Ask, “What’s Really Happening?” [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Lately I’ve been mourning the loss of Occam’s Razor, you know, that simple but useful little principle that, in the presence of two explanations that account for facts, the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. In our current national spin, the corrosive and stupidly-complex justifications are overrunning the simple explanation every time. For instance, is it more likely that the “Democrat” leaders are conspiring to inflate the pandemic numbers in a worldwide conspiracy (yes, 195 countries that rarely agree on anything are united in collusion with the American Democratic party!) to bring down the president – or – did the man botch the job and that’s why our numbers are so high? I’m going with botched job since I still have sight of Occam with plenty of data sharpening that simple razor.

Sometimes when I am sifting my too-many-thoughts-for-a-post I’ll jump into the Google pool in the hope that I’ll hit my head on a Google rock and clarity or at least some sense will come. Today I typed in a question: what conspiracy theories helped bring down the Roman Empire? There’s plenty to read if the fall of Rome is on your mind. I went down the rabbit hole and bumbled upon this fun phrase embedded in the List Of Conspiracy Theories page on Wikipedia [sidebar: there are more inane conspiracy theories than you might imagine and most find their place on the “What were we thinking” shelf-of-shame after a year or two passes. We can only hope that the good folks at Q or the pandemic deniers take their place high on the shelf before too long and too many people are hurt or killed from their delusion. Occam would cut them to ribbons if he weren’t laughing/crying so hard].

I digress. Here’s the phrase: Psychologists attribute finding a conspiracy theory where there is none to a mental illness called illusory pattern perception. Illusory Pattern Perception. It’s a “phenomenon in which observers see patterns that do not exist.” The epicenter of the illness that drives folks to see what is not there: lack of control. It’s existential, this American decline.

We are rapidly becoming the poster child for “a nation divided cannot stand.” As a lover of pattern, perception, and metaphor I find it profoundly sad that our latest chapter of lack of control has led us to division and mental illness. Seeing patterns where none exist. Making up horror stories about each other rather than letting Occam’s razor slice away the absurd and elucidate some simple truth.

Lack of control, as we know from the stories we just shared about 9/11, can also unite us. Lack of control can clarify us. It can inspire us to run into burning buildings, link arms with fellow passengers to rush a cockpit – knowing full well your action will bring a plane down and your life to an end – and do it anyway because your action will save the lives of people you’ll never meet or know. The lack of control can inspire us to stand in the hot fires of injustice (injustice is a control mechanism) and declare it wrong.

Unity, goodness, self-sacrifice – all of these virtues are exposed – or can be – in moments when control abandons us. Our path need not be ugly, vicious, divisive, or inhumane. The mental illness that blinds us is not natural to this nation – or to humanity. It’s what happens when frightened people, feeling out of control, meet a salesman of snake-oil solutions, a weaver of dark places in the public mind, rather than link arms and ask, “What’s really happening?”

read Kerri’s blog post about AMERICAN DECLINE

One Response

  1. Wait a minute! Are you absolutely sure the Occam’s Razor thing isn’t just another conspiracy?!

    Yesterday I wrote a long note to Senate Majority Leader McConnell de-crying just a few of the amoral specifics regarding his crass, disrespectful and gleeful jig dance around RBG’s deathbed…and more generally about his and his party’s roles in bringing to its knees what had been a reasonably good land peopled by reasonably good people.

    The Distinguished Representative from Kentucky is very busy this week with further choreography so my message will almost certainly be skim read only by some pimpled conservative intern whose holy mission it is to quickly sort it either into the “With ‘im” or the “Agin’ ‘im” pile.

    Still I felt much better after sending it as well as another letter to my two senators excoriating their Esteemed Colleague from the Bluegrass State while urging they do all in their power to scuttle The McConnell/Trump/Grand Old Party animals plans to take Supreme Power…which message I also cc’d to Mr. McConnell. (That’s TWO votes for the Agin’ ‘im’s!)

    If you have thoughts on similar subjects you’d like to share with Senator McConnell his intern can be reached at:

    Senator Mitch McConnell
    317 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    Phone: (202) 224-2541
    Fax: (202) 224-2499

    On the other hand maybe you are more inclined to the sentiment of the composer of this bit of doggerel–I have forgotten his/her name–a product of the frustrations many of us older folks experienced with politicians during the Vietnam/Nixon Era:

    “Should I write a letter to my Congressman?
    Each Congressman has two ends.
    A sitting and a thinking end.
    And since his whole success depends upon his seat…
    …why bother friend.”

    But do VOTE…

    …this time your life–AND THOSE OF EVERYONE YOU LOVE–may actually depend on it.

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