May 26, 1995


I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said that I was being ridiculous -everyone hasn't met me yet.

Rodney Dangerfield

That people perceive the existence of conspiracies should surprise no one. We have lived with conspiracies since our childhood. As soon as a child passes slightly beyond the totally self centered stage of development, conspiracies abound. John and Willy conspire to corner the M&M supply. A whole group of teachers are conspiring to keep Johnny from grabbing all of the toys and from hitting his classmates.

Being a male, I am familiar with male conspiracies. I can't help but believe that females have similar practices. I recall seeing a huddle of girls talking and occasionally glancing at me, as if I were the object of their conspiracy. That can make a young fella feel a bit paranoid about females. I have no difficulty understanding female paranoia about males since I have heard males conspire against females..

What I am saying is that looking for conspiracies is not unreasonable. Seeing conspiracies where none exist is crazy. The typical paranoid believes that there is a conspiracy specifically against him. The truth is that probably no one really gives a damn about him. His paranoia is rooted in his childhood.

Paranoia wouldn't be much of a problem if the person involved was just chronically suspicious. The problem is that the suspicion that someone is out to get you, leads to the logical conclusion that "I'd better get him before he gets me." At that point, a paranoid person becomes dangerous. If he is armed, he can be very, very dangerous.

Some conspiracies are real, but they are not directed against individuals; they are directed toward the acquisition of power or money. Anti trust laws deal with "conspiracies in restraint of trade." To see an attempt to make money as a conspiracy against specific individuals or against the world or nature is simply irrational. While what happens to the world or nature may be a consequence of that conspiracy to make money or acquire power, the people conspiring do not set out to wreck the the world any more than someone driving a car sets out to kill a child with it.

With the so-called right wing, it is a communist conspiracy to collectivise the world and regulate everyone's lives. For the left, it is a fascist conspiracy to do much the same thing.

Many people at the fringes also believe that you're either with me or against me. That philosophy was expressed in the 60s as "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." It essentially pits an individual or a small group against the world. This is not a new phenomenon; it is tribalism based on philosophy rather than kinship. It is also the basis for religious cults. I see little difference in the dynamics of a religious cult, a political cult, or a closely knit tribe. A major problem for the large number of people who are not members of the cult, is that they can be caught in the crossfire when active hostilities break out between two opposing paranoid groups.

Since virtually all people who are not members of the group are perceived as the enemy, everyone is in danger of being attacked. That is what happened in the Japanese subways and in Oklahoma City.

Since paranoia will always be with us, the only defense against it is to try to keep paranoid groups or individuals from being heavily armed. The problem with doing this is that it reinforces their attitude that someone is out to get them or infringe on their freedom. Having a group of unarmed angry paranoids around is better than having that same group of angry paranoids armed to the teeth.

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