The chapter “cynicism” of this book is all you need to read: after a chapter of standard new-age handwaving, Charles Eisenstein tries to address cynicism, and he does so in a way summarizes the modern conspiracy mindset.
Liberals take special pleasure in criticizing more radical leftists. Nuts and bolts UFO-ologists are vehement in their derision of abduction claims. The kid who is bullied turns on someone still weaker. The unpopular kids in school take pains not to be tainted by association with the very unpopular kids. By doing this, though, we attempt to borrow legitimacy from the very system we hope to subvert, and indirectly enhance its legitimacy by associating our own with its. We commit the same error when we over-rely when on the academic or professional credentials of our allies to persuade those who are impressed by such things… to authority will only strengthen authority.
I couldn’t come up with a better explanation of RFK Jr.’s slide into conspiracy thinking. You start seeing parallels between “bullying” and “skepticism” and you start accepting all tinfoil-hat theories because if they’re being suppressed they must be true. Eisenstein repeats this a few times more - about how some theory like water memory gets a lot of criticism so there must be something to it.
It’s funny that, just like RFK Jr., Eisenstein mentions multiple times obesity as one of the big problems facing our world. They both want oneness, togetherness, and acceptance of the body as ourselves, but – let’s keep fat shaming.
I remember one description of Joe Rogan’s worldview as being literally open-minded, to the point that anyone could walk by and pour something in. That mindset, the one that’s cynical about the orthodoxy but soft and pliable about anything that seeks to challenge it - that’s what Eisenstein wants you to adopt.
There isn’t much else. His viewpoint on the world is just an amalgamation of pantheism and inter-being that’s pretty light on the specifics. Not very surprising - the way that these gateways to conspiracy work is that they broadly embrace the feeling of the paranoid mindset and they casually point to other influencers who preach the harder stuff, but they make few claims of their own.
And it’s just so long and he says so little. This is kind of in character: this is a book about how to think. He wants you to think loosely and in story form. He wants you to overcorrect for your cynicism by letting a little conspiracy into your mind as a treat.
No, he’s careful not to put any specific ideas in here: he just wants you to be receptive. He wants you to read his Substack newsletter, where he wrote “vaccine skeptic” articles that didn’t explicitly say the bad thing but sent a message that his readers received. It’s the same schtick as RFK Jr. himself, who loves to namedrop different conspiracies, just dropping breadcrumbs for his followers to Google.
Anyway, you can take cynicism too far and close yourself off to new ideas. You can take open-mindedness too far and be a sponge for bad ideas. Eisenstein’s perspective is that we’re too cynical and locked in our old ways, and we need to loosen up a little. I think that the conspiracy mindset is dangerous and that he’s wrong.