Monday, October 15, 2012

New Levels of Insanity

Not sure what people's thoughts are on the Tea Party. I know some people hold them in high esteem, others think they're nuts, and still others don't really notice them. Despite their own claims to the contrary, most people who pay attention believe that the Tea Party has quietly fizzled out of the political spectrum, having failed in their initial push to drive the Republican party to the hard right.

One of the things that really turned me off from the Tea Party initially, aside from their crazy-ass views, was the strange way they had of adopting vast conspiracies to explain their positions. Never, in all the history of logic and reasoning, has it been a good sign when a person must adopt multiple platforms that are individually shaky and collectively ridiculous, just to make their worldview realistic. For example, the Tea Partiers believe that our own government and elected leaders are part of some secret cabal of Communists who want to overtake our nation and turn us all into 1984-esque zombies (apparently, they never grew out of the 1950's). They also happen to believe that, only by electing their officials to government, do we stand a chance of stopping this demise of our freedoms. The irony, of course being that their officials tend to be the most closed-minded, bigoted idiots around.

For a long time, I thought that the Tea Party was a great big joke played on the religious poor by the plutocratic rich. But then, I saw that it wasn't so easy as that. In fact, there was something coming close to insanity brewing in the ranks. Something like a collective case of paranoid schizophrenia, where all the victims are having the same delusions, seeing themselves as the only sane ones while the rest of the world is bent on their destruction.

And apparently, that view is not too far from the truth. As it turns out, the Tea Party sees conspiracies everywhere, even at (or I should say, especially at) the United Nations. The conspiracy I'm referring to is a little-known, non-binding agreement passed by the U.N. in '92, and signed by then-Presiden H.W. Bush, which was meant to tackle the issue of sustainable development as the world population grows larger.

According to the plan, which is called "Agenda 21", there is an agreement among the nations of the U.N. to look for ways to create more sustainable living arrangements. Of course, never a group to let a good ol' ambiguous agreement go to waste, the Tea Party has turned a strange idea into a weapon against liberty. Just like bike paths, toll roads, and apartment buildings, Agenda 21 is meant to lower your property values over time so that you end up taking up more physical space, and therefore make more room for the growing population. Insidious! Also, downright CRAZY!!

But of course, it's not just a conspiracy. No, no. It's a liberal conspiracy! After all, it wouldn't be a conspiracy if it didn't come from the Left, right? And like all good conspiracies, it does very well in the echo chamber of the Internet. After all, the more outrageous the claim, the more popular it becomes.

Now, here's the thing about Agenda 21. It was not meant to be subjected to Americans, whose own private ownership laws and property rights supercede any precedent set forth by the U.N. Rather, it is meant to help developing nations, where land ownership is used as a weapon of oppression, keeping people poor because the wealthy have purchased all the available land. The Agenda 21 agreement is designed to help form sustainable, reasonable limits on land use in places where land is unattainable or otherwise short-handed. That's not the case in America, and likely never will be.

The funny thing about this, in my opinion, is how much can be tied to Agenda 21 by the conspiracy theorists. Again, it's the hallmark of a good conspiracy that you can attach everything you dislike or mistrust to it in some way. So, those who believe this is undermining America believe that things like bike paths are ruining their property values, that toll roads and high gas prices are meant to push them out of certain areas and into cities where they have less land of their own, and that apartment buildings are part of this as well. After all, those who rent an apartment rather than own a house have no land of their own to speak of. Conspiracy!

The lunacy of things like this really shocks me, and for a while I thought that maybe the Tea Party did this as a sort of litmus test: if you agreed with their most extreme views, they could tell you were just playing along. That's not really the case as I've seen it, though. You can't make a joke by trying to come up with a view that is more extreme than theirs because you will find people who believe it!

While I don't believe that all Tea Partiers believe this crap, I see that a fair amount do. I also see that those that don't are just as hung up about other things that are equally insane. What bothers me most, I think, is that these are people who use this information to not only define their world view, but also to decide on who to vote for. They form their opinions on this information, and don't seem to question it at all.

That's the final trait that I want to touch on, and it's one that I observe with every party and affiliation, including my own. We tend to accept information that fits into our worldview with minimal criticism, while treating information that does not with suspicion or outright refusal. This is a poor tendency to have, since it leaves us open to logical impairments (like with the conspiracy outlined above). Personally, I try to look at everyone and everything equally, and make a choice that is hopefully coming after moderate consideration of all views and positions. But it seems to me that, the more extreme a person becomes in their views, the more willingly they embrace any insane piece of information that supports their worldview, and the more vehemently they reject any and all other information, no matter how factually sound.

I hope that we can start to steer away from crazy conspiracies and return to a place where we can speak rationally to one another without fear that the other side will attack us for our positions. I think it is worth adopting a good dose of logic when we read certain things, and to think critically about it as well. Only when we do that will we be able to reject the insanity that this conspiracy theory represents, and come back to the table to work together on our problems.

No comments: