With one eye I see nefarious plots hatching and hear the whisper of conspiracies. With the other eye I’m looking into a mirror.
One agrees that religion is the opiate of the masses. Just as TV is the myopia of the asses along with other entertainments such as movies, video games pennant races, March madness and Raves. We are being unwittingly manipulated; bombarded to numbness by media moguls; told what to buy, how to vote and what wars are to be fought in our name. This is the voice of the conspirator.
I still can’t let go of the notion that Oswald wasn’t the lone assassin. Nor am I ready to reject the existence of a shadow government which renders the White House a side-show.
However on good days I believe that all these institutions, fashions, artifices and distractions arose organically, consciously or not, from some impulse or need deep in our entrails. Maybe we create our own form of narcosis as a defense against too much noise. Organized sports helps us sublimate our aggression on the couch and computer games develop our sensory apparatus to deal with life from a field approach rather than lineal sequentially.
I suspect that the truth wiggles between these two poles. We do act like sheep but we are also complicit in the political calculus. We live in a historical period without precedent. Politics has become an extension of public relations and mass media advertising. Yet at some point we have to own our folly and acknowledge the nit-wits, racists and corporate apologists, malignant as they are, as part of the American experience, like virulent organisms in our bloodstream.
I don’t think it serves us well to be distanced from what we may perceive as politically pernicious or commercially vacuous. The Pop culture today is probably no more alien to us than our era of swing music and urban life was to our elders. We, of a certain age, do not see through the new forms into the eternal verities. We are irritated by the unfamiliar as if it threatened us or invalidated all that we have lived for. It was ever thus.
Do the manipulators move us, sometimes to false paradise and sometimes off the cliff? Or have they simply tapped into our buried instincts? I have no answer other than I think it’s a bit of both. All the new forms of communication which technology has yielded are an extension of our need to touch one another. Yet few of us ever dreamed it possible and some among us resist it still and cling to the old-fangled.
Resistance to change is also hard-wired. We have a nose for trouble. Who knew what creatures lurked in that next cave?....or worse, the rival tribe might be ready to strike. Here is where the first conspiracy theory was planted.
Let’s not confuse the effect with the cause. If religion grew out of fear and superstition and acts like an opiate for the benefit of popes and ayatollahs it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are the dispensers of the opium. I’m ready to concede that religions have persevered out of a human need for sanctuary and transcendence. Maybe some day we’ll find that edifice and sacred space within ourselves.
In the meantime we might find reverence in the natural world, take responsibility for this dazzling, dystopic, sometimes enlightened, sometimes insipid society and take a deep breath.