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The Manchurian Village

I recently saw the remake of the movie The Manchurian Candidate. In general, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Most rely on a series of events and actions that fall outside of my experience with human nature.

Conspiracy theories have the effect (often unintended) of making us feel powerless to change the world. They seek to convince us that there are forces “out there” inherently stronger than us.

Noam Chomsky is one of the premier purveyors of conspiracy theories (see Manufacturing Consent ). I believe he correctly identifies some of the difficulties in the world (e.g. political and corporate Influences wield too much power over our lives). He asserts that this control is covert and coordinated; classic conspiracy. However, I believe his conclusions as to the causes of this are too simplistic, and overlook human nature.

We tend to look for and protect that which is like us. We tend to view our actions as “good” and the actions of others as “bad.” While the “effects” of certain conspiracies are valid, I believe the causes to them are more organic than the coordinated efforts that various conspiracy theories posit.

Why is this important? Because it causes us to be distracted from the real sources of problems facing humanity. It causes us to look outward rather than inward, and it causes us to despair relative to our ability to change the world.

There was another movie released this Summer that more accurately addresses the nature of conspiracies: The Village. It starts with a traditional conspiracy of monsters and creatures; evil beings who are “out there” and who want to harm us. The movie progresses, however, to show us that the source of the evil was internal to the community, not external.

Be not distracted. We have the power to shape our lives, to change our communities, and to improve our world. Don’t cede that power to those who would convince you otherwise, including yourself.

  • You raise interesting points. The “evil within” is often more significant than the “evil without”.Haven’t seen either of the two movies you mention but I enjoyed your conspiracy topic and sort of “pirated” it for a more general perspective..

  • Anonymous

    I usually avoid conspiracy theories as well…but there is much about the current American political leadership that smacks of backroom deals, media manipulation and significant coordination. I can’t imagine any truly honest person being able to claim that they thought that George Bush is the leader of this current movement. I believe he is a figurehead and purely a spokesperson. Is this a conspiracy? I think yes. I wonder if there will ever be an understanding of who is doing and saying what behind the scenes.

    As far as the two movies, I have to agree with Tim. Although many people did not like or get “The Village”… I thought it to be brilliant commentary on who imprisons us with our fears and myths. I found it very telling among my friends who liked and who hated “The Village”.

    The Question: Do you just want to be entertained or do you want to think? Are we allowing ourselves to be lulled into a sense of well being or are we using our brains to critically assess the manipulation and propaganda we face daily?

    Rob Killian

  • I’ve not seen the films referred to, so I’m unable to comment on them directly. Regarding conspiracies and our fascination with them, a couple of thoughts: first, I think our tendency to think about them (and to find conspiracies significantly more frequently than they actually exist) is a function of man’s search for meaning. We select facts and ideas and try to assemble them into patterns that are meaningful. The less attentive we are to our selection of those facts, the more likely, IMO, that the pattern they reveal will be more of a Rorschak inkblot than a meaningfully accurate picture of reality. That the conspiracies typically discussed are negative reflects, IMO, a typical set of fears of insecurity and feelings of powerlessness that operate in most societies of social animals.

    All that said, I make my living by trying to discern patterns in others’ actions and formulate stories that are consistent with those patterns that will enable me to plot the best path for my clients. I like the general rule I heard recently: Never ascribe to malice what can be accounted for by incompetence. Kind of an Occam’s Razor for dealing with institutions.