Friday, February 22, 2008

Cause the History don't stop coming

My apologies for not keeping a regular schedule... but does history keep a regular schedule?

Nonetheless I will try to post on a more regular rate.

Alas, I cannot regale you with a full post today, but instead I invite you to ponder something.

Why is it so easy to make a conspiracy theory?

You take any given important event, you give anyone with the intelligence of a 3rd grader an excuse, and you can get a convoluted conspiracy that will be on the web within 13 minutes. Why is it so easy?

My answer: Two things, first history is complex. It is the sum of all human activity, except then you have all that interacting with itself in ways that cannot possibly be completely documented. Infinite complexity + finite minds = confusion, and confusion + desire not to be confused = lame excuse = conspiracy theory. It's quite simple math.

Secondly, history has a lot of interrelated factors. When one thing, like say the cultural fortunes of an ethnic group, goes up, a whole horde of other things, like say a school of thought, a city's economic situation, or say a politician's national standing, all are affected. And this is because there are links, not sinister links mind you, but just natural links between each person, and since history affects people, those links affect other people, and then since people affect history, history is altered again.

Basically, history creates a really big feedback loop with... well, everything.

Thus with a giant mess of links and connections, it's easy to pick out one or two, trace them up through the ages, and then say "My God, this is the secret to all history!"

Then you take things that don't quite fit and you squish them a little, and then a little more, and then a little more, until you get a whole bunch of convoluted conspiracies.

Let me take an example. Every country has either more sheep or more cows. Thus if you line up every bi-lateral conflict in history you have a conflict between sheep-owners and cow-owners. However, multi-national alliances might confuse things, but if you look at the upper elite, you'll notice certain connections to religious orders, political clubs, ethnic groups or some other grouping, I mean everyone has groups, and probably that can give a clearer cow/sheep backing line. Conclusion: All war is caused by the conflict between cows and sheep.

But perhaps I missed the most pressing reason for conspiracies. It's comforting to think everything fits within a neat logic. If there are clear lines of interest, clear villians, clear crimes, and clear tragedies, life's a lot simpler and easier to handle.

But a historian's job is not to make life easy to handle, it is to actually handle the whole of life.

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