Friday, August 30, 2013

Reason #301: On Conspiracies

First off--the Friday after my last entry was my birthday, and I was out of town. That hasn't always stopped me in the past, but I figured, screw it--I just hit 300, I can take a little time off. Thanks for your indulgence.

Second--I was going to do my entry this week about Eric Holder, but given the recent events in Syria, I've been seeing a lot of eye-rolling from my liberal friends about the notion of engaging another country militarily. As clear as Assad's atrocities have been--and as I was writing that last sentence, a report just popped up that the State Department has confirmed (excuse me, claims to have confirmed) that last week's chemical attack killed over 1400 people, including more than 400 children--there is a totally reasonable debate that can be had about this; whether air strikes are the right strategy, whether we can afford it, whether it's our responsibility at all, and so on. But that's not what I'm hearing--what I'm hearing is, "oh, Obama's drumming up another war as a favor to his puppet masters in the military-industrial complex."

Here's the thing--I can believe that shades of the whole conspiracy thing are true. I believe people in power are often dishonest about their motives. I believe that they think it's in their best interest to keep certain things a secret. I believe there are structures in place that facilitate the powerful staying powerful. But to whatever extent that's really the case--I don't give a shit. I don't think those things affect my quality of life anywhere near as much the above-board stuff does. And to whatever extent it's not true, when someone starts telling me about the shadow government that really controls things, what I am seeing is someone waving their hands in the air and shouting "look! Look how much smarter I am than everyone else!! I know what's really going on!" and how convenient it is that that knowledge doesn't require any real, agreed-upon information about the world.

Which isn't to say that they can't have information, or be very extensively informed--the conspiracy worldview, I think, begins at the point that someone looks around them and thinks, "man, the world is really fucked up. I don't know what's going on here...wait, why don't I know what's going on? It couldn't be that I'm a poorly-educated, ethnocentric American--an invisible man must be preventing me from knowing! He doesn't want me to know! That's got to be it!" And from that point on, any and all evidence that person comes across fills one of two roles--if it backs up his worldview, great--"look! See? The towers came down easily, so obviously they had bombs in them!"--and if it doesn't, well, of course it doesn't--"they" don't want it to. What, you think they're going to let us see the real evidence?

No matter how smart and extensively-informed a conspiracist becomes, the starting point of their worldview is a refusal to actually button down and engage with the world around them, because it's easier to come up with the ending ahead of time and cherry-pick your facts than it is to try and take a world as fucked up as this one at face value, and really try to understand why, when some of the facts say one thing and some say others. It's funny to me that most of my conspiracist friends are also the most anti-religious, because that's exactly what it is--a religion. A way of refusing to engage with reality in favor of a controlled narrative that's easier to digest.

When the Affordable Care Act was being debated by Congress, I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from major heart surgery. As Obama and the Democrats slowly inched further and further away from true universal health care in favor of a stunted, compromised version of a Republican idea, I was racking up a third-of-a-million-dollar medical bill. As far as the political process is concerned, no one is in a better position to be cynical about Obamacare than I am. Yet as much as its origins anger me, as little as its passage did for my situation, by the end of this year, it will have helped me. My heart condition requires me to have an echocardiogram once a year, at a cost of roughly one thousand dollars. Two echos ago, I didn't have very good health insurance, so I had to pay essentially the full amount--at about a hundred dollars per month, meaning that if it was a yearly procedure I would basically be paying a hundred dollars a month forever.

Then, last year, I was lucky enough to get on a better plan--one that paid all but fifty dollars of my last echo. Fifty dollars. As of last month, however, my employer was dumped from that plan, and I was forced to switch to one that both cost more and had worse coverage--one that, in all likelihood, would once again force me to pay the full thousand next time.

But because Obamacare's health insurance exchanges are about to open up, I at the very least have the option to look into a plan of my own, priced at a rate commensurate with my income, that's specifically suited to my personal needs. For a lot of people my age, the difference between one health plan and another means next to nothing--barring a serious accident, they have no regular medical expenses, so who cares if the coverage is crappy? But for me, picking the right plan is the difference between paying one hundred dollars a month forever, and paying fifty dollars once a year. As much as the health care industry is fundamentally fucked, and as much as Obamacare is fundamentally compromised, it is a real thing, that came out of the above-board political process, that makes my life easier.

When I attempt to discuss politics with someone and they go straight to the Council on Foreign Relations or the Bilderberg Group, what I hear them saying is that doesn't matter. If I'm gay and I want my husband to visit me in the hospital and retain parental rights over our children in the event of my death, that doesn't matter. If I'm black and I want to ride in the front of the bus or I'm a woman and I want to own property, that doesn't matter--because even if you do get those things, it's only because they let it happen--they, who want only to keep you appeased and docile.

When I say that to the extent conspiracies are true, I don't care, what I mean is, I choose to live in a world that I'm able to interact with. If I'm able to effect political change, or if I build a successful business and use my profits to help civilian society without even getting politics involved, those are real things, and the extent to which they're being allowed to happen by murky figures below the surface is, frankly, irrelevant and has nothing to do with the quality of the average person's life. I'd rather care about that.

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