|Aug/Sep 1998 Editorials|
If youíve read any of my previous editorials, you know theyíre usually thrown together at the last minute, provide little or no documented evidence to back up the claims and generalizations I make, and often contain turgid prose filled with run-on sentences and similar grammatical evils. You know also that Iím prone to self-deprecation (damn it, here I go againÖ), frequently engage in soap-box moralizing, and, to be quite honest, sometimes donít seem to be making much of a point. Well, I figured that it was time to do one of two things. I was either going to abandon all pretenseóI mean, if itís going to suck, I might as well write it that way on purposeóor I was going to actually compose an editorial to be proud of. So, I set out to do the latter, but in the process of formatting a hard drive and ending a relationship, I found myself late at night (the night before the issue was to go up) looking at a very crappy rough draft of the editorial I had painstakingly crafted into something halfway decent, but the revised version of which I had erased in the formatting. I only had the rough draft because I had sent it to Chris to prove I was actually working on an editorial weeks before it was due. Now, if youíve ever written something, and revised it, and revised it some more, and then lost all your revisions, you know what an absolutely heinous task it is to go back and revise all over again. Throw in the breakup, severe fatigue, hunger and late-at-nightness, and you have my state of mind for the composition of the editorial youíre probably reconsidering the idea of reading. I really donít know how it turned out, as at this point Iíve lost the ability to focus on the screen, let alone objectively evaluate what Iíve written. I will say that I didnít just pull it out of my ass at the last minute, but I also didnít carefully craft it over a long period of time. I crafted it out of my ass over a short and stressful period of time at the last minute. By the way, it ended up looking very little like my lost version, because I couldnít bring myself to revisit the same paths. I mention all of this with the purest of intentionsóbecause Iím into self-deprecation, probably as a defense mechanism because secretly I hope youíll think itís better than I led you to expect it would beóbecause Iím essentially a nice guy and I sincerely donít want you to waste your time reading on if what youíve read so far has been an unpleasant experienceóand because I figured if you actually read all my editorials then you probably like stuff like this warning anyway.
"Not doubt, certainty is what drives one insane." ĖNietzsche
"The trouble with the truth is itís just what I need to hearÖ and itís everything I want, and itís everything I fear."óGary Nicholson, sung by Patty Loveless, 1996.
"The truthÖ will set you free."
What do you believe?
Do you believe, for example, in Bigfoot? UFOís? Ghosts? What about God, or JFK assassination conspiracies, or Clintonís denial of sexual relations? Did Timothy McVeigh blow up the Federal Building with a U-Haul truck full of fertilizer? Did the CIA blow up Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland to cover up an international software spy-scam? Does the Loch-Ness monster exist? Is a womanís reproductive right sacred? Can a personís fate be changed?
It seems ironic, but the more Iíve allowed myself to believe, the more paranoid and less trusting Iíve become. Faith, it seems, costs peace of mind. At least, it does if youíre like me, in this time of the X-Files and Oliver Stone, this age of internet information, this era of disillusionment. No one wants to play the fool, and thereís no more personal way to do so than to become a dupe. When it comes down to what one believes, though, Iíve come to realize that the only way to avoid the possibility of becoming a dupe is to believe nothingĖto, in effect, not care what the truth is.
Ah, the truth. As Chris Carter will tell you, shrewdly, for he knows it will make him tons of money, "The truth is out there." Perhaps now more than ever, it seems we Americans desire the truth. Or, maybe itís the other way around, and we really just want to be bombarded with conflicting versions of what the truth might be, until weíre reveling in a real-life mystery more complex than the most twisted spy thriller.
This issue, I had an opportunity to interview a gentleman named Mike Ruppert. The interview is about conspiracy, which is really about an attempt to discover the truth, which in turn is really about what one is willing to believe. Previously clueless about conspiracies, and still relatively ignorant (considering the vastness of the topic), Iíve nonetheless developed a new understanding and appreciation for the wealth of conspiracy that is out there. The mainstream term for all of this is conspiracy "theory," though presumably some portion of these theories is fact, while some is quite probably fiction. Iíve read elaborate, unified theories that explain every political event, scandal, and mystery since Abraham Lincoln was shot, and Iím sure itís possible to go back further in history than that.
Warning: If you allow yourself to get enmeshed in these web-like theories, at some point, even the most skeptical of you will begin to weaken under a barrage of what is almost a kind of delicious psychosis.
Mike, the guy I interviewed this month, claims the CIA has trafficked drugs and assassinated presidential hopefuls. At the risk of destroying the objectivity I attempted to maintain during the interview, Iíll admit that I believe he was telling the truth. I canít really say why. He has plenty of documentation, his story is extremely compelling, and he appears to be a credible person. However, the same can be said about many conspiracy "theorists." Who knows, perhaps theyíre all telling the truth. But it seems to me that how much of what he said was true, or how much you or I believe is true, isnít the paramount issue.
What is at issue is that a capable, intelligent man has spent over twenty years of his life attempting to prove that the CIA is guilty of some very nasty stuff. If this man is making all this up on purpose, I think it shows some remarkable dedication and creativity. What would possess someone to go to those lengths? If this man is delusional, and only thinks heís telling the truth, then itís equally fascinating that his delusion can be so convincing as to fool him for twenty years and meĖan otherwise skeptical person. And if he is telling the truth...
If heís telling the truth, then I can put myself in his position and understand why he would still be trying to get the message across after all these years. If heís telling the truth, then itís a truth that demands our attention. Most importantly, the insight he offersĖthe perspective he comes fromĖafter all heís experienced (or claims to have experienced, or believes he has experienced), is worthy of our consideration.
That perspective is really what this editorial is trying to be about. Mike Ruppert feels that Americans are living in denial. That we are either unaware of the truth, or we refuse to believe what is true: that the reason behind the refusal is fear. We replace truth with convictions that we stubbornly hold onto. We distract ourselves with material possessions that weíre afraid of losing. Advertisers prey on our fear of balding, bad breath, and boredom, among many other things, to sell us their wares (a footnote giving credit to David Foster Wallace here would be cool, but itís just too much of a pain in the ass). The proliferation of conspiracy-minded entertainment caters to our need to dabble in the truth from a safe distance. In short, I think Mike is saying or would agree that our society is suffering from a breakdown in honesty at all levels.
I canít speak for the validity of all this as it applies to conspiracies. I canít speak to the validity of any conspiracies. And I wish I could be a bit less abstract and a bit more concise and quite a bit clearer on all of this. But I will say that I believe our society suffers from a breakdown in honesty at all levels. By that I mean that we lie to ourselves, we lie to others, and we are lied to by everyone, including and especially by those in power over us. I think weíre headed for an honesty crisis of sorts, with Bill Clinton leading the way. I mean, either heís lying or someone else is lying, but letís face it, someone is sure as hell lying, and Clintonís problems are just the tip of our iceberg. Weíre like children growing up in an alcoholic household. Weíre hungry for trust. We want to believe. We want the truth to be out there. But experience has made us too cynical to believe anything. We canít believe the government is looking out for our best interests, but we canít believe people like Mike Ruppert are telling us the truth either. Fundamentally, weíre afraid of being duped.
Recently, I came to realize that my personal life has been operating under the same conditions, and that fear of telling the truth has done one or both of the following things: killed a long-term relationship, or/and prolonged a relationship (along with my own adolescence) far beyond the time that it was right to continue it.
I found the following passage by Brad Blanton, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and Gestalt Therapist, applicable to my current personal crisis, but perhaps, in a stretch, it could be applied to the topic at hand.
"We all lie like hell. It wears us out. It is the major source of all human stress. Lying kills people."
"The kind of lying that is most deadly is withholding, or keeping back information from someone we think would be affected by it. Psychological illness of the severest kind is the result of this kind of lying. Psychological healing is possible only with the freedom that comes from not hiding anymore. Keeping secrets and hiding from other people is a trap. Adolescents spend most of their time playing this hide-and-seek game. The better you are at getting by with playing hide-and-seek during adolescence, the harder it is to grow up. "Important" secrets and all the plotting and cogitation that go with them are all bullshit."
From Radical Honesty: How to Transform your Life by Telling the Truth, Dell Publishing, 1996.
Speaking for myself, Iíve been one hell of a hide-and-seek player. I donít want to grow up. The idea of doing so scares the hell out of me. Perhaps the thing that scares me the most is that I know when I have grown up that Iíll be glad I did, and Iíll regret having put it off for so long. Itís like the adolescent me perceives its end is near, and that it will be replaced by a fully brainwashed pod-person. When, for all I know, the pod-person is what will be replaced.
Getting back to the issue of conspiracy, thoughÖ
If Mike Ruppert and his fellow conspiracy experts are right, then the CIA and other sinister forces out there, according to Blanton, are suffering from the severest kind of psychological illness. By virtue of contamination, their actions make our entire society dysfunctional.
And by virtue of our refusal to accept, seek or demand the truth, we Americans are locked in perpetual adolescence.
For such a sweeping generalization, I believe thereís some truth to that idea.