A friend of mine points out that it looks like a lot of fun to be paranoid schizophrenic. Essentially, you perceive yourself as the center of the universe, someone that tremendously powerful and secretive forces want to affect. Whether they’re beaming invisible thought rays straight into your cortex or planting subversive characters behind the Dairy Queen counter, to a paranoid schizophrenic there are no limits to what the diabolical Powers That Be will inflict upon hapless citizens. I think I might have the reverse of this affliction, since I’ve never perceived myself as very important or that the things I do are worthy of scrutiny.
I can understand why a crazy person might think that his neighbor is an FBI agent planted to listen to everyone’s most private thoughts through a machine that looks suspiciously like a dishwasher: that person is crazy. In an effort to make sense of a scary world full of hallucinations and symbolism, being targeted by a grand conspiracy is a more salient reason than accepting that one is looney tunes. In fact, constructing such a conspiracy is a symptom of being bonkers. So when some fetid lunatic crawling backwards through a subway turnstile with no pants on–an event I witnessed yesterday morning–starts hollering about the Illuminati ripping off his recyclable aluminum collection, I won’t take that person to task. I have no clues as to the whereabouts of this can collection; for all I know, the Illuminati did take it.
However I am pretty fucking sick of otherwise intelligent, literate people of my peer group that believe in ridiculous conspiracy theories. Now there are reasonable conspiracy theories, many of which are not actually theories at all but immutable fact: Ronald Reagan’s administration traded guns to Iran for hostages, OPEC artificially raised the price of oil in the 1970s while falsely claiming their reserves were depleted, boxing is fixed. When powerful people meet behind closed doors, they can get up to all sorts of mischief. But these romantic ideas of diabolical conspiracies apropos of nothing carried on for generations are absolutely ludicrous. I had a neighbor try to convince me that the some Jewish family had been running the world’s finances since the fifteenth century, passing their secret pact from father to son for hundreds of years without a break. My dad still has to knock himself out every year to remind me that mom’s birthday is coming up, never mind my carrying out a sinister conspiracy on his behalf. Shit, if he told me he was part of some age old Jewish conspiracy I’d probably blab it all over town for free latkes.
Most conspiracy theories suffer from three flaws: one, they offer an incomplete view of history, depicting it all having happened according to an exact plan devised in smoke-filled rooms, not subject to forces like weather. Some theorists reply that the spooky characters who run the world can control the weather, they control everything, which is the second flaw: if the conspiracy is already fulfilled, then it’s not a theory, it’s just life. If the Freemasons decide when it rains but I still have to go to work every day, then I can only hope the Freemasons won’t take away our umbrellas. Why are they making it rain, anyway? That’s the final flaw in most conspiracy theories: they’re compelling and long-winded setups with no punchline. They often involve the most dizzyingly powerful people in the world going through tremendous and expensive ministrations to become even more powerful. What the fuck is the point? That’s like Warren Buffet fighting over a dime at the grocery store. Which he might do, incidentally, if he weren’t secretly brainwashing everyone at the behest of space aliens.
It strikes me as incredibly lazy and powerless thinking, to assume that every event is calculated above your pay grade and therefore is a fait accompli when most of us can barely keep our sock drawers in order. It’s salacious and fun to consider conspiracy theories, but when you start making broad connections across history to suit your assumptions, then you’re starting to line up with the same guy who blows erratically into a harmonica while shitting his pants near Union Square Park. And believe me, you don’t want to end up like that guy. If you thought amazon.com sent a lot of junk e-mail, the Illuminati’s thought rays are relentless.