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The Demise of Meaningful Ritual and The Rise of Totalitarianism
Part 2 of 2: The Rise of Totalitarianism
In Part 1 of this essay — The Demise of Meaningful Ritual — I described the difference between meaningful and mindless rituals as follows…
Meaningful rituals are those we create to protect and promote one or more of our four basic needs: spiritual, social, emotional or physical.
Mindless rituals are those we create to protect and promote our obsessions and addictions.
Not so coincidentally, the two meaningful rituals discussed — the sabbath day of rest and the family dinner table — are predicated on the only two of the Ten Commandments that actually tell us how to behave in our daily lives: remember the sabbath day and honor thy father and thy mother — the fourth and fifth Commandments. The first three Commandments establish the primacy of God, and the final five tell us how not to behave towards each other in order to live good lives and promote civil welfare.
The sequence is key: The fourth and fifth Commandments tell us how to imbue the primacy of God enumerated in the first three Commandments into the social code prescribed in the last five. When — in Western democracies — we remove Commandments four and five in deference to more expedient secular counterparts, we lose the connective tissue between the divine and ourselves in our daily lives, with no corresponding way to translate and inculcate the ancient wisdom and morality of traditional religion into individual behavior and the social order. Simply stated, there is no suitable or remotely adequate replacement for the moral codes of behavior offered over the past several millennia by traditional religions in Western society. Not reason, not science, not democracy, and certainly not wokeism. None.
Remove Commandments four and five, and we effectively remove ultimate authority and corresponding moral constraint against the individual and social excess of the moral relativism that ensues. Remove Commandments four and five and we eventually remove individual and institutional accountability.
American Enlightenment architects — for all of their justifiable concerns about the evils and excesses of Western religious theocracy — understood this. They cautioned us not to remove the wisdom of traditional religion from our daily lives when they listed the free exercise of religion (directly after the Establishment Clause designed to keep the government out of the religion business) — as the very first of the five freedoms protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Again, the sequence was key: Without the moderating influence of religion in the absence of theocratic government excess, the other freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government — would eventually surrender to the tyranny of secular government excess. Exactly what we see happening right before our very eyes today. Turns out the Bill of Rights, like the Ten Commandments, is essentially a plea for moderation.
The rest of this essay is about what happens when — in technocratic arrogance — we ignore both religious and Enlightenment wisdom, and take it upon ourselves to go it alone in the absence of the sacred…
Secularism: the incremental replacement of meaningful ritual with mindless ritual…
Secularism — at least as practiced in Western democracies — is an Enlightenment artifact. Contrary to popular mythology, however, modern secularism is no longer about religious tolerance or the separation of church and state. In real-world application, secularism describes the gradual process of replacing the meaningful lifestyle rituals designed millennia ago — in no small measure to protect the interests of theocratic priesthoods — with mindless lifestyle rituals designed to protect the more enlightened commercial and state interests of a new-and-improved secular priesthood instead.
Perhaps unwittingly, but no less certainly, secularism describes the slow and inexorable replacement of religious theocracy with a secular theocracy built around the ultimate religion of the state: fascism, what Mussolini — a man who likely knew a thing or two about the subject — described as Corporatism, the merger of corporate and government power. Rather than support the separation of religion and the state as intended, the new secular theocracy eradicates it. Again, exactly what we see unfolding right before our very eyes, as the state forces of secular theocracy seek to destroy and replace their traditional religious counterparts in every facet of modern life. Turns out that all gods — even the most enlightened — are jealous gods.
In post-modern America and other Western democracies, support for traditional religion is essentially reactive and conservative. Those of us who believe religion plays a critical role in our lives and communities care less, however, about preserving the priesthood, and more about preserving the meaningful rituals and traditions of the past as operating instructions and guidelines — per the Ten Commandments — of how not to behave in the present. Those of us who believe religion plays a critical role in our lives and communities view meaningful ritual as a hedge against excessive behavior, a minimum daily adult requirement to guarantee the quality of life and social cohesion not only for today but for future generations as well.
Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power. — Benito Mussolini
By contrast, the corporatist high priests of secular theocracy in the 21st century care almost nothing about the preservation of meaningful ritual or religious tradition. Indeed, the primary imperative of secular theocracy as reflected in post-modern consumer culture is to obliterate them both and rewrite the history of Western civilization to marginalize their influence. The elimination of meaningful ritual and religious tradition is prerequisite to the establishment of a secular theocratic state unencumbered by any inconvenient attachments or comparisons to the past.
Unfettered by the moderating influences and meaningful rituals of traditional Judeo-Christian ethical and moral constraint, yet no less religious than their theocratic counterparts of yore, the corporatist forces of secular theocracy are free to focus on the exclusive manufacture and sale of mindless ritual — ritual that promotes our obsessions and addictions — to satisfy the material ambitions of the new high priesthood.
Western religious tradition had already been rendered stateless by the turn of the 20th century. While it maintained significant political and social clout among certain demographics in certain governments at times, its role in the nation states that replaced it was mostly advisory; it could only caution against excess, and hope not to offend secular state tyrants and autocrats in the process. The surfeit of Western tyrants and autocrats, all of whom either marginalized or eliminated traditional religion within their own borders, all but guaranteed that not one major war in the 20th century — by far the most murderous of all centuries to date — would be fought over religion.
As the social and political impact of traditional religion waned, so too did the meaningful rituals they embraced — like the family dinner table and the sabbath day. Supercharged by American manufacturing might in the aftermath of World War II, the rise of commercial television and Madison Avenue in the 1950s, and the pharmaceutical and ideological liberation of women in the 1960s and 70s, the onslaught of secular consumer culture put what remained of meaningful ritual on notice while the microchip and the electronic spreadsheet came of age in the 1980s. Like the religions that championed them, the few remaining meaningful spiritual rituals in our day-to-day lives lapsed into silent neglect and were put on life support — along with the families and communities once protected by them.
The state forces of secularism reached digital scale during the brief Dot Com Era of the late 1990s — in a virtual bacchanal of promiscuous money and designer vodka. Stridently missionary, the commercial high priests of the new Digital Church competed in venture capital and investment bank boardrooms to claim their respective dioceses.
Intractably convinced of their own infallibility and moral turpitude, as all youth movements are, the Young Turks of the Dot Com mosh pit preached in every pop culture pulpit about how — among other presumed benefits — the Internet would finally democratize and decentralize corporate media power, and usher in a new age of accountability. Almost on cue, the exact opposite transpired: the consolidation of corporate media power exploded with the rise of the technomedia cartel — behemoth digital corporations too big to fail, hermetically sealed, and well beyond the pale of day-to-day accountability.
With the arrival of the commercial Internet and the Dot Com era came another phenomenon: The digital office productivity tools of scale that shifted 1980s commerce and industry into overdrive — the same productivity tools of scale that gave birth to the modern Wall Street culture of Gordon Gekko — were repackaged and reintroduced as consumer gadgets. Tens of millions of immensely powerful digital office productivity tools — not one of which had actually been designed to improve the quality of our lives — stampeded our homes and lifestyles like a massive herd of silicon Trojan Horses. And like the Trojan Horse of Bronze Age lore, we welcomed them with open arms in the early 21st century — more than three thousand years later.
It was a heady and intoxicating moment in time for Western democracies in general, and for American democracy in particular. Only two centuries removed from the moderating cautions of the Founding Fathers, and fall-down drunk on our own digital Kool-Aid, few among us imagined that the progressive and liberating era of spiritual freedom introduced by the Enlightenment to replace the excesses of Western theocratic power would soon all but disappear — a victim of secular theocratic excess instead. Likewise, few of us imagined that accountability — a concept first invoked to describe our fealty to God — would suffer the same fate for the exact same reason.
Former proponents of classic Jeffersonian liberalism were soon to turn illiberal and oppressive, and the high priests of the Digital Church — a new global class of elite technocrats — would lead the charge. Hostile to and dismissive of traditional religion and those who practiced it, they joined the battle as a wholly religious army nevertheless, one that would eventually pray at the virtual alters of Apple and Youtube and Google and Netflix and Facebook, one that cared about and promoted only material wealth and power — their own, first and foremost.
A new crusade emerged, this one waged in the trenches by an elite army of secular 20-something MBAs — an elitist youth movement baptized with holy water from imperiously impervious Ivy League fonts. Right out of academia and still wet behind the ears, newly christened foot soldiers by the thousands were handed their collective marching orders as the first generation of corporatist crusaders for the Digital Church, soon to eclipse and replace Wall Street as the most powerful, most impactful secular religion to emerge since World War II.
Few if any among them knew it at the time, but they were the early storm troopers sent forth to wage a new global class war. As such, they would oversee and manage the greatest upward transfer of class wealth in the history of mankind. But they were far too busy slaying analog infidels at the time to notice.
Undeterred after the Dot Com crash in the spring of 1999, the digital forces of secularism left the rooftop parties behind, took the vodka, and — like Michael Corleone — went underground instead. Many of the same software engineers and mathematicians who authored the explosion of digital media and e-commerce during the Dot Com boom migrated to Wall Street and government security agencies.
There, the technologies of functionally limitless digital scale were deployed algorithmically en masse to collect obscene amounts of behavioral data on every single American citizen, data then analyzed and transacted behind the scenes in a new and utterly unaccountable corporatist orgy with their digital media and e-commerce partners. All neatly tucked away in thousands of corporate and government server farms. To the surprise of digital power brokers nowhere when it finally came down, Big Data was soon to emerge as the trillion-dollar commercial coin of the realm, the invisible man behind the curtain…
Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial. Meanwhile, the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit. — Aldous Huxley
Then came 9/11. The war against Western spiritual freedom, families and communities was about to turn ugly. Contrary to the endless assertions of official state and corporate news broadcasts, the primary threats to freedom and democracy came not from theocratic regimes or Islamic terror groups in the Middle East or elsewhere, not from Russia or China, but from within.
To our collective shame and ultimate demise, the Patriot Act authorized and empowered state security agencies and select corporate actors alike to disregard or eliminate civil liberties and any semblance of privacy — as needed. Into a vastly expanded and deeply funded saturnalia of surveillance activities and covert operations both home and abroad, the corporatist wet dream we now call the Deep State was born.
True to Huxley’s admonition, the high priests of the Brave New Digital World — especially those ensconced in the Beltway, corporate media, and the newly christened technomedia cartel — set out to package and market democracy and freedom ad nauseum as foundational pop-culture meta-memes. Over the next two decades, the corporatist forces of secular theocracy would invoke the tattered banners of freedom and democracy with shameful and remorseless abandon to provide financial and political cover for a cultural and economic class war against poor and middle class American families — especially children — of all colors. “Trust us,” they said. “We know what’s best for you.”
Totalitarianism then and now…
Like secular fascism, totalitarianism was a 20th-century creation, attuned to and reliant on the emergence of radio and motion pictures to promote larger-than-life strongmen like Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Mao. While the basics of fascism remain unchanged today, 21st-century totalitarianism has been updated to include three new characteristics that distinguish it from its 20th-century progenitor:
Back in the 20th century, Western totalitarianism was confined to specific nations and cultures. Today, however, it threatens to crush entire regions like the Americas and Europe. Driven today by global institutions of immense digital scale, global hegemony is powered by trillions of microchips and thousands of server farms on behalf of global institutions — corporations, governments, and NGOs — far too big to fail, and ideologically all but identical. More on this later…
Rise of the Bureaucrat
Today’s Western totalitarians, at least those emerging now in Western democracies, are less like Hitler, Stalin and Mao, and more like your Uncle Joe and Aunt Angela. Today’s Western totalitarians are career politicians and unelected bureaucrats: dull, nondescript, and wholly unremarkable except in the power they wield. Today’s Western totalitarian is the personification of what Hanna Arendt described as the banality of evil. More on this later…
The Great Age of Addiction
Back in the 20th century addiction was still the exception to the rule. Today it is the rule. More on that right now…
The new normal in the Great Age of Addiction…
For your consideration: a couple of prescient quotes from historian and social critic Christopher Lasch. Here’s the first:
The effect of mass media is not to elicit belief but to maintain the apparatus of addiction.
Digital scale reached a critical inflection point in the early 21st century, one that arrived in the trillion-dollar confluence of high-speed bandwidth, on-demand streaming HDTV, and Big Data. Indeed, it arrived as a default meta-addictive state at a time — well before Youtube, Facebook and smartphones ruled the world — when the average American already consumed more than eleven hours of electronic media each and every day, at least according to the Ball State University Middletown Media Studies of 2004, the first large-scale observational studies of American media consumption habits. Once the exception to the rule, addiction had suddenly become the rule — and not by accident.
The attention engineers in the Silicon Valley — the good folks charged by their deep-pocket investors with creating history’s most addictive possible devices, games, and apps — learned how to manufacture behavioral addiction from the masters: the Las Vegas casinos, long the world’s deepest and richest data mines on behavioral addiction. The Silicon Valley demigods understood the psychoactive relationships of risk and reward better than anyone on the planet — with the possible exception of the behavioral scientists and researchers in large Madison Avenue and Silicon Alley ad agencies in NYC. Collectively, not only did they understand the neurochemistry and psychodynamics of addiction, they — along with their venture and investment capital enablers on both coasts — banked on it.
Perhaps if the new high priests of the Digital Church at the turn of the 21st century had retained even the slightest kernel of religious humility, if even one voice among them had questioned the moral certitude of a new religion predicated on absolute faith in the science and technologies of addiction, they might have understood that the only things that stand between us and our chemical destiny as addicts are the meaningful rituals we deploy to protect our spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
But morality and common sense had long since been sacrificed on the alter of a still-young but rapidly ossifying digital orthodoxy. Not one voice among them was raised to suggest that, absent sufficient meaningful ritual in our lives as individuals and communities, the mindless rituals of our obsessions and addictions would most certainly rush in to fill the void. We didn’t become a nation of addicts by accident. It wasn’t the unintended consequence of a bad plan or a failure to plan. No, default addiction — like too big to fail — is the plan.
By the early 21st century, the mindless rituals of our addictions, suddenly at digital scale, had replaced enough meaningful ritual in our lives to render us spiritually inert and directionless. Deep within the spiritual void rose the golem, fully formed and ravenous, summoned at long last by the high priests of the Digital Church. The Great Age of Addiction had arrived.
While addiction, of course, is a spiritual disorder first and foremost, it attacks our social, emotional and physical integrity as well. Predictably, after our meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital severed us almost entirely from our spiritual core, it turned us inward, further isolated us from our own communities and those we love, manufactured urgency with concomitantly elevated levels of stress and separation anxiety, and ruthlessly attacked our physical auto-immune systems — just like any other late-stage addiction to any other narcotic.
Now consider another quote from Mr. Lasch…
The model of ownership, in a society built round mass consumption, is addiction.
In the American battle of dystopian visions, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, about an authoritarian society ruled and controlled by engineered eugenics and state-sanctioned addiction, took the early 21st-century lead over George Orwell’s 1984, a story about a warlike authoritarian society ruled by ideologically re-engineered language and iron-boot fear. At the time it seemed we were far better controlled and conditioned as a nation of addicts by the things we loved than by the things we feared — at least on the surface. But that would change soon enough. For the time being, Big Brother sat back with a Big Smile, waited and watched.
A mere decade or so into the 21st century, following the near simultaneous introduction and mass adoption of streaming HDTV, social media, and smartphones (history’s most perfect narcotic), we were — by any measure — a nation of unwitting, utterly complicit, and easily manipulated addicts addicted to just about everything in our lives: entertainment, news, digital devices, sex, food, gambling, pharmaceuticals, politics…you name it.
Less than one generation into the Great Age of Addiction — with all but limitless access to everything worth knowing about the secrets to financial success, the science of health and nutrition, and the keys to personal empowerment — we found ourselves poorer and deeper in debt, morbidly obese, besieged by chronic lifestyle-related disease, time-starved, sleep-deprived, utterly addicted, spiritually bereft, socially estranged, and far more anxious and fearful than ever before. Ripe, in other words, for the rise of totalitarianism.
Endless cycles of liberation, theocracy, and tyranny…
In the grand evolutionary timeline of what later became Western civilization, we first endured tens of thousands of years of religious evolution before polytheism spawned monotheism. Another several thousand years later monotheism spawned the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. Once free of Western theocracy, we were blessed by the revealed truth and spiritual freedom of the scientific method. It turned out to be a blessing short-lived by any evolutionary standard.
By the turn of the 21st century, both the revealed truth and spiritual freedom of the scientific method had been left behind like a digital Garden of Eden in predictably lapsarian fashion. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Age of Reason had resolved in the end as theocracy as well — secular but theocratic nonetheless, replete with a high priesthood professional class and a new-and-improved suite of gods to worship. Like the traditional religious theocracy it replaced, the new secular theocracy was global — driven behind the scenes this time by trillions of microchips. It was also far more seductive, far more powerful, and far more unaccountable than any theocracy in the history of mankind.
Turns out that all great social movements, even the most deist and secular, are born in faith and resolve in theocracy. This should come as little or no surprise because we are — at our most essential — religious creatures, hardwired for wonderment and the mystic exploration of human nature. Consequently, each evolutionary social cycle seeks to liberate us from the religious shackles of the past, but ultimately seeks to enslave us by the time it matures and runs its course.
Each new theocratic era follows the same basic sequence: First comes a liberating ideology that replaces the existing theocracy. Over time the liberating ideology is institutionalized, and gives rise to a new theocratic regime with new canon and a new class of high priests. Finally comes theocratic tyranny marked by institutional corruption, illiberal incoherence, and chaos: what happens when the prevailing narrative and institutions of the new theocratic regime — religious or secular — are pushed to extreme and begin to break down.
The theocratic cycle exemplifies the cyclic nature inherent in Marshall McLuhan’s Law of Reverse – what happens when complex systems, pushed to extreme, begin to turn against their teleological intent, and start pushing back. Consider, for instance, the great liberation movements of the 1960s…
The Free Speech Movement to promote academic free speech and freedom of thought resolved in the 21st century as diversity of everything except free speech and thought, not only in academia, but in just about every American institution, public and private. All of it state-sanctioned.
A mere three generations was all it took for the non-violent civil rights movement to resolve outside the inner cities in endless anti-racist dogma and universally mandated systemic racism across all major American institutions, public and private alike. Within the inner cities it resolved in generational poverty and nihilism via the systematic destruction of black families, systemic racism and institutional segregation in corrupt public school systems, genocidal abortion numbers in the tens of millions, and horrific black-on-black violence — a tragic form of cultural suicide. All of it state-sanctioned.
The feminism and gay rights movements resolved six decades later in more than sixty million abortions, a commercial and political war against science, the tyranny of the trans mob, the destruction of the nuclear family, the attempted abortion of biological sex, the hysterectomy of Title IX civil rights for girls and women, the social castration of boys and men, and the legalized sexual and medical abuse of school children in public schools and private healthcare. All of it state-sanctioned.
Three generations after the first Earth Day, the Earth First movement also resolved in a commercial and political war against science and children, not to mention a global class war against the 98 percent of the world’s population who can’t afford solar panels or electric cars but are forced nevertheless to pay artificially inflated prices for otherwise cheap energy — all imposed by imperialist ESG policies that oppress poor and middle-class people of all colors worldwide. All of it state-sanctioned.
The antiwar movement resolved in perpetual war and nation-building industries, so normalized in our social narrative that corporate and social media now engage in absurdly casual discussions — straight out of Dr. Strangelove — about nuclear options in regional conflicts as a way to defend democracy (and as alternatives to any peace negotiations that might otherwise threaten the bottom line). All of it, of course, state-sanctioned.
Again, the arrival of each new theocratic era follow the same basic sequence: First comes a liberating ideology that replaces the existing theocracy. Over time the liberating ideology is institutionalized, and gives rise to a new theocratic regime. Finally comes theocratic tyranny marked by illiberal incoherence and chaos: what happens when the prevailing narrative and institutions of the new theocratic regime — religious or secular — are pushed to extreme and begin to break down.
Incoherence, it seems, is the penultimate stage of all revealed truths. Incoherence is what ensues when we trespass the limits of what we can know by any standard: religious, scientific, empirical or otherwise. No amount of religion or reason or science or technology can avoid it. Indeed, the harder we try to avoid it, the more metrics we devise to observe and measure it, the more precautions we deploy to defer its arrival, the quicker it shows up on our doorstep like a distant relative looking for a handout.
When all systemic moderation breaks down, the chaos of incoherence, like addiction, becomes our chemical destiny, both as individuals and as societies. Assuming we survive it, however, the same chaos of incoherence — again, like addiction — can lead us back full circle to our ultimate destination, back to the essential lessons and healing agents of traditional religious doctrine: wonder, humility and gratitude.
Regardless of whether or not we have the presence of heart and mind to accept these lessons and healing agents when they present themselves, the theocratic cycle begins anew, with a new ideology and — eventually — a new caste of high priests. Perhaps not surprisingly, the secular theocratic excess and incoherence of today seems to be following the same path to chaotic ruin as the religious theocratic excess and incoherence of yesterday. Human civilization, it seems, is an endless cycle of theocracies come and gone, built one atop the other like ancient tels.
The woke foot soldiers of today are the grandchildren and students of the same campus radicals who stormed the streets, breeched the academic ramparts, and challenged the status quo six decades earlier. True to form, the liberated former dissidents of the 1960s became the new theocrats: institutionally tenured, risk-averse, rigid, and hard-hearted. En route, they rejected the orthodoxy of traditional religion in the second half of the 20th century only to mentor and tutor the high priests of Wokeism in the 21st.
Successful by any modern measure, the entire social justice agenda of the 1960s devolved nevertheless — largely because of its unqualified success on all fronts — into the opaque narcissism, illiberal mob justice and class warfare of today. That the secular ruling theocrats of the 21st century — those who now promote the woke class warfare narrative and issue the marching orders in ersatz defense of democracy here at home and worldwide — fail to acknowledge the illiberal distortion and dissolution of their own agenda only illustrates the depth and impenetrable opacity of their own incoherence.
(Not coincidentally, it also illustrates a primary truism about addiction: addicts almost always underestimate the power of the drug, and almost always overestimate their own power to resist the addiction.)
The ideological difference between the then-and-now generations of activists is reflected in how and where they started their respective journeys: The activists of the 1960s started as poor and middle-class dissidents in battles against academia and the status quo, whereas the activists of the 21st century began their journeys as affluent defenders of academia and the status quo. The activists of the 1960s waged their wars in the streets; their grandchildren and students wage their wars in corporate boardrooms, government agencies, NGOs and social media. The activists of the 1960s were radicalized by forces outside the system in a class war against the system. The activists of the 21st century are radicalized by the system in a class war for the system.
Sadly, the most durable and teleologically pure lesson of the 1960s liberation movements turned out to be crowd control.
A mere decade or so into the 21st century, American and Western society was beginning to collapse in on itself. Absent the moral authority and ancient wisdom of traditional religion, the Digital Church narrative of scientific and technological expertise as theocratic authority was already beginning to fail in all ways — spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically — at digital scale.
By then, the once meaningful institutions in our lives had all been converted into mindless institutions too big to fail, and incoherence was everywhere manifest. Addicted cradle to grave, blindly obedient to the whims of technocracy, estranged from nature, traditional religion, actual science and each other, we found ourselves utterly reactive to the cruel winds of fate, blown like dandelion seeds from crisis to crisis in constant search of spiritual direction and civil leadership.
Forever anxious and fearful of everything in the swirling depths and maelstroms of incoherent chaos, we offered ourselves up as ready congregants to the high priests and ruthless metrics of the Digital Church in the Great Age of Addiction, even as the walls caved in around us.
Clearly, we needed help: time for Big Brother to step in and set things right. Mission accomplished. (Almost, but not quite.)
Manufactured consent and the new state religion…
The modern myth of corporate news media is that they stand as a bulwark against government tyranny, that they speak truth to power — precisely why freedom of the press is enumerated in the First Amendment. The reality, of course, is something else entirely: The true job of corporate news media, including and especially the technomedia cartel, is to manufacture consent on behalf of immense commercial interests — including and especially the government.
Contrary to another popular myth, totalitarianism doesn’t begin as a top-down phenomenon. Rather, it begins with the manufactured formation of mass grassroots consent from the ground up. Where dictators rule by sheer force in the absence of mass consent, totalitarians rely on it. That’s why they need to manufacture it 24/7 — per Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, Paddy Chayefsky’s Network, Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, and Matt Taibbi’s Hate, Inc.
More than fifteen hundred years after the fall of the Roman Empire, bread and circuses still manufacture consent. Tyrants of the 21st century — at least those who aspire to power in Western democracies — understand that they rule with the consent of the people. They also understand that we are every bit as complicit in the rise and emergence of totalitarianism as we are in the rise and emergence of our own addictions. Indeed, in the Great Age of Addiction, totalitarianism and addiction are partners in crime, top-down responses to fundamental consumer demand for more security and less psychic pain. Not surprisingly, both totalitarianism and addiction are always most happy to greet us somewhere in the middle — as co-conspirators, of course.
In the past few generations we’ve gone from the fear of God to the fear of everything except God. When the certain uncertainty of life surrenders to manufactured insecurity and fear, freedom sometimes becomes an overwhelming burden. That burden becomes the authoritarian’s opportunity. Eventually, many of us will seek to exchange it for some authority that will offer the equivalent of parental succor and safety. From my essay, Better Safe But Sorry…
So far, the official 21st-century narrative of the ruling elite has been all about sacrificing freedom for safety: safety from foreign terrorism, safety from offensive language, safety from financial collapse, safety from Putin and Trump, safety from Covid, and — more recently and most ominously — safety from domestic terrorism. We’ve gone from God-fearing to fearing everything except God.
Freedom is a spiritual life force. The manufactured urge to swap freedom for safety, here and in other Western democracies, represents a spiritual crisis of Biblical proportion — just as it did in the former Soviet Union and still does in Communist China, North Korea and Cuba. It reflects a premeditated and deliberate elimination of religious faith, and — in the absence of faith — gives rise to a nihilistic dearth of hope.
Inherent in the DNA of Western democracies is the God-given freedom and obligation of individuals to address institutional injustice. Also inherent is a corresponding polar desire for strong leadership to remove from us the burden of freedom and provide the institutional equivalent of parental guidance. Which is the stronger desire today?
For the answer to that question, first consider how light shined through a prism fractures into a rainbow spectrum of colors. Now consider the ultimate tragedy of institutionalized identity politics in the 21st century: not that we fail as adults to recognize the rainbow, but that we focus exclusively like children on the rainbow and never see the light. The result in the Great Age of Addiction is light turned inward in the form of our own reflections: narcissism.
The immense commercial and corporatist potential of narcissistic identity politics as institutional policy in the Great Age of Addiction did not go unnoticed by the new global theocrats. They wasted no time, and set out to enshrine a new state religion: polytheistic narcissism — where every aggrieved subculture is comprised of individual child-gods, each with a distinct set of personalized commandments and pronouns for everyone else to follow. Without blinking, every major American institution — private and public alike — immediately codified the new religion and took a knee in devout supplication.
As the new default religion of the global theocrats, polytheistic narcissism requires every individual to be institutionally infantilized and prepared for re-orientation as a born-again acolyte. Once baptized, each new convert must be recognized and treated as a perpetually offended child with a long laundry list of social justice wrongs to right and an equally long list of entitlements to appease.
In the current secular theocracy, Enlightenment ideals like due process, individual liberty, and personal accountability cannot be tolerated, precisely why we have redefined them as enemies of the state. They — along with other anchor tenants of Western Judeo-Christian tradition like hard work, self-sacrifice and deferred gratification — find themselves unceremoniously surrendered to the new gods of digital scale at every institutional level, replaced instead by the false security, unaccountability, and atomized demands of collective fealty. All under the increasingly incoherent and endless religious edicts of polytheistic narcissism.
Under the new state religion, democracy and privacy become just two more personal offenses to set right or eliminate entirely. The global elites — the high priests of polytheistic narcissism and their Young Turk crusaders — don’t fear the threats against democracy and privacy as much as they fear the threats to their power and hegemony from democracy and privacy.
Eventually, the adult children of polytheistic narcissism convert the entire nation into a middle school playground where real crime is decriminalized while the bullies — posing as victims — turn their attention and resources to the peer prosecution of thought crime instead. Eventually, accountability stops being a reward for good performance and turns punitive, something to avoid at all costs — kind of what happens when Lord of the Flies meets Animal Farm
Of course, once we are all infantilized, once the power elites turn us all into children, they no longer need our consent. But only because they say so.
MAGA: working class populism…
Confronted with the threat of a liberating populist class movement, totalitarians and aspiring totalitarians will do anything and everything in their power to co-op it if they can — or destroy it entirely if they can’t. Consider the fates of the two most recent American populist class movements: the progressive populists who rallied behind Bernie Sanders as the Sanderistas in 2016 and 2020, and the conservative class populists who — along with large numbers of disaffected and long-neglected blue-collar Democrats — emerged as MAGA under Donald Trump.
While both populist class movements — the Sanderistas and MAGA — shared the core Enlightenment principles of classic Jeffersonian liberalism up to a point, only one survived the initial wrath of the global elite intact: MAGA. Where once-progressive academics, corporate media, the technomedia cartel and the Democratic Party had turned their backs on the working class years earlier, MAGA supporters — the undereducated Bible-and-gun-clinging deplorables — embraced it. The reason was simple: most MAGA supporters — unlike the mostly affluent coastal elites who oppose and condemn them — actually are working class.
MAGA was a true populist class movement from the moment Donald Trump championed their cause. Oddly, and despite the obvious differences in their worldly circumstances, Trump and his MAGA supporters shared a common fate: both had been dismissed, disenfranchised and thoroughly excoriated by the ruling elite.
To his MAGA supporters, Trump was an outcast like they were. They accepted his many outsized character flaws just as they accepted their own. He became — in their eyes, at least — the first blue-collar billionaire, someone with the resources and clout to say what had to be said, someone who would take a resolute and unapologetic stand against the global elites who had betrayed and now despised them. He became their champion.
By the time Trump was nominated, MAGA class populism had emerged as the backbone of an ideologically revitalized and far more diverse Republican Party. This despite a tsunami of abject enmity from the leadership and donor classes of both major political parties, the entire Beltway culture, the institutional leadership of the Deep State, all corporate media (including and especially the technomedia cartel), academia, the global elites of the EU, and the equally elite network of international NGOs.
Nevertheless, MAGA survived every effort — legal and extralegal — to kill it off. Throughout it all MAGA supporters were relentlessly vilified by corporate and social media alike as undereducated rubes and deplorables at best. White supremacists, Nazis, and domestic terrorists at worst. Redemption came in 2016, of course, but for many MAGA supporters it was more than a little like Abe Lincoln’s rumored response to someone who asked him about the man who was tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail: “If not for the honor of the thing,” said Honest Abe, “he would much rather walk.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Party leadership — all but purged of ideological diversity — betrayed the Sanderistas in both 2016 and 2020, cannibalized them for their general election campaign contributions and votes, then — after the 2020 election — dropped the shadow-ban and cancel hammers on them through their proxies in corporate media and the technomedia cartel.
Ideologically co-opted by the Republicans and utterly abandoned by the Democrats, progressive populism in America had been rendered politically inert by the 2020 election. But not before a lesson was proffered to anyone who happened to open their eyes at the time: If nothing else, progressive class populists and conservative class populists share much more in common with each other than they do with the global elite kleptocracy. Just ask the progressive populists — truly independent journalists and thinkers like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracey, Aaron Mate, Naomi Wolf, Bret Weinstein, Max Blumenthal and Jimmy Dore — who now appear as guests on Tucker Carlson.
Of course, just how durable that lesson is remains to be seen, as does the continued political viability of MAGA. Clearly, however, the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States — and leader of the first politically successful American class revolt in memory — stunned and traumatized the entire global elite infrastructure…
Mass formation psychosis is the requisite grassroots component of totalitarianism, without which totalitarianism cannot emerge. Belgian psychologist Mattias Desmet, author of The Psychology of Totalitarianism, defines the four pre-conditions of mass formation psychosis as…
extreme social isolation,
spiritual detachment experienced as a lack of meaning,
free floating anxiety unattached from any specific source or cause, and
free-floating frustration and aggression likewise unattached from any specific source or cause.
Less than one full generation into the Great Age of Addiction, each of the above conditions was already systemically ensconced in America, festering collectively like a massive infection.
The stage was set. All that was required for mass formation to emerge was a traumatic event to galvanize the masses. It took less than one day for the unimaginable defeat of Hillary Clinton — the obvious heir apparent to and natural extension of Obama neoliberal elitism — to reverberate through the corridors of power around the world and manifest in the streets.
Still, true entitlement always begins at the top. The good folks who stormed the streets in protest of Donald Trump and the MAGA deplorables in the immediate aftermath of the election were hardly class populists worthy of their own #resistance hashtag. Rather, they were the shell-shocked conscripts of the global elite: almost entirely white, mostly affluent and utterly entitled.
They and other polytheistic narcissists worldwide — the first in line to trade freedom for the illusion of safety — lost their minds. Traumatized beyond repair, they immediately surrendered their individual rationality to a mass formation psychosis, a form of incoherent mob mentality all but completely detached from reality — identified by more sober minds at the time as Trump Derangement Syndrome.
As a paradigmatic example of mass formation psychosis, Trump Derangement Syndrome immediately fulfilled its primary mandate to create a powerful and exhilarating social bond among those who fell victim to it, then continued to unfold in classic fashion. First came a socially galvanizing media campaign to identify the Other — Trump and MAGA — as the source of anxiety, followed by a dizzying series of incoherent media-driven narratives designed and deployed as agitprop to focus the anger and frustration of the newly psychotic, all of whom were (and still are) so caught up in their collective 24/7 Two Minutes Hate for the Other that they no longer cared in the least whether or not their own narratives bore even the slightest resemblance to reality…
More ominously, their psychotic hatred for the Other obliterated any ability or desire to care whether or not the ends justify the means. Any vestigial compassion for the working class targets of their psychosis was abandoned. For those who suffered from Trump Derangement Syndrome, the quid pro quo was and remains clear: as long as they were no longer consigned to abject loneliness; as long as they found collective meaning, direction and succor for their lives; and as long as Trump and MAGA were destroyed, every option — including and especially political violence — was on the table.
The mass psychotic break from reality was complete: Trump Derangement Syndrome drove a fiery wedge through the hearts of families and communities nationwide. Indeed, just about everything that happened after the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was directly attributable to the ferocity and psychotic incoherence of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Thus was the time finally right — with the requisite mass formation psychosis already in place — for the ascent of totalitarianism.
Almost. Although conditions on the ground at the time were clearly ripe for the rise of totalitarianism, and although Donald Trump certainly fit the stereotypical 20th-century description of a totalitarian strongman, American totalitarianism would have to wait a few more years. For all his bombast and self-aggrandizement, for all his support from loyal MAGA populists, Donald Trump was virtually alone as President — a solitary bull in a china shop.
Every major American institution and government agency — all fast in the grip of Trump Derangement Syndrome — despised him for what he clearly was: a dangerous interloper intent on upsetting a carefully calculated Liberal World Order. Yet despite his billions, despite his Ivy League pedigree, he could never be one of them. Quite the opposite: He and all of his MAGA supporters were and would remain the Others, the deplorables: unfit for polite company — and patently unworthy of Constitutional protection.
Despite the worst fears and claims of those who suffer from the mass formation psychosis that bears his name, Trump could never emerge as a totalitarian simply because he could never muster the all-of-government institutional support required to form a totalitarian regime. But if Trump and MAGA class populism didn’t pose a realistic totalitarian threat, who or what did? Who or what if anything would capitalize on the mass formation psychosis of Trump Derangement Syndrome?
Citing Hanna Arendt’s pioneer work on totalitarianism, Mattias Desmet asserts that the new totalitarians will not appear as strongmen at all. Totalitarianism in the 21st century will not be “led by gang leaders such as Stalin or Hitler,” he says, “but by dull bureaucrats and technocrats.”
Their time finally arrived in full force with the emergence of…
The chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships. — Hanna Arendt
Our national response to Covid vastly expanded the institutionalized scope of Trump Derangement Syndrome to include top-down totalitarian measures not only from federal, state and municipal government agencies alike, but from private corporations as well — especially the corporate and technomedia cartels. It did so by isolating us first, then vastly expanding our definitions of normal social relationships. Like default addiction, Trump Derangement Syndrome and Covid mandates suddenly became the new normal.
Each new Covid lockdown, mask, vaccine or other mandate introduced additional levels of irrationality, incoherence, and corporeal substance to the existing mass formation psychosis of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Each new level of irrationality and incoherence only reinforced the collective solidarity of those who suffered from it — not to mention the collective enmity they felt towards those who stood apart from them. Eventually, so great was the hatred that ensued for those who refused to participate in the madness that they were publicly accused en masse of murdering those who did.
Contrary to the claims of those who suffered from it, Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — was the driving force behind blue-state and blue-city reactions to Covid…
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — was responsible for extended lockdowns, even when it was apparent early on that lockdowns did little if anything to stop the spread of the virus, and much to harm the lives of those locked down.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — was responsible for locking kids out of schools, forcing them to wear masks, and shutting down public playgrounds in mindless, cultish displays of institutional child abuse.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — caused those who suffered from it to ignore their lying eyes and avert their gaze when states like Florida, Arizona, and South Dakota reopened in-class learning on time in the fall of 2020 to no ill effect whatsoever.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — padlocked houses of worship by the thousands precisely where and when they were needed most, but authorized massive BLM protests and more than five hundred mostly peaceful riots in streets otherwise declared off limits to everyone else for any other purpose.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — authorized privileged young white insurrectionists to torch and destroy dozens of black business districts, hundreds of black businesses, and thousands of black jobs, then expunged any mention of their black victims.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — imposed incoherent vaccine mandates that fired tens of thousands of formerly heroic and urgently needed first responders and frontline healthcare workers, and kept millions of unvaccinated blacks out of restaurants, businesses, and entertainment venues for the first time since Jim Crow.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — suppressed all corporate, social media and scientific narratives that challenged official federal, state, and city pro-lockdown, pro-mask, pro-vaccine, and pro-child-abuse mandates.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — jerry-rigged state election laws at the eleventh hour of the 2020 general election to avoid the disaster of 2016, when Trump defeated Clinton with a far better ground game to get out the election-day vote in critical swing states.
Trump Derangement Syndrome — not science — precipitated the greatest upward transfer of wealth in history from poor and middle class people worldwide to technomedia and pharmaceutical oligarchs.
In short, Trump Derangement Syndrome gave rise to a totalitarian pandemic response designed more to rid the national body of Donald Trump than to defeat Covid. By the time the virus arrived on American shores, Trump Derangement Syndrome was already in place and ready to rally with a fully functional shadow enforcement mechanism, including the corporate and technomedia cartel, the same enforcement mechanism that eventually would conspire in a secret shadow campaign to topple its namesake and bring Joe Biden et al to power.
Finally, the selfsame dull career bureaucrats and technocrats who Hanna Arendt, Mattias Desmet, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Christopher Lasch, Neil Postman and others warned us about would have their day…
American totalitarianism opens for business…
By early 2021, the first generation of Western totalitarians since World War II was thoroughly in control and — like all totalitarians in control — thoroughly out of control. While Trump the president was gone, Trump Derangement Syndrome persisted and flourished, largely because its work wasn’t done as long as MAGA class populism remained intact.
True to the script, the Biden regime immediately set out to consolidate the all-of-government totalitarian regime that was patently impossible under Donald Trump. The galvanizing opportunity to do so came even before Biden’s inauguration — on January 6th. Instantly and incoherently cast by the legions of Trump Derangement Syndrome as all of the things it unmistakably wasn’t — a deadly, well-armed, well-coordinated, white supremacist insurrection — January 6th was Biden’s Reichstag fire.
Unlike Trump’s administration, however, the new regime had the full backing of institutional America, private and public alike. After a full generation of political weaponization, the FBI, the DOJ, Homeland Security, corporate and technomedia, and the entire surveillance state finally threw open the totalitarian door. Through it walked Big Brother, the 21st-century enforcer for the newly coronated political armies of Trump Derangement Syndrome: a mass psychotic break from reality. With the requisite top-down and bottom-up components now both in place, American totalitarianism was open for business. It was time to target MAGA and end the threat of class populism once and for all.
The new regime’s campaign to eliminate MAGA class populism was and remains twofold: first to prosecute the impossibly corrupt class war of the entire ESG woke agenda — especially climate change, anti-racism, and gender equity — with the full force of secular institutional America. Then to vilify, de-platform, persecute and prosecute resisting MAGA class populists as racist, transphobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-vax, climate-denying, election-denying domestic terrorists — an inescapably broad indictment suitable for all occasions and all offenders. The sudden love affair with the phrase stochastic terrorism within corporate, government and technomedia echo chambers pretty much says it all.
Current demands from the global elite for international vaccine passports, central bank digital currencies, increased regulations of cryptocurrency, and international gun control all bode ill for the future of individual liberty and democracy worldwide. Those the totalitarian Left choose to prosecute for whatever reason will — in the coming years — find themselves de-platformed and de-monetized, their financial assets digitally frozen and seized, not by the government per se, but by corporatist partnerships with massive technomedia, pharmaceutical and financial corporations, all empowered by the same madness.
Most officially designated offenders will never be brought to trial, and many will never be charged. Their reputations, fortunes and ability to work or travel will simply be terminated while due process is suspended in deference to the prevailing crisis du jour: terrorism, financial collapse, pandemic…whatever. Those who continue to speak up nonetheless will be imprisoned and/or re-educated.
Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial. Meanwhile, the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit. — Aldous Huxley
Sure enough, protecting the future of democracy will be the global elite’s clarion call to action. In fact, however, free and fair elections may all but disappear for a while in America (and likely in many other Western democracies), entombed like Jimmy Hoffa under mountains of laundered campaign contributions supplied in cash and in kind by corporatist benefactors and billionaire patrons of the Democratic Party, the WEF at Davos, the IMF/World Bank, the Clinton Global Initiative and the CCP — all of whom exist at this stage solely to enrich themselves and further consolidate their own institutional power.
American elites will take the lead in all of the above, powered by Trump Derangement Syndrome — with or without Donald Trump. Utterly incoherent and absent even the slightest hint of self-awareness, not one item of their woke agenda — not climate change, not anti-racism, not gender equity — can sustain or tolerate even the slightest scrutiny, scientific or otherwise. All of it — including and especially the battle for democracy in Ukraine — is toxic class warfare designed to launder then transfer trillions of dollars under the perverse banner of global ESG doctrine from poor and middle-class people of all colors upward to an insatiable global oligarchy. Not that it matters. As long as they feel better about themselves, those who suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome simply don’t care who gets hurt.
A dark future…
Human nature tends to power, not truth. Fortunately, however, totalitarianism always carries the seeds of its own destruction. Given enough time, totalitarians will always eat their young. But things will likely get worse before they sit down to dine. Those who suffer from mass formation psychosis cannot be reasoned with, and typically aren’t even aware of their own madness until after the totalitarianism they invite has collapsed from its own incoherence and chaos, or been obliterated by outside forces — the way the Allied forces obliterated Mussolini and Hitler in World War II.
This time, however, all of the meaningful outside forces are arrayed with the totalitarians. That leaves internal collapse or implosion as the only alternative. And that — per our 20th-century experience with the Soviet Union — may take some time.
While elections are important, and while elections — in the sage words of President Obama — have consequences, elections alone will not suffice to reverse the institutional rot and corruption that currently gnaws at the very bones of Western democracies. The secular theocracy and identity politics of the woke polytheistic narcissism that now controls nearly all American institutions required generations to take root, gestate and ascend to power.
Generations were required over the past century to replace the meaningful Judeo-Christian ethics and classic Jeffersonian liberalism of the Enlightenment with the mindless moral relativism, bureaucratic illiberalism, and polytheistic narcissism of today. Generations were required to replace the meaningful rituals — like observance of the sabbath day and the family dinner table — with the mindless rituals of our obsessions and addictions. Generations were required to convert the news media from a blue-collar trade with unions and guilds whose job was to expose state power, to an elite white-collar profession with Ivy League diplomas whose job is now to defend and promote state power. As such, multiple generations may be required to restore institutional balance, equilibrium, and trust.
I hope I’m wrong. Either way, I offer this observation from Albert Einstein as the first step to set things straight for ourselves and our children: that no problem can be solved by the same thinking that created the problem…
Think local act local…
The first step in wresting our democracy from the current grip of totalitarianism is to disabuse ourselves once and for all of the pernicious idea that we are somehow capable in the Great Age of Addiction of thinking globally and acting locally while also retaining our civil liberties, human compassion and competence. We’re not and we can’t.
Initially a quaint but ill-conceived Earth First slogan, Think Global Act Local has evolved as the quintessential mantra of institutional hubris and 21st-century digital scale. Disguised as a noble call for global unity and salvation, Think Global Act Local in fact describes the totalitarian strategy of secular theocracy. At industrialized digital scale, it represents a truly atomized form of imperial colonialism — with both domestic and international ambitions — reserved only for those First World institutions and government agencies large enough to actually think globally and act locally everywhere at the same time.
In a backhanded slap to the Earth First pioneers of the 1960s and their heirs, the only things green about Think Global Act Local three generations later in the 21st century are the mile-high stacks of dollars generated by zettabytes of Big Data — the true currency of global totalitarianism.
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. ― Upton Sinclair
Despite endless claims to the contrary, there is little nobility and even less salvation to be found in the woke totalitarian agenda. Climate change, anti-racism and gender equity constitute nothing less than a systemic white-collar class assault on Western democratic institutions. As the self-anointed collective conscience of Western civilization, the affluent armies of Wokeism are not only the ones most highly invested in Trump Derangement Syndrome, but the ones most highly paid not to understand the local consequences of their own policies.
When we incentivize individuals to drink the Think-Global-Act-Local Kool-Aid, we remove and isolate them from the local consequences of their own actions. In so doing, we feed the closed-loop beast of polytheistic narcissism. With no foothold in local reality, subsequent efforts to proselytize and impose increasingly parochial secular religions du jour on other individuals and cultures can only grow more strident, authoritarian and detached from reality with each passing day. (Pretty sure things won’t end well for the individuals and cultures on the receiving end, either.)
While Think Global Act Local clearly satisfies the global reach demands and cost economies of digital scale in the 21st century, the far more critical imperative for everyone involved — especially for the high priests of the Digital Church — is the call to act local, where global reach powered by trillions of microchips, thousands of server farms, and staggering amounts of pilfered personal data always begins and ends. As a result, Think Global Act Local — the mantra of the entire woke agenda — typically resolves in great profit to global interests at great expense to local cultures.
More important to you and me, however, local is precisely where everything precious in our lives manifests and resides — including our addictions. Local is where we live. Local is where we find, reject, and — if fortunate enough over time — rediscover everything meaningful in our lives, including our cultural heritage. Most crucially, local is where our children live.
The children, as always, are key. Because in the end, global hegemony isn’t enough for the high priests of polytheistic narcissism. They want our children — the native infants in a thoroughly infantilized culture. The desperate and insatiable need to claim our children as their own is precisely why the entrenched powers of the new secular theocracy are so deathly afraid of parents at local school boards, and precisely why parents of all colors and ethnicities now find themselves on the domestic terror watch lists of our increasingly Orwellian DOJ and DHS. In the big picture, the call to think global is merely the feign, the sleight of hand to divert attention away from insidious local attempts by those empowered by Think Global Act Local to take our children.
By contrast, the revised mantra to Think Local Act Local is about reclaiming personal agency, religious and local autonomy, local economy, and the hearts and minds of our children from those who would divert our attention and resources and goodwill with the disingenuous demand to Think Global Act Local instead. Think Local Act Local first — always.
The globalists want us to obsess over national and international affairs while they plunder our neighborhoods and schools. Pay attention to local politics first. Pay attention to your local school boards. Pay attention to your local DA. Hold them all accountable all the time.
Replacing mindless default addiction with meaningful ritual…
The ancient Vedic Seer observation that we become our attention explains in no small measure my fixation on meaningful ritual. In order to combat the menace of Think Global Act Local in the Great Age of Addiction, the very first item on our to-do list is to deal with our default addiction to all things media and all things digital. We cannot expect to think clearly and function with any competence as long as our heads are forever swimming in media-induced dopamine. For that reason it is essential that we reinstate meaningful ritual in our lives in order to claw back the inordinate time and resources currently devoted to our addictions, and devote them instead to the local satisfaction of our spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
All addiction recovery — regardless of programmatic technique — is a function of reverse engineering the addictions themselves. Where the process of addiction — like the process of secularization — replaces the meaningful rituals in our lives with the mindless rituals of our obsessive compulsive behaviors and addictions, the process of recovery does the opposite: Recovery replaces the mindless rituals of our obsessive compulsive behaviors and addictions over time with the meaningful rituals that reinforce and protect our spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
The true objective of addiction recovery — despite what we’ve been told our entire lives by severely conflicted recovery and medical experts — is moderation, not abstention. Moderation is a natural byproduct of sufficient meaningful ritual in our lives. By contrast, abstention, like addiction, is just another form of extreme behavior in the absence of meaningful ritual, in the absence of moderation.
Abstention is like anti-racism and gender equity: extreme and mostly doomed efforts to deploy quasi-science at great financial and social expense in the attempt to eradicate human nature for profit. The better, more effective, more cost-efficient and humane advice is to pursue recovery with the end goal of moderation instead.
Of course, no one ever got rich by selling less, and we cannot rely on commercial state media to moderate itself. Now, therefore, is the time for us to take personal responsibility for the quality of our own lives.
In the coming months I will publish a suite of quick and simple time-tested tools designed to help you and your family identify and gently re-introduce meaningful ritual back into your lives as a means to replace the mindless rituals of our default addiction to all things media and all things digital — the primary crowd control mechanism of totalitarians in the Great Age of Addiction.
In the end, there are two things that totalitarians fear more than anything else: the rise of local autonomy, and losing control of the narrative. The last thing totalitarians want is for you and me to focus on family and local community issues at the expense of commercial state media. Any corresponding effort to Think Local Act Local and/or moderate our default addictions to all things media and all things digital is an act of pure defiance in the deranged eyes of the totalitarians.
So now at long last we come full circle. Turns out the two most effective meaningful rituals we can introduce or reintroduce into our lives right away — the two meaningful rituals that will do the most to restore moderation and quality to our personal lives, families, and communities over time — are also the ones that best defy our totalitarian masters: the family dinner table and the sabbath day of rest.
Let’s get started. More to follow. Meanwhile, keep the faith, my friends...