Theres a lot of talk lately about the Cult of Qanon. Whatever else it is-and theres a few overlapping as well as solo scams going on at once there- it sure has a lot of aspects of a Cargo Cult.
“Cargo Cult” a sociological term about an obscure phenomenon, but it’s also an interesting and enlightening filter on the MAGA Madness and Q insanity that seems to has a good enough chunk of this country talking and acting crazy.
So what exactly is a Cargo Cult? Ive read as much as I can find on them. Its a bit of an obsession of mine since I first heard the term in reference to an episode of Star Trek (more on that later).
The classic historical Cargo Cult refers to a religious phenomenon that arose on the isolated pacific islands used as bases by various militaries during the Second World War. The truth is the British Empire had spawned a few in the days of wooden ships already though.
The native islanders in places like Papua, New Guinea had not had much contact with the outside world. Their ways of viewing the day to day world included a good dose of the paranormal.
If someone got sick, perhaps a curse had been put upon them. Flood? Famine? Perhaps the villagers aren’t living up to the standards of their pantheon of deities. A thumbnail description would be that they fed the Volcano to pacify the gods.
After the Second World War began in the Pacific the lives of the native islanders were subject to massive culture shock. Literally overnight and literally out of the sky in the form of shiny silver airplanes as well every kind of ship from the sea and beaches came the mid-20th century. They islanders had no context for this. None of the previous limited contacts with outsiders provided a frame of reference for what transpired on their islands, their very world, as emerged over the weeks following arrival of troops from both sides of the conflict.
To these isolated natives the idea that an internal combustion engine operate pistons to spin gears and rotate a propeller to power a vehicle capable of carrying goods or people was inconceivable. Imagine bringing a flashlight, cigarette lighter and .9mm pistol via time traveling helicopter to Dark Ages Europe to get any sort of grip on this.
To the natives of islands such as those of New Guinea the planes were not
machines but great beasts akin to hollow metal dragons. They were summoned from the sky by rituals at a holy temple, or as we would call it, a Military Airfield. The “rituals” were the day to day operations of the base. Waving in incoming planes with flags and lighting runways. Groups of identically clad men marching in formation, chanting magic word (military cadences) and sometimes even firing their bang sticks!!
Then things changed radically again when the war ends.
In the wake of the War these isolated bases were mostly abandoned and life, for the natives, returned to ‘normal’. But it was a ‘New Normal’. They had become accustomed to the gleaming aluminum dragons regularly summoned by the clergy ( US Navy Sea Bees) with the sacred relics ( radios, landing lights and parades). No longer were the great beasts from the air and sea disgorging the material goods they now so desired. Gone was the supply of
the coveted “cargo”.
In a turn of events still being studied by sociologists and historians, the Cargo Cults emerged. The natives formed into cults of sorts and imitated in ritualistic fashion the actions of the men who had summoned the great beats and cargo from the sky. Coconuts were fashioned into radio headsets, bamboo control towers were created. Uniformly dressed men marched in ritual manners similar to the military drills they had seen under the mistaken belief that by simply doing so they themselves would please the gods of the sky and bring down the shiny metal beasts filled with goodies. These beliefs were personified in the form of an image of an American World War 2 Sailor, frequently portrayed as African American, known as “John Frum”. Think of him as a sort of Santa-Jesus type. British occupied areas developed similar cults based on an idealized perception of Prince Phillip.
The John Frum Movement and Prince Philip Societies- who I gotta imagine are in for a real challenge now– still exist today in New Guinea. Despite the fact that these places slowly became less isolated and were slowly but steadily overtaken by rational explanations of the outside world some still cling to the Cargo Cult beliefs. In the case of the Prince Phillip society egotistical detachment from reality is shared by the object of their affection. Prince Phillip perhaps unwittingly, endorses the cult’s beliefs by sending gifts and autographs. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that what is really needed, by the prince and his worshipers, is some help handling a brutal but needed dose of reality. This need also applies to early 21st Century Tea party Republicans. Ritualized Reaganistic Worldview has become a meme accepted by most Republicans, albeit for the most part unknowingly.
where an isolated planet had been exposed to 23rd century technology by earlier space travelers. When the Enterprise arrives a generation later they find an entire culture influenced by a book the first explorers from Earth left behind about 1920’s gangster culture in places like Chicago and New York. By looking, dressing and acting like the gangsters they read about the natives of Sigma Iota IV were attempting to make a great leap forward by throwing themselves feet first into imitating a society that had been outlined in book that to them seemed a blue print to the “cargo” they had seen accompanying the first earthmen they met, technology and abilities that would provide for worry free prosperity.
How does this apply to early 21st century American Conservatism? The Republican Party is now packed with under qualified ideologues who espouse an unrealistic image of a worry free past. In the present version it’s the Segregated 1950’s and the Go Go 1980’s.
The images of John Frumm (a bastardization of “John From America”) and Prince Phillip have been replaced by an idealized, unrealistic image of Ronald Reagan. Like John Frumm, ‘Ritual Reagan’, (now pretty falsely imposed on Trump), is a demi god who summoned “Cargo” (read: Worry free prosperity) through rituals that included sparring with the Russians, a somewhat narrow social view and an overemphasis on an extreme interpretation of “Christian” thought.
To one degree or another every single modern conservative is a member of a Reagan oriented Cargo Cult. The Cargo Cult mentality has threaded its way into every aspect of current Republican narrative.
The Cargo Cult Volcano God demands certain sacrifices be made lest it grow angry and erupt. Among other things, it demands ritual.
Repeated mawkish Ritualistic displays by Republican’s have so far done nothing to dispel the validity of the Cargo Cult Assertion.
For the entire Obama presidency the GOP Cargo Cult survived on grievances and dabbled in other anger oriented right wing ideas. Just like The John Frum Society after the war though; it did not disappear due to what I can only call ‘Lack of Cargo.” Form time to time, like when theres a General Election- the Cargo Cult lines up behind the Republican nominee, who always invokes Reagan and throws them a few bones.
Then 2015 bought the current Iteration of the GOP Cargo Cult. Right now its re-centered on Donald Trump, who only gets information from the bottom of the internet. So of course hes co-opted this Q thing and will praise its leaders. This time their guy won and they got a little Cargo. A few miles of wall and Owning the Libs was all Trump could really deliver. This however, after years of nothing at all, was enough.
Which brings is up to the Election of 2020 when things didnt go so well for the Cult. The writing was on the wall since the midterms and the COVID Pandemic sealed Trumps fate as he bumbled and mishandled it.
While he was completely inept, showmen Trump turbocharged the Cargo Cult and it starts morphing, like The Thing- into Qanon. The whole movement is increasingly getting caught up in paralel crazy beliefs like NRA Gun Culture and White Supremacy. If these things arent all merged now they will be soon enough. So its a toxic brew.
As of spring 2021 My Pillow Lunatic Mike Lindell seems to somewhere between a believer and a straight up Q – MAGA Preacher. He’s also got his ritualistic oversized cross and signature folksy weirdness. The Cargo Lindell is promising is Trump’s imminent and heretofore twice postponed return to the presidency.
Lindell moves the date each time one passes, but it sure seems like he’s saying that the way to make this happen is to use some weird vaguely bible-ish code for a discount on a pillow on his website. I sort of think Lindell is using Crack as a Performance Enhancing drug on this one.
The Q Cults particulars is a blog post of it’s own- that would have to be updated endlessly.
A bunch of people thinking JFK jr (who died in 2000) is tweeting out secret info about a nearly all Democratic Party Controlled Government cabal of Cannibals who frighten children to death to get high off some likely fake drug I’ve never heard of outside the drugged up semi-fiction of Hunter S Thompson til now by drinking their blood- a method of child slaying apparently pioneered in a pizza shop by Hillary. This is a Q Cornerstone belief. They think there’s a lot of child murders all over all the time by the Adromchrome junkies. Its beyond satire.
Anyway, now you know pretty much everything about Cargo Cults and most of the Q Conspiracy as it is of this writing.