(Or rambles with Charlie)
I’ve hinted at this before; I don’t like conspiracy theories. If I hear one slipping out of an otherwise sane person’s mouth, I suddenly lose all respect in them. This has happened a few times.
Man is a violent sort. It was only a start when our hairy ancestors beat down our other hairy ancestors with a bone. Aristocrats and nobles fought wars to give their lives meaning. Babylonian kings established laws so they could manage their own estates. Slavery existed everywhere, simply because it was convenient. We’ve cheated, stolen, desecrated, massacred, and fucked our way through history.
And that’s how I can respect the human race.
There’s simply no real need for conspiracy theories. We all suck, and everything is everybody’s fault. But that means things can get better, and we still control our own lives.
Conspiracy theories are the basis for a very different outlook on the world. Typically, this belief can be simplified as ‘most people are good, but a few evil people control everybody else.’ It’s a cop-out.
It’s saying ‘I’m a good person, and there’s no need to try, since nothing will ever make a difference.’ It’s an excuse to be lazy and a degenerate, and still feel good about one’s self.
And then there’s Steinbeck.
One day, in the waning days of high school (a few months back), I was talking to my former history teacher. He’s a libertarian. And a mason.
Well, he had never read ‘The Winter of our Discontent,’ so I was outlining the basic plot for him. I said “This guy, (Ethan Allen Hawley) was from a wealthy family. His grampa had been a merchant, who had all but built the town he lived in. The guy’s dad inherited the town, made a few bad investments, and lost it. So, this guy grew up accustomed to the life of the aristocracy, learned the ideals of being the proper and perfect gentleman, wielded his power gracefully and with the concept of noblesse oblige hanging over his shoulder. He’s a grocery clerk.”
I said all this with moderate, and entrancing gestures and wringing hands, a few gentle motions to the side.
“Well,” and my right hand is in front of me, palm facing the sky, “he gets it in his head that this isn’t the way things should be. He sees all the corruption, greed, lies, self-destruction, and selfishness that are winning their bids on American society of the 50’s. He realizes that he should be the one in charge, and that he would do vastly better and fairer a job than those in place. He also understands that the only way for him to do so, is to temporarily suspend his morals.”
My hands are moving faster and more dramatic now. I don’t mean to, of course. I’ve always been too energetic in that way. It’s only a waste of effort and concentration to stop my body from moving, and I was very excited and concentrated right then.
“That’s just like politics,” he says.
This totally blindsides me, I thought I was telling the story. Plus, I don’t get what he means. But, interested, I ask him to explain.
“Well, most people, to go into office, they have to believe they’re better than the other guy in office. So, they take a little money on the side, telling themselves that this will let them combat the real evils in the world. They plan it only as a temporary excursion from their moral perfection, but they never can get off that track, since they’re basically campaigning constantly. And then, when it comes time for the piece of legislation that they really care for, they lay their careers, their livelihoods, their reputations, sometimes their lives, on the gambling table. And then, everyone else votes with the money, because they’re doing the same thing, and they’re all selling themselves out on the little things, but they’re all doing it differently. And the parties only exist to bring everyone together under the money, and nothing good gets done by good people.”
“Of course,” he says, “some people are just there for the money and power. But it’s hard to believe that most, or even half the politicians are just in it for themselves. It takes too much effort, and they could be doing so much better for themselves with a regular business.”
This had actually been one of my ‘plans’ (more like a dream that I was interested in going through). Taking just enough money on the side to win, honoring all my commitments, and being the best damned scumbag politician I could be.
Let’s take Obama for an example. He’s a scumbag politician, and someone I sure as hell don’t want to see in office. But he fits my description perfectly.
He renewed the Patriot act. He cracked down on the Wikileaks. He focused a lot of his reconstruction money specifically on reelecting himself. He did all that drone strike stuff which has been really bad (read: pissing off the whole of the Muslim world). And a few other things he really shouldn’t’ve. But, countering this, he created a health care law, devoting the vast bulk of his energy to ending deficiencies and idiocies that end people’s lives. That law clearly meant a lot to him, and he paid a lot to get it; so have we.
So, there. People are people. It’s very hippy, and it’s very dark, but most of all, it’s very true. So, next time someone tells you the government is run by aliens, please slap him. For your country.
Mr. Bryant, if ever you do read this, please forgive my paraphrasation. Besides, I made you sound cooler.