"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
The Conspiracy/Paranoia Trap
I recall, back in the early 80s, how I got "hooked" by a number of serious conspiracy theory books. Everything from tomes on the Illuminati and the Freemasons, to a Jewish global financial hegemony and New World Order. There were the small conspiracies. Then there were the large conspiracies. And finally, there were the conspiracies within conspiracies, and even the super- conspiracies. Of the latter much has been written of late - including putting all these "lesser" conspiracies under the umbrella of a super-cosmic one, involving aliens from other planets. Take your pick, or pick them all. One of the attractions of conspiracies is their claim to be able to explain things - those things that appear unexplainable. They are also exciting, pregnant with looming danger and addictive - as you find yourself moving from lower level conspiracies to higher ones. Of course, on the other side of the fence sit all the perpetual sceptics - those who believe there are never any conspiracies, and that all such talk and theorising is nonsense. And this only serves to fuel ongoing research and belief into exposing ever more diabolical plans. Regardless of your belief or otherwise in "master" conspiracies, there is no doubt that real conspiracies abound. They are everywhere - although it appears we generally only believe them well after the event. When something happens in the present, the general public seems less inclined to believe it could be the result of some sort of conspiracy. However, if an earlier event is later shown to be the result of a conspiracy, after some digging and historical research, then people are more likely to believe it. We know, from looking at historical facts, that a number of major world events have been the result of conspiracies. We accept this in past events - but mostly refuse to consider such revelations to have any application or relevance to what is going on today. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was just one such example - where, by the wide publication and repetition of a lie, the Vietnam war was started. It was a conspiracy. Then there's the serious revisionist assertion that officials in the US Government had prior warning of the Pearl Harbour attack - but chose not to react, in order to force the USA into World War II. That would certainly be a conspiracy. History is replete with real examples of conspiracy. It happens all the time. Geez, as we speak, your own government is involved in all sorts of conspiracies - mostly to your disadvantage! However, if you cry "conspiracy" regarding a current event - like just after 9/11 - you are dubbed some sort of crazy. The fact is, 9/11 was most certainly a conspiracy. There is no argument about that. The argument and speculation is purely about the identity of the conspirators. Yes, conspiracies exist and have always existed. But what is in question is the scope and extent of such behaviour. Most of the conspiracy theories in existence are not content with exposing isolated events, but more interested in finding ways to tie them altogether into one grand unified theory. This is where the going gets tricky and where facts can give way to fantasy. But more importantly, belief in master conspiracies (whether true or false) can have detrimental consequences for the believer. Back to my original statement, that I got deep into conspiracy books in the early 80s. Yes, I was serious. In fact, it became all I could talk about, and I'd raise the subject wherever I had the opportunity (rather like a religious zealot raising the subject of God). I would bring it up at dinner parties. I would bring it up over a glass of beer. And I would discuss it with my work mates. You see, I had information they needed to know about! It all got to be a bit much. Then one day a thought hit me. If all these conspiracies are in fact true, and all pervasive, then I may as well top myself now, and put myself out of misery! You see, I came to the realisation that belief in such theories was actually a form of mind-warp - and means of turning off one's sense of personal power. When one is consumed by some theory or other, then its power is all-encompassing. There is no escape. If these shadowy figures are as powerful as you believe they are, then you are at their mercy. By believing, you enter into some murky netherworld - a place where reality becomes elastic, and where paranoia flourishes. A bit like living through your own "Illuminatus Trilogy". It was at that point that I threw all my conspiracy books away. Not because I had proven them wrong, or because I had suddenly rejected their theories outright, but because they were infecting my soul with a sense of powerlessness. I've never looked back. I'm not saying conspiracies don't exist, but that fanatical belief in them is disempowering. It puts you in a place where you are the ultimate cosmic victim. This state of mental affairs has a counterpart in modern day politic reality - and people's attempts to buck the system in their desire to be free. Just take one example - Echelon. Echelon is the global system of surveillance that can listen into and record all significant communications. If you phone someone and start talking about "bombs" and "bin Laden" or something equally incriminating, then that word or phrase could trigger a chain of events that gets your phone call tagged for further analysis. Take another example. The Financial Action Task Force. This ominous-sounding organisation is deeply involved in setting up strategies and enforcement procedures to enable the tracking and identification of "suspicious" financial transactions. It's part of the war on money laundering, which is seen as part of the wider "war on terror". If you walk into your bank and deliberately seek to transfer funds just under the legal reporting limit ($10,000 in one day in the USA), then your attempt to thwart such a reporting trigger is sufficient to get you reported. You are reported for seeking to avoid being reported! Now, this - and a lot more - could get you feeling quite paranoid and jittery. In fact, many people become paralysed by fear of such things, and live their lives in constant shadowy attempts to avoid being seen and heard. The dilemma is this: you become aware of the powers that be, and how they are attempting to reduce your privacy and freedom of action in various ways. These powers are real enough, so taking proper precautions is not only sensible, but necessary. However, it's just one small step from taking such steps to becoming a slave of one's fear - the fear of powerful "others". I shouldn't have to say this, but this is exactly what those in authority want. They want you to be in fear of them - because without such fear, they really don't have much else. There is a paradox here. The state's many conspiratorial activities are rarely designed to benefit YOUR life. On the contrary, you can probably bet your bottom dollar that its actions will lead to personal deprivations of some sort. At the same time, the state depends on "appearances" to maintain its power. It depends on the image it throws out. It depends on "voluntary" compliance - which can only be maintained by lies, propaganda and the generation of fearful emotions. These are the tricks our dear leaders employ to convince us of their necessity to our lives. They are projecting the impression that they all-powerful. But the truth is, they are fundamentally impotent. The way you see them, as all-powerful or impotent, has a direct impact on the quality of your life. The trap for many a seeker of freedom is to grant the powers-that -be far more respect and fear than they deserve. You must remember that those drawn to public office are drawn by the basest of human instincts - the desire for power over others. Sure, they won't admit this, and will waffle on about "serving" the community. But you and I know that is all tosh. The name of the game is power. Those who seek power over others are drawn to a role in public life as surely as bees are drawn to the honey pot. The paradox is this: even though such people seek to exercise power, they can only be successful to the extent that other people grant them that power. They have no power in and of themselves - only what we give them by default. What this means for the aspiring freedom seeker is profound. If you seek to be free, then the worst thing you can do is fall into the pit of despair and fear, brought about by paranoia that the state is "after" you. Yes, they are after you - but you are falling into their trap if you grant them far more capacity to exercise their power than they actually have. To be consumed by conspiracy theories and paranoia is not any sort of freedom, but a form of self-imposed imprisonment. If you allow this mindset to develop and flourish, then to the extent its power grows, your own power diminishes. The correct and healthy attitude to have towards one's own freedom, is to come to the realisation that those who seek to exercise power over you are a bunch of lowlifes. They are leeches on the social and economic life of society. They are not movers and shakers - far from it. They are not responsible for the creation of wealth. They are not responsible for rises in general health. They are not responsible for any form of social progress at all. No, all this is done by individuals acting voluntarily with others, in what we call the free market. Our dear leaders are simply parasites who seek unearned wealth, power and influence - and do so by setting up their grand charade, in order to convince us of their importance, so we will support them. Let me tell you, the world you see every night on your TV news - the world of wars, lies, propaganda, not to mention the minutiae of constant road deaths, petty squabbling, and the nauseous silliness of most stuff passed off as news - is not the real world at all. It's not the world as it really is. It's just a distorted illusion. It's an illusion largely designed to confuse and immobilise people. Now there's a conspiracy of the highest order! There is a much more interesting and true story going on in the background. World events are not moving according to some grand master plan, run by diabolical politicians and shadowy backers. It's moving forward according to what has always moved it forward - science, technology and business, the strategies devised by individual thinking people, in their quest to make life better. These are the drivers of our world - not politicians, their backers and their plots. Sure, they like to think they can change the course of history, and they can and do change specific events that make up part of history. But they have no real power to circumvent the much larger picture, which is fuelled by the power of individual people acting to improve their own lives. They have no power to prevent "unintended" consequences, and sudden historical shifts caused by radical changes in thinking, perception or technology. We do ourselves an injustice when we grant our leaders any real significance - like the constant following of their actions and words on the daily news. This facade maintains and supports the illusion that power resides with them. Where the truth is, power resides with you. My advice, if you want a freer life, is this. First dump any sense that you are dependent on what politicians do, or what the state is up to. You have no need to concern yourself with that. Your concern is to be your own prime-mover - to move forward with your life in the sure belief you have all the power necessary to make it what you want. You don't need what the state is offering, as even that which may seem useful can be provided much more effectively by the marketplace. Yes, take rational measures to protect yourself. Take all the steps you need to make to further your own goals and aspirations. But do not be consumed by fear and paranoia. Do not fall for the illusion that the state is the all-in-all, the all-powerful. Even more, do not allow yourself to be consumed by the idea that "superhuman" beings are running the whole show. If you turn your quest for freedom into a fear-inspired flight from being "found out", or from those you perceive to be in power, then you will have fallen into the ultimate trap - one of your own making.