Friday, September 21, 2012

Beyond Conspiracy

OK campers, it's time to head out into the deep water – the “over-your-head” water, in fact. Get your oxygen tanks ready, for we are about to plumb the depths.

As you may already realize, this blog has been “trending” (oh, how I hate that word!), of late, in the direction of pointing out the utter absurdity of our foreign policy, and to a lesser extent our domestic policy, and by extension life in general in These United States. Sometimes, just for fun during an idle moment, I try to list all the things that are seriously wrong with this country and its government – I mean really, seriously wrong... intractable... maddening... as in, a threat to our liberties, our wealth, our very lives. (Not to mention our sanity, which is already well on the way to annihilation.) This turns out to be quite a long list, and it pretty much covers the waterfront of all that the government does and all that we do. We have problems that may actually wind up being fatal, and others that are quite serious... but none that are trivial.  (The “problems” that the media present us with are trivial compared to the real thing.) 

Turn the coin over, then, and consider what, if anything, is going right. Is anything part of the solution these days? Well, my first candidate would be the Internet, which has expanded our range of dialog on politics, and everything else you can imagine (and much that you can't), way beyond the wildest dreams of its inventors... and thus constitutes a continuous source of irritation to totalitarians. People think they're brainwashed now; what about back when there were only three TV networks? What about when there were few, if any, conservative newspapers? What about when the only forms of government that anyone considered viable and sustainable were competing forms of socialism? Yes, there were times like that, and I remember them. By contrast, in these times no matter what a government functionary says, there will be scores of rebuttals (of varying degrees of validity, I admit) on the Internet. The JFK assassination truth movement was underground for many decades, until the Internet came along... and the 9/11 truth movement popped up on the Internet on... 9/11, pretty much. We now have a nation of fact-checkers and bullshit detectors – something that did not, and could not, exist in pre-Internet times.

What else do we have in this country to ease the pain of our slouch towards Gomorrah? We have the American sense of humor, which has sustained us through many fat and lean years... and which provides a much-needed counterbalance to our Puritanical, uptight, judgmental heritage and tendencies. (An interesting side note is that the funniest people out there these days tend to be politically conservative. The liberals have all turned into a bunch of stuffed shirts, and they are particularly unfunny when there's a Democratic president in office. Rachel Maddow is at her best when she's talking like a libertarian.) (Or like me!)

We also have a visible, energetic movement opposing Agribusiness, which overlaps the ones opposing Big Medicine and Big Pharma. On a smaller scale, there are voices raised, and actions undertaken, in opposition to the public school racket. There are more alternatives than ever to the dominant pop culture and “entertainment” industries. Even the unions are starting to take some licks – and I can remember a time when the unions could do no wrong (still true here in Pittsburgh). 

What all of this adds up to, now that I think about it, is a sort of tolerance of true diversity – or benign neglect on the part of the Regime. Hey, I'll take it, if the alternative is complete totalitarianism. Now... there are some unhappy implications here. The Regime is smart enough to let people “get away with” a lot of things that the Soviet regime, or Mao's regime, or Hitler's, wouldn't have. And why is this? One of two major possibilities – either they know that a surfeit of “games and circuses” will distract people and keep them from taking to the streets... or that their power is so secure that no amount of rebellion, either open or behind-the-scenes, will make any difference. The first is a comment on the American people, and the second is a comment on the Regime itself – which, of course, was put in place with the tacit permission of the American people. In either case, though, it's bad news when it comes to our future. Ultimately, justice will be done – if not in this world, then in the next. This is my faith. But in the meantime, we may have a much harder road to trod than any previous American generation. But it will be a road of our making – so justice, at least in the collective sense, may be closer than we think or would like.

So yes, it would be simplistic to say that everything is going to hell, and nothing is any damn good, and there is no balm in Gilead. But to deny that there is something profoundly wrong with our society, and our system, and that nearly all of the “big pieces” are fatally flawed, would be simplistic in a worse way. (The goal of most of my discussions has been to point this out, as you know.)

But in moving beyond the headlines, we inevitably run up against hidden agendas, plots, schemes, and deceptions of myriad sorts. I have tried to deal with some of these as well, under the (mostly implicit) heading of “conspiracies”. But even conspiracies share, with overt actions, at least one quality – namely, that they are intended to benefit someone. In other words, they are not undertaken with no goal in mind. Someone always stands to gain (the “cui bono” question I am so fond of) – that is, if all goes according to plan.

The thing about conspiracies is that they are conspiracies for a reason. Number one, it's easier to implement the plan, and pursue the goal, if as few people as possible know what's going on – or alternatively, if as many people as possible can be deceived as to what is going on. A conspiracy can, in other words, be right out in the open as long as everyone who is not involved can be fooled into thinking that what they are witnessing represents one thing, whereas it actually represents something entirely different. The conspiracy part, then, becomes not what is happening, but why. In other cases, of course, it all has to be concealed, because to let it out would just cause too much trouble – too much opposition. (Even the hardest-core conspirator knows the value of good “P. R.”.)

Secondly, overt actions, because they shock and startle, and are found disorienting by people, and require so much energy to sustain, tend to cool off fairly rapidly and become compromised, co-opted, or otherwise absorbed into the general baseline. A revolution cannot go on indefinitely, by definition – although some have certainly tried. Revolutions – open rebellions – also tend to elicit counter-revolutions, which, if they succeed, may render things worse (or better, depending on your point of view) than they were originally. (The French killed a king, then wound up with an emperor.)

A good conspiracy, on the other hand, has a “half life” far longer, and of greater durability, than the garden-variety revolution, revolt, or insurrection. Conspiracies can last for years, decades, centuries... they can outlast regimes, countries, and empires (Freemasonry being the best example in world history, as far as I know). Part of this is because they have broader appeal. They are also better organized. They can also take over from a cooling, dispersing revolution, and pursue the same or similar goals in a more subtle, therefore more likely to succeed, way. There is what I call a “hand-off point” in which a sequence of historical events which began with a cataclysm is transitioned to “more level heads”, which may operate overtly, by-and-large... but in a conspiratorial manner when need be. (Do we fancy that our Founding Fathers did everything they did under public scrutiny? There is evidence that this was far from the case... but their track record is certainly better than that of the French revolutionaries, or the Russian ones.)

Who was it who said, “The soup is never eaten as hot as it's served”? Sometimes it's eaten hotter, as in the case of Nazi Germany. But most of the time the saying is on target. In this country, politicians deliver rash promises, and fail to deliver on nearly all of them. But by way of compensation, they provide other sources of amusement and consolation in order to help us forget about all the broken promises. Very few campaign on an explicitly pro-war platform (McCain and Romney being prominent exceptions), but they deliver war anyway because that's what they discover their job is once in office. But as to all the things, on the domestic side, that they promise to “save” -- well, very few wind up saved, and most limp along pretty much as usual.

So conspiracies are pretty much like any other form of activity, in that they are intended to benefit someone, or some group; the main difference is informational – conspiracies eschew a public image, whereas political movements relish it. But we're going to move beyond even the conspiracy level of analysis now. What do we make of actions – mostly on the part of the government – that seem to benefit no one... or, alternatively, to cancel each other out? To provide a few well-known examples:
  • We pass draconian regulations of tobacco marketing, distribution, and use, and at the same time subsidize tobacco farmers.
  • We fight “drug lords” in Mexico, and at the same time provide them with weapons.
  • We over-regulate the conventional medicine industry, and at the same time grant it a monopoly.
  • We grant a monopoly to the public schools, but at the same time allow them to thwart effective education.
  • We support “Arab spring” revolutions, then immediately find ourselves under attack by the former rebels.
  • We supply weapons to the Taliban in order to get the Russians out of Afghanistan, then turn around and attack the Taliban (who fight back using the weapons we gave them).
  • We destroy Iraq's infrastructure, then spend hundreds of billions building it up again.
  • One government agency does “drug enforcement” while another deals in drugs in order to make friends, influence people, and earn some extra cash on the side.
  • We subsidize corn, and then complain when everyone gets fat from consuming corn products.
  • The government buys weaponry that no one in the military wants.
  • We pay homage to “children's rights” while aborting half of them.
  • The government worries about global warming, and subsidizes heavy industry, oil, and natural gas (and suppresses public transportation in favor of automobiles).
  • The Republicans and Democrats regularly lock horns over trivial differences in budget, laws, regulations, and policies. But they are in total agreement on foreign policy.
  • We spend trillions on unwinnable wars, and don't even especially try to win winnable wars.
  • We give blacks their “freedom” but keep them in bondage to political parties and government programs. 
And so on. I'm sure you can come up with some other examples yourselves. Now – a lot of the above could be explained simply by referring to my Number One Rule of Government, namely that every government program is a jobs program. In other words, when you buy goods and services of any sort – whether wanted or not, effective or not – you create jobs. Regulations create jobs for regulators. Military and police actions create jobs for the military and the police. Regardless of success or failure! All true – but I suspect that something more is at work here. What I see in all of this is not just a plot to make wealth trickle upwards into the hands of the ruling elite and increase their power over the rest of us. I also see a strong hint of existential despair... of social/political/economic suicide. As I've said before, I believe the American Experiment has run its course. And what that means is not that it's “over”, the way a TV show would be taken off the air... but that the experimental part is over. We're out of ideas – at least of ideas that work. We have now become, in terms of the actual, on-going reality (vs. history, ideas, ideals, delusions, etc.), “just another place” -- just another empire, and a failing one at that. In other words, if you look at what we are, and what we do, it's frankly hard to distinguish us, qualitatively, from any of a number of other nations and empires. For that to happen, you have to start listening to campaign rhetoric and political propaganda, and get into our iconography – which gives one a strong impression that whatever greatness we might have once had is long past. When all that's left is ideas, in other words, that have nothing to do with current reality, then maybe it's time to just put those ideas to bed. And to put the very idea of “ideas” to bed as well. And yet, they seem to have sustaining power, the way so many ideas have in the waning days of a nation, empire, or political system. The Soviet Union was certainly “running on fumes” for many years before it broke up – as was the British Empire. (The Nazis didn't have time to go through all the stages of death and dying.) Even China, arguably the most “capitalist” country of them all these days, sustains itself with a steady but low-key and nostalgic diet of communist idealism.

The question then becomes, can we predict how a given nation, empire, or system will end, based on the way it started, or the way it is now? Russia and China were both totalitarian communist states, but their modes of evolution away from that differed dramatically. But could it have been predicted? I'm sure I don't know. The French colonial empire ended with a bang (Vietnam and Algeria), whereas England's ended with more of a whimper (India and Africa). Predictable? Who knows? We have frequently been compared to Rome in its declining days... but recall that that “decline” took longer than the U.S. has existed. Of course, Rome didn't have TV or the Internet either.

One thing is certain. The decline of any political system will have something to do with its foundational premises – with loyalties and ideas – and how they “morphed”, or failed to morph, over time. This country was founded by people who had much more of a sense of themselves as citizens of a given colony than of a nation; the nation-ness had to be placed on top of pre-existing loyalties, like a new ideological layer. (And we saw how thin a layer that turned out to be when the Confederacy broke away.) Even today, people are at least as likely to identify themselves as being from a given state or city than from “America”. “America” is just too big; it's too abstract. It's the stuff of ideologues – humanists, secularists – rather than of real, flesh-and-blood people. I suspect that when the average person says, or thinks, “America”, what they are really saying, or thinking, is “My America” -- the place they know, which might be limited to one farm, one small town, one county. I challenge anyone who grew up in Maine to think of New Mexico as part of “his” America – I mean, yeah, it kind of is... but really? No, not really – unless you're Woody Guthrie. And yet regionalism, and local loyalties, and particularly loyalty to the land, with all that implies, are frowned upon these days; they are almost forbidden thoughts. It's almost as if a “real American” shouldn't care about the real America – which gives the game away, since the thought control all comes from the Regime, which is, in fact, totally lacking in loyalty to land, home, tribe, ethnicity, creed... which totally lacks a sense of place. To the Regime, home is the blue-tinted towers of Wall Street, and the vast bureaucracies of Washington, Brussels, and Zurich.

So if that's a small sample of what America is all about, what will characterize its fall? First a decline, then the disappearance, of regional and local loyalties, which – for all of their bad reputation among the elite – are, nonetheless, sustaining. Pace Robert Frost, there is something that does love a wall – between “us” and “them”, between “here” and “there”. This is what sustains men in battle, at the workbench, or behind the plow. Oh, they may flirt with “ideas” from time to time, but for real living there is nothing like the feeling that one is really alive – that one belongs somewhere. But instead, we find ourselves ruled, and lorded over, by “rootless cosmopolitans”, and we are starting, more and more, to think and act like them (but without any of the compensations).

But then, paradoxically, I think we can expect to see nationalism (as opposed to patriotism) rise to an ever-more fever pitch, as our failures mount. There is nothing like loyalty to a lost cause. How many people laughed when George W. Bush pronounced “mission accomplished” or repeated, as a mantra, our need to “stay the course” and “not cut and run”? One would hope there is a planet somewhere where such nonsense would be greeted with hoots of derision – but all “W” encountered was polite applause. And the point is that, eventually, absurdity takes over from ideas. The Roman Republic coughs up Caligula. The first definition of “progress” is: That which does not really exist. Because any advance can be easily canceled out – especially when the advances are idea-based and the canceling-out is human nature-based. The Barbarians were more real than the decadent Romans; once ideas had died, genuine human-ness had a right to reclaim the territory it had lost.

So what do we have in our time? A government that tries to “spread democracy” with drone missile attacks. A voting process that is not so much corrupt as it is non-existent. A propaganda ministry known as “the media”. Another propaganda ministry known as “public education”, and another one known as “higher education”. All of our “ideas” -- although they might have been perfectly valid at one time – have been washed up on the rocks of absurdity and futility. We see self-defeating behavior in every quarter. Is it because we have outgrown our ideas? Or because they were false to begin with? Or because no idea can indefinitely compete with perverse human nature?

Animals tend to choose an isolated, out-of-the-way place in which to die. Empires tend to die out in the open, under a blazing Sun, with millions of witnesses. So there is always an element of humiliation and mortification – and yet the lesson is always lost on future generations. But the real question is, do empires choose to die? Is there some mysterious process by which they willfully self-destruct, not just collapsing of their own weight, but for the good of the human race? It seems to me that the absurdity we witness may be a symptom of this. Or, perhaps it is just the collective will of the world that we die, and it's futile to resist. (Certainly the Regime has long since abandoned residency in the U.S., assuming it ever had it. Its home base is now somewhere in Western Europe.) 

But if we're going to indulge in meta-historical speculation, it would never do to leave out the idea of Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. There are many views of this notion and its implications (historical, political, and otherwise). One train of thought is that it is a conscious process – that someone is running the show, the way a person would moderate a debate. The other idea is that it's more like an inevitable historical cycle, that is going to be played out whether or not the players are conscious of it. The second idea is, obviously, more fatalistic, and harmonizes with the notion of business and economic cycles that are beyond anyone's (or any government's) control. The extreme view would be that we're all puppets being controlled by an invisible hand, or wafted about on the winds of impersonal fate. In which case, the proper counsel would be despair, or – more optimistically -- “going with the flow”. Or becoming a Hindu, or something.

But what about the notion that Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis represents a process, or cycle, that must be controlled, or at least supervised, in order to work properly? (“Working properly” would mean that the goal, namely synthesis, is actually achieved.) Take a simple model – a cockfight. You have two cocks, one named Thesis and the other Antithesis. You put them in the ring. Synthesis occurs when one kills the other. But wait – that's not quite right, unless you're a Bolshevik talking about capitalism, or a French revolutionary talking about the Catholic Church, and then you're just being self-serving. Maybe one of the cocks is actually a hen, and the result of the match is that she lays a (fertile) egg. The chick's name would be Synthesis.

No, wait, that's not quite it either. There has to be some sort of merging, or transformation, or – let's say – a selection of the best of each. Like the “mixed economy” that our politicians use to talk about all the time (and when's the last time any of them used that term?) -- it took the best of capitalism and socialism, and tossed out the bad stuff of each. (In which case, why are we still fighting over the matter? Did they keep some of the bad stuff, or toss out some of the good stuff?) (The answer is, we're not really fighting over the matter, only at the margins and over trivial details.)

In any case, the result – the synthesis – cannot look like either of the preceding states. It has to be different, and – in theory – better. But you can't get to that point merely by contemplating the alternatives; there has to be contention... a struggle. Kind of like “class struggle”, actually – which is one of the areas where one finds these terms most often. In other words, it is the struggle itself which, like a refiner's fire, guarantees the quality of the outcome.

What I actually suspect, based on the history of the last couple centuries, is that people (1) believe in historical/political/economic cycles and trends, as something built into the “system” (whatever that is), but also that (2) it's their job to move the process along, and accelerate it, and direct it, whenever possible, in order to achieve their specific goals. In other words, no one wants to play the game if they have no idea of the outcome; there has to be a payoff. So they cause, and encourage, aid, and abet culture wars, class struggle, economic conflict, political strife, etc., hoping for a “good” (by their lights) outcome, but always with a thumb on the scale. No one is indifferent, in other words; that would take much too much detachment and aloofness, and if they were that way they wouldn't be playing the game at all.

But the real point is that it is a game, and it is being controlled by someone. And, that most of what we naively take as “conflict” or opposition (even including wars and revolutions), is just two sides in the game, and that conflict and opposition is not incidental or accidental, but is willed by the overseers, the way the people putting on the cock fight want the cocks to fight. If they just got into the ring and made peace, that would be no fun. (And no one would make any money.) So when we see, for example, this bogus struggle between liberals and conservatives, or between Republicans and Democrats, we have to realize that it's all part of a very big game. We can participate if we like, as long as we realize that it's a game no one can win, except the people running it – not unlike a gambling casino. There may be individual or temporary winners, but in the long run it's always the “house” that wins. But by the same token, there is no shame in dropping out. Since the conflict is, ultimately, meaningless, we're not obligated to invest any of our very limited resources on it – unless, again, you enjoy that sort of thing.

But does the “house”, so to speak, always win? Aren't there some scenarios by which neither side in the game wins, but the house doesn't either? In other words, does the Regime always come out on top, regardless of what happens to the Obamas and Romneys of this world? And I say that at any given point in history, the regime will, in fact, come out on top. Or they will only lose once, and that will be the end of that particular regime and of that historical era. But you have to remember, we're talking about centuries-long cycles here. How long, for example, have the Freemasons been running things in the Western world? Since the Middle Ages, at least – even if they went by different names back then. Some might say, ever since the first heretical or blasphemous word was uttered by some onlooker at Calvary. And yes, there is a “regime”, of sorts, of disbelief, heresy, materialism, and carnality – but the term is more useful if we think in terms of organizations... or conspiracies, if you will. But how easily they assume the role of puppet masters! Nearly all of our presidents have been Freemasons, and nearly all of their opponents in elections have also been Freemasons. Both George W. Bush and John Kerry were Skull and Bones. What does it all mean? What it means is that even though the “contenders” are taking the matter seriously, the people far above them in the firmament are not. They are dispensable, in other words – and I don't doubt but that the thought occurs to them frequently enough. It is so easy to wind up twisting slowly in the wind... and it might not even be your fault! You may have simply been assigned a role, and when that role is complete you're no longer useful. The Regime is as merciless, in this regard, as the Mob (assuming they aren't the same anyway).

But in that case – you might say – isn't even the whole Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis game being played for laughs? Why even try and influence the outcome? Are we not, as the Greeks believed, merely playthings and victims of impulsive gods? Why not just sit back and enjoy the show? I think this is what does happen, to some extent. But even so, there are real goals, and real agendas. The Regime cares not a whit for the American middle class, for example, but feels compelled to keep Israel in business. It may be big enough to encompass Russia and China, but I tend to doubt it; they are left to play their own games their way. And it is certainly in opposition to the Arab/Islamic world, even though the game does extend into that world on a regular basis. So no, they are not neutral, like some interplanetary superpower in the old sci-fi pulps, toying with Earth the way some kid would toy with sea monkeys. The way they play the Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis game is, I think in part, a genuine desire to find out what actually works – what fulfills their agenda most readily, most efficiently, and most completely. Another reason is to set up false dichotomies and distractions (like elections) to keep the populace occupied, so they can go about their business in peace. Another reason may be to, in a sense, aid and abet natural selection, by sorting out the people who are willing to play the game and who can handle it from those who are unwilling or cannot. But still, another reason might be that – dare I say it? -- it's just plain fun. My ant farm vs. your ant farm, and all that. Hey – are they not flesh and blood like the rest of us (even if they won't admit it)? Are they not subject to the same foibles, and tempted by the same amusements? I sure hope so. I'd hate to think we were ruled by a race of total aliens.

No comments: