I Want to Believe

Recently, after a particularly panicky spell of getting duped by bad information on the internet, I was explaining to a friend of mine the almost physical discomfort of being in the unknown when the stakes are high. The stakes in this case are the viable futures for our planet, and I have an incredibly huge emotional investment in things continuing on, because, you know, I think our little blue green earth is pretty nifty. I am attached to things turning out in a certain way (namely, not turning our planet into a charred rock, stripped of all ability to support life) so I get pretty upset when I think someone just threw the switch. Whether its 300 daily tons of radioactive sea water pouring into the pacific or flammable tap water, I jump on that information like its prey I’ve been stalking. I dissect it, devour it, regurgitate it and pummel it within an inch of its life until I can suss out just which side I can land on. Can I rest on the side of “Not dead yet” or “Final nail in the coffin”? In between those two sides is a razor blade and sometimes folks, staying in the unknown feels like that blade is going right up my backside. I’d really like a more comfortable chair.

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Funny thing is, we’re all in the same chair…or perhaps I should say boat. I have spoken before of the way hopefulness and devastation seem to be in a neck to neck race. On the one hand, you have Paul Stamets, the world’s leading mycology expert, working with Laurence Livermore Labs on using mushrooms as a method for pulling radiation out of the soil. On the other hand, you have Rocking in Ohio. (For shame, Mickey. For shame.).

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Regardless of where your attention and affiliation lies, be it liberal, conservative, neo-con, libertarian or somewhere murky, we’re all feeling the squeeze. Tensions are high, and so are fears. Ultimately, I think we all want relief. After all, we’re only human, and we’re animals at that. We want to eat and sleep and love and play and in between rest in peacefulness.

Current economic, cultural, political and environmental circumstances make meeting those basic needs pretty challenging, if not sometimes impossible.

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As insecurity increases in the populace, so does, I think, paranoia. Add to that a bureaucracy that is rarely transparent and a deterioration in reliable sources of news and truth and it creates a recipe for belief in conspiracy. I need to know the truth because it feels like my survival is dependent on it. But I can’t rely on you to tell me the truth because you have your own investment in your own survival and you may be getting your needs met with methods that go against what I need or believe. So I will find the truth out for myself, and then I can feel safe. Then I can survive.

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I think this tendency towards belief in conspiracy is intensified in populations that feel a reason to not buy into perpetuated mainstream reality. People get the short end of the stick in myriad ways, whether it’s being dicked over because of economics, religion or gender. These days, one doesn’t have to disenfranchised to have a sneaking suspicion that the corporate machine probably doesn’t have one’s best interest at heart. It’s difficult to know where to turn and who to trust.

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I’m not quite sure what has changed for me in the past few years, but while I used to entertain plausible conspiracy theories (JFK was an inside job, our government probably knew about 9-11 beforehand) now I’ve become downright grumpy about it all. I find myself awakening as if out of a dream, led astray by voices that whispered that the promised land was really in some side reality and wouldn’t I like to come that way? You can have some candy little girl.

Now I think back to countless arguments conversations with my father over how government really operated, who was really in power. I remember his exasperation mixed with concern…my daughter is going off the deep end. Well, I’m proud to tell you Dad, that I’ve clambered back over the edge of the precipice, but it wasn’t all for naught. I bring back wisdom from the experience and a broader perspective.

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Don’t worry, dear readers. I’m still a fruit and nut mix from California. I’m just less gullible and even more so, I’m a bit pissed as all hell.

I’m pissed because I see how the dissemination of false information and pseduo-science is hurting people. Hurting my friends. Bad info is scaring people and heightening anxiety. I cannot believe the perpetuators of total bullshit out there and just how many there are. Nowhere do I see this more than the countless articles circulating on FB about Fukushima and how WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE and we should evacuate the west coast immediately. Well gee, I guess myself and my family are fucked, because thanks to the tech bubble we couldn’t move if we wanted to. Guess we’ll just stay here and get tumors.

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There’s a lot to be concerned about, and the ongoing Fukushima problem is one of them. However, there is such a pile of crap out there to sift through, that for folks prone to anxiety and sleepless nights, the amount of digging required to get to the truth can just be too much.

I want to encourage you all to do two things. One is to vet your articles. Find out just who is saying what, and why. The second is to be careful about what information you pass on. Don’t be part of a paranoid rumor mill. You’re smarter than that. Don’t let some fear-mongering vocal douche bag take you on their ride of terror.

Keep your seat. Even if you’ve got a razor blade going up your ass. I can do it, and so can you.

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For more information on how to vet articles and to suss out who is trust worthy and who is not:

Evaluating Internet Content: from Georgetown University

How to evaluate internet content: from Boston College

Why rational people believe in conspiracy theories: from the NY Times.

Why people believe in conspiracy theories: from Salon.com

All photos from Sutro Heights Park.

Extra credit if you get the reference in my title.

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6 thoughts on “I Want to Believe

  1. MY SENTIMENTS EXACTLY. C and I regularly have arguments over the fact that some of the folks I live with and love, seem to think that all “subversive” information is equally valuable. He’s more of the “who’s to say there’s no chem trails?”(and hey who is to say there arent’?)-variety and I’m more of the “Why don’t we focus our energy and intellect in fighting that for which we have good information on and we know is actually happening, instead of wasting time discussing that which may not be happening.”-ilk.

    It kills me when people who care about our planet in word only (I love the Earth therefor I align my chakras before I drive to work.) (Or fly to our Earth Mama gathering 😉 hippies derail legit conversations about say, I don’t know, Global Climate Change, with “The government knows how to manipulate the weather”-not-even-pseudo-science-non-sense!

    Sorry, rant over. It just weights fucking heavy on me when people think their feelings, mostly of fear, are knowledge on a topic. When arguments are deliberately embellished with a sprinkling of nonsense theories, when facts and hypothesis give way to “the internet said it”, equally prevalent among alternative folks and wingnuts of the right. SIGH.

    You, are my beacon of sanity and guiding light. Love you. Tea date sometime?

  2. this is strong, and helpful.

    and it’s true, where ever anyone falls in their political/environmental beliefs is feeling this squeeze.
    i’m feeling it here, thinking about drought, praying for rain, wondering how we’re all going to adapt in the future.
    it’s -too- scary to think of what’s happening, what’s churning beneath our feet and above our heads.
    (drought tangent, sorry)

    but there is so much crap out there to filter through, and it does feel so hard to find sources that aren’t completely agenda-d, and wondering whom can one trust?

    i can trust you!!!!

  3. My dear Terrallectualism, I have never commented on your posts, though I have often had responses to many things you have written about. Let me start by saying that I adore reading your blog, it is the only blog I follow regularly. You have great insight and I love the variety you provide.

    Now, onto this post: I heartily agree with what you have spoken of regarding an intensification of fear amongst the populace and an increase in anxiety which has been propagated by media, left- and right-wing extremists (extremists in general in fact), as well as by those who are simply trying to do something else with their time because they believe they have something of value to share when in fact it is nothing but misunderstood or flat out false information.
    I am a heavy researcher in many areas, especially those pertaining to the current state of the world, from conspiracies to metaphysics to eco-psychology, and on. I have come to find that putting one’s ‘belief’ into something is a surefire way to become confused, disappointed, scared, etc. I think it is a wiser choice to read what you can (both online and in books) but always check the references as you have so wisely advised, and simply allow the ideas that you are reading to float through your mind and see where they take you. Do any of the ideas attach to something else you have heard or read about in the past? Is there a news article you read that somehow correlates to this “conspiracy” that you are reading? Considering all options (I think) is the best way to come to your own conclusions and decide for yourself, rather than letting someone else’s opinion or someone else’s fear guide you.

    (After all that) I felt compelled to share this and I generally do not comment on things but I hope this was somehow helpful to someone.
    I wish you all the best T and I look forward to reading your next post.

    Much love,
    ~B

  4. I am quick to act out of fear without knowledge…..Steve keeps reminding me of this; lucky I have such a level headed fella to slow me down sometimes. And lucky I have a friend in you to write clear makin-sense type blog posts like this. x

  5. i love your blog for this reason (and many more reasons :-))….you come here with so much knowledge and truth, and i feel like so many of the things you bring up are worth looking deeper into and it’s nice to have a place to start (a link, a book, etc.) i’m super skeptical of what i read on the internet, and i don’t want to be fooled, but i don’t want to be ignorant either. although, i have always been fascinated by conspiracy theories…….and god do i love the x-files!

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