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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Conspiracy


Out of a desire to understand what is often beyond easy explanation it is sometimes the case that people will connect what might seem to be unrelated stories and incidents, add a dash of wild speculation and even some good old-fashioned invention and come up with a theory as to what really happened or is happening around them. Lately, these theories—often we refer to them as conspiracy theories seem to be on the increase.

One explanation for the increase is that we trust less and less what people in power, and the press are saying. Absent a reliable source we tend to look for answers from those even less trustworthy. C.S. Lewis had fun with this in his tale, The Screwtape Letters. Posed as a series of letters between the scion of evil himself and one of his minions, a minor bureaucrat by the name of Screwtape, this wonderful and all too short piece lays out the fundamental case for human foibles, weaknesses and self-delusion. In Screwtape’s eyes we are all too easy prey for his particular form of mischief, which is to play on our vanity, ignorance and ego while he leads us to the devil’s door. Musing on this the other day I thought it might be fun to compose a brief send-up of my own; a conspiracy theory if you will.

Our tale is set in the distant future. Despite the work of the forces for evil, mankind has managed somehow to reach a period of relative peace and prosperity, not just for those in some parts of the world but globally. A single human is chosen periodically to act as the world’s leader along with a ruling council made up of peoples from across the planet. The current leader is not an agent of the dark lord, just a human being subject to all the insidious flaws we exhibit from time to time. He is extraordinarily vain, dismissive of other’s views, and possessed of an immense ego inflated by the position of power he holds, despite his all too human limitations. His council, like him is made up of ordinary people who have risen to the position of representing their peoples. They too, are neither good nor bad, just human.

Sensing an opportunity, the ever- patient Satan instructs his agents to exploit the leader’s weaknesses. First, they set him on a course of alienation, one which sets the world’s various factions against one another. All this is done in the name of securing peace and calling out those who do not subscribe to their views or those of the leader. The council goes along, each worried about protecting his or her own people from the unwonted actions of others.

Under the guise of religion, the dark lord’s workers seduce those attracted to power on the council and elsewhere, and those who believe more in man’s wisdom than fundamental truth. As a result of their handiwork, factions begin to subtly and then overtly persecute one another, asserting that there is only one true set of beliefs and all those who do not share this faith are cast out forever from God’s love.

Next, they target writers and teachers of all kinds, spreading rumors and mistruths that suggest that the written word is dangerous and that there is only one source of truth anyone needs to know—what those in power say from their pulpits and lecterns. All else they say is false and contemptuous. Very quickly, those who teach, govern, or make laws are held up to a skepticism that renders them ineffectual in persuading anyone but those who adhere to their particular brand of truth. With so many competing factions and so many so-called truths, chaos becomes rampant and for the safety and good of all the leader and his council are convinced they must impose an armed force to prevent the spread of crime and insurrection. Despite this, matters do not improve, and soon poverty, hunger and many other human ills become commonplace again as the institutions and structures that had once served the people are banned, closed, or disenfranchised in order to prevent their interference with the right of each person to do as they wish.

Having eroded most of the institutions by which Humans have been blessed with the tools to make sense of the world, the Devil’s minions encourage an increasingly hate-filled and often violent factionalism, setting one group against the other, each asserting the right and the authority to tell everyone else how they should live. It is the penultimate act in this cautionary play. Having restored ignorance, hatred, self-righteousness and disorder, the source of his power, Satan has just one last card to play.

In his battle with his arch nemesis the dark lord had reached this place before. It almost worked with Job, with Hitler, Stalin, and so many others like them on through the ages, every few hundred years, through wars and pestilence, and even in the name of God himself. By cultivating every base and ignoble cause humans devise, Satan has neared his final triumph only to have his victory snatched away. It was clear that the forces of good were nowhere to be found. He was confident that this time he would prevail.

At last he confronted his former master, and with mock humility crowed, “see what I have done.” A long silence filled the air. Yes, came the reply, I see that you have debased my children and caused them to turn on themselves. I see that you have once again perverted their good intentions and wreaked havoc on humankind. But tell me what it is you think you have won? The devil pondered the question and finally he said, “I now have dominion over everything”.

With a knowing and sad timbre in his voice the Lord replied. “No, I am, I was, and I will always be. You cannot prevail over me. Rather, you have without understanding taken on the work I have shouldered since time began, to shepherd my human flock. It has been wearying at times as they have had to learn and learn again every lesson I have taught them –and this time will be no different. But my clever adversary, it is you who will carry that burden for now, while I watch you labor to get anything out of them you desire. You see, it is easy to turn them into haters, sowers of discord and chaos. It’s easy to destroy what they have built, but if you want them to worship you, you are in for a surprise. They are willful, stubborn and fickle. You may prevail for a moment in time, but they will grow tired of you eventually and turn to the light for redemption. So, enjoy your victory while you can, it won’t last for long”.

I admit my little fable is a bit transparent, but do not think that it is about our current circumstances. It is about the human condition. Whether you are a person of faith, or a rationalist who believes only in that what man has made matters you must find your way by holding some things to be true and others not. When our facile minds convince us that truth no longer matters—that any and everyone is false except those who think like us, then we are truly lost. We have no center and we cannot prevail. If we allow anyone to rob us of our humanity—as limited and weak as that may be at times, we surrender to darkness. We are born to question, to reason and to believe. It is we who will choose in what.


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