Philisophical musings of Chic Hollis
This is not a theory. If it were, I wouldn’t bother you with it. The proof that there is a conspiracy is right in front of our eyes, but we reject the evidence and refuse to believe what the facts tell us. The sad truth about this conspiracy is that each of us participates at the same time as the deceived and as the deceiver. Each of us chooses to believe that the thoughts we think, the logic we use, and the decisions we make are correct. Often, our reasons for what we believe are faulty, unreliable, and biased. Nevertheless, we are reluctant to change our minds even when we are exposed to better information, more sound logic, and more profound evidence that our conclusions are wrong.
As we mature, we put our faith in what we are told or what we witness. We learn to trust certain human sources of ideas, commandments, and narratives: our parents, teachers, preachers, and friends, but not all of them. If we pay attention, we also learn to distrust advertisers, salesmen, promoters, and criminals. We trust some doctors, but not others, some counselors, but not others, and some politicians, but not others. We read certain periodicals, listen to certain newscasters, watch certain sports commentators, and use certain Internet sites. Some of us are much more trusting than we ought to be: the innocent, the uneducated, the lazy, and the naive. And some of us won’t trust anyone farther than we could bounce an anvil in a swamp!
Generally, we can agree that we are not absolutely independent evaluators of the data we process and the selected information we file in our memory banks. But on specific issues, we will tenaciously defend our position and use whatever explanation we have at hand to convince others that our opinions on the subject are right. Our diverse political, religious, moral, and ethical beliefs are sacrosanct. All our political, religious, and social affiliations are practical from our viewpoint. The food, clothes, books, and music that we prefer are “sensible” choices and not just the automatic adoption of our peers’ tastes. For everything we intend to do, we silently use subjective criteria in making and defending our choice, and more often than not we allow our emotions to influence our decisions.
Self-justification is the rule, and I am as guilty of justifying my own personal foibles as anyone. However, everyone should become more aware of the irrational way we come to our conclusions and then make a serious effort to become less susceptible to the opinion-makers and influence-pedlars. We must intelligently resist the knee-jerk polarization that has taken over this country thanks to the closed-mindedness of our political and religious leaders. The scientific community of so-called experts is another arrogant group of know-it-alls who have shown time and again that they also jump to conclusions.
If left to our own personal observations, we would still consider that the Earth was flat, that our planet was the center of the universe, and that we were standing still in space instead for surging in a centrifugal motion at 17,000 mph around the nearest star, rotating as we go. Gradually we learn that our physical senses are inaccurate, unreliable, and confusing. That what we were taught might be prejudiced. That the simple statistics presented in graph form may not be representative. That the results of opinion polls are deliberately selected to “prove” a point, and that the friendly folks whose life depends on selling us something are usually exaggerating the truth if not outright lying to us.
Yet, despite what we have learned and observed, we continue to talk with sales people, obey the edicts of our churches, disingenuously go to the polls to vote for the sleazy politicians of our choice, and believe the smiling TV and radio commentators we prefer to listen to for the news. Sometimes we question why we continue to do so, but our feeble resistance is not actively demonstrated by enough of us to convince the powerful decision-makers that the majority of us are fed up with their tiresome spiels and dishonesty.
Are we really in love with democracy? Or sufficiently enamored with any presidential candidate to give him big chunks of our hard-earned money to spend? Do we seriously believe that the head of the Federal Reserve is manipulating the interest rates just to benefit us personally? Are we certain that our church leaders have the inside track to God and that the Almighty is pleased with their efforts to reform sinners? Do we actually believe any advertisement and the sales pitches of the industrial and commercial giants who are pestering us to buy their products? Are we comfortable that our family doctors understand the general symptoms of our illness and know what exact procedure is appropriate or what specific medicine is safe to take for our unique physical discomfort?
Of course not, because there is nothing certain but death, inflation, and tax increases! All of us are risk takers and frequently have to rely on someone else because no one can know everything. However, sometimes we need more than second opinions and biased friendly advice. We need proof, and that is hard to come by because the sources of our information are clever in presenting to us what they feel is fit for our consumption and what we expect to be told.
In the modern world, few of us know what it takes to be president, run a large company or a university, wage a war, design a building, construct a bridge, operate on a seriously injured person, fly a commercial jet airplane, and negotiate a labor dispute. With the rapidly growing complexity of our diverse technology, our lack of understanding multiplies exponentially leaving all kinds of room for error and misunderstanding. We are not experts on much except those very specific things that we are involved with daily on our jobs. We second guess quarterbacks, CEOs, judges, and all prominent decision-makers in society without having much experience to do so. As Americans we feel empowered by our constitution to criticize anyone who is entrusted with authority over us.
There is a prevalent belief that since we are supposedly free and equal citizens, we automatically possess moral righteousness and therefore we are entitled to judge anything. But what right does anyone with an inadequate background and a limited knowledge about the issues have to meddle in the affairs of others? On this very shaky ground is constructed the conspiracy. We are led to believe that we have the right to comment, criticize, and vote about issues that we are ill-prepared to become intimately involved in. Nevertheless, in a democracy, the majority of ill-advised and ignorant voters can select representatives and “govern” remotely by giving their proxy.
The contentious issues in a business or a community are rarely black and white, and the disinformation about them is voluminous. Add to the lack of honesty 1.) the expert manipulation of the emotions of the participants through all kinds of verbal demagoguery and hype, 2.) the deliberate simplification of proposed solutions, each of which has unintended and not very thoroughly examined consequences, and 3.) the ultimate results – rarely acceptable to everybody, but easily defendable by the decision-makers, if they are clever authority figures who say the “right” words and smile a lot!
In most obvious conspiracies, the outcome doesn’t always bring about the desired results of the perpetrators. A leader may be removed somehow, but that only sets up another chain of events which may or may not improve the situation. Eliminating a specific terrorist leader doesn’t assure that some better equipped back-up agitator with more charisma won’t assume the role of terrorist leader.
“Follow me!” is the cry of any authority figure. So, we sheep-like followers contemplate for a brief moment whether or not we should “go along.” We know for a fact that all authority figures are mostly interested in maintaining their status and in exercising power over us. They conspire to convince us that we should embrace them and endorse their agenda. Borrowing from their deceptive rhetoric, we cooperatively act to deceive ourselves when we are supposedly making an objective and independent decision. Once we have made our decisions, we commit our whole being to justifying our position and doing what is expected of us.
Despite our genuine doubts and the caustic comments of bitter adversarial cynics, the majority of us adopt the following overall philosophy to guide ourselves in making the major decisions in our life: 1.) Love your neighbors, tolerate their idiosyncrasies, and ignore their selfishness, and you will be loved. 2.) Be a loyal, diligent, and hardworking employee, and you will be adequately rewarded financially. 3.) Do good in your community, follow the rules, obey the laws, and respect authority, and good things will come to you in return eventually. And 4.) Worship God or your favorite deity, listen for His or Her guidance, avoid the numerous temptations to sin, and you will receive divine justice and the gift of life everlasting.
These are the basic carrots promised us timid bunnies. I won’t mention the sticks, the threats, and the evidence to the contrary because there are too many examples. We ignore this evidence as best we can and try hard to please those who have power over us. To do so, requires us to play the universal conspiracy game, letting the deceivers deceive us as they wish and smiling about it. The optimists among us frown when things don’t go their way, but they don’t let themselves become discouraged – always hoping that someday someone will come along and fix things. Those who feel rewarded or “blessed” note each time they “get their wish,” and the grateful thank their God or their lucky stars.
What else can we do? The conspiracy game is the only game in town, so we can’t avoid playing it if we still want to be accepted in our communities. The better players realize some of the promised gains and benefits. Some of us are not sure about the suspect eternal life “reward.” Since most of us are busy enough with our daily agenda, we don’t have to worry about that now. We already have a life, or are in the process of getting a different one that hopefully is better than what we are experiencing.
Self-deception provides the high octane fuel to keep the body’s engine running. Should we only blame the clever deceivers? Or ourselves? Or whoever initially created the conspiracy game? I’ll let you think about that, if you have time to, and decide for yourself.