Mass formations and loss of freedom

Last month I listened to an interesting interview titled “Why People WILLINGLY Give Up Their Freedoms” with Prof. Mattias Desmet on the Aubrey Marcus podcast. Here the focus was about “mass formation”, a term used to define mass events and mass hysterias like we’re experiencing these days.

The discussion can be seen on Aubrey Marcus’s YouTube channel. I’m not sure how the rest of the channel is, but this podcast episode was very interesting to me, if anything because it confirmed my impression of how society moves and because it gives a framework to better understand what is happening.

Here’s the full video:

Here’s a list of key points that I thought were worth highlighting:

  • [@1139 s] — People are happy to follow the narrative of perpetual fears because the anxiety that derives from it allows for a new social bond. Bonding being something that humans crave for, but that lacks in modern large societies.
  • [@1247 s] — Mass formations are a kind of hypnosis. Hypnosis is possible when someone is made focus on a narrow view of things (i.e. a virus), and away from a broader perspective (i.e. loss of freedoms). See for example anestesia via hypnosis, where the mind of the patient is being focused to the point that he/she can’t feel pain in a certain spot.
    Here Aubrey notices that ability to focus on something and ignore the broader picture is important for productivity and for mental sanity, so it’s a double-edged sword.
  • [@2067 s] — Raw intelligence of the individual doesn’t matter. In a mass formation, the collective mind takes over and anyone can lose the ability to be a critical thinker.
  • [@2170 s] — In a mass formation, only about 30% of the people are hypnotized in the beginning. Then there’s an additional 40% that goes along, even if they may not agree, because they don’t want to or are afraid to go against this vocal minority. The remaining 20-30% are those that do speak out one way or another.
  • [@2645 s] — It’s essential to continue to speak out against the narrative at the root of a mass formation. The hypnosis may not disappear, but it can become less deep, which may be just enough to avoid extreme deterioration of the situation (see: dehumanization, labeling as “domestic terrorist”).
    Note: It’s also my conviction that one should never expect for a person to change his/her mind on a topic just from a new batch of information. It’s a slow process of detoxification that requires time to take shape.
  • [@3664 s] — Sacrifice makes for an even stronger social bonding, and it’s glorified. Giving up on Christmas celebration with families, wearing masks and social distancing are all big and small sacrifices that make people feel closer to each other. It becomes a ritual, and people can go to great lengths and perform extreme sacrifices while under the spell of this mass hypnosis.
    Note: As an example, see the brotherhood that derives from combat during wars. Sharing danger makes for very strong bonding.
  • [@4224 s] — In 1953, Hannah Arendt said that even though we’ve seen the decline and fall of Nazism and Stalinism, the trend towards totalitarianism hasn’t stopped, and very soon we’ll see a form of world-wide totalitarianism that is lead no longer by strong leader figures, but by technocrats and bureaucrats.
    Nevertheless, totalitarianism is always self-destructive and it’s likely that now we’ll just have to wait for this new form of totalitarianism to rise and fall. In the meantime, it may be a good idea to be on the sidelines while this happens.

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