Allow Me to Shake My Cane at You

It’s the 1980’s and a little boy is browsing his parents’ library. Nikola Tesla is a “Man out of Time.” The Illuminati are managing the stagecraft of history. Antiquated diagrams posit a hollow Earth, concealing its own internal sun and refugee Nazi army–and who built the pyramids, now?

Next door, where the grandparents live, Bob Larson is exorcising demons from those unwary teenagers who have haplessly dabbled in D&D and heavy metal. A well-organized conspiracy is hiding the truth of Satanic ritual sacrifice, while the Antichrist is waiting in the wings to implant 666 chips into the palms of all but the most faithful Christians. Ouija boards are serious business and, with a sharp eye and a handy camera, you just might be the one to prove the existence of UFOs. To borrow a phrase; nothing is true, and everything is permitted.

Conspicuously absent are: Absurd rants against the scientific method, comparing the peer-review process to the persecution of Galileo. Are: Skeptical activists, at every corner, reminding us all of just how empty and devoid of meaning the universe probably is. Is: a crushing awareness of the publishing deals and narcissism that drive it all.

It might be age, or it might be a changing culture, but what was once a source of wonder for me has all too often become a source of contention; the believers vs. the skeptics, engaged in high-stakes ideological warfare for supremacy over the blogosphere and cable television networks. The phenomena that once engaged my imagination have been reduced to talking points on the value of critical thinking–or on the dangers of scientific orthodoxy–depending upon the commentator’s perspective.

The old-time Forteana that I remember, when I’ve done chasing the kids from my lawn, when I’ve hitched by pants up to my chest and retired to my darkened basement littered with bulky, undigitized books, was was playful, speculative, and curious. Mothman, the Jersey Devil and Mad Gasser of Mattoon were legends to be appreciated, not taken too seriously. Pyramid power, alien abduction, and the Anunnaki of Nibiru were curious ideas that widened your imagination, rather than mounting evidence for a favored worldview. Of course, one might well believe in these or any of the other paranormal phenomena that presented themselves, but the current propensity for proving to others, for grinding axes and winning arguments, was not the overriding concern.

Or, at least, that’s how I remember it. Now, get off my porch.

, ,

  • TennesseeCyberian

    Excellent essay, sir! I feel inclined to wipe off my bloody nose with a smile and buy a round of drinks for all of my ideological foes, because gosh darn it, we’re all intellectual symbionts after all!

  • ishmael2009

    Yep, all the fun went out of it when they started telling everyone they were responsible for killing the planet just cos they wanted to drive their car to work.

    • Joseph

      This is my biggest problem with the “green” movements everywhere. They lambaste you for doing things with the resources your given but don’t offer any real solutions or alternative replacements. I’m not going to sell my 450HP sports car for a fucking stupid ass Prius or shitty Chevy Volt . Give me a 450HP sports car that doesn’t use gas and then we might have a deal. I’m not going to make “cuts” in my life to save the planet for some rich elites in the future. If the people that rule this planet really want to save it and help people, then they need to give us the advanced technology they’ve been hoarding for years. Oh but they would never do that because it would hurt their empires… (Scumbag fuck stick’s should go sodomize themselves.) I’m a firm believer in the so called “free-energy conspiracy’ and truly think there has been a replacement for fossil fuels since the start of the industrial revolution.

  • InfvoCuernos

    Was this back when it was considered wild speculation and conspiracy theory that the CIA was selling drugs in the US, you know, before they admitted to it?

  • BuzzCoastin

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

    believing anything at all can get in the way of experience
    experience eliminates the need for belief
    openness without conceptualization leads to understanding through experience

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.margerrison Nick Margerrison

    Just a great article. Conspiracy theory, for me, is wondering about how the world might work, not “explaining” it once and for all.

21