By Marie Hawthorne
As soon as the blue states began winding down Covid restrictions, the invasion of Ukraine gave us something else to panic about. It’s like the origins of the Covid virus: in the early days, when most of the authorities in the press were insisting that it had natural origins, I remember thinking, “There’s a Level 4 Virology lab in this city, and the press says it’s a coincidence?”
No. That wasn’t a coincidence, and I don’t think the timing of the Ukraine invasion was a coincidence either. I think it has to do with Mattias Desmet’s theory of mass formation psychosis.
Organic Prepper published an article a few months ago about mass formation psychosis as it related to Covid policies, but I think it’s worth revisiting the concept in the context of what’s going on in Ukraine right now.
We cannot forget the lessons of the past.
If you listen to Mattias Desmet’s interview with Chris Martenson on the Peak Prosperity podcast, he discusses the distinction between ordinary dictatorships and true totalitarian states. Dictatorships based on rule by the most powerful have been typical throughout history. Totalitarian states, where a seemingly insane portion of the population dictates reality for everyone else, is a very specific phenomenon. Desmet cites Rousseau’s Reign of Terror and Nazi Germany as examples of societies that have undergone mass formation psychosis.
Desmet also cites four specific conditions that need to be met in order to transform otherwise peaceful societies into societies capable of mass atrocities. They are:
- Prolonged isolation
- Lack of meaning
- Free-floating anxiety
- Free-floating aggression and frustration without options
Isolation has been spreading for years.
It’s easy to point to the lockdowns as the source of “prolonged isolation,” but the truth is that individuals within modern society have been increasingly isolated for years.
For most of us, countless examples of modern loneliness readily come to mind. All I can really add is that America’s history as a nation full of people that have picked up and left something makes us exceptionally prone to isolating ourselves. From Laura Ingalls Wilder, to Jack Kerouac, to the popularity of modern travel blogs, we romanticize moving on to greener pastures. And I’ve certainly done my share of traveling! It’s not all bad. But, when you move every few years, you need to be very intentional about maintaining relationships if you don’t want them to dissolve. We need to ask ourselves, how good are we at that?
Spending time with a set of coworkers that changes every few years may be fun and interesting in its own way, but nothing compares to the richness and meaning of solid family relationships or decades-long friendships.
This brings us to Desmet’s second condition: lack of meaning.
How many of us have spent time in jobs that we felt were a waste of time? I know I have. So much pressure exists to find the perfect career. We’re expected to move all over the place, plan our families and rearrange our lives for the sake of careers. And some people do find exceptionally rewarding careers.
But that’s the exception, not the rule. And the concept of a “career” is fairly recent anyway. Most people through history have had boring, poor lives by modern standards. But was misery universal until two hundred years ago? How did people find meaning in their lives before widespread material wealth and institutional gratification?
They did so through patriotism, familial relationships, and healthy communities. The pride of jobs well done. Being able to produce a well-made item not intended for the landfill is uniquely rewarding. This leads to emotional stability, identity, and self-worth. But having an honest trade and a stable community life is almost universally mocked. Most Americans are familiar with Mike Rowe; he has been writing insightfully about American work culture for years. But you can also look back at works by C.S. Lewis, written 80 years ago, on the trend toward dismissing anything outside government and big business as not “the real world.”
Like loneliness, the feeling of meaninglessness has intensified during the past two years, but the seeds were planted a long time ago.
(Make sure to check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on how to starve the beast.)
Weak relationship bonds and work dissatisfaction lead to free-floating anxiety, Desmet’s third condition for mass formation psychosis.
The spread of free-floating anxiety
How could many of us not experience constant anxiety? Those of us with school-age children watched as a huge part of the social contract was broken two years ago when the schools shut. A large part of the workforce found itself declared “unessential.” Nobody is “unessential,” but how are you supposed to believe that when you’re not allowed to pursue your vocation? The people that were declared essential were subjected to constant messaging about how dangerous it was to interact with others. Outside of government employees, I don’t know anyone who has escaped significant job-related stress.
Add into this mix the divisiveness of jab mandates and you’ve got your fourth condition: free-floating aggression and frustration without options.
Society soon turns to the punching bag
Daisy’s written about the “Othering” of the unvaccinated, and for a while, I thought that was the end game. I thought the Covid response was a combination of a money and power-grab by Big Pharma and Big Government, respectively. I thought all the proposed passports and tracking schemes were a way to identify who was compliant and who was not. I thought that the proposed narrative was to turn public sentiment firmly against anyone with a contrarian bent.
In the previously mentioned podcast, Desmet explains how the public’s free-floating aggression and frustration without options lead to the emergence of a villain, usually suggested by government figures and regularly presented through the media. He explains that as the stressors (in 2020’s case, the pandemic) continue, people look for ways to connect their anxiety and frustrations. The media distributes a narrative, connecting the existing problem to a proposed villain. As 2021 brought the jab rollout, it became clear that the media presented the unjabbed as the ready-made villain. Desmet states that, as the narrative takes hold, a new identity emerges within society. In the case of the past two years, it would be the social bonds of those who followed all the CDC protocols vs. those that didn’t.
I don’t have a crystal ball. I didn’t know how all this was going to play out. The harshness of the penalties imposed upon the Canadian truckers seemed completely out of line. The freezing of bank accounts and holding nonviolent protest organizers without bail had me wondering what was coming next.
And then a lot of the mandates disappeared. I live in a blue state. Even the biggest die-hards seemed done with the pandemic. Worldwide, it looks like most countries are done. Even Germany and Austria, who had been considering some fairly extreme mandates, announced that they would be ending most restrictions as of March 20. It seemed like a bad joke when, within a week of finally being able to attend church unmasked, we had something new to worry about.
I couldn’t believe it when, overnight, we were expected to hate Russia passionately.
Casting Russia as the Joker to the United States’ Batman has been going on for nearly 80 years now. My parents (Boomer generation) grew up under the assumption that one day, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were going to nuke each other into oblivion. That wasn’t the stuff of conspiracy theories – it was a soberly accepted fact. When my parents attended college in the 70s and 80s, the progressives wanted to work with and learn from the Soviets. It was the less cultured, less sophisticated crowd that was aggressively pro-American.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union disintegrated, people my age (I’m a Gen X’er) laughed at all the crazy anti-commie stuff. Obviously, the sophisticated liberals were right. The Russians weren’t that bad, and we could all live together happily in the new global economy. To people my age, the Cold War tensions became a big joke. I personally never thought it was such a joke. I was born in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, and my parents went back in 1990 to get a piece of it. The tension had been real. The East Germans weren’t screwing around.
And now, the generation of sophisticated liberals that grew up giggling at all the crazy, tin-foil hat anti-commie people instantly hates the same Russians that the older generations grew up fearing. Hating the Russians was silly ten years ago. Now, if we don’t hate the Russians, we’re traitors.
The turnaround should be shocking, but it falls into the behavior predicted by Desmet’s model of mass formation psychosis. The stress of the past two years has been extreme for a large part of the population. People are looking for someone to blame, and the powers that be are more than happy to give us various objects for what feels like our weekly “Two Minutes Hate.” The public was burning out on hating “anti-vaxxers.” We needed a new object, so they gave us the Russians.
As nations began to relax pandemic restrictions, the Great Reset crowd needed a new excuse for retaining state control. There’s nothing like war for those who love big government. Zelensky has been begging Western governments to impose a no-fly zone, which, as the Organic Prepper recently noted, would shove us a lot closer to another World War.
I don’t like being told whom to hate. I can figure that out on my own. I especially don’t like being told to hate groups of foreigners. For twenty years, Americans were told that the terrorist groups in Afghanistan posed such a threat to the United States that it warranted sending off our family members to die, keeping insurgents busy over there. Then we just walked away.
And we didn’t even walk away in a nice, orderly fashion as the Soviets did back in 1989. We ran off in the middle of the night, leaving behind literally billions of dollars worth of equipment for our enemies to use. We screwed up Afghanistan so badly. Do we really trust our leadership not to screw up Ukraine too?
Fear is in the air, and there are some big, powerful actors trying to make use of it.
Don’t let them. If World War III comes, it comes, and most of us can’t do anything about it. We’ll deal with that problem when it gets here. For now, all we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Daisy often says that we need to prepare, not out of fear, but out of hopefulness that we’ll be around for what comes next, and I can’t agree more. And situational awareness plays a large part in prepping. We need to know what other people are up to. Events of the past two years have been unlike anything I ever imagined. Fortunately, people like Mattias Desmet have provided tools for understanding big social movements in history. Forewarned is forearmed.
So prepare in what way best suits you and your loved ones.
None of us have exactly the same situation. Some are close to nuclear targets. Some have many children and/or elderly relatives to prepare for. No matter your situation, there are a lot of resources available to help you set priorities and organize your thoughts.
Be prepared but not fearful. Don’t let hateful feelings take hold of you. Fear, anger, and frustration lead to stupid mistakes. I know this from experience. Learn what you need to know to protect your family. Do whatever you can to maintain inner peace. Be content knowing that you’ve done all you can.
Have you seen the same thing? Do you feel like you’re watching people marching in lockstep? Share your thoughts in the comments.
About Marie Hawthorne
A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.