We are living in a massively perplexing age of disinformation. From cooker conspiracies through to outright financial scams, it is becoming increasingly challenging to navigate the tidal wave of mendacity we find ourselves adrift in.

The collapse of a shared sense of reality and the descent into a post truth world obviously best serves those most reliant upon lies and misinformation to pursue their nefarious ends. (The Trumps, Putins and Bolsanaros)

Whilst there are good reasons to hold a healthy scepticism towards the official versions of reality offered by governments, corporations, media owners and militaries, there is an even greater danger in descending into the complete abyss of distrust of all official information. To mistrust it all simply renders you even more incapable of discernment than if you naively trusted it all. It is the worst of the worst fraudsters, tricksters and dictators who are the principal beneficiaries of the dense smokescreen that is offered by all-encompassing cynicism.

Why do people turn to, conspiracy theory and fascism in such large numbers? I believe it is largely the result of two very widespread vulnerabilities in humans in general. One is an addiction to certainty and the other what I call the false promise of individualism.

Uncertainty. We live in a very complex universe, it actually began in a very pure form of chaos, so formless that it enabled all manner of experimentation to occur spontaneously enough to produce temporary structures such as swirling galaxies, planets and if you are lucky enough, atmospheres and biological processes like we see on Earth. The human mind, confronted with infinite diversity and uncertainty has always sought the shelter of certainty. The idea that there is one big sky daddy running all of this, is actually very similar to the deep unconscious need to explain discomforting global events as the work of a single elite illuminati.

The actual evidence though points a planet peopled by humans, engaged in multiple competing processes for dominance and power, (and even a substantial amount of well-motivated ones). The swirl of competing interests, corporations, media moguls, governments, dictators and militaries are all hatching their own plots and propagandas and trying to out-do each other. Amongst this rabble is also a lot of humans with good moral conscience fighting for things like human rights, transparency, environmental repair and even older more conservative values like an independent judiciary and the equal application of the rule of law.

So mental resilience factor number one for surviving with your sanity intact, is build up your uncertainty muscles. Listen to the great astrophysicists like Brian Cox and learn how to really enjoy being a spec of space dust in a temporarily stable pocket of the universe, only then are you in a position to perceive your situation much more clearly

The other great mental dilemma of our times is the very flawed concept of individuality. I am not saying there is no such thing as individuality, its just that it only occupies one single extremity in a continuum of experience (a bit like an infinity symbol) in which your connection to the universe, nature, humanity, and to community really defines who and what you are.

Abstract individualism is a relatively recent idea that has been massively over-emphasised in liberal capitalist ideologies. Sadly, when you have been stripped of your deep connection to the universe, nature and community, individualism becomes like a trauma teddy that people cling to with tragic obsession.

How many times have you heard the insane utterance “We are born alone and we die alone’? Pure madness, it is impossible to be born alone.

Sanity is by definition a collective process. Completely alone you have absolutely no mechanisms for knowing what is a workable consensus worldview for humanity.

If you really are the only person to know the ‘truth’ then you are probably already insane.

Evolution favours a species with great diversity both physically and neurologically. This diversity gives us a variety of expertise. Expert doctors, physicists, climate scientists, constitutional lawyers, artists, computer whizzes, biologists, activists, mystics, criminals, scammers, fascists and that charismatic guy on you tube.

So mental resilience factor number two is to seek to ground your experiences into the collective. Feel into our collective experience and seek that consensus reality that is so important to our collective survival.

This brings me to the third resilience factor. Experts. We need to continue to trust expertise, acquired knowledge and the mental disciplines and rigour that are attached to real expertise.

More important than expert individuals are the communities of expertise. When 20,000 scientists attest that climate change is a real and existential threat, STFU and listen. Don’t go looking for the one scientist who disagrees, or the charismatic you tube spruiker who can offer you a simpler, neater, more certain, (and inevitably manipulatively right wing) alternative explanation. Have whatever doubts or intuitions you wish but try to respect as much as possible what communities of knowledge have to contribute.

I have been deeply saddened in recent years watching friends and former allies of our great social movements for the environment and human rights, get sucked down worm holes of disinformation and conspiracy.

When the internet, and later social media first appeared we all could see the great potential for a great digital democracy, for information sharing and transparency and for global organising for social change. It went well for a few years.

But as we entered into the new century, authoritarian regimes such as China and Iran and Russia were busy learning everything, they could from what activists had achieved and how to turn the internet and social media into tools for surveillance and propaganda. They were quickly joined by extreme right movements in Europe, America and Australia, who used the wealth at their disposal to mimic and reinvent online viral politics for their own purposes.

The result has been that social media has more recently become a bizarrely complicated maze of traps and wormholes, many of which have been deliberately designed to use algorithms to pull the unsuspecting to the right.

Awash with uncertainty, stripped bare as individuals and taught to distrust all mainstream expertise we have collectively become the prey of thousands of scammers, conspiracy theorists, fascists and manipulators. Sadly, conspiracy theories themselves are the strings that pull on the puppets that fall into them, all the while goading you that you are one of the few who can see the ‘truth’.

Best of luck my friends, I could go on, but please, turn Facebook down, don’t seek truth from snake oil salesmen on you tube. Re-engage with your community, with nature. Science and knowledge are never certain, and it can always question its own conclusions later, and that is how we all should be, uncertain and more than prepared to question ourselves.


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