First of all. allow me to introduce you to DSKRPT, a new site created by my son Gabriel. You will find essays, creative speculation and links to all kinds of of inspiring corners in realms of art and language. To get a flavor you might start with this intriguing post on the late Kim Jong Il.
Another site of great interest is Open Culture, featuring links to everything from music videos to feature films to high level university courses, all for free.
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers
During my youth in the sixties an ideal put forth by the burgeoning technological establishment was a world in which machines did all of the physically debilitating, repetitious and brain deadening work while humans would be free for leisure and creativity, the problems of hunger and poverty would be solved and the reasons for war and conflict would come to an end. Well, the machines came along and replaced the jobs, but for too many the creativity failed to emerge that would replace those jobs with something useful and connected for an ever-expanding population with time on their hands. As for leisure, we in the Calvinist West have been thoroughly conditioned to mistrust that very concept to the degree that when left on our own we feel a profound loss of identity and therefore tend to freak out completely.
So, the generation of my youthful vision now finds itself divided into battling factions; Republican, Democrat and Paranoid, all of them barely able to comprehend the present let alone deal with the future. As a serious political junkie who continues to hold faith that the Constitution was a relatively enlightened document that still has validity, I find myself in Santa Fe surrounded by a population that indulges in all sorts of pseudo-political fantasy. Declaring yourself either a Democrat or a Republican in this rarified climate is to risk utter dismissal by the Ron Paul Progressives and affluent Occupy Wall Street campers. Having affiliated in the past with all degrees of left, right and center, and feeling betrayed in every corner, most of the Santa Feans I know have tended toward giving up on politics altogether (although the alternative is civil war), substituting instead the quest for a new religion.
Yesterday I was introduced to another version of that ol’ New Age religion. The Performance Space in the Eldorado suburbs was packed to the gills for a presentation of the movie, Thrive, a beautifully produced documentary along the lines of the the Zeitgiest films (even slicker). It was created by an heir to the Gamble (of Proctor and Gamble) fortune and his wife. Both of them are in the movie and present themselves as pretty sincere and relatively grounded people.
More ambitious and much better organized than the Zeitgeist movies, Thrive glosses over many of the more controversial and paranoid button pushers while leaving unmistakable clues to the converted that they are true believers indeed. (Professional conspiracy theorist and religious leader David Icke is interviewed and footage of 9/11 is briefly flashed on the screen, although there is no direct verbal reference to the Truther’s creed.) What we see is a carefully crafted progression of arguments, one leading logically to the other, starting with the structure of the universe, the development and suppression of new energy sources, the evidence for UFO’s and the authenticity of crop circles, the structure and control of the money system, the collusion of the media, and finally, a set of positive proposals for a future that features no more Federal Reserve, unlimited sources of energy, and common ground for both liberals and conservatives.
The problem with a presentation that encompasses so much disparate territory is that the implicit assumption is that to embrace a single argument one must also swallow the whole shebang, as one thing naturally follows from another. I had mixed reactions to just about every argument made in the film, and in the end I left the showing unconvinced. Aside from being about a half hour too long, I thought the parts about alternative energy, the structure of the financial system and the final proposal for alternatives was pretty well presented and worth consideration. In the more esoteric realm the bit about crop circles was pretty convincing, at least until I later discovered the Circlemakers website. The weakest portion was the middle, which dwells on an ongoing dynastic conspiracy involving the Roosevelts, Carnegies, Rothschilds and a couple other families that CONTROL THE WORLD. This, as well as the part about FEMA concentration camps and global eugenics I found a bit stretched and subject to radically alternative interpretations. (To their faint credit, the presenters carefully insert a disclaimer that clarifies a separation between their conspiracy theory and those that tie all of this nefarious activity to the Jews. Examining the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, however, one would find more than a few glaring similarities in terms of supposed conspiratorial intent.)
I’m coming to believe that we would all be better off if the word conspiracy was banned from the english language. This way of thinking always seems to embrace the concept that the world is being taken over by a totalitarian state for the benefit either of Jews, extraterrestrials, a couple of wealthy families or that hoary old mens club The Masons. Conspiracy theories go back at least to the Jewish persecutions in the Middle Ages. They really got off the ground however in the early 20th century with the wide international dissemination of an anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, combined with a nationalistic response to the financial panic of 1907 and the establishment of the Federal Reserve System. They were given new life by the John Birch Society in the fifties and sixties and have enjoyed unprecedented expansion as the world has trended toward the globalization of economies and cultures have been linked through the internet.
Every dictator and fear mongering organization from Hitler to the Ku Klux Klan to the Catholic Church has promulgated conspiracies to frighten followers into unitary action. The actual difference between theories is relatively minor while being embellished and updated with contemporary details and minor variations (there are occasional weird anomalies, like the Obama Birth Certificate conspiracy). One or another version becomes prominent whenever modern societies face the prospect of destabilization or scarcity. Conspiracy theories during times of contraction appear to alternate with Ponzi schemes that arise primarily during times of expansion. Communities that embrace religious fanaticism or magical thinking (as in the case of Santa Fe) are particularly susceptible to both. The embrace of such theories is NOT a measure of intelligence but a measure of fear born of uncertainty. A seemingly coherent theory gives at least the illusion of certainty in a world where one feels otherwise lost and powerless.
I’ve taken my own part in generating conspiratorial thinking, although the conspiracies I took part in were more for the sake of generating positive movements in consciousness rather than pointing the finger at us or them. There was the early New Age movement and the Aquarian Conspiracy in which I took an active role. I was an early proponent of the art project turned global celebration known as Harmonic Convergence (that one totally got away from us). My own rule of thumb would be, if a conspiracy isn’t a lot of fun (see Circlemakers) it should be avoided at all costs.
The following is taken from the Wikipedia entry on Conspiracy Theories:
Psychologists believe that the search for meaning is common in conspiracism and the development of conspiracy theories, and may be powerful enough alone to lead to the first formulating of the idea. Once cognized, confirmation bias and avoidance of cognitive dissonance may reinforce the belief. In a context where a conspiracy theory has become popular within a social group, communal reinforcement may equally play a part. Some research carried out at the University of Kent, UK suggests people may be influenced by conspiracy theories without being aware that their attitudes have changed. After reading popular conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, participants in this study correctly estimated how much their peers’ attitudes had changed, but significantly underestimated how much their own attitudes had changed to become more in favor of the conspiracy theories. The authors conclude that conspiracy theories may therefore have a ‘hidden power’ to influence people’s beliefs.
Humanistic psychologists argue that even if the cabal behind the conspiracy is almost always perceived as hostile there is, often, still an element of reassurance in it, for conspiracy theorists, in part because it is more consoling to think that complications and upheavals in human affairs, at least, are created by human beings rather than factors beyond human control. Belief in such a cabal is a device for reassuring oneself that certain occurrences are not random, but ordered by a human intelligence. This renders such occurrences comprehensible and potentially controllable. If a cabal can be implicated in a sequence of events, there is always the hope, however tenuous, of being able to break the cabal’s power – or joining it and exercising some of that power oneself. Finally, belief in the power of such a cabal is an implicit assertion of human dignity – an often unconscious but necessary affirmation that man is not totally helpless, but is responsible, at least in some measure, for his own destiny.
Meanwhile, on a slightly different note, my friend Ron sent me a link to a post about one of the Christian fanatics currently promoting the inherent identification of our government with religion. (I call it The Conspiracy of Bullshit) What follows is Ron’s commentary.
“…but they all agreed, categorically, that freedom and liberty came from God, not from government.”
This is a VERY old argument. And God has now been transformed into what Goeglein calls virtue (I need to wash my keyboard with lye soap after typing this atrocity). Socrates would probably kill himself if he heard that…….
So now virtue is hard work. And the results are measurable by how much wealth one accumulates. Because God blesses those who are virtuous and makes them rich. QED those who have power and money are in God’s favor and deserve it. Those who are not in God’s good graces because of their faulty virtue (kill me now) suffer and deserve to do so as their performance of God’s grace leaves much to be desired.
This fundamental Massive distortion of what is virtue (arete in the Greek) and how we manifest excellence is pitiful at the best. Completely delusional at the street level. Not only are the so called leaders of the economy and political worlds so ensnared by this inherited delusion, but the vast population of the world is now in agreement. Our guilt and feeling of inferiority is the same as the big boys feeling of superiority and agreed-upon self worth.
However there seems to be a fly in the ointment, ney? Otherwise why the crazy exercise of nearly continual war?
Endless acquisition as a redeeming value for God’s continual graces? Or another substitute for the personal hollowness felt by those who lead us? How can this hollowness exist if they are the blessed? There’s that fly….buzzing. And our own participation in this shows up by the way we wish for ….more. More security. More income and savings. More property. More stuff. More for our children to inherit.
Also known as money.
Our primary value is now the acquisition of money. Cash. Dollars. Digits on the statement. Loot. Not buying in to this will make you an outcast, another crazy who wants non-substantial items such as peace of mind, satisfaction with one’s works, understanding of the history of where we emerged from, minute to minute happiness.
It grates against the nerves.
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Sites of interest:
Do not squander your life.
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