Cult Dynamics And Post-Pandemic Society

Matt Simon, writing for Wired, takes a look at why life during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic seems so surreal and hits upon an interesting comparison.

The upending of our normal lives also obliterated the routines, however mundane, that keep us levelheaded: getting up, putting on pants, making breakfast and coffee, commuting to work. “Research does show that when you take people away from the things that are familiar to them, it’s surprisingly easy for people to lose track of themselves—their identity, the things that are important to them,” says Susan Clayton, a psychologist at the College of Wooster. “This is one thing that you see happening in cults. And that may sound like a stretch, but when people try and recruit other people into cults, one of the strategies is to take them away from what’s normal.” When the recruits are no longer surrounded by their usual physical surroundings and social interactions, it’s easier to convince them to adopt new practices and reconsider what’s important to them.

With polling data beginning to indicate that people don’t want to return to “normal”, could the happenstantial cult-like deprivations of social distancing measures open up opportunities for social progress?