Conspiracy theorists fascinate me. These range from the mildly off-putting, to the total head-smashing, eye-roll-inducing crusaders, who stick to their unconventional points of view with such fervor and despite all evidence to the contrary, that it inspires in me a sense of both awe and terror.
And I’m not making fun of anyone here; the truth is, we don’t – and, for the most extent, can’t – know the verity of conspiracy claims. But I’m way more concerned in figuring out why people believe these things.
Why do people believe that there are uncaring, morally bankrupt goons pulling the world’s strings behind the scenes for nefarious purposes?
As far as I can see, the only thing linking conspiracy theorists of all varieties together is a belief that there is some evil other – something malicious, strange and different. The narrative is familiar; it was used by almost every cartoon I used to watch back in the day.
You have the “good guys.” Then you have this evil mastermind genius/alien species that for some unbeknownst reason won’t stop until they take over or destroy the earth. And it seems no one ever asks the obvious question, which is…
Why do you want to destroy the world?
What are you going to do with the world after you take it over?
But look at that question for a few minutes, and the logic of the villain begins to disintegrate, just like the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy’s fateful bucket of water.
The reason we construct such elaborate, nonsensical tales about ‘evil villains’ is because we don’t want to accept the inescapable truth – WE ARE THE BAD GUYS.
It’s so much easier to think there is someone pulling the strings behind the scenes controlling all banks, than it is to believe that the spending choices we make (and don’t make) every single day, actively drive the world’s economy.
It’s much easier to think that the government is trying to poison us and make us stupid, than it is to believe that our attitudes towards science and research hinder the general population’s astuteness.
It’s much easier to think that someone has infiltrated the music we listen to with subtle messages which cause crime and depravity, than it is to believe that we either enable or disable cruelty and hatefulness – not only by what we do, but with what we say and even think.
Whatever the situation, the underlying reason is the same: we can’t be the bad guys.
Like the perennial child, we rob ourselves of all agency with a simple mind trick. We constantly seek to lay the blame for ‘wrong’ on someone else’s shoulders: the Illuminati, the devil, the 1%. We can never look in the mirror and accept the uncomfortable truth:
We are the 1%.
I am the 1%.
Now I’m not saying selfish people don’t exist. I’m not saying there isn’t evil in the world. What I am saying is that we greatly underestimate just how much OUR OWN actions shape our culture and our world, and greatly overestimate the effect said ‘bad people’ have in the process.
This is why we have ‘bad guys’ – and they’re far more sinister than we could ever imagine – because they serve as the perfect players in the ultimate blame game. They prevent us from REALLY looking at ourselves and being able to see clearly what a mess we’ve made.
But, we’re not just the 1%. We are all ONE. And just as how our thoughts, beliefs and actions help shape the bad in the world, we can use those same thoughts, beliefs and actions to do immeasurable good.