On this 11th anniversary of 9/11, I'm noticing that I have a number of friends whose energies remain possessed by deceptions by which either the government itself, or corporate interests in league with government, are bamboozling us all.
Statecraft and deception have long gone hand in hand. Terrible chains of causation have sprung from government lies; in my own lifetime the Gulf of Tonkin Declaration stands out. Lyndon Johnson apparently felt he needed a solid casus belli to justify a declaration of war upon North Vietnam, so he apparently arranged to pretend that our navy had been fired upon, plunging us into an ocean of blood and napalm. The twin lies justifying the invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam had WMD and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden -- did the same thing to a younger generation. So some lies are proven. We humans tend to distrust liars.
Three major conspiracy theories that preoccupy my honorable friends are built around the assassination of President Kennedy, the true cause of the destruction of the twin towers and adjacent buildings on 9/11, and the possibility that someone is spraying aluminum powder into the clouds above us to change weather patterns. In the last of these three, the implication is that Monsanto or other powerful corporate/government entities will come to exercise mega-control over agricultural processes and rake in scads of money.
I am no more able to know than any average citizen who killed JFK, how the towers were brought down, or whether global weather patterns are being deliberately altered by human agency. With horrified but also skeptical fascination, I have watched some of the documentaries and read some of the books and glanced at some of the websites. I certainly agree with my friends that it will be difficult to build a solid future for our republic on rotted structures of deception so well documented in the Vietnam and Iraq cases.
It is at least plausible that John Kennedy could have been killed by elements of the CIA that were unhappy with his supposedly dovish stance toward the Soviet Union. It is very far-fetched, but within the realm of remote possibility, that agents unknown carefully placed explosives within the World Trade Center buildings to doubly assure their fall. And it is possible that corporate/governmental agencies could be performing "geo-engineering" experiments in the atmosphere; the atomic tests in the West in the 1950s, done without the knowledge of ordinary people living downwind, suggest a familiar precedent. If Monsanto is indulging in the obscene hubris of seeding clouds, I'd certainly like to know about it. Their genetic manipulation of seeds on earth seems unsettling enough. It's my planet too.
The problem with conspiracy theories is that they can tempt our minds into a projective mechanism that leads ultimately to helplessness rather than healthy action. If we project into reality the existence of hidden forces that are so omniscient that they can act with impunity and completely hide their own tracks, our own motives and energy for positive change are subtly weakened. The more power we cede to the conspiracy, the greater can be our excuse to feel powerless and to do nothing other than stew and even retreat.
Related to this willed helplessness is the wide-open conspiracy of our own complicity: today we live in a world where we can't escape the fact that we ourselves are each responsible for the same changes that we might like to project onto dark uncontrollable forces: how each of us lives, in aggregate, is affecting the climate far more than any corporate great Satan. Because there are no international agreements -- yet -- for resolving many of our transnational challenges, we can become more vulnerable to anxiety and numbed paralysis.
Before we let secret conspiracies suck away our initiative, we ought to examine our complacent tolerance of fully daylit conspiracies that allow, for example, thousands of children to die each day unnecessarily of malnutrition and disease. Not a single child fewer would die if we knew for certain who killed JFK.
Calculations have been done to show that with a small fraction of the yearly defense budget of the United States, we could fund solutions to global problems that we clearly know will be the cause of future wars. We could get population growth under control, feed the hungry, transition out of the era of fossil fuels, mitigate C02's effect upon our atmosphere, and supply clean water, basic health care, and education to everyone on earth. How much longer will we conspire with ourselves to maintain the illusion that military dominance alone can address these issues? It is our condition to be awash both in what we may never know -- and what we know all too well.
Winslow Myers, the author of "Living Beyond War: A Citizen's Guide," serves on the Board of Beyond War (www.beyondwar.org), a non-profit educational foundation whose mission is to explore, model and promote the means for humanity to live without war.