I have a friend who was embroiled in a cult in the early 1990s.
I call them the wilderness years of our friendship because she was unreachable during those cultish five years and then untraceable thereafter. I have only recently reconnected with her through a chance encounter, and it is wonderful to be fully reunited with this precious friend. She was too important to lose, but letting her go was the only way to keep her, since telling her she was in a cult would have divided us further and broken our friendship forever. She couldn’t see or hear me. I just had to wait.
Talking to her about it now from this distance of time and perspective, she can’t really explain how it happened, it just did. She got sucked into a spiritual cult by someone she trusted. Slowly, slowly she was asked to break ties with her family and friends. If they were not of the same thinking and devotion to the ways of the cult, connections with them had to be severed. She trusted this was the only way to be truly devotional, and to show her commitment to her newfound beliefs.
I am losing some friends again now to what I can only describe as the cult of covid. I don’t believe in the doctrine or in the covid ways. I don’t wear a face mask or clap for the NHS. The NHS is not my religion. I don’t trust the government or its influential scientific advisors. I am questioning of both it and of covid.
I am hearing the alarm bells again; and ringing in my head are the words I want to say to my friends but can’t for fear of losing them: if someone tells you to sacrifice so much for the greater good, they’re most likely exploiting you for their own.
What we’ve allowed, in the name of covid, to be done to this country, its people, our civil liberties, and our mental health is heartbreaking. One year on, this is not the comfortable virus-free utopia we were promised, we have slept-walked into a dystopian nightmare. We have been sucked into a cult. We have been separated from each other into believers and non-believers. Us and them. Our leaders, rather than providing hope and inspiration have sought to control us; removed our contact with family and friends, shut down our businesses and ruined our hospitality industry, and prevented travel beyond the cult’s boundaries. Why? Perhaps if we escape, we might discover another perspective and leave for good.
Cults are attractive because they promote an illusion of comfort and safety and last year, Covid-19 heralded in the need to be comforted on a grand scale. And perhaps therein lies the ‘how’, that’s how easy it is to become engulfed by a cult when you entrust your safety to others. It happens insidiously as you place your trust outside of yourself into the hands of another.
Our human desire for reassurance in a fearful and uncertain world might explain why millions of people have been sucked in by the covid groupthink narrative. They are looking for comfort. Psychologist, Jon-Patrik Pedersen, points out that cult leaders often make promises that are totally unattainable. Promises that might include financial security, better health, peace of mind, and eternal life, the things humans desire at the deepest level. Think furlough, the NHS, lockdowns, and vaccines, all keeping us safe and looked after.
This past year has smacked of being embroiled in a cult on a scale that makes Jonestown look like child’s play. Over the past twelve months we have given up our freedoms, given up everything that has been demanded of us; persuaded and coerced by a relentless media propaganda machine directed by authoritarian and narcissistic leaders. If this isn’t cult behaviour, I don’t know what is.
Standing on the outside, it feels like I’m looking at those caught in the covid cult through soundproof glass. They wouldn’t hear me even if I could voice the words I want to say. I feel like I am on a different planet. Mine doesn’t include fear of a virus. It still contains hugs and smiles and social contact. I can understand how easy it is to have been indoctrinated over the past year by the prevailing narrative of fear and coerced into giving away our individual sovereignty on a promise that vaccines will return our freedoms. We have been inundated with cult-think messages throughout by the mainstream media, broadcasting wall-to-wall covid fear, death counts, scary peaks, spikes, and waves with no let-up. It all deliberately plays on our natural desire to fit in, to mimic social behaviours, and follow orders. No one wants to be set apart from the herd.
We have been subjected to skilful coercive persuasion using guilt, shame, and fear backed up by snappy slogans: Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. In many cases, people have only submitted to the coercion because they saw freedom at the end of it and they desperately want that promised reward. The catchy phrase jab and go sounded like a definite summer holiday promise, but it hasn’t worked out all that well has it, since no one is now allowed out of the UK, jabbed or not. Our summer holiday reward brutally snatched away. Those not caught up in the covid cult will be asking: How did anyone fall for that stunt?
But like all cults, this one won’t be sustainable either because they don’t ultimately bring comfort or safety. More people are starting to question the covid narrative now. They are wondering if their loved ones really did die of covid. They are questioning why, after the success of the vaccine roll out, have we have still not regained our liberties. They are wondering if little ones really need to be masked. They are asking why are we still in lockdown when the virus has all but subsided? This is not what they signed up for when they became members of the three weeks to flatten the curve cult.
Cults eventually implode and the tragedies of Wako and Jonestown show us that. Believing in something should not come at the cost of your family and friends, your business, your health, or your life. If someone asks you to sacrifice these precious things for the greater good, they’re most likely exploiting you for their own.
When I look at our country, I see many parallels with the past and my friend and feel the same warning signs. Covid has become a cult. The absolute belief in it, the authoritarian control without accountability, the intolerance of critical inquiry, the lack of financial disclosure. I see a nation holding an unreasonable fear of the outside world. I see how difficult it is to exit the covid cult.
Some of my friends have been under this cultish spell for over a year and I can only hope and wait for them to come out of it, before it does more damage. Coming out of a cult can be scary and leave people feeling traumatised, vulnerable, and ashamed. Some people never escape in this life, only through death, but one thing is certain, cults sow the seeds of their own demise, purely because they are too dark a place to live, either comfortably or safely.