Sunday, January 28, 2007

The mind abhors randomness

I just received an e-mail inviting me to a local screening of “America: Freedom to Fascism”, a documentary by director Aaron Russo (Trading Places, The Rose).

Based on the reviews, AFF appears to be another of those international conspiracy-hyping exposés popular among the disenfranchised of the far right, and – post-9/11 – increasingly popular on the far left.

International banks control the country through the Federal Reserve. There’s no law requiring you to pay taxes; you’ve been duped. THEY are tracking your every move. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Bilderbergers, the Illuminati, Skull and Bones, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations are somewhere in there too, I’m sure, as they have been for decades.

That the documentary has appeal on both the fringe left and the fringe right reinforces my contention that the further left and the further right one goes, the more alike people think. They don’t necessarily believe the same things, but they believe the same way: suspicious, paranoid, rigid, tribal and doctrinaire.

Humans once defined ourselves as the only tool-making animal, only to find out we were not. In fact, we are a pattern-seeking species. As infants we divine how the world works by experiment. Little Isaac Netwons, we make sense of the world by finding the hidden patterns behind everyday actions. And where there is no pattern, we’ll impose one. We see animals in cloud formations, faces in ink blots, God's wrath in a hurricane, and madonnas in building stains and cheese sandwiches. When a loved one dies tragically, we ask, “Why?” and assume there is a reason. There has to be.

Nature abhors a vacuum. The mind abhors randomness.

So especially when our world seems to be coming apart, we seek a pattern and a mind(s) behind the madness: the devil, liberals, fascists, communists, whoever. Anything but randomness and chaos.

Over a decade ago I wrote elsewhere:
People are desperate for something in which they can believe. Communities have disappeared, replaced by subdivisions and condominiums. Terrorism and human rights abuses are more visible than ever. Anything you eat, drink or breathe might produce cancer. Science has reduced life to a cold set of mechanistic principles, demythologizing the world and stripping life of the meaning our myths once conveyed. The world seems to be coming apart and we are powerless to stop it. Nothing feels right anymore.

Is it any wonder people need something, some way to get control in their lives, some way to overcome our sense of powerlessness and paranoia? … But in the absence of feeling that we can effect changes in our lives, we find solace in the notion that that power might exist somewhere else. It is as if we awakened to find ourselves locked in the trunk of a car careening down a mountain road. We desperately need to believe someone is behind the wheel. Even a diabolical someone is more comfort than no one at all.
Find them. Expose them. Depose them. Only then can you reclaim your freedom and put the world right. At least there's a chance.

Or so it goes.

No comments: