James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Distrust Authority

Is there any benefit to believe in conspiracy theories? I think it depends on what one believes about the nature of the conspiracy.

One kind of conspiracy is held in common between right-wing patriotists and left-wing progressives, different in content but similar in form in that they glorify what they believe to be American ideals. The story generally goes that there was once something great and noble, but then some heretics conspired to take control and defile it, and now it is up to us to expose this cabal, defeat it, and restore the thing back to its former glory: "We had a Constitution that worked fine until [the corporate interests, the Jews, the Illuminati, or all three] took power and steered the country to [a centralized kleptocracy, secularism at home and a Zionist foreign policy, World Government, or all three]. We must expose these frauds and return our country to [the "original intent" of the Constitution, our "Christian heritage," or whenever it was you believed "representative democracy" actually functioned in our land]."

Then there's another kind of "conspiracy theory" I was recently reminded of when I discovered George Cordell's Hawaii Observer. To paraphrase some of the ideas there: the powerful invent bogeyman and crises for the purpose of raising revenue for themselves; ideology exists to justify murder and plunder; government was a swindle from the very beginning, the U.S. government is nothing but an organized crime outfit. Hawaii Observer does perpetuate "conspiracy" theories, about how heavily governments are secretly involved in the drug trade (and who, deep down, doesn't suspect it?), and how Rockefeller companies are the main beneficiaries of the War on Iraq. But these are placed in context of the over-arching theme, that this is how it's been for thousands of years.

One form of conspiracy theory wishes to replace today's government with a romanticized and idealized form of government that supposedly existed sometime in the past. At some point in American history, Americans were free and happy because of its government, and we must somehow get back to that point. The second form of conspiracy proclaims that "every danger you might worry about - poverty, drugs, crime, war, terror, the Devil himself - is possibly fake," that "one cannot build a just society and economy with a coercive power structure" and "what we need ... is to create a free, open operating system for society."

The first view may assume that 9/11 was to some extent an "inside job," and treat this as a great betrayal. The second view may also believe that American government officials were to some extent involved in 9/11, but view that this is par for the course. If the world's governments including our own are nothing but criminal organizations, this shouldn't be particularly distressing.

With the second view, "America" ceases to be a religion, the "Constitution" ceases to be the Bible, and lower-case republican and democratic theorists, historians, and economists cease to write its theology. As Brian says, "You don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for yourselves! You're ALL individuals!"

That's what I like about conspiracy theory, if understood from this second sense. It reminds us that there is no "there" there, no "ideal" to be restored. I understand that there are inevitable disagreements between individuals - particularly from claims of private property in land - and I see the need for law, adjudication, and even some form of government to address this problem of land. But this entails government settling actual disputes.That's a far cry from inventing bogeymen to frighten the people into giving up their freedom and property for a false sense of security, or from asking the people to replace their faith in their God with a faith in a particular system of government. The good that comes from conspiracy theory is a mistrust of all government, of all authority. I find conspiracy theories plausible to the extent they advance my mistrust of all government and all authority; when they instead tout reasons why one authoritarian was "unjustly" replaced by another, I shrug, laugh, and move on.

Does this cynical view square with my support for and hope in Ron Paul for President, even though idealistic patriotists also embrace him? I believe the answer is yes, because he is the biggest threat to pro-war, pro-police state interests we have, and more importantly, he is a good barometer of "people power." The more people support Ron Paul, the more they are telling the Powers-That-Be that "I am as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." To the extent our elections are still free, this still means a lot.

We are not going to achieve a criminal-free society. We won't even achieve a criminal-free government. But we can promote leaders who vow to take us in a better direction. If we succeed in getting the "right people" such as Ron Paul elected, great. But even if we don't succeed in that, we still win to the extent we persuade more and more people to distrust authority and value their own freedom. If Ron Paul isn't the "ideal" person to lead this cause, remember that we live in the real world, not some utopia in the sky.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, Jim. There is much to be said about the breakdown of the explanation of how things work, but the amerikan school system has dumbed down the number of folks who can actually understand what is going to happen. Science has become another mythology with built in barriers to understanding cause by the simplistic nature of the assunptions.

    there is an answer, but we are not going to accept it - tribal government. I will likely allow dr. lenny to return to blogging once the heat comes down. may be passing thru Pullman tomorrow - howdt at yahoo dotcom can be used to pass logistic info if you wanna talk an evening away.