The underground is mainstreaming. Conspiracy theories are gaining ground.
From sovereign citizens who don’t believe in government or the rule of law to anti-vaxxers, from those burning 5G masts to QAnon-ers who believe in a nefarious group of individuals secretly running the world … they all have one thing in common.
They are often citing COVID-19 as a potential hoax and the restrictions put into place as a conspiracy by a certain elite.
Existing conspiracy theories see COVID-19 as a vehicle of tangible truth and proof of all that they deem to be true: that “they” are seeking to control our minds and stop us asking questions.
But how can also these diverse theories relating to health, government, race and globalisation find common ground in a global pandemic? And why are more and more people denying COVID-19?
Why this need to find a reason for COVID-19 that doesn’t involve a pangolin in a Wuhan wet market?
Here’s why people want it to be a conspiracy theory.
#1. Don’t like it? Deny it.
This is why it’s a hoax.
A friend of mine asked me the other day, “But do you directly know anyone who has the virus?”
We hear about it a lot on the news and then we don’t actually know anyone who has it. But even with several million cases in a population of over 7 billion people, if you don’t have a wide professional or social circle, it is not uncommon to not know anyone affected.
The thing is people are getting sick. This thing does exist. Actually I know two people, one lady in my meditation group and a colleague.
Labelling it as one of any conspiracy theories is a convenient way to reassure ourselves it doesn’t exist. Let’s label it part of the conspiracy that was doing the rounds anyway. As much as we don’t like the conspiracy, it won’t directly affect our health.
#2. People don’t deal well with the unknown
Over the last few months, we have lost all points of reference. Someone took all the pieces of our 9-to-5 existence and threw them up in the air. We are still waiting to see if, where and when the pieces will land.
What will the workplace look like and will we have one? Remote working seems to be the way forward, but that can’t apply to all professions.
Schools are opening again. Well, maybe, but students will have to be distanced. So students won’t go back full time, then? Well, no …
Airbus, British Airways, Renault, Total, Boeing, to name but a few, have registered catastrophic losses. Companies are furloughing and laying off people left, right and centre. Automation is a response to social distancing, but doesn’t that mean job losses too?
Bars and restaurants are open. But they might close again. People are resorting to secret raves. Holidaymakers are to be quarantined for 14 days. Airports are eerily quiet for August.
When you make any kind of strategy or plan, you often look to the past to identify what works. We can’t do that now. We are floating in a boat without a rudder, and the map we had is useless. Someone spilt coffee on it.
We have been engulfed by uncertainty, and we hate it.
Enter stage-left, a pre-made conspiracy theory. Again, we don’t like conspiracy theories but isn’t it better the devil you (kinda) know?
#3. Nothing in life is ever certain, and people can’t face that head on
This is what is hard for people.
The lack of certainty in the current situation will naturally lead people down the unfriendly path that ends in the cul-de-sac of a reflection that life is actually based on uncertainty.
Nothing is certain. Well, one thing … we are all going to die one day. But no-one wants to think about that with a virus on the loose, right?
The impermanence of everything is the basic human condition.
And yet in the western world we have taught ourselves to believe we are almost untouchable. We have sterilised our environment. We think we can control everything and anything. Most people reading this have fairly comfortable lives. The real dangers of this virus are actually not in the virus itself and probably not in the western world.
Experts are saying that 265 million people will face acute hunger by the end of this year. Hunger will kill people before the virus.
#4. People don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives
People are tired. They don’t want to think about this anymore. They just want the solution. As world governments are not giving us the security we need (and how can they?), people have turned on them and decided that they are actually the cause.
Enter the conspiracy theory again. Stage right, this time.
But rather than putting our fingers in our ears, shouting “hoax” and acting like nothing is happening, we all have to wake up and see one thing.
It actually doesn’t matter where this virus came from, but it does very much exist, as does the economic fallout of the past few months.
What matters is what we do now.
We temporarily went into lockdown. We ducked our heads as if a plague of locusts was passing through. But we came out of lockdown only to realise that the plague was still there. We just can’t see it. It’s an invisible, omnipresent enemy and we haven’t got a vaccine yet.
As hard as it is, we all have to embrace the incertitude and look within as to where we are going to go next, without getting caught up in fear that we can apply to outcomes.
Let’s talk about this again if I am wrong and it turns out that Trump engineered this virus in a lab as a way to get back at China and it’s come back to bite him. That, of course, is another “conspiracy theory.”
Either way, it is here. Now, let’s deal with it.