Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies

  • proteanism is Robert Jay Lifton’s idea of a model for the self that could serve as an aspirational escape hatch from the clutches of cultism, which is otherwise always happening
  • cultism (i.e. “losing reality“) is what happens “by default” if effort is not made to form and maintain healthy cultures
  • cultism is what most individuals devolve to or maintain throughout their lives, if they lack proteanism
  • I believe professor Lifton is onto something real in this particular interpretation of our Manichaean struggle — in which the political left and the right have self-sorted into separate clusters with wildly disparate interpretations of reality
  • the cultists are dying (quite literally) for the words of a delusional sociopath who swept them out of power with his spew of thinly veiled white supremacy and gold veneer charm
    • they want the apocalypse to come
    • The oil preachers have brainwashed the masses into believing climate change is The Rapture — they want climate change. They think it’s God’s plan.

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder

  • we all get stuck in our own mental loops sometimes. Some people are exclusively stuck in their own mental loops — most are disregarded, but some achieve wide notoriety, wealth, and sometimes political power.
  • Some nefarious mental predators thrive on getting other people stuck in *their* loops — everyone from garden variety abusers to cult leaders take this general approach to convincing others to abandon their own ways of thinking and spend all their time consumed with thoughts of The Authority’s Philosophy. Some individuals with an authoritarian worldview willingly submit to a strongman and abdicate decision-making to untrustworthy others.
  • Charismatic leaders have ruled over human groups since the dawn of humanity itself, but only in the past century with the invention of mass media technologies and techniques have demagogues been able to achieve a kind of totalist saturation of the common space and common understanding — giving them an ability to spin the entire agenda in their favor, and in turn, effectively “own reality”
  • When a leader with a personality disorder achieves power, he draws the other antisocial sleeper cells out of hiding for the coming feast.
  • The leader installs his cronies into positions of power and corrupts the institutions that are meant to safeguard democracy. Instead of acting as a bulwark against nefarious intent, these agencies begin to look the other way against crimes committed by the leader and his buddies — and later, will directly participate and optimize their contributions.

The enemy at the gates is us

  • Cultism can be induced very simply, by stressing a population. That’s it — that’s all it takes, for people to turn inward, become suspicious, and react with excessive fear in the face of gnawing uncertainty.
  • It takes strong character to resist the siren songs of disinformation and spoon-fed flattery
  • Building strong character is hard work. Much much harder than most people are interested in putting in — or even capable of
  • Consequently, many people of weak character are easily taken in by con men, grifters, and slick talkers of all stripes.
  • However, these con artists are very good at one thing: convincing people of weak character that specific enemies are to blame for all their troubles, and getting them to give money or take action against these Satanic Democratic pedophiles who want to ruin the world with their Leftist Apocalypse, instead of ruining the world with the proper Rightist Apocalypse and Rapturing all the evil elites away!
  • These pawns, peons, and proles will dutifully go looking over hill and dale, under Pelosi’s chair for the violent Antifa socialists who want to take over the government
  • They want to build a physical border wall to keep out poor, bedraggled refugees while allowing foreign bidders to pay pennies on the dollar to buy political influence through Facebook, Google, and other unregulated new media platforms
  • It’s McCarthyism turned on its head — but since we’ve already cried wolf once, no one will really believe that Russians pulled off the greatest psyops campaign of all time
proteanismcultism
seeks expansion of event horizonradical reduction of the "size of the universe" and human potential
open systemclosed system
personal growthstagnation; stasis
Bayesian logicmotivated reasoning
collects dataselective exposure
positive disintegrationimmaturity
questions authorityfollows orders
new ideasold dogma
improvisationalritual
iterativerecursive
expansivelimited
motivated by lovemotivated by fear
generativedestructive

phobia indoctrination

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to help prevent followers from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus.

Sociopaths and other types of emotional predators are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in America politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-CRT hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government, anti-science, Lost Cause-revival zombie MAGA footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

Relevant book list:

paleologic

In paleologic thinking, logical arguments flow from a false premise. Typically this premise is something emotional, religious, and/or mythical, and believed very strongly by their ingroup.

The logic goes, “because I feel strongly about this, it must be true” — which, of course, can lead one down any number of rabbit holes or garden paths.

It relates closely to magical thinking, where the childlike sense of imagination carries darkly into adulthood to fester Machiavellian dreams of power and revenge.

Paleologic in politics

Professor Jerrold Post wrote about the paleologic of the paranoid personality disordered in his 1997 book, Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred. The nature of paranoia itself lends greatly to its role in American politics over the centuries — profound social distrust is simply bad for the fabric of a nation.

Our country has been under the fraying sway of distrust and bitter partisanship for so long. One way to avoid going further over the edge is to find a way to reduce the temperature, and commit to self-examination of our society, our culture, and our language along with our laws and our lawmakers.

Unthinking

Unthinking is a kind of militant stance against thinking, for oneself and others. It goes beyond a simple distaste for or preference against thinking, and on into something of a dedication, mission, or serious zeal for anti-intellectualism. As well, the Unthinking mentality includes a sort of reverence for instinctiveness and impulsiveness, and a distaste or contempt for “over-thinking” or being “overly sensitive.”

Fascism and cults have a technique in common: “thought stopping.” In cults, followers will be directly taught to attack negative and critical thoughts from their minds via use of a mantra — this further insulates them from independent sources of information outside the cult and its belief systems. Under fascism, the tactics of this type of unthinking are more easily disguisable:

  • short, repetitive slogans (“Lock her up!” “Build the wall!”)
  • arouse fear — invent enemies, dramas with the enemies, and distrust of allies to sniff out disloyalty
  • create confusion — say one thing, then confidently say its opposite
  • sow doubt — plant rumours, falsehoods, and conspiracies amongst the people
  • intimidate — threaten, while pledging to rescue

Unthinking is a reactionary response to professionalization and globalization

Unthinking is the sinking feeling that perhaps more of Gustave Le Bon’s controversial 1895 Study of the Popular Mind is true than one might hope. Our willingness to trade away our independent, critical thinking faculties to follow orders from authorities has been well-documented — yet somehow we still struggle to wrap our minds around those folks who, well, don’t seem to be nearly as interested in wrapping their minds around stuff.

Those folks do exist, and they have no intention of coming in second place to the coastal brainiacs who manage to enjoy mental labor thank you very much. In the Trumpian world view, if you are at a deficit in the intellect department, you do not under any circumstances accept the intellectual authority of The Enemy as legitimate. You simply rebrand yourself as the “smartest guy in the world” no matter what the subject, and you say it confidently, no matter how absurdly false it is and no matter that all the people around you know it to be false. It is their compliance with your non-stop stream of lies that brands them as useful pawns and allows them to live another day under your beneficent gaze.

It’s the status, stupid

Much has been made about how the so-called “Hillbilly Elegy” types are actually a distribution that includes plenty of comfortable and well-off business owners and working professionals who are not struggling economically. While that is true, I think it’s still relevant to the upper-middle class whites who support Trump that they perceive themselves as having not done as well as their liberal Commie counterparts in big cities. They may not be hurting so much themselves in Barbara Eirenreich fashion, but they are “hurting” in terms of status wounds. They are not being recognized as much as they believe they are due.

And they know the reason they’re missing out on this entitlement is because some globalist scum outsmarted them. They know instinctively, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they cannot win in an intellectual battle with the Coastal Elite Enemies. This vulnerability is absolutely unforgiveable and can never be discovered by anyone — so they move the goalposts. They claim that intelligence is a worthless thing to have, and/or that if you have it you’ll be impure and no longer worthy of membership in the tribe. This anti-intellectual streak on the right is equal parts self-delusion (“smarts don’t matter!”) and hyper-competition — by discouraging potential rivals from becoming more educated than they are.

Unthinking is a reactionary response to secularization

The seemingly inexplicable Evangelical support for the violence of Trumpism can perhaps in part be explained by the great paranoia and growing existential fear of a secularizing nation. In a way, they’re not wrong to be foretelling of the End Times — most likely not the one they’re envisioning from the book of Revelations, but the one where Christianity dwindles from the landscape, leaving a roiling mass of American heathen liberal commies to eat babies at their pedo parties right out in the open.

That reality is happening before our eyes — the dwindling part, anyway, if not so much the rest (if anything, evidence so far has shown those pedo parties are on the Right…). Older believers are dying out, and new ones are not being formed fast enough to create a new base. You could look at this as a triumph of science over superstition, as liberals do — or, you could look at it as a threat to your way of life, as the Trumpists do.

It is highly problematic that there are not really many or even any replacements for religion and the church in terms of providing people a place and a platform for spirituality. As religious adherence continues to drop, this hunger for spiritual solidarity will only grow — many folks will seem as if hungry ghosts, gasping for a wisp of organized religion’s shared hivemind experiences.

Where else shall we get our sacred? What new institutions can we collectively devise, by which to safely explore the mystical unknowns of our most basic existence? How can we find, regain, or re-imagine a sense of shared togetherness and fellowship? How can we rebuild basic reciprocity?

It is urgent we find these answers, for the doomsday clock is running for American democracy.

cult

A cult is a social group, usually insular, defined by unorthodox beliefs and/or practices. The cult usually shares religious, philosophical, or ideological values and goals.

The term cult is usually taken as a pejorative, for its connotation of excessive devotion to a charismatic leader with a shady past, or blind devotion to questionable practices and unusual precepts. Believers might say they are following a spiritual quest, while their estranged family and friends would say that are being exploited by unscrupulous conmen.

Cults employ various recruitment techniques to grow membership as well as to cement the new belief system into their minds over time. Brainwashing, isolation, sleep and food deprivation, and other tactics help erode the resolve and individuality of recruits until they fully adopt the new way of being the cult leader would prefer for them.

The destructive cult

There have been hundreds and even thousands of relatively innocuous cults throughout human history, but the most famous by far are the destructive cults. A cult of this type involves members physically harming or killing themselves, other members of the group, or other people.

A subset of the destructive cult, a Doomsday cult commits violence inwardly or outwardly due to adoption of an apocalyptic or millenarian belief system whose rules require anything from murder to mass suicide. These groups foretell disaster and catastrophe preceding a massive transformation, or potentially the destruction of the entire world. In the case of millenarian conspiracy theories, their cataclysmic predictions include a period of utopia following the upheaval.

Millenarianism

Common themes among millenarian beliefs include claims that contemporary society and its leaders are corrupt, and will soon be destroyed by a more powerful force. The inherent evil of the status quo cannot be purged without this dramatic upheaval of society.

Within millenarianism there are finer groups still, including the easily linguistically confused Millennialism. Millennial movements are a type of Christian millenarianism in which the period of utopia following the apocalypse is expect to last 1000 years.

Famous cults

  • The Peoples Temple — Jim Jones and the Jonestown mass suicide
  • The Manson Family
  • The Unification Church
  • The LaRouche Movement
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Sullivanians
  • Branch Davidians
  • Children of God
  • Heaven’s Gate
  • Al-Qaida
  • Aum Shinrikyo
  • ISIL
  • Dominionists

Trump is a cult leader

Cult leader playbook:

1. Position himself (and the group — his extension) as the benevolent safe haven to turn to when afraid

2. Isolate the follower from other sources of safe haven

3. Arouse fear in the follower

Rinse; repeat.

Qualities of a Cult Leader

  • Narcissistic — highly self-absorbed, they demand excessive admiration and slavish devotion to their whims.
  • Charismatic — they have a way of grabbing attention, whether positive or negative.
  • Unpredictable — erratic behavior keeps enemies on their toes and fans “on edge” with desire to please Dear Leader.
  • Insatiable drive — it could be status, money, sex, power, or all of the above, but they feel they deserve it more than anyone else on the planet.
  • Lack of conscience — they have no shame and will demand things a decent human being would not.

Trump has all the cult leader qualities and follows the playbook to a tee — doing little else, in fact. He should be considered highly armed and dangerous. An emotionally unstable individual with access to the United States’ greatest powers and deepest secrets. A threat to American life and liberty. Dictator Don.