Monday, March 23, 2009

Conspiracy: A Biblical View

I recently finished reading Gary North's Conspiracy: A Biblical View. I had known about this book for some time, but for whatever reason hadn't found it sufficiently interesting a topic to read. After all, there are an awful lot of things out there demanding attention right now, and I just haven't had the time for reading much recently. I have a whole pile of books that I have intended to read sitting around gathering dust, or whatever it is that e-books gather when they are not in use, and this topic was certainly not one that was screaming for attention considering the present economic situation. But enough of that. So what did I think? First of all, let me say that I am not predisposed or even mildly sympathetic to the view that there are about three guys or some secret society that runs the world from the shadows. This point of view really grates on me. I get very tired of the infantile thesis that Hitler or Stalin or Mao or whoever ruined Germany, Russia, China, mankind, the 20th century, or fill-in-the-blank all by his lonesome self. No single human being can accomplish a feat this large without a considerable amount of help! These kinds of statements deny the culpability of the innumerable guilty parties that helped these leaders in their gruesome tasks, or otherwise stood by and allowed it to happen. They also ignore the fact that for anyone to attain the kind of political power that these men undeniably had, there must be a very sizable population that was sympathetic to their professed ideals, at least for a time. Likewise, if there really are a handful of sinister people operating from the shadows to accomplish all the evils of this world, this is only made possible by a compliant population. Not a knowing population necessarily, but at least one that "goes along with the plan." But surely people have minds of their own, or at least ought to be held accountable for their own actions? If the "conspiracy" is guilty of evil, this would imply that we ourselves are guilty of evil, for it is we who carry out their will. Are we questioning the actions we are asked to undertake? Do we bother to ask whether what we are doing is evil? If we are not, or worse, we ask, answer, and do anyway, then who is really to blame? In short, such a view of history is simply ludicrous, and is in my opinion an attempt by certain parties to avoid blame, or to avoid having to consider the possibility that humanity as a whole is capable of such evil. It is easier to shift all of the blame onto a single person, preferably a dead person for whom it is widely acceptable to publicly condemn and is incapable of defending himself. But it is not rational. This is why I have taken the cultural view of history. It is not possible for a single man, or even a few, to control a vast population which is diametrically opposed to such rule. Government necessarily is a product of culture. On the other hand, our very own conspiracy theorist Ben can point to many events which clearly show acts of duplicity on the part of the ruling class towards the ruled. There is undeniably a great deal of shuck-and-jive that goes on in the world of politics, and an awful lot of instances of voters manifestly not getting what they asked for. So who's really in charge here? Somebody's got to be making these decisions, and it sure as heck isn't "We the People." If you've been paying attention to this blog for some time, you've seen an ongoing debate between the two of us over precisely this point. After reading this little book, I'd have to say that the debate is officially over. It seems that we both had a little bit right (OK, so maybe Ben had a bit more than I did), but neither of us knew the half of it. At any rate, I'm surrendering my position. I agree with Gary and Ben: it really is a conspiracy. But there's a lot more to conspiracies than you might think. I was pretty amazed how similar a lot of what we had been thinking was to some of the central ideas of this book. It is true that I read a lot of Gary North's stuff, but I tend to avoid things like this. I usually stick to his economic and religious writings. Maybe its just that his thinking has influenced me to such a degree that I have basically shuffled down paths of thought that would lead more or less to a lot of the ideas in this book. I also encountered one of the key ideas in a quote from R. J. Rushdoony that Gary uses frequently, which I used awhile back. But Ben? Actually, the Rushdoony quote is a good place to start:
The important question to ask is this: What makes a conspiracy work? Let us suppose that a number of us conspired together to turn the United States into a monarchy, and ourselves into its nobility; let us further suppose that we could command millions from our own to achieve this goal. Or, let us suppose that, with equal numbers and money we conspired to enforce Hindu vegetarianism on the country. In either case, we would have then, not a conspiracy, but a joke. A successful conspiracy is one which is so in tune with the faith and aspirations of its day that it offers to men the fulfilment of the ideals of the age. It is an illusion to believe that dangerous or successful conspiracies represent no more than a small, hidden circle of diabolical men who are manipulating the world into ruin. Such groups often exist, but they only exist and succeed because their plan and hope is closely tied to the public dream and the faith of the age. If the threat were only from small circles of hidden men, then our problem would be easy. Then, as Burton Blumert has observed, "if we only unmasked the conspiracy, all our problems would be solved, but if the trouble is in all of us, then we really are in trouble."
And that first question is what this book is about: what makes a conspiracy work. Of course, it is a pretty short book, and provides mostly just an outline. If you are looking for a lot of specifics, this isn't the book for you. But it might be a good place to start, as it has an excellent bibliography. This book is more for a person who might be straddling the fence, who's a bit skeptical of both sides, the mainstream and the kooks, thinks there might be a bit more going on than makes the evening news, there might be a bit of manipulation going on, but has little patience for theories about space aliens killing JFK (sound familiar?) A lot of space is devoted to the broader, shared ideology of the "conspiracies," the main one of which he terms the "Establishment," (yes, that Establishment, the one that controls the USA) and just how they manipulate public opinion, a necessary requisite for controlling the public, rather than the public controlling the conspirators. A lot of it will sound familiar: control of the mainstream media outlets, control of academia, etc. But a good bit is commonsensical stuff that I never would have thought of: passive suppression of truthful conspiracy theories themselves as "kooky," even as the ideas promoted by the conspirators are far and away more bizarre. The conspirators use a lot of human-self censorship and irrationality to accomplish their goals (controlling public education helps in this regard...), and silence debate using such means far more than they actually bother to combat their rivals head on. But be forewarned: if you're not on board with the whole Christianity thing, first of all, you really ought to reconsider, but secondly, as the title suggests, the book takes a distinctly Christian view of things. If you are easily off-put by the suggestion that God has much to do with things that happen in real life, this book is going to get under your skin. Gary takes the view that all conspiracies are evil and necessarily against God's chosen order. He explicitly says that:
Western Civilization's moral foundations and especially legal foundations were constructed in terms of biblical morality and biblical law. Thus, the conspirators are at war against Western Civilization.
So, if you're an atheist, better keep an open mind (or find another book. But I'm telling you, you're missing out...) The last part is devoted to combating the conspiracy. Believe it or not, Gary has a lot of confidence that the conspiracy will eventually be broken. Maybe that's because he's taken the view that they are going up against God. I suppose smart money would naturally be on The Almighty. But he has a lot of regular old boring arguments to make his case, too, though this was written sometime before the present financial crisis. Interestingly, he even predicts in this book, which is fairly old, that there will inevitably be a severe financial crisis which will force the population to "choose sides," and though he isn't certain the good guys win this time around, he seems to heavily favor them. This is on the basis of the "conservative uprising" that has been occurring over the last few decades, throwing a lot of unwanted light on the institutions controlled by the Establishment, even if they don't necessarily have their own act all that together. Of course, he's got an unfair advantage making such a prediction, being a fantastic economist in his own right, but I still find it impressive that he was predicting these kinds of things in the '90's. He terms the solution "education," but to me, it sounds more like simple rejection of the conspirators. As he even explains, understanding isn't really necessary; just a simple distaste for what the conspirators have to say and want to do, and a willingness to give them the boot. And since he is of the opinion that the conspiracy is inherently anti-God, the solution is simply understanding and acceptance of God's order in their lives. Knowledge or even awareness of the machinations of the conspirators is really beside the point. As the Rushdoony quote implies, the conspiracy needs public approval of its plans. The conspiracy is only in charge of what the public wants to do. If the public isn't game, and can't be manipulated into playing the way the conspirators would like, well, it's all over. I would highly recommend this little book to anybody with any interest whatsoever in the topics discussed on this blog. No, there are no monetary statistics, and not much Austrian theory either, but I have a feeling most folks would rather tune in for politics anyway. And if you really want to "do something" about the present situation, I can't think of a better source. So, what are you waiting for? Check it out!

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