"How-to" books and articles are everywhere (how-to).
The focus of that aspect of the series was the history of civilizations.
While using the seminal work "A Study of History, by Arnold J. Toynbee" we reviewed the trail of history for clues, noticing that Toynbee gave us some uniquely useful clues (How To Identify The Despotic Minority).
We also looked at an interesting concept that "the father of psychoanalysis", otherwise known as Sigmund Freud, gave us.
During his time many became concerned about what they saw around them.
They wondered if there was some way to psychoanalyze groups so as to render useful therapy when such groups began to "loose it" so to speak:
"If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity
with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many
systems of civilization——or epochs of it——possibly even the whole of humanity——have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be normal. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In
spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized
communities. [p. 39]"
"Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature
to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man. They know this——hence arises a great part of their current unrest, their dejection, their mood of apprehension. [p. 40]"
(How To Identify The Despotic Minority - 14, quoting from Civilization and Its Discontents, 1929, by Sigmund Freud). Wow, what a challenge!
II. A Small Brains Considered Approach
In today's post the focus is also on microbial behaviors that are hypothesized to be a factor in human cognition and psychology.
That focus is on the scientific research in psychology mixed with microbiology.
Based upon a recent paper (Effects of Latent Toxoplasmosis on Political Beliefs and Values, 2022), it seems like that hypothesis "is getting around" (cf. Toxoplasmosis – A Global Threat, 2014: "Toxoplasmosis is becoming a global health hazard as it infects 30–50% of the world human population.").
Previous to those papers, over a decade ago in a post/series the "Dredd Blog System" jumped in with a series about a hypothesis that also concerned microbial impact on behavior.
Specifically, the post and series focused on animal/human behavior that is modified and/or induced by microbes (Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power, 2011).
III. It's In The News
The news media is all a-twitter about how a US political party is "batshit crazy" and "not itself" any longer (Republican Party Has Lost Its Way, John McCain's Widow Says).
A decade ago a Dredd Blog post considered how a minister, a democrat, whose church was once involved in helping the underprivileged, poor, needy, and hungry radically changed: "Jim Jones eventually lost touch with the earlier principles, and so, became responsible for the deaths of over 900 church people. That "Christian church" eventually committed "revolutionary suicide" and mass murder at their Jonestown compound in Guyana." (MOMCOM's Mass Suicide & Murder Pact - 3, 2012).
IV. Deep Down
In the Dredd Blog System series mentioned earlier, which began in 2011, it was pointed out that:
The parasite my lab is beginning to focus on is one in the world of mammals, where parasites are changing mammalian behavior... Toxo instead has developed this amazing capacity to alter innate behavior in rodents... If you take a lab rat who is 5,000 generations into being a lab rat, since the ancestor actually ran around in the real world, and you put some cat urine in one corner of their cage, they're going to move to the other side. Completely innate, hard-wired reaction to the smell of cats, the cat pheromones. But take a Toxo-
infected rodent, and they're no longer afraid of the smell of cats. In fact they become attracted to it. The most damn amazing thing you can ever see, Toxo knows how to make cat urine smell attractive to rats. And rats go and check it out and that rat is now much more likely to wind up in the cat's stomach. Toxo's circle of life completed.
"Complex" Is An Understatement
... part of my lab has been trying to figure out the neurobiological aspects. The first thing is that it's for real. The rodents, rats, mice, really do become attracted to cat urine when they've been infected with Toxo. And you might say, okay, well, this is a rodent doing just all sorts of screwy stuff because it's got this parasite turning its brain into Swiss cheese or something. It's just non-specific behavioral chaos. But no, these are incredibly normal animals. Their olfaction is normal, their social behavior is normal, their learning and memory is normal. All of that. It's not just a generically screwy animal.
You say, okay well, it's not that, but Toxo seems to know how to destroy fear and anxiety circuits. But it's not that, either. Because these are rats who are still innately afraid of bright lights. They're nocturnal animals. They're afraid of big, open spaces. You can condition them to be afraid of novel things. The system works perfectly well there. Somehow Toxo can laser out this one fear pathway, this aversion to predator odors... Toxo preferentially knows how to home in on the part of the brain that is all about fear and anxiety, a brain region called the amygdala... Toxo knows how to get in there.
Next, we then saw that Toxo would take the dendrites, the branch and cables that neurons have to connect to each other, and shriveled them up in the amygdala. It was disconnecting circuits. You wind up with fewer cells there. This is a parasite that is unwiring this stuff in the critical part of the brain for fear and anxiety... It knows how to find that particular circuitry... Meanwhile, there is a well-characterized circuit that has to do with sexual attraction. And as it happens, part of this circuit courses through the amygdala, which is pretty interesting in and of itself, and then goes to different areas of the brain than the fear pathways... Toxo knows how to hijack the sexual reward pathway. And you get males infected with Toxo and expose them to a lot of the cat pheromones, and their testes get bigger. Somehow, this damn parasite knows how to make cat urine smell sexually arousing to rodents, and they go and check it out. Totally amazing... So what about humans? A small literature is coming out now reporting neuropsychological testing on men who are Toxo-infected, showing that they get a little bit impulsive... And then the truly astonishing thing: two different groups independently have reported that people who are Toxo-infected have three to four times the likelihood of being killed in car accidents involving reckless speeding... Maybe you take a Toxo-infected human and they start having a proclivity towards doing dumb-ass things that we should be innately averse to, like having your body hurdle through space at high G-forces. Maybe this is the same neurobiology... On a certain level, this is a protozoan parasite that knows more about the neurobiology of anxiety and fear than 25,000 neuroscientists standing on each other's shoulders... But no doubt it's also a tip of the iceberg of God knows what other parasitic stuff is going on out there. Even in the larger sense, God knows what other unseen realms of biology make our behavior far less autonomous than lots of folks would like to think.
(Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power - 6, emphasis in original). The journals that cover this issue via its scientific research reporting are mainstream (Scientific American: Common Parasite Linked to Personality Changes).
V. Closing Comments
There are probably multiple ultimate sources that are instrumental in bringing down the sanity of individuals as well as civilizations.
Thus, it is probably a good idea to learn "HOW-TO" proceed on all of them at once, because as a United Nations official recently pointed out:
"U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the world is in “a life-or-death struggle” for survival as “ climate chaos gallops ahead” and accused the world’s 20 wealthiest countries of failing to do enough to stop the planet from overheating."
(UN chief: World is in `life-or-death struggle’ for survival). "Life or death" is a place to be taken seriously, because it is as "serious as a heart attack."