I hinted in this week’s MR that I was considering a Drunken Speculation column about taxes. This is not that column. Fortunately for you, that column may never come to pass. Maybe. What I have been doing lately, in between my blogging commitments, working, homebrewing, cycling and football! (I can achieve all of this by virtue of not having children), is watching a lot of The X-Files.
The X-Files is a 90s/early 00s TV series about an impossibly good-looking pair of FBI agents who constantly have weird shit happen to them. Serial killers, aliens, circus freaks, magicians, Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black – the works. On top of this, there’s a shady conspiracy to do with alien-human hybrids or something. I don’t know, I got a bit lost around season six.
The point I wanted to make is not that Scully must be the world’s most skeptical human being. Seriously, I’m over 150 episodes in and I can count the number of times she’s correctly doubted Mulder on one hand. Nonetheless, she still doesn’t seem understand that the paranormal is real, even after she was abducted by aliens.
It’s also not about how Mulder must be a genius of Dr House proportions. In fact, he’s better because he never trips up on the lupus diagnosis and always manages to zero in on the exact paranormal phenomenon at work, even without the slightest indication to suggest what’s actually happening. Truly, a great fictional genius of our time. Also, David Duchovny.
The point I wanted to make is actually about the nature of conspiracy. If you spend enough time reading anonymous comments online, you get the mildly paranoid feeling that everyone is on something that you don’t know about. The ongoing EU financial crisis is a good example. Depending on who you ask, the reason for the drawn out nature of the fiasco is because:
- Its a test of whether banks can getting away with stealing depositor’s money
- The IMF wants more power
- Ratings agencies are out to destabilise the euro
- Angela Merkel is Hitler
There’s probably more but my brain is melting from the idiocy. Nonetheless, conspiracies can and do exist. They sometimes consist of huge numbers of people all hiding a dirty secret. But it only works when the interests of the conspirators align, compelling conspirators to keep quiet. In this environment, it is perfectly possible to create a new morality, one that is completely alien and usually repulsive to non-conspirators.
For example, the reason the Catholic Church was able to keep institutional abuse on the downlow for decades was because the pedophiles didn’t want to be outed; the reputation and powerbase of the Church itself would have been damaged, possibly beyond repair; and the victims didn’t need the attention or psychological trauma that coming forward would have brought. I’ve no doubt that in some cases, the victims blamed themselves for what happened. No one wanted to talk about it until, all of a sudden, they did.
This is called omerta. It derives from the mafia’s code of silence and is a key feature of conspiracies. The thing we learn from omerta – whether it be doping in cycling, the mafia or Catholic pedophilia – is that it is possible for dozens, if not hundreds, of people to keep a secret very effectively. This only works while the interests of every single person in the conspiracy are aligned. As soon as one person gets the courage to come forward – or usually several people who, combined, can get enough attention – and tell their story, the loose thread causes the fabric to unravel. Refer Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton.
So, how do I know there isn’t a government conspiracy to steal your money, enslave the people and generally be dicks to everyone? Because politicians, that’s why. In the west, we live in democracies. Politicians in democracies live to be elected. To be involved in a conspiracy, as demonstrated above, requires fixed, unwavering interests. If one conspirator’s interests change, the conspiracy falls. A politician, by definition, has no fixed interest other than being elected (I’m not naive enough to suggest that this is the same as voters’ interests). Therefore, a politician cannot participate in a conspiracy effectively as eventually he or she will blow it to save themselves.
In conclusion, the governments of the world are not conspiring against you. Your government might still fuck you over, because at the end of the day, governments are run by people and people can be real dicks, but at least it wasn’t premeditated.