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by Ralph Jemmott
In the Harrison College Modern Sixth, the Headmaster and History teacher Mr. John Hammond told the class words to this effect: “In this world, whatever you read or whatever you are told, always retain a rational sense of doubt.”
Richard Hoad who was in the same class, recalled these words in one of his columns. Since then, I have taken all conspiracy talk with more than a pinch of salt. The RSA Journal Issue 2. 2021, produced an article entitled “Dangerous Deceptions”.
The author, Hugo Drochon, Professor of Political Theory at Nottingham University, examined the underlying causes of the amazing increase in conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists.
The Professor contends that such theories fill the vacuum that rational public discourse would normally occupy.
Remember that Hammond’s emphasis was on the rational sense. People’s rationality invariably but not exclusively depends on their level of cognition.
However as the late Kathleen Drayton once told her Dip.Ed class, Intellect is not commensurate with Mind, It is possible to have a very fine intellect and an equally poor mind. Mind relates to moral sensibility as well as cognitive competence.
Cognitive ability without moral sensibility can be used by “clever devils” to mislead and deceive the untutored, the gullible and the simply ignorant or the ignorantly simple.
The current pandemic provides an ideal breeding ground for conspiracy. There are still much about the virus that is not known, including its origins.
The dynamics of the infection are changing. At first it was thought that children and young people were less susceptible, now the young appear more vulnerable.
The threat of new mutations is very worrisome, the Delta variant has already altered the equation with frightening consequences.
Professor Drochon notes that some persons are more prone to conspiracies, but that nearly all persons fall for some conspiracy or other. Donald Trump’s Presidency was founded on the conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States.
It ended with the Big Lie that he (Trump) was cheated out of the White House by a Democratic Party conspiracy. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, today, some 78 per cent of republicans still support the Big Lie.
I have been subjected to a number of conspiracies, some rather mild, others bordering on the pathologically paranoid.
The first was in Jamaica in the 1960’s when I read a billboard warning black people not to take birth control because it was an attempt to wipe out Black people.
A similar caution was raised at a recent Town-Hall meeting in which someone sought to distribute a paper attributing the same intent to the current vaccinating initiative.
Perhaps the most outrageous conspiracy I’ve ever heard was the idea that the Americans themselves had engineered the 9-11 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York.
Apparently, if the conspiracy is to be believed, the United States bombed its major city and killed some 3,000 of its own citizens.
A Jamaican friend was extolling the virtue of the drug Ivermetcin as a cure for COVID. She was asked how if that drug was a wonder cure, why was it not in common use.
Her answer was that “powerful forces” tied to Big Pharma were working to forestall its use. Not surprisingly, she admitted to being a follower of Fox News. The story is told of a woman who sought her pharmacist’s assistance in acquiring ivermectin.
The pharmacist said he didn’t carry the drug as it was mainly used to de-worm farm animals and that she might try a neighbouring horse farm.
The pharmacist advised that if the horse-farm did not have the drug, she might try the donkey farm next to it, because he said, it’s good for jackasses and I am sure they would be pleased to give you a dose or two.
The world being as fractured as it currently is, some of the most looney conspiracies have surfaced. Q-Anon for example has produced an alarming array of conspiracies. One is that a number of Democrats, including President Obama, Hilary Clinton and a number of Hollywood celebrities sympathetic to the Democratic Party were part of a paedophile sex trafficking ring.
Another was that Princess Diana is not really dead, she is in fact living on a secret island with boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed. How on earth did the world become so sick? What is really sick is the belittling of work going on at the Harrison Point Isolation Centre in which doctors and nurses are working resolutely and at their own risk to save the lives of patients many of whom refused to take the vaccine. That is sick.
The so-called ‘social media’ is of course much to be blamed. It has fostered what noted columnist George F. Will calls “an intemperate discourse”.
In his recent book, ‘American Happiness and Discontent: The Unruly Torrents,’ he opined that: “The Media enables the instantaneous dissemination of thoughts most of which should never have been thought, let alone given written expression.” As a result Will claims, America has become a dyspeptic nation.
Some of these conspiracy theories can be easily dismissed, but others have severe real life consequences.
Hospitals in a number of U.S states are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases because republicans will not support vaccinations, or even the wearing of a protective face mask.
In Alaska and Idaho and other states hospital care is being rationed because of the demands on institutions. Some patients are left to die in order to save the more vulnerable. Doctors and nurses have to play God.
In his opening speech at the 76th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary General Antonio Guterrres stated that the human family should be given an F for ethics. Maladies of mistrust and misinformation, he warned are paralysing society. The increase in conspiracy theories reflects a painful absence of moral intelligence at a time when we face a planetary emergency.
Oh for a moment of Truth.
Ralph Jemmott is a respected retired educator.