Excursions into Undiluted Madness
Recent years have seen a massive proliferation of conspiracy theories. For good or ill, they have sold well on the marketplace of ideas. The porous nature of the net means such theories are thrust into the faces of people who’d really rather ignore them altogether, and may consider them both objectionable and dangerous.
Conspiracy theorists haven’t had it easy either. From their perspective they are surrounded by dupes—unwilling or unable to see the agenda that’s so obviously playing out. Sheep to the slaughter!
In recognising this state of play, I would suggest two possible paths emerge. The first—and overwhelmingly more popular—leads us to dig our trenches deeper and lob bricks even harder at the other side. This is the path of seeking to insulate ourselves ever more firmly in our existing worldviews, whilst dismissing all others.
The second is to emerge from our trenches, let go our egoic grip on our opinions and open up to mystery. The sense of mystery that arises from acknowledging that we don’t actually know what this world is or how it works. We don’t know who, if anyone, pulls the levers of power, we don’t know to what extent conspiracies operate, to what extent randomness is at play, or to what extent global circumstances are the inevitable consequence of incentives and the structures we establish. It may even be the case that nobody knows—even those at the top of whatever power structures do exist.
If we can acknowledge rather than hide from this fundamental sense of not knowing, we may find that our attempts at understanding are enhanced by ideas that, to quote philosopher Paul Feyerabend: ‘at first look like undiluted madness’. This door swings both ways: just as conventionally minded people may learn something from considering conspiracy, so too may conspiracy theorists be enriched by taking seriously the undiluted madness of mainstream opinion.
If that path sounds appealing, this may be a book for you.