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The Sorcery of the Cancel Culture and “Mass Formation” Neurosis
A deeper, very loving, look into the familiar squabble.
UPDATE: I am adding my earlier post for context.
Lots has been said about the cancel culture but I want to take a completely different approach. We all know, or at least suspect, that the “woke” culture is crazy and CIA-driven, and that one doesn’t need to be a biologist to describe a woman. So I am not going to talk about that. Instead, I am going to go into very deep waters and point at things that can potentially get us out of this mess, sooner rather than later. And in the process, I am going to touch upon the pain in our arses—the meta argument about what “mass formation” is or isn’t.
I want to start with a funny story that happened many years ago. In a public bathroom at a Russian restaurant, some girl accidentally stepped on my foot. After that, the dialogue went like this:
Girl: I am sorry
Me: No worry
Girl: YOU ARE YOURSELF UGLY
After feeling tremendously baffled for a second, I figured out what happened.
Unfortunately, the explanation requires a translation from Russian of a phrase that does not easily yield itself to translation but let me try. What I said literally was “nothing scary,” which is an idiom for “no worry.” The Russian word for “scary” can also mean “ugly.” So the girl somehow decided that I called her ugly, and so she reacted to the imaginary insult.
I don’t remember how it all ended—I think I rolled my eyes and left the bathroom in indignation since not only did she step on my foot but also charged at me for an imaginary insult—but this story begs the question: what kind of a state of mind was that girl in to assume that a stranger in a public bathroom would volunteer to call her “ugly”? What kind of a communication standard is it? The point is, her reaction was triggered by internal messes.
On my end, the moral of the fable was that when somebody charges at you for no reason with ridiculous misinterpretations, the chance is, they are hurting on the inside and would likely charge at a door knob. Or, they could be trolls who get energized by conflict. Or, in the context of the freedom movement, they could be paid instigators. No, I am not saying that everyone participating in the wretched Desmet etc. standoff is an agent. I think the opposite is true. But bear with me, I’ll get to that later.
They say that we, modern people, are so lucky that we have gotten away from the jungle—but I fear that we are in the jungle precisely, and we all need developed senses to maneuver the jungle. I think that most people who angrily charge in reaction to disagreement are simply stressed out, or feel like they are losing control, and react like dominators. One certainly does not need to be an agent to act like an a**hole. But there are also paid instigators. The crude ones act aggressive, like paid actors at freedom movement protests. But the more sophisticated ones are, well, sophisticated. They instigate like your proverbial devil, they whisper and inspire bad habits, they give good people bad ideas.
Now, I want to now tell you a story that is very important. It’s an African legend.
The story is about some bad spirits peeking into people’s houses seeking where they could create trouble. In one house, there was peace. Everybody was treating each other with love and respect, from the soul, helping each other, listening to each other’s concerns and trying to resolve them with spiritual rigor. The bad spirits were disgusted and left the house. They then peeked in another house. Over there, the people were arguing with each other. But after arguing for a while, they started listening to each other’s grudges and trying to make peace. They were very sincere about their desire to make peace, and they succeeded. So, the bad spirits couldn’t stay there, either. In the third house, people were fighting and fighting, in a vicious manner, without any respect for the other person, and they just kept fighting. And that was where the bad spirits went to cause trouble.
I think it’s a very powerful story that applies to our lives completely. It does not mean “going along to get along.” It does not mean betraying your truth. It does not mean being a pushover. And it does not mean any sort of fake compliance with what you disagree with. It means spiritual rigor and handling all social situations with the eyes on being honest before life’s mystery and the spirit. It means hard spiritual work, and love, and patience, and just really hard and unglamorous spiritual labor, and sweat, and then more sweat, with the purpose of being fair to others who are also sincere—and working together for truth and beauty. (And by the way, this is not exclusive to any spiritual system. I reassure you, God didn’t give any human institution a monopoly charter, the monopoly charters were invented by politicians and merchants).
Now, one may say, wait, does it mean that I need to look for common grounds with Klaus Schwab? No, no, it does not mean that. I am talking about how we interact with the people who are not trying to eat us, even if we don’t perfectly agree with them on every item.
And like I keep saying, there is no formula for doing this correctly. There has never been any formula for doing this correctly. And that precisely is the reason why we, human beings, need to possess very sharp senses and intuition and spiritual clarity in order to navigate the jungle.
A Desmet interlude
I want to emphasize, and do it with like fifteen thousand exclamation points: I don’t care about the theory of mass formation, this way or the other. I appreciate all thinking human beings and their ideas, and I like intellectual explorations, but before this whole thing started, I have never spent more than ten minutes thinking about mass formation.
Thus, my argument is not about the theory of mass formation (about which I don’t care). My argument is that being terrified about other people’s opinions is a sign of temporary weakness. My argument is that demonizing someone’s opinions about the world while refusing to debate them is always based in fear, and always results in cancel culture—and it doesn’t matter where it started. And cancel culture is unproductive.
As an illustration of my point, there is an absolutely brilliant obscure 2012 Bangladeshi film called “Television.” I have been recommending it to everyone and their dog since the moment I saw it. I am not going to spoil it for you. Just watch it, and we can then discuss it.
Speaking of arguing about Desmet, the other day, a lovely reader was trying to explain to someone in comments how I was clearly not “getting” the issue that he was clearly getting. Because, all the familiar talking points. And then, under the same breath, he said that my devotion to Desmet was clear, and that Desmet was possibly my lover. When I read it, I started laughing so hard that I couldn’t even be mad at the lovely reader for talking nonsense. Now, if enough people repeated that nonsense, then I would have to spend days and months of my life proving that I never had the honors. :) Oh, and when I asked him where he got that insightful information, he apologized and said that he didn’t think I would read the comment (on my very own story). I am saying this with laughter, we all sometimes take ourselves very seriously and act foolish (I’ve done it). But how absurd it is? Oh, and the entire world is subjective. Everything in the world is subjective. So we should choose our opinions and our words wisely. And we should choose wisely even when we are scared, and watch out for the tyrant in the mirror.
Also, a very serious comment about danger. I have been in life-threatening situations. Actual, real, physical life-threatening situations. My calm attitude toward other people’s ideas is not a sign of being inexperienced, it’s actually a result of being experienced. There are very few things I dislike more than ethnic prejudice, for example, and yet, I can easily have a conversation with someone with Nazi ideas. I can have a conversation with a person who hates Russians (hi, Rachel). I could theoretically have a conversation with anyone who was in the crowd of people watching as I was being beaten up by a sex trafficker in China. I forgot their faces but if any of them woke up in the middle of the night in tears, realizing that they’ve betrayed the sacred by watching a human being violated and beaten, if they called me and said, “Tessa, I am so sorry, I am so sorry, it was so awful!” I would feel like something has healed forever. I would be happy. I could have a conversation with an FBI agent who cruelly, like a dick, tried to break by spirit, and, well, I would shame him and shame him for having acted like an asshole—hoping for the victory of truth and a closure. But I would have that conversation. Conversations are not scary as long as the other person is not a dark one. And the dark ones have made their choices, and they, too, are under the jurisdiction of the Creator (life’s mystery, the universe, whatever word we use on the inside to commune with our ultimate home, with the beauty that is all about love and courage and that is bigger than any words we can come up with). I feel no fear of predators. They are a part of the puzzle, and their role is to do crap to teach us the price of practicing bad habits. I wish upon them to eat each other the soonest and I have no fear of them. There is no fear in the house of love. Love melts all the fear.
No prescriptions, real time navigation
Why do we need developed senses? Precisely to tell the difference. Because, what if that person who is pretending to be your friend is actually a thief or an agent?
Alternatively, what if the other person is just another sincere, imperfect human being but you are so worked up and tired of being squeezed that you no longer care about standards and just charge at others for no reason—to let the frustrations out? What if you are so frustrated with the world that you no longer bother with nuance because it’s easier for you to assume that your debate opponent is a bad person, a spy, or a moron, than to do the hard spiritual work enabling you to navigate the jungle as a strong, disciplined warrior as opposed to a squeezed and angry reactor?
Have you ever been in a situation where everyone is getting along, and then a new person shows us, as if covered in a dark cloud, and then everyone starts fighting? And then, when the cloud passes, everyone feels rather stupid and wonders what in the hell had happened?
We can think about it as metaphorical bad magic. And I reassure you, intelligence agencies in every country have programs designed specifically for creating dark metaphorical clouds. Which is to say, when everyone started arguing about Desmet—regardless of the merits of the whole “mass formation” business—it was a little suspicious. And I would step back and think about how it started, and who was the first to be duped into acting like a dominator.
An important note: people like to feel smart. People like “information” about what the bad guys do because “information” makes us feel empowered. But I reassure you that, while “information” is important, information without a strong spiritual grounding is useless. And if anyone is wondering how we resist the metaphorical dark clouds (call it “psy op operations,” or whatever generation psychological warfare, etc.) it is not by reading a book about how they do it (although it’s fascinating). It is by practicing total spiritual rigor. It is by being happily humble, relaxed, and optimistic. It is by trying your very best to be fair, honest, and confidently loving. It is by seeking truth and ways to help those around you, as opposed to have the last word in the conversation. It is by, when a monster stares at you, telling the fear to piss off because you know you are protected because you really, sincerely, in your heart, honor the Creator (whatever your religion or spiritual system), your soul, and other living beings. Even the worst monster can’t avoid the spiritual laws, therefore, it is by honoring the good spirit inside and outside, with your every breath and your every choice, that you protect your existence from the dark ones.
Hurting people vs. tricksters
There is a difference between the tired, stressed out, unhealed good people and the cunning tricksters who exploit the holes in other people’s souls.
When it comes to sincere “victims,” they are, well, sincere. They can be jumpy, unfair, destructive, loving toward those they love and cruel toward “the other”—but they are sincere. Their fear, driving their “Jihad,” is sincere. And the enemy in the “holy battle” can be anything, from a wrong ethnicity to a wrong religion to a wrong vaccination status—or, as we are finding out now, a wrong position on “mass formation.” All swords out! Root out the bad apple!!!! And this way—by replacing a strife for wisdom with a war on “enemy” talking points—is how history keeps repeating. Sadly.
The tricksters, on the other hand, are just like those bad spirits from the African legend. They look for people practicing bad habits, they look for holes in people’s souls, they also try to really-really encourage the soul-perforating bad habits in people (in the Christian terminology, it would be called ‘seduction”)—and then they use the built-up hurt and anger to create war and chaos.
This is the foundational principle of “divide and conquer.” “You are suffering because of those people,” the particular kind of tricksters say. Those people are trouble!”
The trickster then creates an emotional bond: “I feel your pain. I know you are hurting. It is so unfair. AND IT IS ALL BECAUSE OF THOSE PEOPLE!!!!!” Etc. etc.
Therefore, the trickster usually combines two features: he or she pretends to be on your side, while at the same time he or she turns you against other people who are just like you or at the very least, who you could get along with but now are not going to get along with because you’ve succumbed to a bad emotional practice of nursing your trauma, bonding with your trauma, identifying with your trauma, and viewing calls for healing your trauma as an assault and a sign of disrespect and a lack of understanding.
What is “the spiritual battle” we are fighting?
It is a little ironic when the people succumb to anger and treat others badly in the name of “fighting the good fight.”
Yes, acting in this way is a learning curve, it’s a passing phase of the journey, and it doesn’t make one an intrinsic villain—but it is a very destructive passing phase of the journey. And because in this state, a person is being ridden by a “bad spirit,” they tend to be extra aggressive if you cast any doubt on the absolute and undeniable nature of their full ownership of the truth, whatever the debate is about.
It is really, really hard to deal with people who are “ridden” by bad habits. In that state, good people are not quite themselves, they are altered. Which is why it requires love and courage to navigate the jungle. Love is the only thing that melts the bad spirits. And it doesn’t mean that you’ll see immediate action. But love is also the only thing that protects your soul amid the possessed souls.
No bad leader in the world would be able to do a lot of harm for a long time if the people didn’t succumb—and then cling—to bad habits.
For example, when both the Russians and the Americans tried to conquer the fierce Chukchi nation up North, they could not conquer a very long time (a couple of centuries), despite a technological advantage. But gradually, the Russians bribed the Chukchi leaders, softened their culture, and got the people addicted to drinking. And then the Chukchi were defeated and eventually annexed to the Soviet Union. Succumbing to tricksters is a tragic affair.
Mass formation, cancel culture, etc.
What is the definition of a cancel culture? It is a culture in which a “wrong” opinion about a topic is grounds for dehumanization and subsequent “cancellation.” The psychological justification is that the “wrong” opinion presents a danger, and therefore need to be treated like an “enemy combatant.”
The foundational difference between a healthy argument and the “cancel culture” is that the cancel culture presumes a monopoly on truth and the legitimacy of getting triggered by the very fact that somebody dares think something different.
And that, by the way, fundamentally resolves the argument about mass formation and the evil tyrants. The mass formation theory is a just one thinking man’s theory about something that has always existed—which is the fact that crowds can act crazy, especially when there is an instigator—and by definition, there is always an instigator simply because human agency exists, and everything is subjective. So? Where is the “gocha” moment?
Let me go on a dramatic lighthearted tantrum and ask a few intentionally ridiculous questions. Does it rain due to the existence of gravity or the existence of water? Are bacterial infections caused by bad bacteria or weak immune systems? Am I typing this on the computer because I have a computer or because I have typing fingers? See what I am saying? And fine, we can have as many interesting philosophical debates as we want, it’s all great—but how is going at each other’s throats about it working out so far? Who is winning now that we are all going at each other’s throats? And did anyone’s correct opinion on Desmet prevent the central bankers from going ahead with their CBDC agenda? No, really, did it?
There are tyrants. There are regular people. There are also crowds of regular people with an additional dynamic. It’s a multi-directional interaction. The world is complex. What’s there to argue about?
In other words, anyone who claims to provide a final and ultimate answer for how this world works is either a megalomaniac, a hurting person, or a trickster. There can be as many stories about the world as there are people—and some explanations might be better than others--but as long as we agree on the fundamentals and a respectful attitude toward others, we are solid.
We are free to pick our loves and suspicions—but we are responsible for our part in this proverbial spiritual batter. And we do need to confront the tyrant in the mirror. The job of the dark ones is to trick us to invest in our bad habits. Our job is remember that we represent love and courage, and that treating other people with decency is a part of fighting the good fight.
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