Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Folly of Youth and the Simple Truth

While having coffee with two very bright and thoughtful young friends, one of them said something which could only be referred to as "whiplash-inducing". After briefly describing the bizarre plot line of the fun but incredibly hair-brained movie The International, he took a sip of his French roast and wondered aloud how such a movie could have ever been made in Hollywood. What was disconcerting about this statement was that he wasn't being sarcastic. He was actually surprised that Hollywood was finally speaking truth to power - that such a film would not usually get the green light under the watchful eyes of the financial puppeteers who are part of a larger international network of duplicity and greed.

Truth is, these types of movies - in which America, the media, world banks, and the CIA are entangled in a web of deception - have been Hollywood's bread and butter for the last 20 years. Think Syriana, State of Play, The Corporation, The Bourne movies, Lord of War, W., Orwell Rolls in his Grave, The Conversation...well, just look up at the marquee and 4 times out 5, the bad guys won't be crazed Jihadists or jilted lovers. Oh no, your villains these days will more often than not be the international cabal of evil, the military-industrial complex, or the "Christian Right".

My young friend is by no means some uninformed, knee jerk liberal. In fact he is educated, charming, and very well spoken. The problem is that he's yet to realize that like an audience member at a magic show who is desperately trying to see how Marvin the Magnificent is pulling the rabbit out of the hat, he's been duped by misdirection, and still hasn't figured out the trick.

It's the ever eternal "folly of youth", and even we ardent conservatives were probably of a similar mindset before we hit our twenties. It's a curious phenomenon. People believe with great sincerity that Rupert Murdoch's media empire is controlling the flow of news for the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush/Christan right brigade while soulless companies are anaesthetising the populace into buying things they don't need. Most of us have heard all of this before, but those who really buy into this particular school of thought think they are in possession of a great secret - like they've just received the shiny ring from Bilbo Baggins and must hurry to Mount Doom to dispose of it in the fires of Mordor.

Here's the great irony - Watch any thriller at the multiplex, or tune into CNN or MSNBC for less than an hour, and you'll find out they're shoveling out this very same nonsense at a quicker pace than the Shamwow guy mops up those nasty spills. They've missed the bait and switch, and failed to realize they've been as easily duped as the guy they believe has somehow been subtly coerced into buying that Prius he really can't afford.

At the heart of the discussion was the BCCI, the now defunct bank whose questionable financial dealings eventually led to their downfall. Many people believe that the bank was caught red handed undermining the financial and governmental workings of third world countries in a Machiavellian scheme to eventually secure absolute control over their development. The BCCI became the most scrutinized bank in financial history, and it was the focus of an intense investigation by American and British agencies, including Manhattan's district Attorney's Office. The third world financing scheme is utter fantasy, but like the 9/11 "Truthers" who believe the attacks on the World Trade Center was the work of "The Jews" and "The Neocons", they demonstrate that a conspiracy theory is like a wildfire - hard to put out once started, and leaving nothing but destruction in its wake.

The truth about BCCI is far less sexy than we would like to believe. They cooked the books, used false identities to open accounts (and even banks) for questionable clients, and there were charges of tax evasion brought against former partners in the bank. They certainly were dirty, but the more outrageous claims, like The International, are pure fiction. In fact, most of the more credible evidence points to the BCCI acting as a agent to finance anti-American, and anti-Israeli operations. A conspiracy can be twisted to fit the whims of anyone's particular political leanings. Even my own.

So what are we to conclude once we wade through the mess of international intrigue, media conglomerates, and unabated capitalism? Well, when the government pressures banks to make loans to people who can't afford them, those people are going to default 68% of the time. The pretty lady on TV really can't force you to buy that flat screen plasma TV on your nearly maxed credit card. Detention of enemy combatants has been a practice of every armed conflict in history, and if the Bush administration really wanted to bilk middle eastern oil that badly, wouldn't it have been a lot easier just to re-negotiate the oil deals they struck in the mid-eighties? Why are rational people so eager to believe their government conspired with Israel to slaughter thousands of it's own citizens for a few Haliburton contracts?

Did the US deal with some shady middle eastern characters in the past? Yes, but as NR sagely noted, should they have continued to do so for consistency's sake?

It's a short walk down the road to Lochness, and the path is filled with boogeymen, creepy crawlies, and things that go bump in the night - but by engaging in these fantasies, we turn our heads away from the real dangers of this world. There have been over 20 honor killings in the past 2 years in the US and Canada, and like it or not, there are people who live by an ancient and barbaric honour code who want to kill Americans and wipe Israel off the face of the earth - Not because of something so trivial as middle eastern domestic policy, but because radical Jihadists believe Westerners are infidels for being tolerant of women's and gay rights, coupled with a sincere belief that Jews are descended from apes and rats. It is proclaimed daily on Palestinian TV shows, the most disturbing being children's shows.

There is an old latin expression; "Libenter id hominus quod volunt credunt". It means people believe what they most desire to be true. Yes, the world is sometimes an ugly place, but not for the reasons many well intentioned people believe.




WJG said...

You haven't lived until you spend significant hours working with a true conspiracy nut.

This was in the mid-90s before 9/11, but I still heard endless hours about the Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, Rothchilds, and the New World Order.

It was quite breathtaking.

gojoe150 said...

There's a felow I know who lives an a state of constant agitation over how; "everyone has got to open their eyes over what really happened on 9/11". It's like being friends with Rosie O'Donnell.



Anonymous said...

I believe the barbaric honour code you mention is comparable to the one perpetrated by any government which governs through the culture of fear. Is it not the same mentality of fear that causes radicals to commit jihad as the mentality of a government who creates and sustains wars in the name of self protection? Only on a much grander scale. 124 Canadians have died in Afghanistan since 2002, thousands of Americans in Iraq, to say nothing of civilian deaths. If an attack to N.American soil or citizens is an act of terrorism, can we then not classify open warfare in foreign lands as the same? Are we fighting for freedom or out of fear? Is it the same thing?

I enjoyed your article, Joseph. Though I have to respectfully disagree that the "folly of youth" has anything to do with how one forms an opinion. Especially if one is educated, intelligent, and well spoken. That's more than can be said for many people of any age, and thats a reality. As they say, age is just a number, and I don't think it is a magic number either.

xo Kat

gojoe150 said...

Well said Kat, and thank you for your comment. No I don't think there is any connection or similarities between ancient honour cultures and the strange notion that governments are keeping people in a "state of fear" to sustain support for an unpopular but just war.

There has not been a single terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. Few countries can make the same claim. Changes to section 6E of the criminal code or roving wire taps may get everyone in a flutter, but even from the beginning of this whole sorted affair, I remember the government continuing to encourage people NOT to live in fear and carry on with their lives.

You know what is scary? When 3000 people get butchered one beautiful September morning for the audacious crime of showing up for work.

President Obama thought that maybe peace, good will, and open dialogue were the key to a healthy, safer world. When he made gracious comments about Iran a couple of months ago, he was met with ridicule by Iran's leaders as they whipped a crowd of 2000 people into a heart warming chorus of "Death to America - Death to the Jews".

I don't live in fear, but I am not blind either. When 300 self professed "moderate" Muslims are holding up signs on the streets of Vancouver with pictures of the ovens of Auschwitz I get a little concerned. I also get a little leery when another self professed "moderate" Muslim gives a statement to the press that once a theocracy is elected in BC, Christians and Jews will have to wear patches. "Nice G-7 country you got here...pity if anything should happen to it."

I know these nuts are a minority. I love the Muslim religion and the Muslim people - but why is the peaceful majority so darned quiet?



Anonymous said...

Violence breeds violence. Hatred breeds hatred. Intolerance breeds intolerance. Suppression breeds rebellion. Fundamentalism breeds ignorance. Ignorance breeds ignorance.

"President Obama thought that maybe peace, good will, and open dialogue were the key to a healthy, safer world."

What a novel idea! Perhaps if all of the groups you mentioned could somehow follow his example there would be a lot less killing in the world.

Maybe I have misinterpreted the news media, and this is entirely possible as I dont make it a practice to watch often as I find it impossible to turn it off without feeling depressed, but I was under the impression that the invasion of Afghanistan was justified as a response to terrorist threat. A war in the name of security and protection, and therefore, a war based on fear of future threats.

I think you said it best, so I hope you dont mind my application of your words. The Bush administrations war, justified or not, are demonstratively 'hard to put out once started, and leaving nothing but destruction in its wake.'

Yours in cheerful opposition,


gojoe150 said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response, Kat. You are a dear friend of this blog, and I think the world of you.

Fear. So you're saying maybe if I leave the Goliath alone, he won't eat me.

Perhaps we should stop incarcerating rapists lest we begin living in "fear of future attacks on women". Maybe I should leave my door unlocked at night because I am living in fear of being robbed.

Do you remember the famous line "Peace in our time?" The decendents of 6 millions Jews do.

You are coming dangerously close to becoming an apologist for terrorists. Your whimsical world view would suggest you think that America must have done something to deserve what happened on Sept 11th, and by insisting on dialogue, you further suggest that the terrorists had some legitimate grievance that should be addressed. They did not. They are fanatics.

No one likes war, but some folks just can't accept the uncomfortable truth that sometimes war is justified and necessary.

Golda Meir once said a very wise axiom which I think sums up how people who are forced to make the hard decision to go to war feel;

"We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours."