by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ February 14, 2020
What are we going to do with these people? I keep asking that but with no right answer coming to mind. A lot of wrong answers come to mind, but that raises the fear that someone will act on one of those.
We have a world network and instant access to incredible amounts of information, but the majority of our people are unable to access, evaluate, and use that information. Instead, they are manipulated by agents of ignorance and bigotry because it is more comfortable.
We know the background and causes, all of which are aspects of significant change in human society that is sweeping away most of the structure and the provincial forms of bigotry. As part of this significant change, our old economic and political systems no longer work as aspected or are failing. Any remaining calm is overwhelmed by the dawning awareness of the climate crisis that threatens human civilization.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct [to hell] …” — A Tale of Two Cities; Charles Dickens 1859
Dickens’ two cities, London and Paris in 1789, would now be seen as a tale of two parts of our population and two paradigms. Our story is not about two cities leading the change to the modern age but about metropolitan diversity and those clinging to remnants of a past rapidly disappearing.
Dicken’s novel leads to revolutionary war for twenty years, but our tale leads to the struggle for change that will allow us to survive. The political battle is not the focus but may mean our end if it prevents the changes to achieve sustainability.
Our story in America has taken a very different turn from Dickens as it is one much closer to the disruption and response of traditional peoples facing colonial domination in Western imperialism. These people divided along the lines of conflict, separating those who adapted a new paradigm and those who refused.
Among those that refused, many understood that the foreign model of society resulted from population growth demanding new ways of thinking and living, and their fight was a delaying action at best. Traditionally such groups could, in the end, move to new lands. The only option now is some form of ethnic cleansing or voluntary segregation. At best, it is being granted national independence but more often some limited kind of autonomy producing a crippled and deprived reservation culture.
But first, we must deal with the social pathology represented by the cult response. Trump and the Republican Party base now have all the characteristics of a cult. The failure of the media to explain this resulted in a decline of interest in the cult phenomenon.
The contemporary versions of the cult came to be primarily sexual or religious. As I mentioned above, a more logical version came from the response of indigenous peoples to European imperialism and colonialism. I think this is much more relevant to the Trumpist condition we are dealing with now.
I would class the Trumpist movement as a millenarian* cult. Millenarianist movements often start as counters to forced change by stating that a traditional utopian society will arise from resistance to what is happening. Better known examples of this are the American plains tribes’ Ghost Dance in the late 19th century, early Mormonism, Pacific island Cargo Cults, and many others. These can be either religious or secular.
The primary goal of these movements in colonial societies sought the return to power and restoration of traditional culture under a magical leader. Many years ago, I did a graduate research paper on the Phumibun Rebellion in Laos from 1901 to about 1930. This cult movement in Laos was also known as the Holy Man Rebellion and was started by a Laotian villager who declared himself to be the chosen one to restore traditional Laotian society in order to block further change from the government of French Indochina (1887- 1947).
I had not thought of this previously until reading this article: After Attending a Trump Rally, I Realized Democrats Are Not Ready For 2020. While I found this both sad and frightening, it was immediately apparent that these people were displaying millenarian cult characteristics. This type of millenarian cult is a desperate and emotional effort to restore a previous cultural form that is in the process of being replaced by a new cultural paradigm.
An intensely important part of these movements is magical. The Holy Man will recreate the golden time but with elements of power from the new cultural forms. Everything that is desired and was lost will return through the provision of magical power to the Holy Man’s followers. In the Phumibun Rebellion, the Holy Man could make followers immune to bullets from French rifles. Not surprisingly, this usually failed, but that did not slow down the cult and the faith in the magic of the Holy Man.
Logic and facts are not relevant to the people in these movements. That is true across all cult and conspiracy movements, but we have come to see cults as almost always as sexual and religious. As seen in the linked Trump rally article, these people are focused on their group as victims with group acceptance as more important than fact or criminal activities by their Holy Man.
A primary tool for mind control in these cults is reinforcing the broad public rejection of people following a magical Holy Man. This open rejection of followers is particularly true if the Holy Man is crazy, criminal, or obnoxious. The cult members can only rely on each other because no one else wants anything to do with them. Mental isolation is critical. Note that Trump’s corruption, incompetence, mental decline, ignorance, and continuous lying is either ignored or blithely minimized in the article. Those things are not crucial if belonging to the magical group is all that matters.
All of this is shown in just one article. By explicitly defining the Trump tools as millenarian, we can also tie this to the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian members of the Trump Holy Man cult. Primitive religionists are easy targets for fascists and authoritarians. Millenarian factions can result from Christian millennialists. These groups seek an apocalypse to restore their version of the world. There are layers of reinforcement and centuries of powerful though failed magic.
Our situation now is a dangerous and explosive mix of anger, rejection, victimhood, and the desire for magical destruction. The history of millenarian movements is not encouraging. They become historical footnotes and have no real long term effects, but they can cause years of fear, suffering, and deaths for the populations involved. Many of these have gone on for twenty or thirty years while surviving even longer as remote remnants.
What do we do with these people? I wish I had an answer. They may succeed in destroying the US as a nation, but their self-destructiveness will, if history holds, limit the damage they can cause. The wealth and power of the US are being taken over by authoritarian criminals supported by people who have abandoned all rationality. As I have said elsewhere, in the worst case, this may now need to be remedied by other nations to stop further planetary damage.
We are already seeing foreign leaders calling for Trump’s resignation. If this is not successful, these calls may become demands and, then, very reluctantly, actions. Under the old rules of national sovereignty, we are responsible and must act accordingly.
*Millenarian is not millennial, although within Christianity there is a millennial tradition that overlaps with millenarian movements.