success or failure.

(D): Opposite. The author argues that the past is vilified by mass movements.


Appearing in the sentence, "The campaign against the appetites is an effort to see that this cheerless individual life runs its course against a colorful and dramatic background of collective pageantry, and serves to accentuate its worthlessness, " the phrase the campaign against the appetites refers to:

[A] mass movements' efforts to get their members to abstain from political involvement.
[B] mass movements' efforts to get their members to go without pleasures and comforts.
[C] mass movements' efforts to get their members to disavow belief in miracles.
[D] mass movements' efforts to get their members to denounce the current government.
Option: 2

Go back to read the phrase in context. The paragraph states that mass movements want their members to lead simple and even pleasure—less lives. Choice (B) fits.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. As far as we can tell from the passage, political involvement is a major component of some mass movements.

(C): Opposite. The author mentions in paragraph 3 that faith in miracles implies rejection of the present, which is exactly what mass movements do.

(D): Out of Scope. Nothing so specific as denouncing a current government is mentioned in this context or in the passage.


Suppose that a certain mass movement in Heartland focuses its energy on reforming the present political system. How would this information affect the author's claim about mass movements?

[A] It would support the author's claim.
[B] It would contradict the author's claim.
[C] It would neither support nor contradict the author's claim.
[D] It would support the author's claim only if the movement lacked a vision of the future.
Option: 2

An incorporation question. If a mass movement focuses on the present, how will it affect the author's argument? It will weaken the claim that mass movements are characterized by their focus on the future. Look for an answer choice that matches this weakening: (B) alone fits.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The author's claims contradict the new information; his claims would therefore be weakened.

(C): Opposite. As above.

(D): Opposite. As above. If the movement lacked a vision of the future, the author's claim would be weakened even further.


Based on information in the passage, which of the following is/are NOT true?

[A] I only
[B] III only
[C] I and II
[D] II and III
Option: 4

Review the main points of the passage, preparing to look for choices that contradict the author's claims. All answer choices appear equally often, so start with RN I. Mass movements do intend to destroy the present, as argued in paragraphs 1 and 2: get rid of (A) and (C). The author argues that mass movements do not glorify the past, so RN II is correct. Picking a choice with RN II gives (D) alone. Checking RN III seals it: 5 is devoted to arguing that mass movements do just this.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. As listed above.

(B): Opposite. As above.

(C): Distortion. As above.

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