"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Antivaxxers, Southerners, And Progressives–The Crazy Conspiracy Theorists Of America

Blanton Thrift lived in a rural corner of the Mountain West, and stood for the rugged individualism that had always been the mother lode of America.  He was a rock-solid citizen brought up on foundational values, principle, and ethics; and was a living tribute to parentage, community, and country.

Image result for images the Rockies and valleys

Like many brought up in the more isolated and remote areas of the country, however, it was easy for Blanton to slip off the rails – to slide into a world strangely divorced from common America.  The immanent power of the high mountains and vast, open plains added a reduced normal, practical concerns to insignificance, and placed him in a unique, cosmic world.  

The Mesoamerican Zapotecs had also lived in a world of natural, immanent power.  Spiritual forces were in the lightning and thunder, the violent storms, predatory animals, and in the rising and setting of the moon and sun.  They were brooding in the massive mountains or in the night sky.  They were everywhere, frighteningly real.  There was no distinction among human life, nature, and the gods.  This religion was not a tame animism. There in the Oaxaca valley under a powerful sun and surrounded by mountains, there was no escaping the temperamental and eruptive forces of Nature and the gods.  There was no refuge from the particular divinity that resided there, no escaping its power and influence.  It was a world of ferocious, primitive battle, human sacrifice, and abject devotion.

Image result for images aztec human sacrifice

The natural world of most residents of Blanton’s valley was far removed from this natural animism.   It was one of ranching, husbandry, odd jobs, day-work, double-wides, and Walmart – a poor place; not as desperately poor as prairie Indian lands to the east, but poor enough.  There was little time or interest in the mountains for anything except hunting and patching Park Service trails for piece work.

Yet Blanton was different.  He found time to revel in the glory of the Alcorns and feel their spiritual energy.  He felt gifted and privileged to be endowed with a special, supernatural essence which gave him vision, clarity, and purity.

He was not alone in his epiphanic vision.  There were many like him, children of parents who had fled the East and formed communes in the West – neo-Utopians, idealists, followers of Thoreau and the Oneida experiment – who lived simply and idealistically.  They had come West not only to escape the materialism and crass capitalist excesses, but to find spiritual enlightenment, personal fulfilment, and communal love.

Most communes disbanded quickly, and while many members went back East, some stayed on, hoping that the miracle of the mountains would remain, that their hopes for spiritual regeneration not lost, and the promise of a new and better world still valid. Although the old magic faded once they went to work in the lumber mills in Absaroka, the freight depot in Marion, or the Walmart on the main highway, they, like the Zapotecs, still believed in the immanent, resurrective power of the Alcorns, and the benign spiritual beauty of the Valley.

Image result for images Zapotecs

The evils of the East, of Washington, Wall Street, Congress, and K Street could be kept at bay.  There was an impermeability to this corner of the country.  Hardened by political conservatism, this faith in a post-communal individualism became a religion.  Like most religions, however, fundamental, reasonable principles of morality, ethics, and honest spiritual evolution got lost in time and translation.  Not only were Blanton and his neighbors faithful to the tenet of absolute, irrevocable individualism, they – like all true, new believers – created The Other, forces which were out to infiltrate, infect, rot, and destroy them.   Logic, rational inquiry, thoughtful consideration were all thrown out the window.

Conspiracy theory – a belief in dangerous, destructive forces engineered by forces beyond the control of the individual – is not endemic only to the Mountain West.  The belief that Pfizer and Moderna in collusion with the government, and aided and abetted by an international cabal of Jewish conspirators, have put micro-chips in every dose of COVID vaccine to control the minds of every American, erode his free will, and make him an intellectual and emotional slave to Washington is far-reaching.  There are pockets of irrational liability wherever the conditions are right.

Image result for images covid vaccine microchips

Like residents of the Mountain West, those of the Deep South have been isolated, marginalized, and removed for two centuries.  Their defeat in the Civil War and beaten, badgered, and humiliated by the North during Reconstruction; plus years of continuing hostility and vengefulness on the part of the North, drove Southerners inward, deformed a once proud cavalier tradition into a suspicious, defiant, often hateful region.

Not only that – or perhaps a sequela of it – the Deep South is the most fundamentalist Christian region in the country.  Significant percentages of the populations of Southern states dismiss evolution and embrace Divine Purpose; believe that Armageddon will come in their lifetimes; dismiss any secular context for government, and are in favor of a Christian theocracy.  If one takes the Bible as the literal word of God, written and delivered by him, then just about anything else is possible.

Given this socio-political isolation, religious fundamentalism, and poverty, it is no surprise that Southerners are behind the most unbelievable conspiracy theories.  Fluoridation, they say, is an insidious plot by the Russians to introduce mind-altering, will-diluting chemicals into the water supply.  The American moon landing was a photoshopped, media event that never really happened.  The Twin Towers and 9/11 was a government conspiracy designed to spread fear and uncertainty among the American people and lead the way to a military dictatorship.  Government is currently releasing aerosol heavy metal components to block the sun and reduce global warming. HAARP ( High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is another government-sponsored mind-control program. 

Image result for images holy bible with cross

However, perhaps the worst case of delusional thinking is at the heart of American politics.  Progressives who believe that there is no such thing as ineluctable, permanently hardwired human nature.  What to most others are confirmations of this very human nature -  universally consistent, historical expressions of aggressiveness, territorialism, self-interest, expansionism, and protectiveness – to progressives are only temporary aberrations caused by ignorance and persistent anti-enlightenment thinking . Such historical ‘anomalies’ can be redressed and eliminated over time if the political will and public investment are there.

Because of this unfounded belief in the certainty of human progress, progressives have labelled all conservatives political anti-Christs.  These Morlocks have organized underground cabals preparing to overthrow the government and to institute martial law and military rule.  They are promoting insidious anti-progressive beliefs in the guise of free speech and individual liberty.  The resistance to gender fluidity, Critical Race Theory, and secularism is borne of endemic, systemic racism, laissez-faire capitalism, and distorted Biblical interpretation.  As such, progressives are no better than anti-Vaxxers or weird conspiracy theorists,

Yet conspiracy theories are so widespread, that scientists have long looked for more universal reasons for them.  Some of the earliest work on the subject in the 60s was by Hofstadter who suggested psychopathology:

The paranoid style, Hofstadter argued, was a result of ‘uncommonly angry minds’, whose judgment was somehow ‘distorted’. Following this vein, some scholars came to view conspiracy theories as a product of psychopathology, such as extreme paranoia, delusional ideation or narcissism… In this view, the delusional aspect of conspiratorial beliefs was thought to result in an incapacity for social or political action.

Image result for images roswell ufos

Later researchers turned to what they felt were more compelling social factors.  How, they argued, could psychopathology be the principal cause of conspiracy theories when there were so many of them?

A belief in conspiracy theories is more likely to emerge among those who feel powerless, disadvantaged or voiceless, especially in the face of catastrophe. To use a contemporary example, believing that the 7/7 London bombings were perpetrated by the British or Israeli governments may be a means of making sense of turbulent social or political phenomena.

However, simply being powerless – most people are unable to influence events or decisions on anything but an individual or family basis – is not enough:

To the extent that conspiracy theories fill a need for certainty, it is thought they may gain more widespread acceptance when establishment or mainstream explanations contain erroneous information, discrepancies, or ambiguities. A conspiracy theory helps explain those ambiguities and provides a convenient alternative to living with uncertainty. Or that the human desire for explanations of all natural phenomena aids the conspiracist in the quest for public acceptance.

Whatever is behind it, conspiracy theories have become the most prominent feature of the American ethos.  Long gone are the days of Jefferson and the Enlightenment, Aquinas and logic, Kant and pure reason, and the objective, rational look at human history. We as a nation have jettisoned reasonability, intellectual rigor, and sensibility. We prefer to be all over the place, to color outside the lines, to careen this way and that.

So, I suppose we should be generous towards Blanton Thrift, accommodating to Baptist fundamentalists, and tolerant of progressive fancy – the argument for objectivity and rationality would be rendered faux and irrelevant if we didn’t – but still, it is hard to sit still while Blanton rants and raves about vaccine microchips, subterranean government plots, and the International Jewish Conspiracy. 

It can only get worse.  The Internet, social media, immediacy, identity politics, unchecked immigration and the dilution of whatever foundational political ethos existed in the country will be hard to reverse.  We’re in for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.