Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why the conspiracy view of history?


It's an American tradition going back to right before the "revolution," or what Marx accurately described as "a slaveholder's rebellion." What was the conspiracy then? That a "papist" takeover of the colonies was coming and that the Vatican was going to install a government through dictatorship to force Catholicism on protestants, and it was commonly-held. Many believed it was real at the time.

But never mind that the conspiracy view of history has been debunked over-and-over again by academic historians throughout the world (then, bringing the predictable counter-claim that they're "part of the conspiracy"), the people who think "it's all a conspiracy" are rarely ever going to listen to reason. I won't reiterate the ones going around these days among the fringes, they don't even deserve repeating. The fact is, we know generally what's going on, and that's not to say that it's comforting.

But a friend recently made the observation that, "Everyone wants to be a victim," and therein lies the crux of this form of unthinking: it's part of the personal narrative to paint ourselves as the victim, especially when we are not. The fact is, we made the mess that is America because we tolerate the way things are. We are complacent. We are lazy. We are jaded. We are spoiled, and more-than-a-few of us are nuts. The witticism that, "Americans get the government they deserve," applies here and to our common era. For those who fight against this, I believe they're simply intellectually dishonest, possibly disturbed. Make no mistake: we know the face of tyranny when it stares at us, and often, it is us, our shadow side, our own shade, the sum-total of our own loathsomeness.