I recently read a piece in The Guardian by the journalist Brigit Delaney entitled, ‘Evil Forces. How Covid-19 paranoia united the wellness industry and right-wing conspiracy theorists.’ In it she puts forward the idea that there is an increasing trend within alternative and complimentary health practitioners to adhere to the same ‘conspiracy’ theories as those put forward by the alt-right extremists such as Alex Jones and Steve Bannon. A quick google and a wander around Facebook will show you that in many ways she is not wrong. The basic narrative is that Covid-19 is a sinister plot put forward by a secret elite with totalitarian ideals, designed to stifle freedom of movement, assembly, speech and to enforce a program of mass vaccinations. Details differ but Bill Gates, 5G, chem-trails, facial-recognition, New World Order, Big-Pharma and even flat-Earthers are terms that are often bandied around.
As a Glastonian born and bred, I have encountered probably my fair share of both alternative health and alternative theories and being an acupuncturist myself I guess I am a walking-talking stereotype. As a proponent of an ancient form of medicine that involves a ‘mystical substance’ known as Chi, clearly my views are not necessarily those of the mainstream. Although acupuncture is probably one of the more widely accepted alternative health therapies, it is still a long way off being understood by science and being fully approved by Western medicine. I therefore often find myself being pushed to the fringes of the conventional and authorised theories of health. Because acupuncture doesn’t always stand up to a double-blind study, (a study where neither the acupuncturist nor the acupuncturee can know whether the acupuncture is real or not), does that mean it doesn’t work? Of course not. It clearly does work and has done for thousands of years, just not necessarily within the narrow confines imposed upon it by modern scientific criteria.
So being pushed out into the ‘lunatic fringe’ I find myself ensconced firmly in the same camp as the aforementioned conspiracy theorists. However I do not feel this is a helpful label and indeed it is one being used all too often.
“What is a conspiracy theory anyway? Sometimes the term is deployed against anyone who questions authority, dissents from dominant paradigms, or thinks that hidden interests influence our leading institutions. As such, it is a way to quash dissent and bully those trying to stand up to abuses of power. One needn’t abandon critical thinking to believe that powerful institutions sometimes collude, conspire, cover up, and are corrupt. If that is what is meant by a conspiracy theory, obviously some of those theories are true.” Charles Eisenstein- The Conspiracy Myth.
Because I believe in looking more to our own health and immunity than I do in drugs and vaccinations, does that mean I believe there is a secret society trying to take over the world? Because I think that the government and the pharmaceutical companies may not always have our best interests at heart, does that mean I believe they are deliberately trying to reduce the population and kill people? Not necessarily.
The truth of the matter and perhaps the only truth, is that we don’t really know what is going on. We can’t. In this era of twenty four hour news, fake news, podcasts, tweets, an information highway and a disinformation byway, how are we ever to work out what is real or not. Is there anyone really in control of this mess? Does it make us feel better to think that there are some dark forces in charge, rather than accept that it is just human nature to descend into this state of disarray?
Whatever the truth, there are some issues that the coronavirus has brought with it that have given the conspiracy theorists plenty of fuel for their fire, including:
- The banning of groups of people
- The tracking of peoples movements
- The censorship of the internet
- Quarantine and indefinite detention
- Possible banning of cash
- Possible mandatory vaccinations
- Giving the state the power of sovereignty over our bodies
These steps may well be a logical plan to combat this virus and it’s possible that once the situation has improved that things will go back to how they were, however governments are generally not keen on relinquishing power once they’ve got it. If you dare question the accepted narrative you are derided not only by those in power but also by your fellows and neighbours who rightly or wrongly fear for their own safety. It’s a delicate issue and one with no easy answers and in the middle of it all, us fluffy health practitioners are being labelled as fascists!
Charles Eisenstein, who is my new favourite thinker on these matters, calls it the ‘conspiracy myth’ and like a myth we can’t really know whether it is real or not. But what it does highlight is the complete dissolution of trust between large, seemingly disparate parts of the population and those in government. This is the crux of the matter.
Maybe if they were to come out and say ‘look, this coronavirus situation is new to us all and we are trying to get through it the best we can’, we would have more sympathy and trust. But they clearly don’t. They say they are following the science but then sack any scientist who disagrees with what they are doing.
Science has become the new religion. Many wars have been fought with the leaders stating that they had God on their side. The war that is being raged against this virus is being fought with certainty, as Science is on their side. The scientists can be seen as the religions’ priests, studying things that we cannot even hope to understand so that we have to take their word on faith. As gospel.
A few decades ago this wouldn’t have been such a problem but over the years we have been told by science that nuclear power was safe, that DDT was safe, that thalidomide was safe and so over the years that trust has been eroded. Couple that with a government filled with such ineptitude and a prime minister that is so disassociated from the average person in the street then you have a recipe for a complete breakdown in trust of authority. Do we really think this government is beyond corruption? Even right-wingers don’t think so and one only need to follow the trail of money a little to know that they are probably right.
As an acupuncturist I have am keenly aware of the limitations of science as it cannot explain the things that occur in my treatment room on a daily basis. As a former student of sociology and anthropology, I am only too aware of the machinations of power and how institutions are designed to keep the status quo of State governance. It is therefore no great stretch of the imagination for me to think that the government may use this situation, with the backing of their scientists, to tighten the reigns of their control, over society as well as over our bodies. But does that make me a conspiracy theorist?
Possibly, but I think that by asking that question we are really only adding to the problem. Why do we have to label ourselves and others as ‘something’? It is this labelling that causes separation and accentuates our problems. Am I leftist? Rightist? A liberalist? If I label myself and believe a certain thing, then it stands to reason that I must believe in everything that that group identifies with. However in reality it’s not that simple. It is possible and indeed desirable, to hold views from seemingly disparate places. Views that are consistent with Lao Tzu, with Marx, with Confucius, with the Dalai Lama, with David Icke and yes, even Donald Trump. You can do this without calling yourself an ‘ist’ of any kind, as this contributes to the separation that underpins all of the problems, we as a human race face today.
“We’re sick and tired of your ism-schism game, Dying and going to heaven in-a Jesus’ name, lord. We know when we understand: Almighty god is a living man. You can fool some people sometimes, But you can’t fool all the people all the time. So now we see the light (what you gonna do?), We’re gonna stand up for our rights!”
Bob Marley .Get Up Stand Up.
Matt Fellows. June 2020. Glastonbury Acupuncture.