May 18, 2011

I wanted to believe

In my time at the helm of Raised Relief, I’ve demonstrated a commitment to intellectual and ideological consistency about as often as I’ve demonstrated a commitment to wearing matching socks.

As a result, I suspect that my politics, expressed half a page at a time these past couple of years, may have the appearance of being skewed and at other times completely screwed.

There are several factors that contribute to my admittedly schismatic worldview, primary among them my firm belief that ardent curiosity should always trump the egoistic drive for consistency regardless of the consequences to one’s reliability. In close second, though, is the fact that my early political self-education revolved around screwball conspiracy theories I immersed myself in beginning in high school, most of which are still as accurate as they were when I was undaunted by the impossibility of their verification, and could gleefully spend all my time, energy and resources trying to do just that.

After an orthodontist appointment once when I was 14, my insatiable curiosity and indignation led me to the Scottish Rite Temple downtown where I authoritatively banged on the giant metal door looking for answers. I was greeted in the antechamber by a group of Masons as curious about me as I was about them. (One of the men was extraordinarily tall, wore a hat, a sash and an eye-patch, walked with a pronounced limp, and appeared to have come straight from the set of a James Bond film. I swear this is true.) A friendly gentleman who was taken by my interest was happy to show me around the place, which, while bizarre, was decidedly un-secretive. While all of it seemed to bare grave portent at the time, in hindsight I feel like my little tour was about as revelatory as a peek into the secret vaults of Chuck E. Cheese’s.

In 1999, I worked my ass off to save enough money to ring in the new millennium at the base of the Great Pyramids where I was positive a whole slew of cosmically triggered mechanisms would be engaged to usher in either the Age of Aquarius or the Apocalypse. Whatever the case, I knew I had to be there and, to my credit, I was. I remember being lonesome in a crowd of thousands, wishing I could get a drink during Ramadan, and ultimately wondering why I’d come so far to listen to Jean Michel Jarre and get sand in my eyes at what amounted to a giant goofy rave surrounded by a perimeter guard of armed soldiers. The next day, I took a tour of Giza and paid to ride on a camel. Once I was seated some eight feet in the air atop the mangy, ornery beast, the guy with the leash made me pay him again to get off the damn thing. There was a lesson in all that, I think.

I’ve finally clawed my way out of the psychic chasm I fell into as a result of staring too deeply into the void and find myself on mostly firm, if slightly damp, intellectual ground these days. Still, I’d warrant that about 25 percent of my daily decision making is colored by ideas gleaned from books I read as a young man with titles like “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” “Behold a Pale Horse,” “Hiram’s Key,” etc.

One of the problems with a conspiratorial worldview is that there is never any reasonable stopping point once you get going. One small, tangential idea is allowed to integrate itself seamlessly into another, repeatedly, until you suddenly find yourself riding an ideological juggernaut down the rabbit-hole of plausibility where you will eventually be found thoughtfully entertaining the idea that — to borrow from Dave Chappelle — “Kennedy was shot by one man, Oswald, with a magic bullet. An actual magical bullet.”

I know, I know. It’s crazy that I keep going back to bizarro myths like the notion that some cabal of malicious bankers and warmongers are diligently positioning the markets and states of the world to be in a constant state of abject fear so as to more easily manipulate the flow of power, money and resources upward to the few, instead of out to the many, creating a global neo-fascist Oligarchy that demands fealty from all corners of the globe … Oh, wait. That wasn’t one of my conspiracy books. That was the news. Damn. 

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