Vikshepa Blog

Mental Distractions

14 Apr 2022

2022-04-14 Collective fantasies

I've been thinking that, considering the unreality of the world, or worlds, that we inhabit, it may be more intelligent to spend as little as possible time with what seems to be “the hard reality”. Children, when they are given the freedom to be somewhat detached from a need to earn a living or take an active part in their parents' world, grow wings. They have the ability to dream, to engage in fantasies of their own making. We all think that this is wonderful. Yet, when children “grow up” they are gradually expected to conform to the hard realities of the adult world, where engaging in fantasy is excoriated and shunned. Collective fantasies especially are reviled, such as QAnon, by people who are not part of that, and vice-versa. Half of society is accusing the other half of engaging in fantasy, and there are sub-groups and cults: political and spiritual.

The phenomenon is not as new as we tend to think that it is. Thinking back a little, we remember the “flat earth movement”, Nazism, the Inquisition, and historical cults. So that it looks as if engaging in collective fantasy is fundamental to the human spirit. The world that intelligent, informed, mainstream humanity currently inhabits, where opposition to the exploitation of women, castigation of “war crimes” (by our adversaries only), religious tolerance, LBGT acceptance, concern for the environment, etc. are the norm, is historically abnormal, and artificially constructed. The values we share today may be seen as baneful in the future.

So to what extent should we avoid the “collective fantasies”, when accepting that we already inhabit one ourselves? Collective fantasies contain elements of community that are important for our mental equilibrium. Perhaps the test is when they cause harm to others? For example, if my fantasy involves the genocide of all Jews, of Ukrainians, of the elimination of Muslims from my country, then it can be said to be harmful. If it comes into contact with people who embrace an opposing fantasy, do we greet them with guns, or with tolerance?

Despite the benefits of community found in the collective fantasies, my tendency, at this stage in life is to try to avoid them and to find my own way. I hope I will be strong enough.


‘The lunacy is getting more intense’: how Birds Aren’t Real took on the conspiracy theorists | QAnon | The Guardian

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