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Compendium of Propaganda

by Johannes Menath, W Meyer & A Behrend
Today, the media have arguably influenced our culture and behavior even more profoundly than nuclear power or weapons of mass destruction. An invisible cloud of artificial emotions, opinions and conclusions surrounds modern man. Propaganda can spread worldviews, generate obedience or revolutions, help wars break out and end, topple politicians - or make them heads of state.
Compendium of Propaganda
The zeitgeist publishing house published a compact reference book on the most important methods of directing public opinion. Exclusive reprint from "Modern Propaganda".
by Johannes Menath
[This article posted on 12/1/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Propaganda, i.e. the attempt to deliberately influence our thoughts, feelings and actions, is omnipresent today: overtly in advertising, but more sophisticated in politics and the media. The repertoire of methods is enormous, but it is difficult to expose many forms of manipulation of opinion. But only those who can see through propaganda can escape its power. Exclusive reprint from "Modern Propaganda - 80 Methods of Opinion Steering".

Every day we are surrounded by professionally designed messages - every day strangers speak to us, their voices penetrate millions of minds. What is too little considered in mass communication, however, are the enormous possibilities of influence.

In 1948, sociologist Paul Felix Lazarsfeld remarked that the power of radio was comparable only to the power of the atomic bomb. Today, we must conclude that the media have arguably influenced our culture and behavior even more profoundly than nuclear power or weapons of mass destruction. An invisible cloud of artificial emotions, opinions and conclusions surrounds modern man. Propaganda can spread worldviews, generate obedience or revolutions, help wars break out and end, topple politicians - or make them heads of state.


If a certain fact is always shown from one perspective only, so that people think there is only this one, it is easy to control the opinion of the population. People begin to believe that it must be true if it is portrayed everywhere in a similar way (phenomenon of self-affirmation). The view of things then seems to have no alternative. In their actual mission, the media are required to present a balanced, pluralistic picture of opinion. For only through different points of view on a matter can the citizen come to a neutral attitude, which in turn would be a prerequisite for prudent and far-sighted decisions. However, if a topic is always presented in one and the same way, this leads to the conclusion that it is the sole truth, and it suggests that the person who holds a different view must be crazy after all. As a result, critically thinking people are labeled outsiders as soon as they express their point of view. Consequently, many hold back and thus set the so-called "spiral of silence" in motion.

A vicious circle of one-sided reporting and ever-increasing fear of expressing dissent from the monopoly of opinion then prevents any discourse. The media have become the only organ that determines public opinion.

Even one's own experiences, verifiable facts and logical chains of reasoning can then no longer counteract the prevailing propaganda, because they are ignored, reinterpreted or classified as coincidences that do not challenge the illusory reality created by the media. Such monopolization can only be overcome by first-hand information. The obligation to bring becomes an obligation to fetch, which makes one's own source research unavoidable. In addition, it is important to exchange information with people from one's own immediate environment in order to avoid communicative one-way streets, as in the case of mass media consumption. However, direct exchange can be hampered by discourse regulation and taboo.

Exploiting the primacy effect

The early bird catches the worm; propaganda also takes advantage of this principle. The primacy effect states that people usually believe the first narrative presented to them on a given topic. The person who can quickly provide the population with his interpretation of what is happening has an advantage over slower actors who must first refute the previous version in order to make their own account credible. The primacy effect is used in defamation, for example: If you can plant a negative image of the political opponent in the audience's mind before they have even had a chance to get to know him, this represents a major advantage. Many people are so put off by the image painted by the media that they don't even want to watch the original.

If the image then burns itself into people's heads by means of repetition and authority, the primacy effect proves to be a major hurdle in spreading views that deviate from the monopoly, since the audience takes the impression first conveyed for its own opinion. The contrary presentation can also create cognitive dissonance, whereupon the audience reacts accordingly with rejection. The primacy effect also explains why the indoctrination of young children is highly valued by propaganda-dominated states.

Dismantling Using the Mohawk Valley Formula

There are propaganda techniques that allow targeted silencing of unwanted protests. One works with the help of the so-called "Mohawk-Valley formula". The method was first used in 1937 to break the will of striking workers, but it can be used against political protesters as well. First, propaganda must be disseminated that brands the protesting group as an enemy of law and order and declares them an outsider. Then, a circle of influential and prominent people must be formed to oppose the protesters while intimidating them with a massive police presence. The next step is to form a counter-movement, which, for example, advocates the resumption of work in the event of a strike. The artificial installation of grassroots movements is also called "astroturfing." In the final step, it is important to strongly demoralize the opposition group and return to normalcy as quickly as possible when they give in and give in.

The wolf pack tactic

The wolf pack tactic can be used to disable an opponent turn by turn. A wolf pack selects the weakest animal in a flock of sheep, encircles it, isolates it, and finally kills it. A similar approach can be taken with political organizations:

One selects the most vulnerable part, draws attention to it, isolates it with fighting words, labeling and guilt of contact, and finally destroys it through political, media and, if necessary, physical attacks. Then one turns to the next.

The tactic works when the attacked is abandoned, it fails when the group rushes to his aid, does not distance itself and defends him. The more influential people form a community that cannot be divided, the more resistant it is to the wolf pack tactic.

A modified form is used in political talk shows when an opposition figure meets a superior number of actors loyal to the government. This makes it possible to drown him out by outnumbering him and declare him an outsider.


Gaslighting is a method of disrupting the perception of reality. The term comes from the 1938 play "Gas Light" by Patrick Hamilton, in which a husband drives his wife mad by convincing her that she is imagining real things, such as the flickering of gas lights. Gaslighting aims to undermine the distinction between illusion and reality in the victim's mind by a strong authority asserting that things that can be seen clearly are nonexistent, or things that do not exist are real. A dissonance is created in the victim between his or her own perception and the illusory reality provided by the authority. The Ministry of State Security used the method in the context of decomposition to make political opponents doubt themselves. And in "1984," paradoxical statements such as "war is peace," "freedom is slavery," "ignorance is strength," and "2 + 2 = 5" are presented to the population as unassailable truth. Anyone who accepts these contradictions submits completely to the reality version of the ruling class. Such an interchanging of good and bad things is also called inversion. A population affected by this considers the things that are harmful to them to be good and the useful things to be bad. Because of this, it actively pushes its own enslavement, because it considers it good.

Sources and Notes:

This text is an excerpt from the book "Moderne Propaganda - 80 Methoden der Meinungslenkung" by Johannes Menath.

75 more propaganda methods as well as basics and background for understanding the mechanisms of manipulation are available in the handbook "Modern Propaganda" by Johannes Menath from November 30, 2022. More information about the book can be found here.
Johannes Menath, born in 1993, studied chemical engineering in Erlangen and Nuremberg. To draw attention to a major problem of democracy, psychological influence, he wrote the book "Moderne Propaganda - Die 80 Methoden der Meinungslenkung", which will be published by zeitgeist-Verlag in spring 2022.


Amnesty, Amnesia, Apathy.
Time does not heal the wounds of the experienced Corona injustice, but its consistent reappraisal.
by Willy Meyer
[This article posted on 12/1/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

All bad things come in threes. We are now experiencing the third fall since the beginning of that transformative disruption, triggered by a rigid policy of measures. This was motivated by the ostensible goal of controlling a global pandemic caused by a coronavirus. But now these very measures are crumbling, and some believe it is time to return to normalcy. However, it would be fatal to move immediately from the phase of acute injustice to forgetting and suppression. Instead, an important intermediate step is necessary: a thorough reappraisal of what happened. It is not only the victims who are offended if what they have gone through is not seen; the perpetrators are also deprived of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes by returning to normality too quickly, which makes a repetition of such events likely. Both groups need to go through a process of retrospection and honest confrontation so that society can find its way back to each other.

So do we draw a line in the sand and all is well again?

On October 28, 2022, Thomas Mertens, head of the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO), declared the pandemic over in his view (1). Four German states - Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein, lifted the isolation requirement after a positive coronal test (2). Daniel Günther, Prime Minister of Schlewig-Holstein, and Markus Söder, Prime Minister of Bavaria, are loudly considering lifting the mask requirement in local public transport by the new year at the latest (3). Even the Infection Protection Act, which in the summer still called for regular "booster vaccinations" every three months, has now been amended to the effect that vaccination three times is sufficient (4). It seems that the German public is tired of vaccinations and has had enough of the carousel of measures.

Since the summer of 2022, it has been clear that the vast majority of the population would like nothing more than a return to normality, which is generally understood to mean the state of society before March 2020. The chairs of the street cafés and restaurants are full, cinemas, theaters and other cultural events are once again in great demand, people are traveling again and bringing their money to the people in the shopping streets of the cities. Schools and universities opened without measures, only the visit to a doctor's office or the use of public transport remind people that they are still ostensibly in the worst pandemic of modern times.

"We will have to forgive each other much." Titled after his widely known quote from April 2020, then-Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has now published a book in September in which he asks children and families for forgiveness for impositions inflicted on them and, incidentally, recommends a three-stage code of conduct for times of crisis to the political caste (5). He is not particularly self-critical in his approach; he does not seem in the least interested in insight or even in coming to terms with the past. Nevertheless, his work represents an astonishing anomaly in that - at least in the Federal Republic - no other former or current holder of responsibility looks back critically or even self-critically on the political measures of the recent past.

In search of a positive counter-model, one unfortunately only finds one in the distant Canadian province of Alberta, where the newly elected Premier Danielle Smith formally apologized to the population for the injustice instigated by her predecessor government (6).

On the contrary, the Berlin traffic light coalition seems to be determined to hold on to the narrative of the lack of alternatives to the Corona measures, as the latest vaccination advertising campaign of the incumbent Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, emphatically underlines. For this 84 allegedly indiscriminately from the "center of the society" here-hurried citizens and citizens under the Slogan "I protect me" present themselves. Stupid only that contrary to the full-bodied announcements of the minister in the meantime so some from this social center turned out as professionally cast actors (7). Which, by the way, does not seem to put either the caught minister or the governing coalition to which he belongs in any way in a predicament or even in trouble of conscience.

In fact, the German majority society takes note of such impudent lies with a shrug of the shoulders at the most, since so many governmental announcements, whether of a flowery or apocalyptic nature, have turned out to be half-truths, untruths or otherwise sham truths. Just think of the experimental gene therapy called "vaccination", which the entire nation should have undergone. If this initially protected against everything and from everything possible, it promised a little later at least a protection against "severe courses", until also this fairy tale freed from any solid evidence could not be brought to the citizen any more. Similar things can be reported about all other "protective measures," 3G, 2G, even 1G, curfews, school closures, the eternal masquerade. All of this has demonstrably achieved nothing at all (8).

Obedience as normality

This makes the endemic social calm and indifference to these startling findings all the more disconcerting. Certainly, brave Monday walkers and indefatigable demonstrators continue to show their displeasure, castigate continuing measures such as the "facility-based vaccination requirement" and the compulsory wearing of masks on public transportation, and demand, among other things, the complete restoration of the rule of law.

But the vast majority of Germans do not contest this at all, as if they were immune to the scandalous lies and impositions. Apathetic to amnesic, they go through everyday life, obediently putting on masks wherever they are asked to do so and showing their "vaccination status" whenever participation in social life requires it.

In all likelihood, this state of affairs, which is as crazy as it is dismaying, will not change, because it is deliberate and has been deliberately brought about by the fears and absurd behavioral rules fomented by the media. Thus there is no return to the transfigured normality "before Corona". Corona has established a New Normal in which what some still recognize as cognitive dissonance or brazen tall tales are, for the vast majority, unquestionable facts that are simply part of everyday life. You just do it that way now, then you have your peace and can go on living "normally". From this point of view, everything is over now, everything is good again, just normal.

With a little distance, however, an unbiased observer understands that society has just passed a milestone, a central milestone on the march toward a totalitarian, technocratic society in which the state dictates what health should mean and how the subjects themselves should behave within their own four walls.

Of course, co-determination and individual responsibility only interfere with this and must give way to expert committees and chancellor-president rounds or the behest of "undemocratically legitimized" supranational bodies such as the European Commission. Anyone who does not want to take part in this is positioning himself outside the norm and is simply not normal. A deviant (9) and otherwise maladjusted person, for whom a plethora of defamatory names have been found in the past two and a half years.

As such, he is undoubtedly surprised that just this November, 86 percent of Germans still want to retain the mask requirement and four-fifths still want to adhere to the distance requirement (10). However, these people live in a different, new reality into which they have integrated all the grotesque unreasonableness of the waning "pandemic" and simply no longer perceive it as such.

They have, as it were, moved forward in a straight line where a dumbfounded, frightened minority stopped and gradually turned off in a different direction. The result is a deeply divided society that actually lives in different realities, i.e., past each other.

Guardians of the new reality

If someone from the minority dares to question the supposed reality of the vast majority on the basis of evidence, proof, facts, the guards of the New Reality disguised as fact-checkers immediately fall upon him and brand him as an incorrigible deviant or worse, for whom there is unfortunately no place in the brave new world. The rule-abiding majority nods silently to this or shouts out its approval. After all, there are more important things to do, such as watching the World Cup, going to the Christmas market with no access whatsoever, getting vaccinated against the flu, to be sure.

If someone from their midst then comes up with an offer of amnesty for all those who were guilty of misconduct during the past "pandemic" - after all, they were forced to make important decisions under conditions of tremendous uncertainty - "(...) important choices we had to make under conditions of tremendous uncertainty", at least that is how Emily Oster argues in The Atlantic (11) - then they can be sure of applause from the many. Forgive and forget is the motto of the dawning post-Corona era, an amnesty for the innocent guilty who unfortunately could not have known any better. Now move on quickly, look ahead, the next crisis is already firmly in our grasp, Ukraine, climate, inflation.

Reappraisal instead of amnesty

But stop! Even if the caravan moves on, even if one is labeled as a deviant, even if the media and politics shout "marching march" and "dilly dally", we urgently need to pause, not be fobbed off with talk of amnesty or be rejected by majorities oblivious to reality, Not amnesty, amnesia, apathy, but another A, an A for "coming to terms with the past" is the only true way if we do not want to abandon all hope of overcoming the social divide.

A loss of memory and a deep indifference testify to severe traumatization of the population, which will not disappear by itself and for which there can be a prospect of healing only with thorough reappraisal and confrontation with the traumatic experiences.

This is, as Doctor Naomi Klein's insightful essay A Lost Small Town. Running Errands in the Wake of Emotional Violence, USA unequivocally points out (12), it is just as important for the stunned minority labeled as deviants as it is for the unmoved majority. Should it really become necessary once again for Germany, our country, to find its way out of the concrete bunker it has built for itself only through rescue impulses and guidelines from across the Atlantic? Our country, which has completely lost its way in the Corona mania and whose institutions have become corrupted, compliant fellow travelers, Anyone who still has doubts about this should look at the arbitrary arrests of Michael Ballweg or Oliver Janich, for example, and the blatant miscarriage of justice by the Ellwangen Regional Court in the case of "Lauterbach's lies are merely expressions of opinion" (13).

Handlers and those responsible must be clearly named and held accountable. Marcus Klöckner and Jens Wernicke provide hope for a socially responsible, independent German reappraisal with their Spiegel bestseller "May the entire republic point its finger at them" (14). Nevertheless, bestsellers or not, all social forces and groups must participate in this reappraisal, not just the critical citizens who think independently anyway.

Everyone must become aware of the outrageous usurpation of power that the government and the state apparatus have been guilty of, how they have actively and knowingly turned the foundation of our free and self-determined country into a cheese with holes in it. Everyone must also understand that he himself, by personal responsibility and self-determination, must have his own share in coming to terms with and overcoming this shattering crisis. Consciously look and empathize, look at one's own actions without bias, name and admit the pain, the shame, one's own transgressions. On a small scale as well as on a large scale.

Only then, when nothing remains hidden, when everyone is alert and willing to work on a new social start with sincerity and humility, can we together tame the spirit of the totalitarian transformation of our society and force it back into its bottle.

Sources and Notes:

(4) For more details, see:
(9) I follow here the clear-sighted distinction made by C.J. Hopkins in the linked essay:
(14) Klöckner, Marcus, Wernicke, Jens: Möge die gesamte Republik mit dem Finger auf sie Zeigen. Rubicon 2022.

Willy Meyer, born in 1963, is a single father of two children and a teacher. He lives in Hamburg and has been involved locally in education and social change for two years.

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All sick!
Pathologizing dissenters destroys any factual dialogue and blocks the view of the real causes of violence and conflicts.
by Anke Behrend
[This article posted on 12/1/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

How can a reasonable person arrive at views that differ so drastically from mine? That's a question many have had to grapple with, especially during the Corona era, when society drifted further apart ideologically than ever before. Normopathic virus-phobes on the one hand were confronted with irresponsible, half-witted swindlers on the other. The experience of familiar people suddenly revealing themselves as radically alien and different leaves one perplexed and disturbs one's inner peace. One possible strategy for dealing with this deep irritation is to say: "These are not reasonable people at all. Rather, they are sick people who, at best, deserve our pity." This assumption immediately relieves the soul. One feels confirmed to be on the right side and no longer has to seriously deal with the arguments of others. But the author goes one step further with her reflections: she asks why every fluctuation in human sensitivities is so quickly interpreted as an "illness" today. Behind much of what irritates or shocks us is perhaps more an evolutionary program, a survival strategy learned over generations.

Dialogue in the compartment next door:

"I haven't been able to talk to these two for two years. There is simply no approach. Not with facts, studies, but also not with emotions. They've shut down."

"It's the same for me. These people have entrenched themselves in their world. They don't want to hear the truth, as if it would cause them pain."

"A closed world view, like paranoia. Completely insane."

"You just don't understand them."

"Nobody understands them."

We've all had these conversations countless times since 2020. One came to no explanation for the behavior of the others, and so one finally agreed to attest to them a wide variety of disorders. From "gone crazy" or "too stupid," "it's a cult," to all sorts of disparaging diagnoses from appointed mouths that could be quoted as we went along. Many a psychiatrist or psychologist, gladly with academic title and teaching assignment, certified the others sweepingly various mental deficiency conditions, gladly in explicit language, and alone this multicolored bouquet of damages, scattered sweepingly over large groups of the population, should make skeptical.

From a therapeutic point of view, it is per se unethical to pronounce diagnoses without having seen the patient at all (1).

To declare dissenters as sick, disturbed and deficient in groups establishes enemy images, stigmatizes, prevents fair, objective discourse and gives the members of the in-group formed in this way supposedly legitimate arguments to defame the out-group and to elevate themselves. For the members of the respective own side, the approval cartel, are at the same time certified as being psychologically, mentally and spiritually healthy, resilient, ascribed consistently positive qualities, naturalness, empathy, reasonableness, critical faculties and correctness. These are - and psychologists and psychiatrists should of course know and reflect this - narcissistic and self-assuring behavior patterns. They feel good and true without necessarily being so (2, 3).

All of society-an open psychiatry? Cultural pessimism and postmodern narratives of fragility.

Depending on the expert's thematic focus, negative attributions range from narcissistic or psychosocial personality disorders, alienation, borderline disorder, inferiority complexes, lack of meaning in life and spirituality, consumerism, normopathy, mass psychosis, loneliness, emotional congestion, "false" life, to mother-child relationship disorders or traumatization, especially "early childhood" traumatization.

The definition of trauma blurs into arbitrariness. Departing from the common reading that trauma has at least some sustained severity, here any ill-feeling is said to put the infant in existential fear.

Accordingly, almost every person in later life could be considered a patient, every difficulty could be interpreted as a consequence of a diffuse trauma. For there is no such thing as growing up without any negative experience. On the contrary, frustration tolerance must be learned in childhood. The child's psyche is equipped for this.

Especially questionable is the thesis that "prenatal" psychological traumatization, taking place at a time when the existence of a psyche is at least questionable, should still have a life-deciding effect decades later. Undeniably, there is prenatal trauma, for example, from accidents, drugs, illness, stress, and the like. Likewise, there are psychological traumas that are perpetuated over generations. However, the notion that the mother's thoughts alone at the beginning of pregnancy could direct all of later life ascribes a magical sensitivity to the few-week-old embryo and an equally magical power of thought to the mother. Both assumptions are relatively difficult to reconcile with the successful evolution of humans.

As catchy, handy and above all relieving as such narratives may be - possibly they are helpful in therapeutic work - they nevertheless belong to the realm of esotericism and elude any scientific verifiability. Particular skepticism is called for when criticism of these theses is taken as their confirmation: those who raise doubts and demand studies simply do not want to face their trauma. These immunization strategies serve to ward off and devalue critics (4).

A similar pattern of explanation blames the early external care of children for the "sick society". Failure to recognize that the largely early cared-for population in eastern Germany differs little from the more non-early cared-for cohorts in the west in their anti-lockdown protests, and is even perceived as less compliant (5).

"But why do you see the mote in your brother's eye and not perceive the beam in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).

According to the relevant conformity experiments - the Asch experiment (6), the Milgram experiment (7) - about two thirds of the subjects follow the instructions of the experimenter or conform to the group, while one third resist. Does it follow from this that the majority of the approximately 66 percent conformists are psychologically conspicuous to severely disturbed? And the remaining 33 percent are awake, critical, questioning, empathetic and had a wonderful childhood in an intact family? It would never occur to them to defame the other side?

This is disproved by reality. Often the rifts run right through families. Siblings with similar circumstances face each other irreconcilably. Representatives of both sides defame, insult and accuse each other in equal measure, citing their respective experts.

"When people feel they have no control and feel powerless due to private problem situations or social crises, they try to find strategies to deal with it (...)" (8).

Terms such as:

Meaning-making, striving for positive self-perception, insecurity, fear and powerlessness, low self-esteem, frustration, clear enemy image and corresponding sense of community, experiences of alienation and disappointment, inferiority complexes (9, 10, 11).

"Many people associate this with psychosis, but this is usually not true. Often (those concerned) are actually completely 'normal' people in other life" (11).

These statements come from experts on the opposite side and describe so-called "conspiracy believers." The parallels are unmistakable. From both groups the opposite side is defamed with simultaneous self-appreciation. The dividing line on both sides is not negotiated on the factual level, but between "us", the legitimate, good people, and "them", the bad, stupid, sick people. This automatism explains why each side can detect double standards in the other, but not in itself.

"(...) however, man is good by nature, I believe I have proved it" (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1755) (12).

Group dynamic behavior, which can lead to exclusion, systematic violence, cruelty and annihilation, is a constant in human history, to which the Bible already bears witness.

Religious wars, the Inquisition, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, whose casualty figures are given as several hundred thousand up to 20 million (13), the Khmer Rouge with 1.7 to 2.2 million victims (14), the genocide of the Armenian population with, depending on the estimate, 300,000 to more than 1.5 million deaths (15), the slave trade, the medical experiments on humans at the end of the 19th century, to name but a few.

The circumstances of the perpetrators and accomplices were varied according to the times. Most probably lived in traditional families and by no means as alienated, lonely consumer zombies in a false life.

If one wanted to make circumstances of life or childhood responsible for all these crimes against humanity, there would be no epoch in which circumstances had been prosperous and mothers had been "motherly" enough to prevent misanthropy and violence.

Winnetou must die

Who does not know the stereotype of the "noble savage" (16)? Inseparably connected with the topos of the "natural order" (17) and the various ideas of paradise, the "noble savage" still populates untouched primeval forests, roams the savannah as Winnetou, and spent his childhood unbowed in the Villa Kunterbunt. The "noble savage" and the "natural order" are so traditional that they have congealed into unshakable beliefs.

No wonder that they also seem to be a constant among ethnologists. In his 1978 article "Peaceful Societies: An Introduction" (18), David Fabbro draws the picture of a supposedly peaceful, egalitarian community of hunter-gatherers as a modern standard work. However, the image of the nonviolent primitive people is a benevolent, flattering story about ourselves, but only half the truth, as we now know and can prove.

Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, in his book Violence: A New History of Humanity (2013), argues that violence was ubiquitous in non-state organized societies. Only the development of statehood has curbed violence, he argues (19, 20). This assertion can be supported by recent ethnological data from isolated communities. For example, criminologist Amy Nivette confirmed the relatively high rate of violence in non-state, indigenous societies (21).

Ethnologist Jürg Helbig writes in his book "Tribal Wars. Conflicts in Societies without Central Power" (2006) that in non-state societies a quarter of people die through violence, and for men even a third. In some societies, death rates from violence are much higher still. The Waorani people in the east of the Ecuadorian rainforests had a downright slaughter with other tribes from 1860 to 1960 (19).

So we have to leave paradise to the religions. There is no beatific, peaceable "natural order" from the early days of human societies.

Even if individual observations of indigenous ways of life may suggest this, they always illuminate only the small section of reality that an outsider with all his romantic and stereotypical presuppositions can selectively take note of and interpret.

Thus, the fundamental question arises whether the causes of conformity, group dynamic behavior and the resulting cruelty can be attributed to the circumstances of life at all, if this behavior occurs in practically all forms of society that we are sufficiently familiar with and has so far been able to be contained by morals or laws, but has not been sustainably overwritten.

It would be quite plausible that tribalistic, Manichaean, i.e. dividing behavior into good and evil (22), group pressure, aggression and violence represent a much older, basic program in the struggle for survival against the adversities of existence, to which we owed our successful survival in prehistoric times - a human condition that is still effective in its latency, a conditio humana which, in its latency effective and yet hardly accessible to consciousness, can by no means have developed only after the "expulsion" from the supposed Garden of Eden, through wrong lifestyle or wealth neglect, child care or school systems, but long before that, quasi directly in the bosom of the traditional family - as it can hardly be more traditional.

Consequently, neither conformism nor violence would be a mental illness. Presumably, they are our evolutionary inheritance. Over time, we have formulated values, rules, and human rights as firewalls against this inheritance because we have realized that it can be triggered at any time.

Then we may be thrown back to archaic survival instincts, tribalism, "us versus them." We slip into black and white thinking, run after authority, seek our salvation in strict rules and simple explanations. We fall back on law and order, command, control and morality, good and evil, perform rituals without meaning. Our emotions take over the reigns of reason and understanding. But ...

"Freedom is not in the belly" (Raphael Bonelli, 2022) (23).

Findings about prehistoric living conditions, which were characterized by insecurity, fear, and danger, suggest that we should advance the progress of civilization, continue the modern values of the Enlightenment, and become aware that the relapse into tribalistic instincts, group formation, hostility, and violence can be triggered by the simplest means of propaganda. By no means every social advancement in this sense means a positive progress towards higher things. The tribalistic and Manichean aspects of current identity politics (24) provide impressive proof of this. An irreconcilable culture war is simmering, in which there are only two sides and each side claims the truth for itself. In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats symbolize this situation.

But let's not be fobbed off with good-sounding, simple explanations, because they serve our narrative, fit into our worldview, flatter us and satisfy our need for demarcation, because we don't have to think, don't have to ask questions, but can believe an authority.

Criticism of "the others" is the comfort zone. Criticism of ourselves is the growth fugue.

Dialogue in the next compartment:

"No one understands."

"Good thing at least we're on the right side!"


"Speaking of right. Your mask doesn't fit right."

"Oh, thanks. We all need to take care of ourselves."

Anke Behrend was born in Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall, has now been living in southern Germany for over 10 years and works in the media industry. She writes and contributed to "Eulenspiegel", "Demokratischer Widerstand" and online portals. In 2007 she published a novel.

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