Totalitarian: of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (such as censorship and terrorism)
: completely regulated by the state especially as an aid to national mobilization in an emergency
I recently listened to a very interesting Corbett Report podcast. It was an interview by James Corbett with a man named Matthias Desmet who wrote a book called the Psychology of Totalitarianism. In this book he talks about something that some of you may have heard of called Mass formation. There was a popular video about it on YouTube that the fact checkers denounced for no good reason.
The more Desmet talked, the more I realized that mass formation is similar to a widespread cult-like reaction by the general public. Mass formation refers to the hive mentality of large groups and how they lose the ability to think for themselves and also actively turn against dissenting voices. They can be convinced to believe absurd ideas and follow illogical rules such as the ridiculous restaurant restrictions during COVID that required you to wear a mask as you walked to your seat but then you could remove it at the table.
I think we are living in an age of cult-like behavior. The identity politics movement could also be thought of as a cult movement. Each one of these group identifications has very similar characteristics to the mass formation / cult indoctrination and behaviors. As you examine them more closely you see that the people are doing exactly what Matthias Desmet explains in his book; they are relating to the collective identity much more than they are relating to individual humans within the group.
For example ,consider several identity movements; LGBTQ rights, climate agenda ,critical race Theory, black lives matter, feminism, abortion rights. In each of these social justice movements the people think that they are fighting for the rights of people, but they quickly denounce and cancel anyone in the group who strays from their exact doctrine.
Such as, if you are a person who believes that women deserve equal rights an equal pay and equal opportunity but you do not believe that the government should fund abortion on demand then you will be canceled by the feminist movement. This canceling is the same thing as a the shunning that happens when a member of a religious cult does not believe a specific part of the cult ideology. Except that the canceling that is happening in these identity movements tends to be very extreme bordering on violence and with a strong punitive intention. The group is more important than individual people.
Sometimes religious cults are willing to forgive and restore wayward members, but the identity movement cancel culture does not believe in forgiving. Their identity is extremely narrow-minded and more like the mindset of victims of mass formation that Desmet describes in his book on totalitarianism.
Desmet says that people in the grip of mass formation are willing to believe the most absurd ideas if they are told that this is what everyone else believes. They lose the ability to think logically or think dissenting thoughts. This is the same behavior that results from mind control and indoctrination in religious cults. In most of the identity movement, people will believe anything but the truth given by God.
Cults sometimes use repetitive words, sleep deprivation, threats , fear and accusations on top of spiritual teachings and sometimes even Bible verses to manipulate and control their members into giving all of their income to the cult and also separating themselves from their old family and friend groups. We saw many of the same propaganda and fear techniques used during COVID .
Mass formation can develop when many people are experiencing certain conditions which Desmet describes as loneliness, a lack of meaning-making, free-floating anxiety and a feeling of not knowing what is wrong. Under these conditions if an extremely traumatic or fear-inducing event is created or spontaneously occurs many people will believe any narrative put forth that makes them feel better and relieves their anxiety. Going along with the group creates a feeling of being connected. The problem comes when people are not actually or truly connected in meaningful ways to other people or reality. And they have not actually addressed the underlying causes of their loneliness, anxiety and frustration.
What is causing the epidemic of loneliness and anxiety ? I think a big reason is the lack of meaningful connection to other people and God. We need connection with our parents, especially mothers, but also fathers. And we need a friend, and an ‘identity’ that makes sense to us. We need to belong to something bigger, something outside ourselves. Being totally self-focused is not natural. That is why ‘finding yourself’ is such a commonly misunderstood idea. It’s not yourself that you are finding, it’s where you fit in the world and with other people, but it’s based on how you see yourself as a person . Our fast-paced, individualistic, competitive, technological society has eliminated many of the traditional opportunities for simply spending time with other people with no other purpose than to enjoy conversation, food, music, and fun, especially since the pandemic.
Secondly, humans need a connection to the natural world, the seasons, mountains and oceans , animals and other creatures, which is missing from the lives of many people who live in crowded cities. And natural places are often overcrowded as well due to everyone trying to visit at the same time.
Most important, we need spiritual connection. The increasing popularity of new age and pagan religions is proof that people are searching for meaning even in a supposedly post-religious world. This need can only truly be met by connecting with God through his son Jesus.
During the so-called Age of Enlightenment scholars began to reject the idea that there were things that could not be seen or known. Belief in the supernatural was seen as primitive and unscientific. Obviously the effects of rejecting our creator have been catastrophic to human social functioning even though we have seen great breakthroughs in science and technology.
In the old days one of the ways people dealt with uncertainty and fear and difficulties in life was through turning to God. In the modern world prayer has been rejected and we have been left with no way of coping that is satisfactory. This left a hole for science and government to move into to bring comfort and assurance to the public. With addition of the internet and smart phones, the conditions are right to control the masses with information from purported experts and scientists under the authority of the government. All we needed was a crisis. Enter COVID .
What does this have to do with totalitarianism? The conditions that allow mass formation can lead to the rise of totalitarian leaders if the public does not fight the mass. If we continue to speak truth even when they don’t listen, the mass will eventually die out, says Desmet. But if we go silent , the mass will get more aggressive and eventually violent. Those who didn’t go along will be considered as a threat to the mass. Like with Stalin and Hitler, the lack of dissenting opinions makes it easier for a powerful leader to take over when a mass becomes too strong. Desmet warns that speaking out, even if no one agrees with you, is essential to preventing totalitarian oppression.
What do you think? Is there more willingness to go along with the mob these days? Are more people disconnected? Do you think the world is in danger of totalitarianism? Are people less able to think independently?