Amerika

Posts Tagged ‘cults’

Do We Live In A Totalitarian State?

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Democracy instructs us that we have “freedom,” “liberty,” and “equality,” but all of these seem to be modified definitions. Freedom is subject to forced association, liberty to serving in the jobs of the workers’ state, and equality means that the higher subsidize the lower so that the illusion of cooperation is achieved.

This leads us to wonder what other terms have mutated definitions. In particular, we start to suspect that we are living in a neo-Communist or totalitarian society. A handy resource can be found in one definition of totalitarianism which reveals the structure of the state based on control:

1. An official ideology, consisting of an official body of doctrine covering all vital aspects of man’s existence, to which everyone living in that society is supposed to adhere at least passively; this ideology is characteristically focused in terms of chiliastic claims as to the “perfect” final society of mankind.

2. A single mass party consisting of a relatively small percentage of the total population (up to 10 per cent) of men and women passionately and unquestioningly dedicated to the ideology and prepared to assist in every way in promoting its general acceptance, such party being organized in strictly hierarchical, oligarchical manner, usually under a single leader….

3. A technologically conditioned near-complete monopoly of control (in the hands of the party and its subservient cadres, such as the bureaucracy and the armed forces) of all means of effective armed combat.

4. A similarly technologically conditioned near-complete monopoly of control (in the same hands) of all means of effective mass communication, such as the press, radio, motion pictures, and so on.

5. A system of terroristic police control. depending for its effectiveness upon points 3 and 4 and characteristically directed not only against demonstrable “enemies” of the regime, but also against arbitrarily selected classes of the population, such arbitrary selection turning upon exigencies of the regime’s survival, as well as ideological “implications” and systematically exploiting scientific psychology.
Carl J Friedrich (1954) ‘The unique character of totalitarian society’ in: Totalitarianism. New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

To understand how this applies to our present society, we must understand the nature of decentralized, indirect, and informal control. In these systems, there is no single leader, only a singular idea. There is not even a party. Instead, people collaborate informally to enforce an idea on others, and that idea — more than a manifestation of it — constitutes the core of the totalitarian society.

In this type of system, the “terroristic police control” consists of fear of social consequences which can cause an individual to lose jobs, friends, family, housing, and even services as banks, doctors, attorneys, accountants, and even grocery stores pull away from the controversy.

The control that this system exerts can be seen in enforcement of an idea from people who perceive they are receiving personal benefit from doing so, therefore are fanatical in their search for an excuse to enforce this on others. Each person they destroy gains them greater social status.

At that level, the system has a monopoly through indirect means. Since it is driven by individualistic behavior, people form herds which are dedicated to running away from threats, which means that all it must do is indicate that certain ideas, individuals, or behaviors are threats, and the crowd will destroy them.

This is a form of individualistic herd behavior, sometimes called the “selfish herd theory”:

He suggested that groups of animals as diverse as insects, fish and cattle all react to danger by moving towards the middle of their swarm, school or herd, known as the selfish herd theory. Individuals in a herd benefit from being able to control where they are relative to their group-mates and any potential predator. It also reduces the chances of being the one the predator goes for when it attacks.

Such behavior may be a sub-form of the tragedy of the commons: if safety, or areas where one is safe, are a resource, each individual exploits those to the maximum and social order is sacrificed by the collective selfishness of individuals, as happens in most human organizational failures.

Decentralized totalitarianism exploits the fear-driven nature of human behavior. When humans organize into groups, they rely on external cues — the behavior of others — to identify threats to the herd. If the herd can be induced into constant panic, that panic can be used to target any threat by making that threat into the scapegoat, or by assigning agency for actual threats to the imaginary enemy. Satan is deceptive: we blame him for evils, when really he is merely the symbol of those evils.

Control systems of this nature depend on a dysfunctional codependency between individuals and their manipulators, who have as much in common with salesmen as dictators. The herd depends on the leaders to signal threats and potential rewards, and out of fear and fear of missing out, then depends on those leaders, who also require the power of the masses which are used as a political weapon, or a means to the end of destroying political enemies and thus asserting the power of the controller.

Aldous Huxley predicted that the mob rule brought on by the French Revolution would ultimately end in the rise of cynical controllers who hid their methods through indirect and decentralized means, letting people lead themselves into servitude with their fears and desires. Humans would be defeated by individualism, not outright control.

A system of this nature rules through duality. Individuals are induced into acts which neutralize them, while the same authority that they trust for those inspirations also teaches them to fear anything but the condition under which they find themselves. As Huxley wrote, perfect tyranny appears to be freedom:

The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him, the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people. His servitude is strictly objective.

The older dictators fell because they could never supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles and mysteries. Nor did they possess a really effective system of mind-manipulation. In the past, free-thinkers and revolutionaries were often the products of the most piously orthodox education. This is not surprising. The methods employed by orthodox educators were and still are extremely inefficient. Under a scientific dictator education will really work — with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown.

This inverts the unduly famous statement from 1984, “Freedom is Slavery.” In the Brave New World of Huxley, he shows how what people think of as freedom becomes a form of slavery. This damages not so much the individual as a civilization because control methods lead to oblivious and inept societies because they create an internal backlash and encourage people to ignore important details that could indicate systemic problems. We saw that in both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

Control causes a loss of civilization. The inner-directed populace that works together toward the goal of having an excellent existence is replaced by a bickering crowd of monkeys who take civilization for granted, lower their standards, and are interested, carnie-style, in what immediate benefits they can receive right now. They would not pass the marshmallow test:

In the 1960s, Stanford University Professor Walter Mischel gave young children a simple proposition. They sat with a marshmallow in front of them for fifteen minutes – and if they could hold off from eating it, they would be given two treats at the end of the time period. Some of them ate the treat straight away – but others succeeded in overcoming temptation.

Subsequent research found that the children from the original experiment who could delay gratification had scored better academic results, earned higher salaries, and been less prone to obesity.

In this way, totalitarianism — like democracy — makes people less capable because they become accustomed to being outer-directed, and lose the ability to conceive and formulate their own direction. This appears similar to the case of children who watch too much television and then, are unable to figure out what to do with themselves when the television is off.

Decentralized control triumphs by creating this codependent relationship. It enforces its will upon the citizens, who then come to lean on it for guidance because it regulates what is rewarded, and end up becoming entirely defined by it. People lose the ability to understand their world and respond to it in a way that maximizes their position, and see the world entirely through the filter of government and social pressure. This way, reality is forgotten and abilities are lost.

Its decentralized nature allows control — which, as you recall, arises from individualistic fear — to remain invisible. It camouflages itself in social chaos and by maintaining internal debate and competition, both of which take the place of normal healthy functions and distract from the decay. As Mario Vargas Llosa opined:

It may not seem to be a dictatorship, but it has all of the characteristics of a dictatorship; the perpetuation, not of one person, but of an irremovable party, a party that allows sufficient space for criticism, provided such criticism serves to maintain the appearance of a democratic party, but which suppresses by all means, including the worst, whatever criticism may threaten its perpetuation in power.

In theory, the group we cannot criticize is the group that rules us, but what about a group that we cannot identify? If the group is fully decentralized, it has no membership list, official rules, hierarchy, or even headquarters. Its members may not even be aware that they are members, and will be spread among every industry, institution, and social role. They are united only by one thing: that they are infected by the same idea, and so are pathologically driven toward it, despite its eventual destructiveness.

Huxley again, this time from the 1947 introduction to Brave New World:

The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects, by lowering what Mr. Churchill calls an “iron curtain” between the masses and such facts or arguments as the local political bosses regard as undesirable, totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals. But silence is not enough. If persecution, liquidation and the other symptoms of social friction are to be avoided, the positive sides of propaganda must be made as effective as the negative. The most important Manhattan Projects of the future will be vast government-sponsored enquiries into what the politicians and the participating scientists will call “the problem of happiness” — in other words, the problem of making people love their servitude.

An empire based on distraction proves more powerful than one based on commands. When truth is obscured by a simpler but less realistic symbolic view of the world, then people will ignore the important issues and pursue the scapegoats and their positive counterpart, trends which lead to rewards through socializing, because those who ride the trends are the ones who become popular and get rich, which enables them to escape the disaster created by lack of social order.

With this in mind, let us revisit those five traits of totalitarianism:

  1. An official ideology, consisting of an official body of doctrine covering all vital aspects of man’s existence. This doctrine must cover all aspects of human existence and have Utopian overtones. In our distributed totalitarian society, egalitarianism — the idea that all people are equal, or should be, in varying economic, social, legal, and political ways — serves this role. It explains our purpose, lack of social order, morality, and method of control all in one.
  2. A single mass party consisting of a relatively small percentage of the total population (up to 10 per cent). Since it is decentralized, this group does not form a party, but a mob. They join together in ad hoc, informal, and tacit demonstrations of their belief and destruction of those who do not agree, like a lynch mob or witch hunt.
  3. A…near-complete monopoly of control…of all means of effective armed combat. This one proves more complex: self-defense is justified only when defending an individual and its right to pursue its desires, but it is viewed as illegitimate in defense of anything at a level broader than the individual, such as civilization, culture, heritage, values, or faith. This gives the power for violence exclusively to egalitarians.
  4. A…near-complete monopoly of control…of all means of effective mass communication. When everyone who becomes popular agrees on the same ideas, and only those who exhibit these ideas become popular, then a de facto monopoly exists not just among media, but entertainment and academia as well.
  5. A system of…control…against arbitrarily selected classes of the population…systematically exploiting scientific psychology. I have removed the term “police” because any form of control will do, and this describes the “struggle sessions” that happen whenever someone accidentally says something that is not politically correct, and must have their career and interpersonal relationships destroyed by the threat of ostracism.

Viewed from this angle, totalitarianism ably adapts to a decentralized format. What is more, it represents the crossover between totalitarianism and a cult, combining the socializing-based nature of a cult with the control-based agenda of tyranny:

Some aspects of the mind control methods of cults are inherent to Leftism when it occurs in a social setting (excerpted partially):

  • Isolation of the person and manipulation of his or her environment.
  • Control of information going in and out of the group environment.
  • Separation and/or alienation from family and friends.
  • Induced dissociation and other altered states by putting person in mild form of trance (through speaking in tongues, chanting, repeating affirmations, extended periods of meditation or prayer, lengthy denunciation sessions, long hours of lectures or study, public trials or group humiliation, about seat criticisms focusing on one individual, sexual abuse, torture, etc.)
  • Degradation of the person’s sense of self, through confession, self-reporting, rebuking, criticism and self-criticism, humiliation, and so on, in individual or group sessions.
  • Peer and leadership pressure, especially using powerful guilt mechanisms.
  • Induced anxiety, fear, and confusion, with joy and certainty being offered through surrender to the group; instilling the belief that the person’s survival physical, emotional, spiritual depends on remaining with the group; also induced crises, so that the person must submit to symbolic (or real) acts of submission to the group via betrayal and renunciation of self, family, and previously held values.
  • Extensive indoctrination sessions (through Bible lessons, political training, sales training, self-awareness lessons, lectures by leaders).
  • Alternation of harshness and leniency in a context of necessary discipline.

These describe complete methods of control, but distill to a few central methods of cults:

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who once taught at Harvard Medical School, wrote a paper titled Cult Formation in the early 1980s. He delineated three primary characteristics, which are the most common features shared by destructive cults.

  1. A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power. That is a living leader, who has no meaningful accountability and becomes the single most defining element of the group and its source of power and authority.
  2. A process [of indoctrination or education is in use that can be seen as] coercive persuasion or thought reform [commonly called “brainwashing”].
  3. Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Other descriptions of cults outline similar pathologies.

In the decentralized totalitarian state, the charismatic leader is replaced by a series of behaviors which signal charisma and social success, such as wearing black sweaters and jeans to flaunt the rules or inserting obscenity into mundane conversation, which enables members of the crowd to become leaders in turn for their fifteen minutes of fame.

The crowd then enforces its process of indoctrination through trends and norms, encouraging conformity to the same values by using the same terms, whose meanings have been edited to make them suggest an obvious conclusion. Those who step out of line are excluded, and since connections and friend nepotism are how most people get ahead, to fail to conform is to fail.

Finally, the herd exploits itself. In the view of someone infected with ideology, all people and things are means to an end, which is achieving that ideological Utopia. This conflicts with the natural human impulse toward ends-over-means thinking, such as that which insists that there be good results in reality by any means necessary.

A feedback loop between the individualists and the tyrant thus arises. They depend on strong leadership to reduce life to a narrow set of options so that the individual need focus only on the social, therefore using ideology as a means of gaining acceptance and then achieving wealth and power within the system.

In this way, we see that individualism and tyranny are one and the same, much like individualism and collectivism/egalitarianism are one and the same, because they are designed by individuals to enable them to succeed. This occurs at the expense of social order, and creates a death spiral where society must become more totalitarian as it becomes more chaotic.

How The Left Is Creating A New Generation Of Terrorists

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

McKenna set down her drink, a mix of seltzer, wine and vodka. “So what do you guys think about this new tax plan?”

“Ugh, it’s horrible,” said Maya. “Trump wants to stop state tax deductions so the states cut their social programs. Just another attempt to screw over minorities, women and the poor.”

“You know she’s right,” Ronnie lisped. “He’s just trying to hurt everyone who didn’t vote for him.”

The darkest member of the group, having a Nigerian father and Korean-Norwegian mother, McKayla spoke up last. “That man is a racist, and he was elected by racists,” she said. “Either we get rid of him, or he’s going to turn this country into Nazi Germany with the Klan enslaving all of us.”

Cucky McCuckerson listened in the background. At age 64, he had long given up on the possibility of real existential pleasure in life. He knew what life was: go to his job, at which he would never advance or be fired, then pay his bitch of an ex-wife alimony, call his ungrateful kids who were more interested in Tinder and Grindr than him, then go by Whole Foods for a few well-deserved treats, namely pre-prepared ethnic food and three bottles of mid-grade wine. This was his life, and it would never change. He had lost money on the sale of his previous house, paid most of the rest to the ex-wife and child support, and now was going to work until he died, or would have to retire early on $2500 a month and go do… what? No one at his job would care if he disappeared, and his social group would evaporate as soon as he did not at least have the cash to stand a few rounds at the bar. Already he felt weak inside, and perceived that everyone else in the group was the focus of attention while he sat in the background, nursing a drink and thinking about how he was just counting days until the end.

He would show them. A few machine guns, he could buy those in the barrio for half-price. Body armor and hall cameras? He saw a video on YouTube. He had no real interest in living, but he wanted to go out a hero.

***

One of the more exhaustive studies on terrorism shows us that people become terrorists for the same reason that they start doing drugs or buy unnecessary consumer goods: social status, or peer pressure, otherwise known as socialization pressure.

The pathway towards the participation in a suicide mission can be analyzed as the result of an accumulation of socialization processes that can be accounted for by classic social psychological mechanisms. This is congruent with the empirical evidence about how the process of joining a terrorist group usually is heavily influenced by the prevailing political and social environment shared by friends and relatives. Several studies conclude that becoming a terrorist is basically an issue of socialization (Fields, 1979; Silke, 2006). Radicalization and engagement in violent activities are facilitated by contacts and links with people who already have embraced an extremist ideology. Social interaction is the vehicle through which individuals receive the “reasons” that motivate and “justify” their desire to give up their lives to carry out a terrorist attack.

Like suicide bomber, a spree shooter like Stephen Paddock or James T. Hodgkinson knows that he is headed on a final one-way trip: if he is not killed during the event, he will most likely be executed for his crimes. Spree shooters at schools and nightclubs do not intend to survive; they want to kill and then die.

There is some evidence that suicide is inextricably linked to the desire to kill groups of others:

Why are some mass shooters more likely to kill themselves? If we go beyond the armchair psychology and diagnostic labels in the coverage of this horrific tragedy, the data from past rampage shootings (see also this paper and this) may partially reveal some motivations.

It’s about self-loathing and perceived injustice. And location matters.

Psychologists have long theorized that there’s a connection between rage against others and rage against the self.

When you combine the spree killer mentality with the justification afforded by ideology, you have something like the suicide bomber: someone who wants to die, and wants to take revenge on the world in the process, but is also socialized to the degree that he wants to commit his murder-suicide in such a way that his social group will applaud and for once, even posthumously, he will be “famous” in his group and the center of attention. He will no longer be a loser.

Add to that the effects of depression — such as that brought on by a dead-end career, alcoholism, failed marriages and other parts of the usual modern toxic stew of personal tragedy — and you have weaponized misery:

People with mental illnesses are influenced by their environments, Paul said, and can be vulnerable to extremist rhetoric.

“Certainly people who fit the pattern of having relatively low levels of social skills, often times being more withdrawn, are more likely to respond to extremist language on radio, television and that sort of thing,” Paul said. “If you look at the history of cult development, that’s very often where they get their recruits.”

The Left is brewing up the next generation of spree killers through two methods: violently binary rhetoric, and social events where people talk about politics more than anything else.

Leftist rhetoric tends to be binary because Leftism is not directly related to reality, but to how reality might be improved. Thus Leftism is an option, and people either say yes or do not, and everyone who says yes is an ally and by the converse, everyone who refuses to join the cult is an enemy.

We can blame the media, and surely they are one vehicle for this thinking, but they are not the cause of it. The cause is ideology itself, which tends to impose cult-like thinking.

Some aspects of the mind control methods of cults are inherent to Leftism when it occurs in a social setting (excerpted partially):

  • Isolation of the person and manipulation of his or her environment.
  • Control of information going in and out of the group environment.
  • Separation and/or alienation from family and friends.
  • Induced dissociation and other altered states by putting person in mild form of trance (through speaking in tongues, chanting, repeating affirmations, extended periods of meditation or prayer, lengthy denunciation sessions, long hours of lectures or study, public trials or group humiliation, about seat criticisms focusing on one individual, sexual abuse, torture, etc.)
  • Degradation of the person’s sense of self, through confession, self-reporting, rebuking, criticism and self-criticism, humiliation, and so on, in individual or group sessions.
  • Peer and leadership pressure, especially using powerful guilt mechanisms.
  • Induced anxiety, fear, and confusion, with joy and certainty being offered through surrender to the group; instilling the belief that the person’s survival physical, emotional, spiritual depends on remaining with the group; also induced crises, so that the person must submit to symbolic (or real) acts of submission to the group via betrayal and renunciation of self, family, and previously held values.
  • Extensive indoctrination sessions (through Bible lessons, political training, sales training, self-awareness lessons, lectures by leaders).
  • Alternation of harshness and leniency in a context of necessary discipline.

The Leftist cult begins by isolating the person through creation of a social group. This social group then dominates the life of the person involved, and by its nature, occupies time when the person could socialize with others, while simultaneously demonizing all who do not belong to the group.

In this group, the induced disassociation through mind-numbing repetition of talking points, propaganda, studies, and cultural artifacts — including rock music, popular books, movies and rage-inducing articles — also amounts to information control, since the cult is hostile to sources which do not share its ideological bent, and so members cannot admit being exposed to those. Leftists will shun anyone who even pays attention to moderate-Right sources like Fox News.

Degradation of the person’s sense of self and peer pressure occur through both shaming to those who do not conform, and an inherent sense of guilt for being privileged enough to be an armchair Leftist. The rich rage against the rich, the white rage against the white, and the intellectuals rage against intellectuals; this achieves inculcated guilt which is only alleviated by “doing the right thing,” according to the cult at least.

Leftist writings and movies tend to induce anxiety through their apocalyptic outlook. Climate change, which causes a sense of futility and despair, has been especially useful.

Alternation of harshness and leniency is administered through social methods. Basic discipline is non-existent, but if someone crosses a line, they are punished with scorn, disparagement, impugning of their moral character, and social exclusion. For this reason, people in a Leftist social setting are always attention to what is de rigeuer and whatever the most recent no-no is, because whoever crosses that line will be destroyed, but at the same time, members are continually encouraged to cross lines in order to draw more attention to themselves and advance the narrative.

Since the social nature of the activity snowballs to the point where the members have no other social outlet, they quickly become dependent on the group for their self-esteem and guidance, which means they will have nothing if they offend the group. Total control has been imposed.

***

Cucky relaxed in his hotel room. Earlier he had purchased a bottle of Hillrock Solera, which he considered the best bourbon available on the market. For the past five years, he had denied himself any such extravagances, but now he sipped his second glass.

On the bed before him were ten rifles and thirty-five loaded magazines. He had purchased these, one a month, over the past year from a friend of the janitor at his job. At $500 apiece, they were draining his account, but soon he would not have to worry about that. Or anything. He thought of death like going into outer space: farther and farther from anything he knew, until he was in the total cold and blackness, with nothing to perceive, then getting sucked into a black hole and compressed into nothingness, even unaware of his thoughts as the bioelectric impulses were torn apart by the intense gravity. Painless forevermore. He liked that.

He had bought ammunition a box or two at a time, always on the way home from visiting his children in a nearby city where they lived with his ex-wife, her boyfriend, and now a girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s boyfriend. He thought they were all having sex, but his kids were old enough not to care, and besides, they were having plenty of sex themselves, when they were not strung out on Ritalin, Valium and Xanax. He was irrelevant to them: old, gross, sexless, weak, broke and tired.

But now he felt wonderful. The warmth stretched through his body as the whisky and anger spread. Tonight, he was top dog. He picked up the first weapon, took a deep breath, and opened fire through the closed window. He knew little about guns, but imagined himself aiming a garden hose strapped to a stick, and soon saw flashes as his bullets struck the metal gates around the crowd. He corrected, but then was out of bullets. The illegal fully automatic modification to these guns, AR-47s and AK-15s or something like that, made them shoot at the full 800 bullets per minute, so the little magazines ran out quickly. These, too, were bought from Juano at a reasonable twenty-five per.

He swigged more bourbon, letting it burn down his throat and fill him with a feeling like fire. Up came the next gun, and he began hosing down the idiots across the street again, delighting in watching them fall as they crushed each other in their panic. He moved the gun in little circles as he fired, and this time when he heard the ching! of an empty magazine, he gleefully seized up another and repeated. When all ten were fired, he went back to the first and inserted a new magazine, then began the process again, firing a thousand dollars of ammo in a stream of hot leaden hatred.

Down to his last magazine, he checked the camera feeds displayed on his laptop. Ah, yes, the pigs — cops were usually Republicans, he thought — were coming up the hall, clearing rooms. He was mostly out of bullets anyway, and the sweet sound of screams came to him from across the road. He knew he could not live on after this, live through a trial at least, and so it was time to exit stage right. He thought of the party that weekend that his social group would have, and how they would talk about him every minute, unable to take his deeds out of their thoughts. Good.

The first flash-bang went off in the hall. He had seen a YouTube video on those, too. Next step would be smoke grenades and then door breaching, followed by flash bangs again and a hail of bullets. Time for his grand exit. Time to liquefy this brain. He took one last sip of the bourbon, relishing how fine it was, like this his moment of triumph. Then, he put the tip of the gun in his mouth and rested his thumb on the trigger. I have all of the power now, he thought. I am God. I have made my mark. He tightened his grip and began the slow squeeze.

Thy will be done.

Flat Earth Theory

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Knowing that the internet has reached the point where sincerity is indistinguishable from trolling, simply because we allowed The Masses to access it, one takes new trends with a grain of salt, and so when a Flat Earth Theory starts making the rounds, the response is to shrug and figure that it is 50% trolls and 50% morons who cancel out your vote in every election.

But the thing about the Flat Earth Theory is that it works as a metaphor. Its appeal is that very few of us have seen enough of the world to claim that it is round, and we do not trust our “official” sources of information. In this sense, the Flat Earth Theory becomes a mental virus, a symbol representing our distrust of the human world around us.

We cannot be unaware of this human world, because it is broadcast to us from televisions, the internet, books, schools, movies, music and the conversation of others. But sometimes, the narrative cracks and we see that it was wrong all along:

Researchers have found 5.7 million-year-old, human-like footprints in Crete, complicating the story of human evolution.

A significant body of paleontological evidence suggests early humans diverged from their ape ancestors in Africa. A set of footprints found in Tanzania suggest hominins, the earliest human relatives, were walking upright some 3.7 million years ago.

…Until recently, no hominin fossils older than 1.8 million years had been discovered outside of Africa.

Modernity is being proven wrong across the board. We are told that humans evolved a certain way; it turns out that this is wrong. We are told that racial differences are not genetic, and then that too is disproven. We are told that educated people support only a certain political view, and then that, too fails.

All of not just Leftist ideas, but Leftist policies, are failing at once. The “fast money” doctrine of the Clinton years has brought us increasingly speculative industry and ever-larger bubbles, while diversity has ended in a terror of political correctness and rape gangs, and globalist policies have reduced our economies to dependents on a worldwide market that swings wildly out of control.

Emboldened by years of weak authority under Obama, crazy leaders and groups are rising worldwide. Climate change didn’t happen, but the ecocidal effects of a population swollen with immigration in the name of “diversity” has made life miserable. Adapting our cultures to accept every culture, and thus to be non-cultures, has made our lands alien places populated with angry foreigners.

The result is nothing short of a sea change in how people view our future, which means that we are rejecting old theories and seizing upon time-proven alternatives instead:

When Francis Fukuyama published his “End of History” thesis in 1989, around the time the Berlin Wall fell, we could see through his simplifications on behalf of a kind of capitalism we were weary of. No one among my cohort actually expected history to end, but it did fit into the tenor of the times, when thinkers reached for the universal. We were proud inheritors of the Enlightenment: That was the intellectual legacy we had to improve on, it was to be our perpetual lodestar, if we were not to be trapped in particularistic thought that could have no good results for anyone. True, Allan Bloom had rung the alarm bells not long ago over the new conformity, but we felt sure that intellectual prowess would reign supreme in the end.

When, a little later, the Bosnian slaughter occurred, we framed it not as Muslims versus the rest, but as a direct attack on the human rights principles we had tried to hold on to in the midst of late Cold War paranoia, which was often ridiculously transparent. Around the same time in the early 1990s, Samuel Huntington came out with his “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, a direct riposte to Fukuyama, a template for a re-energized worldwide conflict of irresoluble identities that has only grown in intensity with each passing year.

I go over this material because I realize that those who are in their 20s and 30s today have not known any other ideological order. Identity politics — the brand of communalism it flows from, i.e., multiculturalism, and the brand of expression it leads to, i.e., political correctness — is existentially unassailable for the young. They know no other means of self-understanding, artistic expression or personal solidarity. They can only be organized around this principle. They see the world strictly through this framework, not through some Enlightenment perspective of universal human rights irrespective of one’s biological identity.

If you read outside the carefully-constructed verbiage, you see that what this author is bemoaning is the rise of particularism or the idea that universalism — the notion that all people are the same, e.g. equal, and can be treated as a fungible commodity — is in fact wrong, and that there is no “we are all one,” but instead a world of many parallels, where each is as tribe that has to find its own path to what works for it, and the two are not comparable.

The difference between these two ideas, particularism and universalism, is night and day. Universalism might be referred to as the philosophy of robots, since it focuses on the minimums of what makes people human, and assumes that these are the most important things. Particularism is essentially localism and nationalism wrapped into one, where people say, “I dunno about this universal human robot you guys are designing, but I can tell you what works in this valley for my people, because here’s our history of what we tried and how well it worked out each time.”

We are transitioning from a millennium of universalism to a new era of particularism. Universalism is seductive because it makes everyone feel important just for being human, and by protecting them from criticism by arguing that they have a “right” to be however they want to be, it is inherently against culture, morality, heritage, values and any other standard which can make a person appear to fall short of what is desired.

The great power of universalism is its simplicity, which makes it seductive: you do whatever you want, and I do whatever I want, and the only cost is that we agree to support this system of mutual anarchy. By ignoring all larger issues of civilization, it reduces the question of society to socializing, and to the not-that-bright average human, seems like a complete solution in one easy idea!

What none of them realize is that they have been fooled, because universalism exists for one purpose, which is to force the sharing of wealth and power. Instead of realizing that wealth and power are not like toys in kindergarten, and should be entrusted only to those who can wield them well, more like Excalibur than the One True Ring, universalists demand that those who produce give to those who do not.

The nature of ideology is that it promises “a better way” through some means other than self-discipline. Individualism, or the notion that the individual is fine just the way they are and should be equally respected even if not a net producer, demands that people be excused from the need for self-discipline, especially adaptation to reality and social standards.

Ironically, this individualism replaces the individuality of a person by forcing them to engage in a cult-like behavior which replaces their inner traits — personality, abilities, moral character — with obedience to dogma:

“People don’t really understand how strong ideology can be,” she says. “I think sometimes of that group and that feminism as being close to a cult. I feel I had to de-programme myself in order to have independent thought. It’s been an ongoing struggle. When you have a cult, you have a cult leader who demands a certain conformity . . . And when you have a celebrity who has cultural-icon status, economic power beyond what you can imagine, you can’t resist that person — if you want to stay in their realm. Because once you start challenging them, they kick you out.”

Cults are based on people adopting an optional or arbitrary idea which they then rely on as part of their personality construct, which in turn allows the cult to control them. Those who do not exhibit enough of the ideal of the cult are excluded, and this creates competition to demonstrate the greatest obedience.

This replaces the identity of the individual with that of the cult, and makes their self-confidence and sense of well-being contingent upon being approved by the cult, much like an abusive social group or family. Those who do not do what the cult wants become the enemy. Total control is achieved by making people desire to be obedient.

A good cult is inconsistent and vindictive, which forces people to be even more aggressive in demonstrating their allegiance by widening the window of forbidden behavior and crowding people into the narrower space remaining. The most successful cults make people believe they have achieved freedom or another Utopian ideal, and they then preemptively retaliate against anyone with a different ideal, which enables them to spread rapidly by demanding that everyone around them be either part of the cult, or an enemy. Once they gain critical mass, everyone within their reach quickly converts or flees.

Egalitarianism may be the most successful cult of all time. People instinctively want to believe that they are equal, so that they do not feel an obligation to use self-discipline to meet any kind of social standard. Instead, they choose to believe that they need to do nothing to understand and adapt to reality, and the freedom from that Darwinian standard makes them feel safe and valuable.

What is most interesting about cults is that they are self-destructive. As if a metaphorical analogue to a cyst, the cult traps the weak in society and bundles them together into a group that destroys them. This happens because a cult at some point either realizes its ambitions, and they fall short, or commits itself to permanent warfare against those it presumes are its opposition, at which point the scapegoat becomes the master and the cult dedicates itself to understanding this contrary view and is absorbed by it.

Modernity has been one giant cult. Since the Renaissance/Enlightenment (PBUH) adoption of individualism as the new and now old form of the West, people have been indoctrinated into defending equality before all else. Equality however requires universalism, which took political form in globalism, and as this reveals itself to be unstable, minds turn elsewhere for archetypes of the future.

“Cult Formation,” by Robert J. Lifton, M.D. (The Harvard Mental Health Letter)

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Cult Formation

Robert J. Lifton, M.D.

John Jay College

The Harvard Mental Health Letter
Volume 7, Number 8 February 1981,
reprinted in AFF News Vol. 2 No. 5, 1996

Abstract

Cults represent one aspect of a worldwide epidemic of ideological totalism, or fundamentalism.  They tend to be associated with a charismatic leader, thought reform, and exploitation of members.  Among the methods of thought reform commonly used by cults are milieu control, mystical manipulation, the demand for purity, a cult of confession, sacred science, loading the language, doctrine over person, and dispensing of existence.  The current historical context of dislocation from organizing symbolic structures, decaying belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death, and a “protean style” of continuous psychological experimentation with the self is conducive to the growth of cults.  The use of coercion, as in certain forms of “deprogramming,” to deal with the restrictions of individual liberty associated with cults is inconsistent with the civil rights tradition.  Yet legal intervention may be indicated when specific laws are broken.

Two main concerns should inform our moral and psychological perspective on cults: the dangers of ideological totalism, or what I would also call fundamentalism; and the need to protect civil liberties.

There is now a worldwide epidemic of totalism and fundamentalism in forms that are political, religious or both. Fundamentalism is a particular danger in this age of nuclear weapons, because it often includes a theology of Armageddon–a final battle between good and evil. I have studied Chinese thought reform in the 1950s as well as related practices in McCarthyite American politics and in certain training and educational programs. I have also examined these issues in work with Vietnam veterans, who often movingly rejected war related totalism; and more recently in a study of the psychology of Nazi doctors.

Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:

  1. a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;
  2. a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform;
  3. economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Milieu Control

The first method characteristically used by ideological totalism is milieu control: the control of all communication within a given environment. In such an environment individual autonomy becomes a threat to the group. There is an attempt to manage an individual’s inner communication. Milieu control is maintained and expressed by intense group process, continuous psychological pressure, and isolation by geographical distance, unavailability of transportation, or even physical restraint. Often the group creates an increasingly intense sequence of events such as seminars, lectures and encounters which makes leaving extremely difficult, both physically and psychologically. Intense milieu control can contribute to a dramatic change of identity which I call doubling: the formation of a second self which lives side by side with the former one, often for a considerable time. When the milieu control is lifted, elements of the earlier self may be reasserted.

Creating a Pawn

A second characteristic of totalistic environments is mystical manipulation or planned spontaneity. This is a systematic process through which the leadership can create in cult members what I call the psychology of the pawn. The process is managed so that it appears to arise spontaneously; to its objects it rarely feels like manipulation. Religious techniques such as fasting, chanting and limited sleep are used. Manipulation may take on a special intense quality in a cult for which a particular chosen’ human being is the only source of salvation. The person of the leader may attract members to the cult, but can also be a source of disillusionment. If members of the Unification Church, for example, come to believe that Sun Myung Moon, its founder, is associated with the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, they may lose their faith. Mystical manipulation may also legitimate deception of outsiders, as in the “heavenly deception” of the Unification Church and analogous practices in other cult environments. Anyone who has not seen the light and therefore lives in the realm of evil can be justifiably deceived for a higher purpose. For instance, collectors of funds may be advised to deny their affiliation with a cult that has a dubious public reputation.

Purity and Confession

Two other features of totalism are a demand for purity and a cult of confession. The demand for purity is a call for radical separation of good and evil within the environment and within oneself. Purification is a continuing process, often institutionalized in the cult of confession, which enforces conformity through guilt and shame evoked by mutual criticism and self-criticism in small groups.

Confessions contain varying mixtures of revelation and concealment. As Albert Camus observed, “Authors of confessions write especially to avoid confession, to tell nothing of what they know.” Young cult members confessing the sins of their precultic lives may leave out ideas and feelings that they are not aware of or reluctant to discuss, including a continuing identification with their prior existence. Repetitious confession, especially in required meetings, often expresses an arrogance in the name of humility. As Camus wrote: “I practice the profession of penitence to be able to end up as a judge,” and, “The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you.”

Three further aspects of ideological totalism are “sacred science,” “loading of the language,” and the principle of “doctrine over person.” Sacred science is important because a claim of being scientific is often needed to gain plausibility and influence in the modern age. The Unification Church is one example of a contemporary tendency to combine dogmatic religious principles with a claim to special scientific knowledge of human behavior and psychology. The term loading the language’ refers to literalism and a tendency to deify words or images. A simplified, cliche-ridden language can exert enormous psychological force reducing every issue in a complicated life to a single set of slogans that are said to embody the truth as a totality. The principle of doctrine over person’ is invoked when cult members sense a conflict between what they are experiencing and what dogma says they should experience. The internalized message of the totalistic environment is that one must negate that personal experience on behalf of the truth of the dogma. Contradictions become associated with guilt: doubt indicates one’s own deficiency or evil.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of totalistic movements is what I call “dispensing of existence.” Those who have not seen the light and embraced the truth are wedded to evil, tainted, and therefore in some sense, usually metaphorical, lack the right to exist. That is one reason why a cult member threatened with being cast into outer darkness may experience a fear of extinction or collapse. Under particularly malignant conditions, the dispensing of existence is taken literally; in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and elsewhere, people were put to death for alleged doctrinal shortcomings. In the People’s Temple mass suicide-murder in Guyana, a cult leader presided over the literal dispensing of existence by means of a suicidal mystique he himself had made a central theme in the group’s ideology. The totalistic impulse to draw a sharp line between those who have the right to live and those who do not is especially dangerous in the nuclear age.

Historical Context

Totalism should always be considered within a specific historical context. A significant feature of contemporary life is the historical (or psycho historical) dislocation resulting from a loss of the symbolic structures that organize ritual transitions in the life cycle, and a decay of belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death. One function of cults is to provide a group initiation rite for the transition to early adult life, and the formation of an adult identity outside the family. Cult members have good reasons for seeing attempts by the larger culture to make such provisions as hypocritical or confused.

In providing substitute symbols for young people, cults are both radical and reactionary. They are radical because they suggest rude questions about middle-class family life and American political and religious values in general. They are reactionary because they revive pre-modern structures of authority and sometimes establish fascist patterns of internal organization. Furthermore, in their assault on autonomy and self-definition some cults reject a liberating historical process that has evolved with great struggle and pain in the West since the Renaissance. (Cults must be considered individually in making such judgments. Historical dislocation is one source of what I call the “protean style.” This involves a continuous psychological experimentation with the self, a capacity for endorsing contradictory ideas at the same time, and a tendency to change one’s ideas, companions and way of life with relative ease. Cults embody a contrary restricted style,’ a flight from experimentation and the confusion of a protean world. These contraries are related: groups and individuals can embrace a protean and a restricted style in turn. For instance, the so-called hippie ethos of the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by the present so-called Yuppie preoccupation with safe jobs and comfortable incomes. For some people, experimentation with a cult is part of the protean search.

The imagery of extinction derived from the con temporary threat of nuclear war influences patterns of totalism and fundamentalism throughout the world. Nuclear war threatens human continuity itself and impairs the symbols of immortality. Cults seize upon this threat to provide immortalizing principles of their own. The cult environment supplies a continuous opportunity for the experience of transcendence — a mode of symbolic immortality generally suppressed in advanced industrial society.

Role of Psychology

Cults raise serious psychological concerns, and there is a place for psychologists and psychiatrists in understanding and treating cult members. But our powers as mental health professionals are limited, so we should exercise restraint. When helping a young person confused about a cult situation, it is important to maintain a personal therapeutic contract so that one is not working for the cult or for the parents. Totalism begets totalism. What is called deprogramming includes a continuum from intense dialogue on the one hand to physical coercion and kidnapping, with thought-reform-like techniques, on the other. My own position, which I have repeatedly conveyed to parents and others who consult me, is to oppose coercion at either end of the cult process. Cults are primarily a social and cultural rather than a psychiatric or legal problem. But psychological professionals can make important contributions to the public education crucial for dealing with the problem. With greater knowledge about them, people are less susceptible to deception, and for that reason some cults have been finding it more difficult to recruit members.

Yet painful moral dilemmas remain. When laws are violated through fraud or specific harm to recruits, legal intervention is clearly indicated. But what about situations in which behavior is virtually automatized, language reduced to rote and cliche, yet the cult member expresses a certain satisfaction or even happiness? We must continue to seek ways to encourage a social commitment to individual autonomy and avoid coercion and violence.

Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His most recent book, written with Erik Markuson, is The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat (New York, Basic Books, 1990).

This article was originally published in The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Volume 7, Number 8, February 1981 and was reprinted with permission in AFF News, Vol. 2, No. 5, 1996.

The cult of the ego

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

v_i_lenin

In the course of rambling through modernity, you will encounter any number of cults. These are self-justifying self-image clubs based on their ability to selectively admit members. To be a member, you must justify the cult; if you do that better than others, you will be given power. As a result, the cult does not need a formal structure or can rely on it less than groups with actual leadership.

What makes cults fascinating is that they replace internal commonality, or agreement on basic values and directions in life, with external commonality in the form of paying the entrance fee by justifying the cult. Cults replace self-image with group image and make the individual dependent on group approval in order to have self-esteem. This is their power and Achilles heel.

It is difficult for an outsider to see this, but the innate collectivism of a cult is based in individualism. Each individual sees himself as likely to gain more from the cult than he gives. Among other things, he gains a gang, and if he can spin the justifying myth of the cult to include his personal objectives, he will have an army to batter his enemies and force his dreams into reality.

Cults play both side of the fence, however. Like democracy, cults emphasize individual preference with collective action, so that each person is a participant but none are accountable. As with riots, mobs, gangs and stampedes, everyone just follows the herd and figures there is safety in numbers and thus they cannot be blamed, and exiled either from the cult or its host, the civilization in its later years.

This flexibility allows cults to infect any type of group. Apple products form a cult where users justify their purchases by attacking any criticism of them. Communism forms a cult where participants use equality to remove the power of those who are more successful, which allows revenge on that group through subjugation. Even the neighborhood bar can be a cult oriented around the idea that drinking into oblivion is not a bad thing and in fact a good thing. Cults succeed by changing objectionable aspects of reality for their members, and their members reward the cult with allegiance and war against its enemies. This is why cults are a variant of Crowdism and create a pathological, solipsistic and parasitic outlook in the individual.

Perhaps the most tenacious cult is that of the ego, or individualism. People who join this cult agree first and foremost on positivity. They live for love, peace, happiness, fulfillment, uniqueness and any other term that flatters their self-conception. The price for entry to this cult is to ignore the megalomania of others in exchange for them doing the same to you. This allows cult members to compete on bases other than reality, such as actual achievements, using image alone to show that they are in fact leading the perfect life and are worth admiring.

This cult takes many forms. The bloggers who post pictures of their children and perfect homes, carefully angling the camera to avoid the rotting fence or drunk husband on the couch. The New Age adventurers who want nothing more than a chance to tell their story of divinity and have others act as if it were irrefutable fact. The self-help and support groups where each person wants not to heal, but to commiserate, and feel justified in remaining locked in the circle of their own misery. Even heroin addicts, camped out in airless tenements, form a cult of self-pity where entry requires finding the world distasteful and praising heroin as not just compensation, but enlightenment.

Conservatism rejects the cult of the ego through two mechanisms which turn on a single axis. The first plank of conservatism is consequentialism, or brutal realism measured by results in reality and not estimations, calculations or (worse of all) utilitarian surveying of who agrees. The second plank is transcendentalism, which looks for an order to the cosmos which makes sense of the physical, instead of rejecting the physical and looking for an alternate order — a different quantity — in an undiscovered dimension. Both of these planks turn human focus from the individual to the outer world, and insist that it can be sensible and therefore should not be rejected in order to focus on human thoughts, feelings and judgments as a “better” form of reality.

When people rage against conservatives, the issue they choose as the basis of their stance is rarely their actual focus. Deep inside of themselves they know that they want to force everyone else to accept their mental illusion as reality, and they see anyone who refuses to validate them in this manner as an enemy. No compromise can exist between conservative realism and liberal — everything but conservatism — solipsism. We want the world, and they want to reject it and replace it with themselves, then use a group to create an echo chamber to make that into Official Reality.

Conservatives and anyone else of sound mind and body tends to look at that as we should, as a form of disease. Those who pity themselves and reject the world have insulted the greatest gift any being can imagine, which is the gift of choice and ability to explore the many possibilities of life. The cult of the ego rejects life not so much because they fear death, as to a real egoist death is simply the end of the world and not of themselves, but because they cannot control it. This explains why when given power, the megalomaniacs immediately begin a regime of destruction and murder, starting with the best of everyone and anything outside of themselves.

Recommended Reading