FIT – Fanaticism Indicator Test

FIT – Fanaticism Indicator Test

Our application for a two year project on the theme of fanaticism was granted by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Comission. We are happy to work for two years with the following group of partners:

Volkshochschule Hietzing, Vienna, Austria

The Red House for Culture, Bulgaria, Sofia

Goethe Institut, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tolerance Institute, Lodz, Poland

Pele association, Porto, Portugal

We will kick off at a working conference in Amsterdam, 25 and 26 September 2009.



FIT – Project overview


In this project, fanaticism is approached as a characteristic given of human nature, not something to be looked after in ’others’. It is seen as a danger to which every individual is exposed. Moreover the self awareness bears the potential to gain an understanding of tolerance that lies far beyond the usual indifference. Only by overcoming the distance between image and identity in terms of fanaticism a true understanding of tolerance is the inevitable added value.

Questions related to that topic are:

–           what is fanaticism?

–           when and why does one gets fanatic?

–           why is one individual more vulnerable than the other?

–           what is needed to realise one has tendencies towards fanaticism?

–           when can you call somebody fanatic?

Europe has a long history of religious, political, racist, economical fanaticism that has had disastrous effects on the development of the continent. That threat is existing until today and is likely to be a reality in future societies, too.

At  the end of the project we want to be able to address the following questions:

–           Is there a typical European fanaticism or one that is unique for certain    countries, religions or ethnic groups?

–           Why are certain periods in history more vulnerable for a collective fanaticism    than another periods and which indicators can we define?


Elias Canetti, Sebastian Haffner and Hannah Arendt highlight that fanaticism belongs to the ’condition humaine’. It is thus a universal phenomenon, not bound to specific races, cultures or countries. The only harness for individuals against this human characteristic is to improve their self awareness towards it.

The main objective of this project is the development of strong tools to create self awareness of one’s vulnerability for fanaticism in a playful but effective way in different countries of the EU.

One of the tools consists of the Fanaticism Indicator Test (F.I.T), an online questionnaire on different aspects of social attitude and behaviour, of which a pilot version was developed on the background of the Dutch situation by the Stefan Zweig Genootschap Nederland At the end of the exercise, F.I.T. gives the staff and learners of the involved organisations evidence of their degree of vulnerability towards fanaticism. We now want to develop it for European wide use.

The European value/dimension of the project is inherent to the sociological, historical and language studies that are necessary to make F.I.T. applicable to the present-day situation of the involved partner countries. The potential of this project is the combined use of the universal human character and national experiences and contextual characteristics. This makes the project strongly suitable for staff and learners to experience the meaning of “United in Diversity”. The project could lead to an EU blueprint for dealing with fanaticism on the level of individuals.

An online application of F.I.T. will be implemented on the websites of the partner organisations. Partners will make the broader theme accessible to the learners and staff involved in the project by contributing case studies from their daily practice.

Additional information about fanaticism and tolerance is to be found on their websites.

The devastating effects of fanaticism are clear to anyone that only had a glimpse on the 20th century history of Europe. Today, it is present by the tendencies towards nationalism and populism, religious fanaticism, the call for the strong leader, exclusion of outsiders and minorities, intolerance towards different opinions and ways of life etc.

The fanaticism indicator

A pilot fanaticism indicator, developed by the Stefan Zweig Genootschap Nederland, was tested in a local setting (Amsterdam public library) in the Netherlands, see To add a European value/dimension to the existing tool other countries need to be involved. The potential of the project lies in its universal character and yet depends on national experiences and individuals willing to share a learning experience. This will lead to a validated set of values and criteria to create a methodology suitable for data gathering, interpreting and implementing an online self awareness exercise.

Research, define, exchange

It will be necessary to gather knowledge about the different social contexts of mentality and behaviour in the involved countries and about the characteristics of their different language use seen from the perspective of fanaticism. Research about the history and state of the art of tolerance and fanaticism of each country of the partners is inevitable to make the project recognisable for all groups of the different countries.

–           Development of a methodology for measuring fanaticism.

–           Research on the contextual particularities of the countries of the partners, i.e., history, social structure and societal contact, language, etc. This will be done in the form of case studies.

–           Developing concrete instruments to increase individual awareness of handling fanaticism. The pilot version of the fanaticism indicator is one of those   instruments and will be adapted according to the outcome of the contextual       research.

–           An online application of the indicator to be implemented in the websites of the partner organisations.

Main objective

Development of a strong tool to create self awareness of one’s vulnerability for fanaticism in a playful but serious and effective way for learners and staff of the participating organisations and a broad public throughout the countries of the partners.

With the use of web 2.0 applications the Indicator will be easily accessible for a broad layer of European citizens at a low cost scale. The tool consists of an online questionnaire on different aspects of personal social attitude and behaviour. At the end of the exercise, the fanaticism indicator test gives the users evidence of their degree of vulnerability towards fanaticism against a defined average. The fanaticism indicator will be implemented in the websites of all involved partners to reach their respective staff and learners.

The fanaticism indicator will be fed with additional information about fanaticism and tolerance in general, but also specified for the realities of the countries of the involved partners and or different ethnical or minority groups within those countries. Each country in the EU fosters its own culture, language and idioms that are a substantial part of individual identities of the citizens. This richness will be the main fuel during the development of the indicator.


o          development of the fanaticism indicator:

1.         definition of fanaticism

2.         collecting material

3.         Visit of locations of conflict

o          mapping exercise collection of data

o          analysing of case study data

3.         analysis

4.         questionnaire

5.         developing software

6.         launch and integration of the tool within partner’s website

7.         promotion, free publicity

8.         Follow up publication, article etc?

o          working meetings

o          set up working groups staff/learners