My experience has been that when people are frightened and do not understand the historical changes taking place around them, they seek magic and power to solve their problems. They want shamans who can speak in tongues…. The blood of Christ and the waters of baptism and the hypnotic rant of a clairvoyant all become one entity, a religion that has no name and no walls, a faith you carry like a burning sword, one that will cause your enemies to cower.
Detective Dave Robicheaux in James Lee Burke’s Creole Belle
We are indeed suggestible in times of panic and stress: oxygenated blood streams away from decision-making centres in the pre-frontal cortex to nourish emergency backup systems at the brain’s reptilian core. This is precisely when the demagogues — they dress as priests and politicians and pundits but I guess we’re talking shamans at heart — pop up to fill a niche, peddling the rock-hard certainties we crave. And once you’ve cottoned on to how it works, you begin to recognize these types honing their craft on the margins of public life, ever ready to capitalize on the latest item of tragic news, on our fears for the future and our dissatisfaction with the present.
Well it is Christmas so I have to say it — Bah, humbug!