Conspiracy theories are the new theology

Since the start of our historically simple species over a thousand centuries ago, we the close relatives of chimps, have clung like children to the branch, or blanket of our comfortable confusions. Clearly in cognitive and linguistic infancy, our ancestors may be excused their first philosophical fumblings. The obvious mens rea of this fabricated totalitarian ideology being the sedation of a primordial fear of the unknown, which unfortunately, gives too much power to those who divine, and dictate it.

“too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice. It renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests.”

Still the question remains: When faced with an unknown terror, what will take the place of our old friend, theology? When we as a collective are cornered, where can we go to close our conceptual eyes? It appears Dostoyevsky was quite correct when he argued that it was a mistake to remove the moral foundations of any society too quickly. As with the rise of Covid-19 pandemic, this invisible and faceless foe… people filled with fear are propagating through social media babbling conspiracy theories of the form: The government are all powerful dictators plotting our economic, or actual demise. How sad that we cannot seem to escape this Freudian thirst for an Orwellian Big Brother because at least then somebody is in control. They continue that (1) for financial gain hospitals are misattributing general deaths to the disease, or, (2) the government are inflating the sense of danger in order to keep the populace under thumb, and/or make our society cashless. Seemingly due to our propensity to collectively group, and then burn without consideration those we are individually blaming… a very bad form of group-think called scape-goating. Or possibly scape-sheeping in this case.

Proposition one has been pushed most recently by the popular Elon Musk, and for that I say “fuck you!” to him. Up with this I will not put. Firstly, I find it vaguely amusing that a Billionaire who is known to put his profits before the people would view our entire care system as operating foundationally on the philosophical bent of his business. We generally see what we are in the world, I know. But what I do not find funny in the slightest is the implication that the health-care workers, nurses and doctors who are all risking their lives to help us are a part of this sinister plot, and are actively lying to the public. Not only does this undermine the precautions that have been put in place, but it also has no logical, or empirical support. To apply Occam’s razor, one can either decide to take the second hand accounts from emotionally wrought family members most likely in the first stages of the Kubler-Ross cycle, or the trained opinion of professionals who’s vocation it is to save our lives. Personally, I do not believe you can be a morally, or intellectually serious person and believe the former. Fantastic claims require forceful evidence. I’ll return to that point in a moment.

The second statement is a misunderstanding of statistics. When you compare, for example, the rates of mortality from March last year to this, what you fail to factor is the very nature of the pandemic we are dealing with. Specifically, when people compare events which have passed their initial peak and are now at a plateau (what is called a thin-tailed), to a fat-tailed event which has the propensity to sharply rise, and is not likely to ease in curve any time soon. It is analogous to affirming in the starting months of a war that since the death rate hasn’t increased dramatically beyond the meaningful threshold of what we might expect annually, that this number will remain stagnant and there will be no upward spike in casualties. This type of facile thinking needs to be fought against.

Now let me return to the former point to tie them together and finish. Whether or not you actually believe the two points above, or are just publically questioning them, you are still a part of the problem. It is paramount that in these unprecedented times, we wisely air on the side of personal responsibility, and caution in both our words, and our actions. Particularly when we are speaking of a pandemic which has already caused hundreds of thousands of casualties globally, and the near collapse of our economy. It is not the time to loosely connect vaguely bunched anomalies into a pattern that suits our confirmation bias, nor is it the time to call those who do not believe in the theocratic delusions “sheep”, or “agent smith” or anything other than what you ought to be aiming to be yourself: a morally responsible person. There are two roads that lead from the end of this paragraph. My advice would be, instead of attempting to proselytise by claiming to know more than those who have the same information you do, begin by bettering yourself in seemingly inconsequential ways. You will be more use to those closest to you, which will increase their positive output, and in turn offers the means of saving our society. Or, you can continue down the path of frustration, blaming those in power because you have no clear conception of what you can do to help. One of these acts is courageous, and the other is based in fear, and irrationality.

In the end the choice is yours.

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