And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we, like past societies in distress, will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist beliefs in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us. The Christian right provides a haven for this escapism. These cults perform absurd rituals to make it all go away, giving rise to a religiosity that peddles collective self-delusion and magical thinking. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the later part of the 19th century as the buffalo herds and the last remaining tribes were slaughtered. The Ghost Dance held out the hope that all the horrors of white civilization — the railroads, the murderous cavalry units, the timber merchants, the mine speculators, the hated tribal agencies, the barbed wire, the machine guns, even the white man himself — would disappear. And our psychological hard wiring is no different.
Graham studied Classics at Christ's Hospital, where he was fortunate to coincide with a surviving decades-long era of teaching verse composition from English poetry into Greek and Latin metres, so that the first real encounters with Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson and others came in translating them; read Archaeology & Anthropology and English at Cambridge, and has worked for Southern Arts, the British Institute of Florence, the Arvon Foundation, BBC Radios 3, 4, World Service and Italian Service, Goldsmiths College, Birkbeck College, Art History Abroad, and TheCourse. He has lived in Italy and French Catalonia and now lives in London.