The Miviludes, the Interministerial mission of vigilance and fight against sectarian aberrations has never been so much in demand. It has been entered more than 4,000 times in 2021, and largely by victims of the so-called “new gurus”, these men and women who are followers of alternative medicine, who promise you well-being and personal development. . Insights from sociologist Jean Viard.
franceinfo: Naturopathy, mindfulness meditation, fasting, we have around us more and more people who use these techniques outside of traditional medicine. What do you think it comes from?
John Viard: At one time, all that was in the field of religion. The great religious institutions that ran the societies effectively lost their influence. And so the conspiratorial world that is being built in the digital sphere basically occupies a place that is available. And we have individual expectations of meditation, body care, etc., and so effectively “niche markets” are created which are driven by gurus, in which there are both remarkable things, the person, attention to the other, etc. Basically, it was the problem of confessions, we were going to confess to the priest, now we are talking to someone else. We need to talk, we need to exchange.
Afterwards, of course, it’s instrumentalized in the name of a supposedly natural thing, but man has transformed the world and in a certain way, if the world had remained in its natural state, man would have hope life, maybe 25 years, there would be no works of art, no scientific research, etc. Nature does not save man, what saves man is culture, it is man’s capacity to invent science, to invent medicines, to capture energy, to go fishing for sea fish, etc.
So basically, there is confusion between the idea that if we go back to nature, à la Rousseau, everything will work out, but on the other side, a real question is the new respect for the nature that many of us claim. People want to see trees through their window, moreover if they leave the big cities so many, it’s because they want to have a garden, to plant a tree, to have a dog, etc. If you want that, it’s the positive side of the phenomenon. But obviously, there is a negative side which is exploited.
Miviludes also says that the Covid crisis has led to an increase in referrals. We have also seen conspiracy theories flourish, especially on the Internet. In your opinion, has the pandemic really developed a distrust of the health sector?
Let’s say she spoke, let’s be honest, more than 90% of people have been vaccinated, so let’s be careful. The prominence given in the media to the anti-vaccine minority is almost disproportionate to the number of people affected. What is also true is that the pandemic has made us switch to digital civilization, so inevitably, in digital, there are as many 3 or 4 or 5 million people every day who listen to French TV exciting shows; there has never been so much popular education. And at the same time, we have never developed so many conspiratorial networks which are niches where people talk to each other because they agree.
We also see a whole bunch of personal coaches arriving, life coaches on social networks in particular, to advise us for everything and for nothing. Is it because we are so lost that we need to be guided like that more and more?
Were we not guided by our priest? Remember that in 1936, the left did not give women the right to vote because they found that women were under the control of priests. Afterwards, I think that we are a society of individual freedom, we try to develop our abilities, our joys, etc. We also recognize that in France we do very little preventive medicine. We have a medicine which has become very technical, which treats us very well, but which does not accompany us sufficiently, before we are ill or after. So there is a field, a space.
And then, if you look at the map of France of the areas most affected by these phenomena, you find a France that goes from where the cool post-sixty-eight babas were. There are continuities for towns like Forcalquier, etc., and you also have a geographical overrepresentation, so these populations who came after 1968 settled there, lived there, had children there, etc., developed discourses on the return to nature that we also find now.
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“The great religious institutions that managed societies have lost their influence and niche markets led by gurus have been created”, Jean Viard
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