In this talk I address the critiques that Mattias Desmet’s book “The Psychology of Totalitarianism” has received and explain why while those who made those critiques have valid concerns, they may have also misunderstood the fundamental aim of Desmet’s book.
On Mattias Desmet’s The Psychology of Totalitarianism
I’d like to just say a couple of words about a book that I’ve now managed to read in good detail throughout. I’ve tried to not do a superficial reading. The book in question is by a professor of psychology, Matthias Desmet, and the book is called, The Psychology of Totalitarianism.
This book has received certain critiques, mainly along the lines that it gives a free pass to the perpetrators of the restrictions of freedom, justified by a virus over the last three years, and that it blamed the victims for having a view of everything that happened, which in certain ways is a psychological condition that allowed it to happen. That’s the basis of the critiques.
While I understand why people who are very angry about what happened and who would say that while there are certain passages in the book that can be interpreted as that, especially if you’ve got a lot of anger and you’re trying to look for something that is not there, then you may feel angry about it. But I don’t think that that really was the point of the book; and starting from the title (The Psychology of Totalitarianism) it’s not saying that this is about naming the perpetrators or accusing those who are responsible. That’s not even in the description of the book. So, this is not the ambition of the book.
I find this quite often in a lot of these debates that happen within, let’s say, a group that understands what happened. Once again, things are judged according to parameters which do not belong to them. If you want that, if you want to name perpetrators, then go and get The Real Anthony Fauci. But whereas that is a very good book that describes how things happen in a forensic way; I mean a sort of financial way, in certain levels of influence and politics, and individuals who use their influence and their money and their politics and their credentials to achieve certain goals. This is not that kind of book. Instead, it is doing something totally different.
Quite often, I found some passages, and I thought I would have phrased the book slightly differently, and we all would phrase things differently, according to how we see them. But how I would describe it is that what it actually does is it answers the question: why did so many people go along with what for a lot of us were obvious lies? So, if you’re looking for the answer to that question, the book is very good because it shows a particular way of thinking, which unfortunately has pervaded our culture since the Enlightenment, which says that reason has all the answers. And this way of thinking inevitably creates new gods or priest-like figures; and in our society these are the doctors and the scientists.
And it’s not just that some people abuse that power, but the question still remains what level of psychology do you need—to allow to give that power to them and then to actually listen to them without questioning? How did that happen? And, yes, they did say different views. Yes, they created a climate for all of that to happen. But a lot of us figured it out very early on. So, how did so many people go along with it? Yes, you’ve got sort of Asch experiments of conforming and you’ve got all of that going on.
True, human nature likes to go along with the group. But still. Then there are technical ways in which they achieved it, the gradual incremental degree of insanity that gets pushed onto society and people ultimately end up behaving in a totally insane way, thinking it’s the most rational thing on the planet like wearing some kind of pieces of plastic on the face, thinking that it’s going to stop diseases or some absurdities which are justified through science.
So, the question is, the book explains how this is an arrested stage of psychological development, to a stage in the development of the child when they learn to separate from the mother in which something needs to happen for the child to become an individual and stop believing that their worth is given by their mummy or daddy. And today we call it science and medicine. What needs to happen is a personal responsibility, to become creative oneself and to create one’s own narrative, one’s own truth and one’s own journey. if you are not able to do that in childhood, you may not still not be able to do that today, and then you become what the book describes as someone who sees things in a mechanistic way, because that mechanistic way relieves an anxiety of uncertainty, and that anxiety of uncertainty ultimately is the fear of death. But before that it gets displaced: if only I can be a hundred percent sure that black is black, it is grey, it is not grey, or whatever you want to believe. If I can only be a hundred percent sure then I can relieve my anxiety. And if you contradict me, you give me anxiety. But the issue there is that that way of being, which the majority of our society holds because, unfortunately, the majority of society has undergone childhood trauma, that way of being is a refusal of uncertainty, and that’s where the myth of science, the myth of modern medicine comes in, to soothe a fundamental uncertainty that is within the vast majority of people.
The people who perpetrate all of this, they have that too; not only they have that too but for them it becomes an ideology that obviously goes to reinforce their positions of power. So, it’s used to control; but ultimately it’s an ideology. The ideology is that the mechanistic world is the world we live in; and that’s how it can only be. So, my certainty is that as a sort of tech-oligarch, technocracy is the only way to solve the problems of the planet, because I want this certainty that there are problems that we need to fix; it gives me importance and power. I can only do it through technocracy, which I happen to control as well, and if people don’t listen to me the planet will be destroyed; hundreds of thousands, or millions, or whatever people will die; and so I have to do it regardless of your freedom. That person is also stuck in a phase of childhood trauma and also believes that they can impose because they see the world like that themselves.
So, the people who go along with it, they are already agreeing fundamentally that they live in a mechanistic world which is defined by scientific experiments or data or things like that. So, the problem is that, yes, it’s important to contradict people who use mechanistic views of the world and things like data to justify their impositions; it’s important to contradict them. But if you operate on that level you are ultimately the same, because you are giving that level the power to determine everybody else’s future; and that’s where the psychology of totalitarianism comes in, to offer something different instead that it’s important to realize that there is no mechanical certainty, there is no ultimate data that proves everything; and ultimately we need to find our own path through it all, and we need to allow others to find their own path through it all. And our path should first of all not be based on a mechanistic view of the world but be based on a holistic view of what reality is, which includes other dimensions: the symbolic dimension, the poetic dimension, the artistic dimension, the spiritual dimension, the mystical dimension. It includes all of that. It doesn’t exclude any of those.
And ultimately it’s not simply that the more we speak out, the less (or more) we stop the mass formation; ultimately the mass formation is the belief in the mechanistic, above everything else on the planet, and in order to try and contradict that, we need to go on other planes and we need to do something called truth-telling, or speaking the truth, which happens on different levels—and this is the subject of something that I found particularly interesting and I’m interested in exploring further; and that’s going to be the focus of my work for a while. But it may take me a while to get it all together.
But ultimately speaking the truth is different to the question: define truth? Because truth is not fixed. So, the moment you understand that it is a process, and that it is the process we should focus on more than the scientific method, because truth happens and comes not only, it may come also from scientific methods, but not only through one method but through all of them. So, speaking the truth is actually empathising: having a feeling for what we’re talking about and letting that feeling guide us to where we think the truth is and expressing that, and expressing that because we are feeling and empathising with that subject, even if we don’t fully understand what the sort of nitty-gritty mechanistic aspect is.
We have a feeling of where the truth may be, in what direction it may be; and we may have a feeling that that’s the direction we should be going in; and to be able to express that means at times contradicting people who come and say I am certain that because the data is this, then you need to do that. And you need to be able to say, I don’t feel that that is the truth. I feel that actually someone telling someone else do this or do that is not truthful in and of itself because that’s not how we are meant to live together, according to me. And that is truth-telling. It’s not just simply jumping on the narrative of someone else and trying to find out within that narrative how you can juggle them out of their own way of seeing things.
So, I think the critiques of The Psychology of Totalitarianism, by Matthias Desmet, fundamentally don’t really understand what the aim of the book is, because they come from within the same logic that the book tries to criticise. Yes, there is validity I think in people who use those critiques because they perhaps would like to write their own book that addresses exactly who did what, and the responsibilities they have, and the punishment that should be given to them. But instead of displacing the anxiety onto someone who has done their own work, which is by The Psychology of Totalitarianism by Matthias Desmet, the person who criticises it may actuallym, to realise themselves an adult, want to go and write a different book, and they should and I think that’s what I’m going to do actually. I think you should do it in whatever way you feel that you can; create your own reality. But don’t agree in principle unless that is where you only want to operate, that the reality is defined in the same way that people like Bill Gates or Tedros or the World Health Organisation or Jeff Bezos or even Elon Musk, don’t agree that reality is defined by what they consider important, by how they consider the world works, which is mechanistic.
I would actually encourage people to approach it from their own way which is not that because if we go along with that we fall ultimately in their trap; and it’s just a matter of different colours of the trap and different ways we ultimately get trapped. And the key is to step out of all of that and find their own way through things and through the practice of telling the truth.
Robin Monotti Graziadei
Dr Mike Yeadon responded to my video above, and I decided to republish his response below, as I believe his observations on the limits of the scientific method when applied to biological organisms are very relevant.
I listened to your assessment and interpretation of some important themes that sit behind “The Psychology of Totalitarianism” with growing excitement and agreement.
Just this morning I was thinking that I’ve nothing further to add to what I’ve already said about the technical aspects of the deception and mistreatment of people.
Yet the problem of the relentless advance of the perpetrators control agenda is not stopped, deflected or even much slowed. “Waking people up” has never been what I’ve been about. It didn’t take long to realise that those people who I describe as “adherent to the narrative” simply cannot be wrenched to a new understanding, no matter how eloquent or even correct one might be.
Voluntarism (if that’s a word) is absolutely key. My service has been to two constituencies, both receptive to developing an understanding or refining & integrating an understanding, based on the premise that we’re not only not being told the truth, but that we’re being lied to for some malign purpose.
In that, I do think I’ve been useful.
It may interest you to know that, without even being aware of the distinction between the scientific method and other, more personal & subjective, but no less valid, ways of examining the world, I’ve never believed that science alone is capable of yielding The Truth.
Far from it. I’ve retained enough humility to recognize & accept that there are distinct limitations to the scientific method. These limitations are so severe that the method, at best, offers an estimate of just one view of The Truth.
It’s not only that there are uncertainties about quantities and relationships of variables utilised in the scientific method, which there are.
These are very real and do matter, because even if a person, for any reason, decides to lean upon it to approximate some Truth, a humble scholar knows the outcome is usually an estimate, with variation, the degree of which is not always known. So if the answer is X, it’s always +/- Y. The true value of X can never be nailed down. Even the range of permissible values for X are defined only by reference to probability theory. This is the simplest kind of truths, yet look how squishy and insubstantial it quickly becomes.
The key to appreciating the limitations of the post-Enlightenment scientific method is accepting the necessity of adopting various assumptions from the get-go.
Ones that’s realised, that there is framing necessarily going on & therefore “the answer” will imperfectly describe reality, beyond the technical matter of uncertainty, can a scientist truly recognize that their art is only by unusual exception capable of yielding a good approximation of The Truth.
Convoluted language and tiredness isn’t helping me here! Suffice to say I’m not the instrumentalist that it suits me often enough to allow others to label me as.
The scientific method has greater or lesser utility depending on the nature of the situation being examined. I am guessing that predicting planetary movements, for example, lies at one end of the range of near certainty. There aren’t many assumptions required to be adopted before you can start.
My field, biology, and it’s very many subdivisions, is well over to the other end of the scales.
Why is this? It’s for several reasons but foremost I think are these two factors:
1. There is so much integration of everything, to some extent, that it’s pretty much impossible to study at all unless you first accept that it must be studied in isolation. Now it’s removed from its context. An assumption which is impossible to check is that the behaviour of the isolated pieces would be essentially the same when reintegrated into the whole, which I’ve always viewed as an UNlikelihood!
2. Clever & studious we might be as a species but we don’t know & we NEVER can know what we don’t know. Our mental and practical model of the integrated thing we’re attempting to understand is limited by our inevitably incomplete stock-taking of the ingredients, imperfect knowledge of the forces acting upon the isolated elements and much more.
In other words most things biological are, unless contrived to artificial simplicity, so complicated that only a fool or an arrogant person could believe that application of the scientific method to it can yield The Truth.
It may seem odd that a scientist would be at pains to explain how biology, necessarily of organisms, is incapable of delivering The Truth. I don’t think it’s odd. I’ve always known this about biology. It’s the reason why I was drawn to it in the first place & not physics or chemistry. The scope for playful consideration of ideas, concepts and theories makes it very special to me.
Consider the branch known as “medicinal chemistry”. I doubt a new kind of fundamental reaction had been described in years. Everything has a characteristic signature in each of a dozen analytical techniques.
Despite that, it’s still not possible to cut out the empirical cycle of design, first synthesis and testing of each structure. Patent applications usually require a court to adjudicate disputes over inventiveness and even novelty.
If a limited subset of the wider discipline called Chemistry is this resistant to predictions, it’s easier to appreciate how wonderfully messy and inexact is biology.
I believe it has long suited certain kinds of people, from which the perpetrators were largely drawn, to give the impression that the scientific method, done properly, yields neat, correct Truths, so that you may not stand against it. If you do, you must be some kind of primitive person, unable to “follow the science” !
I don’t think I’ve ever asked you about spiritual aspects of matters of faith. I have come to the very unscientific conclusion that we are engaged in a genuine, all-out battle for the soul of humanity, a biblical style Good v Evil struggle, which we cannot afford to lose.
Dr Mike Yeadon, PhD