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Conspiracies and the Theorists Who Love Them

Protestors at the World Trade Center site during the 5th year commemoration on September 11, 2006. See more photos. (Warning, some images and comments may be offensive to some readers.)

(Wordcount: 2,049; Pages: 5) The government of the United States of America, appreciating the value of beachfront property, permitted the levees restraining Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans to deteriorate to the point of being useless; so when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the resulting flooding (and a convenient 24-hour delay between the breach and the official alert) cleaned out the poor, the destitute, and all their belongings. The unaffected real estate is now potentially worth hundreds of millions more than before since it doesn't face the ghetto anymore.

The government of the United States of America, following a well-established playbook, sent agents to Venezuela in 2002 to incite riots among oil company workers, not to take control of Venezuelan oil, but to remove a politician who's publicly stated goal is to create a Latin American super-power, with him in charge, that can counter the U.S.' dominance in the Western Hemisphere, and consequently, cause the U.S. to forfeit the income earned on the interest of the billions of the dollars in loans outstanding to these "emerging economies", U.S. income that amounts to as much as an obscene 70% of some of these countries' GDPs.

The government of the United States of America, facing an economic downturn in 2001, followed another well-worn playbook, and fabricated an "act of war" by pre-meditating and executing the catastrophic tragedy at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The enemy: the vague, if also unidentifiable, terrorist organizations around the world. The prize: hundreds of billions of dollars to hire workers and buy technology and services to arm and "defend" the country. The recipients: Bechtel, a $50 billion corporation that also happens to be privately-owned and family-run, so they don't have to disclose how much they make, how they make it, and of course, who they give it to; Halliburton, whose subsidiaries mismanage $200 billion dollar, no-bid projects, only to ask for more money when it's all gone, and which, by no mere coincidence, lent us their CEO as Vice President of this government; and Wall Street banks, oil companies, and defense contractors, all industries in which the leader of this government (and his family) has financial interests in.

If we now know that large accounting firms, those defenders of capital markets, can rubberstamp their largest clients' illegal activities to protect their fees; and if we know that large corporations, those same corporations that supposedly epitomize the benefits of democracy, can lie to their shareholders and employees in an effort to hide their losses, while simultaneously solicit them for more money; or if we know that hundreds of people can be held captive in secret government prisons, against their wishes and without cause, if we know that these activities can all be done under the auspices of a "free" democracy, why are the above scenarios not believable?

Tracks of the Powerful Individual

"Labeling an alternative perspective a conspiracy doesn't make it improbable."

Nature is constantly trying to eliminate all traces of life. Through weather, gravity and time, she flattens the surfaces of the earth. The renowned tracker Tom Brown Jr. thus insists that "if it ain't flat, it's a track". None of the conspiracies above left traces of manipulation by some powerful person, unless you broaden your perspective and assume that the events themselves are the tracks. Taken as a master manipulator would have us take them, as isolated occurrences, there's clearly no master manipulator behind them. But taken as tracks, there are indicators that they were all by the same power, including motives, style, and direction.

Labeling an alternative perspective a conspiracy doesn't make it improbable. It does, however, make it a cause for ridicule and alienation, the reason fingers are pointed to the espouser of conspiracies in mockery of his deviant ideas. It is this implied lunacy, culturally conferred by having ideas that are different, that is the masterful means by which the obvious is hidden from common sense and simple observation; because if too many ideas are permitted to compete for dominance, nothing would ever get done in a democracy. If you believe otherwise, you don't know the history of every significant accomplishment in the United States, and have been fooling yourself into thinking your underfunded opinion actually matters in that democracy.

And that perspective, my friends, is what makes living in a democracy more tolerable. If you want to change it, you're the one living in a fantasy, because the true definition of democracy isn't a government where the publics have a voice, but rather, it's one where the publics allow themselves to be governed after a longer-than-desired time (longer than desired by the people who govern). In fact, all governments govern under this principle, where the form of government is a reflection of how long it takes to get everyone on the same page, not the publics involvement in it.

Unlike the typical "conspiracy theory", this perspective does not require you to believe it in order to be true. History - which despite its best efforts to repeat itself, remains perpetually forgotten (probably because it also keeps getting revised) - serves as an example of the way power over another person or group of persons is a living force, a force that can only manifest itself through the perception and designs of a singular imagination.

To be sure, no one powerful person alone can possess all power; indeed, all of the above scenarios are generally not accepted to be the acts of lone individuals, making it easier to believe that there is no super-powerful person pulling the strings. (The confusion is perpetuated from a society's need to have a tangible subject that can assume responsibility, which is why when terrible events occur, heads roll, individuals face courts, and sometimes, they even go to jail.)

Power, in fact, is co-dependent on other sources of power, and like all of nature's miracles, works best symbiotically and almost without coordination, so that ultimately, a smaller group of powerful people, working both as cohorts and opponents simultaneously and always in the interests of self-interest, can exercise their power collectively to ultimately achieve greater power.

In other words, two sources of power naturally draw a third, without any effort. And three sources draw a fourth. Until finally, all power becomes aggregated onto a smaller and smaller group, that, without even coordinated preparation to aggregate (but if possible to coordinate, infinitely superior), and careful planning of its use, yield even greater power. It is this careful aggregation and planning that allows a single individual to wield power without possessing it and without a trace.

How Power Operates in a Modern Democratic Government

Let's say that Wal-Mart is a source of power, thus its CEO, Scott Lee, is a powerful person. Because of Wal-Mart's reach and business, it attracts Goldman Sachs, another source of power, in order to facilitate and scale its reach and business. But Hank Paulson (Goldman's former CEO until recently) and Mr. Lee both require technology and infrastructure to do what they do bigger and better, so they call their buddies Sam Palmisano over at IBM and Jeff Immelt over at GE to help with that. And because everyone needs energy to do anything wherever they go, Riley Bechtel of Bechtel and Rex Tillerson over at ExxonMobile have just got to be involved.

Thanks to the psychology of vocabulary, these powerful organizations are recognized leaders in their industries, and are thus regarded "prestigious" rather than conspiratory; and voila, their actions are sanctified.

Of course, these organizations do not set out to concentrate their power; they're merely drawn to each other. The person that brings them together, that provides them with the means to become leaders, is the person who wields their collective power. But this person doesn't merely wield the brute power of their spending; as you've seen, they also exploit social psychology to achieve their means.

Think deep enough about prestige and you'll come to recognize that, like the psychology of vocabulary, it's another tool of power, a tool designed by these manipulators of power for societies to worship its winners. And you can only win when you compete. Competition is believed to make you better, since what you're competing for is thought to be scarce. But what it also does is distract you from recognizing that the concept of scarcity is also fabricated to give competitors something to win (1) and winners the societal justification to do what they do.

When two sources of power overlap, they consolidate. This is why industry leaders stay in the lead, why companies merge, and why events that seem unrelated actually are. For example, when content digitized, it could be delivered via any means, thus, cable, telecom, wireless, and internet companies - completely unrelated industries - converged. This is why Wal-Mart wants to own their own bank, because their power has overlapped with that of Goldman's. This is why Goldman owns so many commodities like oil and energy, because their power has overlapped with the Exxons of the world. And so on.

(Editor's Note: And speaking of the Exxons of the world, let's briefly examine the patriarch of all oil companies as a case study in power. Standard Oil's power couldn't be summed up as a trust at its peak - they owned their industry vertically and absolutely. Their existence required a new term: monopoly. And its split didn't destroy the Rockefeller's power.

(For generations since, they've demonstrated time and again how they concentrated all power onto themselves, through the ownership of vast land holdings: they owned all the land for the Rockefeller Center, The United Nations, and the Chase Plaza complex all in New York. State and Federal governments turned to them for land gifts in the millions of acres towards the establishment of national parks. They still own huge portions of the Virgin Islands, lots of Southeast Asian commercial real estate, and millions of acres of farmland as far south as Brazil;

(the largest charitable foundations which, through the establishment of the first professional charitable model, single-handedly cured many illnesses prevalent in the South in the late 1800s; established preeminant schools, think tanks, and other learning institutions; and through additional land gifts, established 1st Avenue in New York City as a preeminent medical center;

(the largest banks: with such unparalleled wealth, no mere bank could hold it, so they founded Chase Bank - today, still the 2nd largest in the world - which as late as the 1980s, was still one of the largest privately-owned banks on earth, the bulk of the Rockefeller wealth making it so. And when you're the largest bank, you deal with everyone, from the Federal Treasury to local business leaders;

(and the largest presence in politics where in a two-party system, they were one party - the Republicans - and everyone else was the other, a model co-opted from their own perspective that consolidated markets are more organized and efficient than fragmented ones, which through no mere coincidence is the same argument used by U.S. Electoral College for its controversial existence, an argument which ironically, also preserves Rockefeller's monopoly in politics nearly 100 years after they lost their commercial monopoly.)

In the real world, power draws more power onto itself, aggregating and consolidating until a smaller group manages it all. And one person can wield it. And they always leave traces so big, they're easy to miss. Tracks that are easy to miss because society is narrow-mindedly competing and praising the individual sources of power. And in that praise, you, the conspiracy theorist, are a party-pooping quack. And society continues to arrogantly believe that a conspiracy couldn't possibly manipulate them so thoroughly and without their knowing.

But these are just conspiracy theories, right, so they can't be true, right? And why should you care anyway: you've got a great job at a prestigious company; you're making enough to live an artificially middle-income lifestyle (2), where your desires and aspirations are dictated by large media companies; and you have freedom of thought and choice because you can select what show you record on your TiVo or what fast food restaurant to visit. No, you're certain everything you've just read are the ramblings of some deviant, who probably doesn't even watch Leno on his 50" plasma and is hopelessly uninformed about his country, its history and what it really means to be a patriot.


(1) The Logic of Not Competing

(2) Cloudy Job Prospects: Why Entrepreneurship and Not Leadership Is Critical in Transitioning Economies

Al Berrios is Managing Director of al berrios & co., an innovative strategy consulting firm advising leaders on the impact of human behavior on their strategies and on how to change their organizations to address the behavior. Write to Consumer Strategies Report at editor @ alberrios.com.


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