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Conspiracy-Theory Theory

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My friend, the plumber, who is an honest and hard-working professional, arrived on time at the house we are about to occupy, two grandchildren in tow. My wife had just sewn me a new mask, with layers of special fabric inside. As I looped the elastic over my ears, I noticed right away that he and the kids weren't wearing masks. "What are you doing?" he asked me. "We're moving in pretty soon," I said, deciding not to answer the question he seemed to be asking. We went through the house, and the kids also went through it, as kids will in a place they regard as obviously unoccupied territory, hands-on, no surface or object unturned. Until Grandpa suppressed them. "Put that back. Wait for me in the truck." They moved out of sight, not to the truck, and found other treasures. But they were in the truck when we got done.

Social distancing was clearly not on his mind. I was being stand-offish, of course. We discussed the various options, and walked outside. The spring sunshine had awoken the world. I asked if he could do a video conference with the other contractors. "Naw, I'm too old for that," he said, starting the engine. "It's only the next step before they lock us all up." I realized then that my friend was a believer in some conspiracy theory that the pandemic is all a ruse, some Master Plan to, I don't know, hook us up to the Matrix or something. Turn us into zombies. I didn't really want to hear the details. Again. There's a guy in my town who rides a battered bicycle up and down the street, who can really give you an education on this stuff. I laughed and waved to the kids. But Grandpa wasn't laughing.

It reminded me how many of my friends and neighbors are convinced that they, personally, are the target of a vast conspiracy to, what: take away their guns? (Probably lower our sad statistics here, we lose about two a year, between hunters and handguns intended for home-protection.) Implant microchips under their skin, so they can be continuously tracked and monitored? Good Lord, who cares where we go? John Lennon taped himself, but did he tape himself watching those tapes?) Shoot them full of vaccines and microchips, making them docile slaves who can be told what to do? (I never could get people to do anything much when they wanted to be told, and I paid them!)

When I try to work out what the purpose of a vast conspiracy would be, it kind of gets dark and spooky. And insubstantial.

The idea that COVID19 is not a real infection is just plain wrong. Given my personal relationships with relatives and friends who are ER Critical-Care Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physician's Assistants, Physicians, Acupuncturists, Physical Therapists, Yoga Instructors, and other highly trained professionals, not to mention elderly relatives in assisted-living communities, as well as my own recent experience with spinal surgery (successful, thanks for asking) -- where was I? Right: I'm quite satisfied with the word of real people who are also trusted friends of long standing. So unless you decide I am another party to this "hoax", that puts that one to bed.

Then there's this persistent story that The Virus is designed in some bioweapons lab. I think I've written recently about my first experience with such a thing: Fort Detrick, Maryland, in 1958. My first peace demonstration, age ten. They were developing bioweapons there, and a small band of Quakers stood outside in the hot sun and held a "vigil", meaning we were bearing Witness to this nefarious activity by our government.

There are lots of very well-funded efforts to create weaponized bacteria and viruses. Selective bugs that can hit certain populations, and spare other ones (presumably, the inventors of that particular scourge). Really horrible, despicable work. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, there were reports of prisons and germ labs pursuing this madness far beyond any useful purpose but genocide, some just because they were prisons that ran out of money and supplies, way out in Siberia. I remember when it was in the headlines that smallpox was declared totally dead, except for one or two vials in the possession of the government, in some Level One Million Security lab. And they refused to kill off the last known viable samples. They couldn't give up what they imagined was control.

So I have to make a distinction here. We're wired up to act on our perceptions, not what's actually out there. So we have to work with great care, so our actions arise out of what we can really know, and not on half-baked horror stories. This is not trivial, it's a real challenge for anybody, even in "normal" times. (Caitlin Johnstone is right, though: this is normal times.)

What's real is that there's a pandemic killing a lot of us, and a lot more of us if we're poor, black, homeless, seeking asylum, or all of the above. So some of us are "all in this together", and others are "all in that together". And wherever we fall in that distribution, we have just the one defense, "social distancing", and respirators for medical professionals are scarce. So to begin with, you and I have to take on fighting this thing by not spreading the infection randomly to everybody we get within six feet of. And by the way, it's an airborne pathogen, so the usual surgical mask is not adequate.

No conspiracy in that. Scary enough for you? Who needs a conspiracy? This thing is terrifying.

As to identifying an evil perpetrator, you and I have nothing to go on, and no knowledge, and no access, and no tools or weapons with which to do anything at all about that. And most of the people who claim such knowledge have a vested interest in our believing them, and scant actual credibility, except maybe a large following. Like the President. That's not going to make me drink the Clorox.

So, to spread stories I have no way to verify, is not just dumb, it's dangerous. All it does is help to convince more people that it's all a hoax, and they can forget about maintaining safety protocols, to show they aren't being fooled. And if there is a conspiracy to unleash deadly pathogens, we're just feeding whatever demented purpose those evil conspirators might be after.

And my plumber, and his grandchildren, may very well be part of the next wave of infections that rolls through my community. We lost six this time around.

So what else you got for me? You want to tell me a scary story? About some horror in the face of which we're helpless? I got news for you: Global Warming is going to wipe out life in about twenty more years. Or probably less, the way it's now accelerating. That's not a theory. Or a plot. It's just a big, stupid blunder.

So what is the point of this "Illuminati" baloney?

I should just stop there. But there's more to it. And I'm talking now, to and about writers, and bloggers, and public speakers, and anybody that gets any attention at all when they express themselves. With deep respect, because you do what you do, I humbly ask to call your attention to a critical issue.

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I'm an old Pogo fan. For some unknown reason I persist in outrage at Feudalism, as if human beings can do much better than this. Our old ways of life are obsolete and are killing us. Will the human race wake up in time? Stay (more...)

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