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Sat, Oct. 31

Haddad: Conspiracy theories are a monkey trap and a destructive burden

During this election cycle there has been an increase in the propagation of conspiracy theories designed to embed doubt, spread fear and influence voters. 

Sadly, some of the most outrageous conspiracies are even being promoted by people in leadership positions who should know better than to throw gasoline where gasoline does not belong.

Equally sad is the astonishing (growing) number of people who want to believe extreme conspiracies and even seek them out.

These are people — and you may know someone like this — who see the world through the dark, deceptive lenses of pessimism, cynicism and skepticism. I’m referring to the person who not only sees the glass as half-empty, but also insists  the glass will be deliberately broken and used as a weapon against them. I often wonder what real happiness or peace such people are able to find. I also wonder what happened to taint their vision to such an extreme that they become unreasonable or blind to reality. I feel sorry for anyone who goes through life looking for conspiracies and lies because, ultimately, people find whatever they are looking for, real or not. A search such as this often breeds anger and hatred toward others with beliefs different from their own.

The burden that comes from such a lifestyle was once described by an unknown author in a poem called, “The Bundle.”

He carried a bundle of false beliefs,

Musty and heavy as a lawyer’s briefs;

Prejudice, jealousy, bitterness, strife —

These were the wares of his troubled life.

He carried the bundle wherever he went —

Anger, suspicion and selfish intent;

He saw what he sought, injustice and sin.

Life was a tempest without and within.

He mumbled and stumbled; the world was all wrong.

His bundle grew heavy as he shuffled along.

Worry, impatience, discord and doubt —

These were the things that he dragged all about.

There is more to this poem, about how the man finally was able to set his bundle down and walk away free. But to do so he had to let go of his own bitterness, distorted beliefs and pride. Sadly, it seems there are many who hold fast to these destructive behaviors, unwilling to recognize the harmful nature of their actions and the discord and contention they cause in their own lives and the lives of others. Their extreme views and closed-minded walk through life become a trap that they have set for themselves.

Their situation reminds me of a technique used by some natives in Africa and parts of India to catch monkeys. The natives drill a hole in one end of a hollowed-out coconut and attach it to a long rope. Then they put peanuts inside and hide it in the bush. When a monkey discovers the coconut, he works his hand through the small hole to grab the nuts. However, because the monkey has made a fist to seize the peanuts he is unable to pull his hand out through the hole. The animal becomes confounded. Once the monkey has his hand inside the coconut, the natives simply pull in the rope. No matter how hard the monkey pulls and fights, or how loud he cries and complains, he remains trapped as long as his fist is clenched on his desired prize. It is not the coconut that traps the monkey. It’s the monkey’s own stubbornness and overriding desires.

A hardcore conspiracy theorist is like a monkey who has latched onto what he wants to believe — complaining and struggling — and unknowingly becomes trapped. The only way he can free himself is to let go of the peanuts of extremism and the sticky layer of hate that often surrounds them.

Tired of his bundle, he set the load down,

He prayed long to God; his face lost its frown.

In his eyes dawned a light by which he could see.

He forsook his old bundle and walked away free.

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