Sunday, August 30, 2009

Conspiracy, Extra Spicy

The Freemasons served me a hamburger today. It did not seem like the sort of thing that contained ancient secrets or fascinating hints of conspiratorial intrigue, though there was a generous amount of Cajun spice poured on top of it.

It was good.

Our Little Town held one of its festivals this afternoon, down on Main Street (really - we actually have a Main Street, right in the heart of the town). We picked up the girls' friend Gracie and hung out for a while, playing the games, touring the fire department's ladder truck (with its 105-foot ladder fully extended, though we admired that from a safe spot on the ground) and stopping, eventually, for lunch.

The Freemasons certainly do not look like the kind of people who populate Dan Brown novels except as extras. Mostly they just looked tired from flipping burgers.  Perhaps that's part their clever ruse, though. You never know.

I have never been a big fan of conspiracy theories.

First of all, such theories assume a level of intelligence and coordination across large groups of people that as a historian I just have not encountered very often. Most people just don't have the foresight and mental agility to come up with a viable plan. Hell, most people don't have the foresight and mental agility to come up for air when drowning. And those that do tend not to be good followers. If there is anything a conspiracy needs it is good followers - people who know their roles and can stick to them without freelancing, bragging or just plain screwing up. Leadership is easy. Intelligent followers - now that's hard.

Second, I've always had the sneaky feeling that if such conspiracies did exist and were actually successfully doing what the tin-foil brigade insists that they are doing, perhaps they deserve it. I mean, it's not easy to pull off a good conspiracy (see point one, above). If anyone can do it, maybe they really are just better than the rest of us after all.

And this does not square with my general sense of humanity either.

When I was in college I was surrounded by people who insisted that I - as a straight white man - was part of a grand conspiracy to oppress them. This always puzzled me, as I was never invited to any meetings, nor did I receive any of the briefings or assignments that one would expect out of such a conspiracy. I certainly didn't feel like I was actively conspiring against my fellow students, some of whom were my friends and most of whom I didn't think about one way or the other.

There is a tremendous apathy barrier that has to be crossed in order to get a good conspiracy going, I think. Why go to all that effort for people you just don't care about? Mark that as another strike against conspiracy theories.

Oh, I was not so blind even then that I was unaware that being a straight white male in modern America didn't hand me a set of advantages over others not similarly described. I can get married. Racism tends to work in my favor in most situations. I get paid more for the same work. But you know, there is a difference between conspiracy on the one hand, and flat out unfairness on the other. Unfairness is easy to spot, often vociferously defended by people who have an interest in maintaining it, and rarely maintained by shadowy, secretive groups. People just beat you about the head and shoulders with it and expect you to sympathize with them while doing so.

Sorry, no.

So I took my Cajun burger and sat down on the curb. It was a bright, sunny day, there were crowds happily milling about, and so far as I can tell the fate of the earth was not being decided anywhere close by.

I'll take that.

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