Tuesday 4 August 2015

The perils of the Internet as a tool for existential optimisation: Part 1 - Conspiracy theories

I have always considered myself as being in the possession of an open mind. I have always thought of this as a good thing. But it strikes me that if you use the Internet instead of, say, the library, which must be its analogue equivalent, to start looking for 'answers', then there is no end to the queue of people lining up to push all sorts of things through an open mind.

As this is a travel blog, albeit currently of a non-geographical kind, just a quick note on actual geographical travelling as a tool for existential optimisation: it didn't work. I simply took my issues all the way around the world with me and sometimes they weighed heavier than my actual luggage. Travelling was fantastic for all kinds of things but 'finding myself', Losing Luggage, and anything of that kind, were not among them.

Another quick aside to explain my use of the term 'existential optimisation'. What I really mean is spiritual fulfilment or something, but even I can't help rolling my eyes at that, it's like an involuntary tick. Given that I don't think I'll actually know what I'm looking for until I find it, 'external optimisation' seems like the best fit name for this journey, which obviously has its own eye-rolling qualities, for which I can only apologise. Or I could just stick with Losing Luggage.

Anyway, the Internet is not like the library. While you might stumble across the 'Esoteric, Mystic and Occult' section on the way back from 'Philosophy' or 'Religion' in the library, you won't have a bunch of strangers in the aisles who probably have viruses chucking pamphlets at you about how we're made by aliens. At the library, the guy with the sandwich board telling us that The End Is Nigh is not, from what I've seen, allowed inside, but on the Internet they have their own websites to really get into the details. Whatever print publications from established publishing channels that might be accepted in a library might lack or fail to satisfy with fact, the Internet is more than happy to make up for with theory.

So it is a disadvantage for me that I've always been partial to a conspiracy theory. There was only one when I was a kid - the JFK assassination. The first time I was allowed to watch television past nine o'clock was to see a documentary about it. They'd show one on every possible anniversary. I would look out of the window on car journeys wondering if England had grassy knolls, or if they were just in America. The JFK assassination was followed by the conspiracy fact of Watergate, so the idea that governments and institutions might have a complex and perhaps creative relationship with what others would call the truth has always seemed quite obvious to me, as it must surely do for anyone who has ever been to the cinema. I don't, for example, believe there will be a public service broadcast asking us to calmly make our way to the eastern hemisphere of the planet, take our seats and fasten our seatbelts as we are about to experience some celestial turbulence if an asteroid really is hurtling in our general direction. Obviously, a lot has happened since JFK and the conspiracy section on the Internet has it all covered.

There seems no end to how deep that particular aisle in the Internet library goes. You would have to take me to the pub and get me a beer for me to get into any of that. If you don't already have an idea about what's down there, you probably don't want to know. To satisfy the curious-but-non-commital-minded, you could look to David Cronenberg's Videodrome, or the 1988 film They Live (whose star delivered the immortal lines "I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum and I’m all out of bubblegum" and "They Live is a documentary!!" RIP Roddy Piper) for an executive summary of the common themes.

Regardless of whether they're true or not, I find them more interesting than TV, but can't tolerate the following:
  • bad grammar and spelling, a generally poor writing style
  • extensive use of capital letters and exclamation marks
  • bad attitude and bossy tone e.g. 'Wake up, sheeple!'
  • use of the word 'sheeple'
  • use of the word the word 'repent' and derivations thereof
  • smugness about having taken out the correct religious cover against an impending apocalypse
because they seem to be used by mean-spirited nutjobs. Even then, there's only so many theories you can take before you have to get out in the fresh air. They all seem to trade in the same currency: belief, which is why I leave mine at the desk before I go in. But when I look around, everyone seems to be trading in belief: whether immigrants are taking over or play a vital role in culture and society, whether religion is better or science, Conservative or Labour, Pepsi or Coke. Beliefs appear to be a valuable commodity. To continue any further on this journey, I can see that I will have to be extremely careful with mine.

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