Anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, piss-drinkers, frog-lickers, paleo-eaters, sun-gazers, chakra-aligners, scoby-growers, tin foil hat- carriers, breatharians and dettoxers. They are all around us and they all make part of the latest trend which consists of thinking and acting like our grandparents. Or more precisely, like the uneducated, provincial, and narrow-minded grandparents that some of us had.
In the 21st century, the neo-obscurantist package, inspired by the old “New Age,” includes trends that were fashionable centuries ago. I call it a package because their followers do not simply adopt one of the beliefs in that package but rather, the whole bunch. I call it “neo” because the old obscurantism has undergone an apparent facelift that allows the use of anglicisms and new technologies. Its foundations are based on blog literature, random Youtube videos and ancestral precepts, and its credibility is measured by the number of people who repeat the same fallacies which are granted eternal life by the internet, regardless of how misleading, illogical, outdated, devious or demeaning they may be. The older the tales that inspire these followers, the more legitimate they consider those beliefs. Thus, the general inclination of this neo-obscurantism is an anti-scientific attitude based on the harmony between the gospels of hipster gurus, their mercantilistic purposes and the wish to be special and enlightened on the side of the devotees.
In this fraudulent dimension, the idolatry of all that is considered “natural” – its proponents forget that nothing in human culture is natural– plays a central role and, therefore, ignorant opinions are placed on the same level of evidence-based theoretical bodies scientifically sustained. Consequently, in 2019, someone can have an anti-vaccination stance, follow a diet inspired by myths, be an apostle of some religious syncretism, preach ill-conceived conspiracy theories, and consider oneself as being a “critical-thinker”, a member of the elite of the “wokes”. All this with a straight face, obviously.
Gilles Lipovetsky called this wish of going back into the past and glorifying it – by transforming beliefs and traditions into axioms that oppose the most basic progress- “hypermodern”. However, there lies a fundamental paradox: traditions and customs are anchored in the past and refer to old ways of doing things, to visions of the world that no longer make sense in a planet with non-renewable resources on the verge of the sixth extinction.
There’s no longer place nor time to mechanically perpetuate irrational and suicidal habits and beliefs.
Authenticity is not a synonym of crystallization in the past.
Old wives’ tales cannot teach us to manage entire ecosystems seriously threatened nor to share, respectfully, our space with others., human or non-human.
The mythification of the days long foregone may provide a cosy resting place for personal and collective identities in times of shifting social roles and existential void but it does not provides us with the solutions for our environmental, cultural, and political problems. Quite the opposite. Instead, it may lead it to the same mistakes so often repeated throughout History and jeopardize all our possibilities to change for the better.