Conspiracy Guy: I’m Just Say’n
Every now and then, there is an article in The Montreal Gazette which manages to overcome The Gazette’s increasing mediocrity and is surprisingly substantive. Hubert Bauch’s “Clinging to Conspiracies” was in this weekend’s paper. Quoting psychologist Patrick Leman, he writes: ”…belief in conspiracies…is a coping mechanism for the insecure….on the one hand, convincing ourselves of conspiracy theories wishes away the stark, terrifying arbitrariness of life on this Earth, or, on the other, compensates for a sense of disempowerment and enables people to blame personal failures on the clandestine machinations of a malevolent governing system that conspires to keep them down….” Towards the end of the article, Bauch quotes comedian Dennis Miller’s view as a sharp corrective to such milquetoast self-absorption: ”the biggest conspiracy has always been that there is no conspiracy. Nobody’s out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, do you feel better now?” H.L. Mencken, with his usual elegance, put it this way: ”The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true desserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity…to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of iniquity.” I admit that I agree with Miller and Mencken with the proviso that part of the random “insensately cruel world” as journalist Bauch phrases it so well, involves luck, timing, genetic imperative, and a whole blackboard-full of elements that can make of the man trying to get on in the world a neurotic mendicant. I’m not sure that Mencken here is so far away from Ayn Rand’s libertarianism, the fountainhead of which was “every man for himself thereby bringing more good (incidentally) to the common good.” Sort of a wolfish reversal of John Stuart Mill’s “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Well there’s nothing really wrong with being elitist until it gels into a dark fascism, the unwashed masses and all that sort of specious logic. I guess what really captured my attention in Bauch’s analysis of conspiracists (yes, apparently that is a word) is that I know people who believe in, for example, the so-called Illuminati and the Bilderberg group (eww, scary!) and have therefore decided that the best offensive is to–do nothing. Indeed what’s the point of doing anything in and with your life if these boogeymen (probably better-dressed, too) control everything down to your underwear. Best then not to bother aspiring, achieving, attempting, protesting, or composting since these secular gods have pretty much got it all bagged, parceling out just enough to the miscreant masses to keep the majority quiet. So God must, by extension, really be dead as has often been announced at different times in human history. The ancient argument about what to do with Free Will, since God is omniscient (so He must be primo Illuminato?) and since Providence has a predilection for determinism, has found a secular venue in conspiracism (now I’m not sure that that is a word). Believers in godly omnipotence have, historically, been as psychically weighed down as today’s conspiracists: both eschew taking action, or even trying to direct a life or ambition which, for them, has already been usurped and predetermined by the Men in Black, the Blues Brothers, the Matrix or again, a hebraic cartel (sigh…why can’t we just leave those people alone?) whose sole intent is to thwart their rise to the, um, great heights they would otherwise have reached, and to suppress public knowledge of just exactly how they do that. Oh dear…I sound just like Mencken. That’s not surprising, really: my Master’s thesis was an argument steeped in derridean themes of how all literary discourse suppresses the discourse of the other (gender). I like to think that my thesis showed just the right amount of ideological fanaticism with excellent research, to boot. Speaking of that highly academic time in my life, have I ever mentioned that when U of O refused to let me write a thesis, offering a degree by course work only, I withdrew from the programme? The following year I attended Carleton which gave me the choice. Now you might say that the powers-that-be at U of O conspired against my achieving my, um, greatness, or you could say that when confronted with “no”, rather than cede the way, you can go another way. And that’s what I want all those people I know out there who’ve given up to think about next time they tell me it’s not worth doing this or that because the Illuminati are watching. Balderdash. And, all things being equal, remember the lesson of Leonard the snake who bought a book called “Anyone Can Knit”. The limbless Leonard, at least, was optimistic, and that’s a step up from being defeated before you start.