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The Problem with Conspiracy Theories…

…isn’t that they’re not true: it’s that they’re not useful. Not actionable. Not empowering. Not falsifiable.

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”
Frank Herbert

Do people conspire?
Do governments lie?
On the daily.

So why is it even news to you that you’re small and weak, surrounded by forces you can’t control? Do you have no memory of being a child? Have you never been swimming in the ocean or looked up at the starlit sky or had a bipolar girlfriend or ?

Or done all those things with a bipolar girlfriend?
Things go cray cray fast.

Being small and weak is par for the course, my guy.
So is being powerless.
But being helpless? No, you are not helpless.

Remember the late great Dr. Stephen Covey’s concentric circles, in expanding order of diameter: circle of control, circle of influence, circle of concern.

You can only control the stuff in the first circle. The inner circle. The irony is that the more you do of that, the bigger its diameter gets. But if you try to work from the outside (from concern, which, by definition, all conspiracy theories are), you are in for a world of hurt (and a rapidly contracting circle of control). You can only push from the inside out.

Conspiracy theories are worse than useless. Worse than wrong. Worse than false. They’re unfalsifiable. At their worst (which is often) they’re self-enclosed, self-justifying, circular logic cults that can reject all confounding evidence as being part of the conspiracy. Again, when I want bad logic, I just go talk to bipolar women — or, as they’re called in Japanese: “women”.

HA! Locker room humor for the win!
(Please love me and pay attention to me).

Back on topic. If conspiracy theories are so bad and so useless, then why am I writing about them? Well because:
(1) a guy in a black suit came to my house and told me to, but (more importantly)
(2) I love them; I love conspiracy theories — as entertainment, as literature (but only when they’re not anti-Semitic; nothing shows lack of creativity and imagination than an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and I have no time for sloppy writing — I can watch Hollywood movies for that). Conspiracy theories are a sort of non-fiction-style science fiction. Sort of like SCP or lots of Whitley Strieber’s work or any and every word ever written by Jon Krakauer (burn!): it’s fiction, but it’s so damn good that it feels real. Conspiracy theories are literally our modern legends — our urban lore. Our myths. And
(3) Conspiracy thinking sometimes intrudes onto (into?) language-learning — right down to people genuinely thinking that Japanese was and is somehow intentionally “made difficult” in order to “prevent foreigners from learning it” (“why is ‘hot water’ お湯 (おゆ、oyu) and not 熱い水?!” — nonsense like that). Not true. Not a thing. But a dangerously bad idea that some people do have in their heads.

Conspiracy theories are myths (even when they turn out to be true, which they sometimes do). But that’s about all they are. They are not useful and are even damaging if taken seriously. They carry that hallmark of all pessimism — providing security and a sense of moral superiority through depressing explanations of the how the world works.

The truth is (yes, I know) that the real world is too complex to fit neatly into a story that some earnest guy who makes great online videos and documentaries can tell you. There are no neat boxes. There is no story. There is no adult supervision. There is no grand plan (although there are many plans). We have no idea what is going on. More can be explained by incompetence than malice.

Nobody but the old gods themselves (spoiler alert…oh, never mind) is smart enough and powerful enough to make intricate, mass-scale, long-term plans involving billions of uncooperative humans work forever. Have you ever tried to get five people to decide on what restaurant to go to for lunch? Yeah. That’s humans.

Again, some conspiracy theories do turn out to be true. Mass spying on innocent citizens of the world’s great democracies by their own governments was a conspiracy theory. It’s been proven to be a fact. But what good does knowing that do you? Literally sweet jack all. So you know that governments are spying…OK…congratulations? Do you want a horse to go with that windmill? Do you have nothing else in your life that you could be working on?

Circles, bro, circles.

Folks are going to keep making disaster porn and I’m going to keep enjoying (some of) it. But it’s important to recognize that while it is sometimes entertaining, it is often damaging, never useful and always unproductive.

And we haven’t even covered the worst part of conspiracy theories, and it is this: the worst part of conspiracy theories is that taking them seriously inculcates poor habits of thought — one ends up always looking for the “real” story, the “background”, the juicy details, “secret evidence” — when the truth is that much greatness can be achieved and many a problem solved in life by simply observing and acting on what is in plain sight. Seeing and doing the obvious is the most powerful and underrated thing in the world.

Examples of obvious-but-immensely powerful things:

You have been given enough to succeed. There is enough information already out there for you to make good decisions. Should you be prepared? Always. Be prudent. Maybe even be a little bit paranoid. But paranoia is like salt. More is not better. Never go full retard.

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