Rebellion and conspiracy

I finished “Foucault’s Pendulum” this morning. Something that resonated with me is the notion that the associative, connective impulse to see conspiracy all around has less to do with reality (what is that?) and more to do with an essential personal desire to blame something. It is a need to find causes rather than an attempt to accept or understand what is understandable. It’s difficult for me to explain, so I need to think about it more. Peppered throughout the book are quotations from all sorts of places like this one from Karl Popper:

“The conspiracy theory of society comes from abandoning God and then asking: ‘Who is in his place?”

It reminds me of when I first started blogging regularly in 2000 when I was around 22-23. I was very paranoid and obsessed about the various conspiracies threatening to turn the world into a black iron prison, figuratively speaking. It was an unhappy time mostly because of the sense of powerlessness and victimization. Powerlessness in the face of a desire for control and autonomy. I’ve realized that this was one of the growing pains in coming out of the last stages of my adolescence. For so long I defined myself in terms of negation, “I am A because A is the opposite of B and I don’t want to be B because I associate that with some sort of pain or injury”, but beyond that I had no idea who I was. In many ways, I am just now finding that out.

The above quotation makes sense if you think about it in another way. God can represent the child’s view of his parents, the inscrutable creators who are responsible for everything. As we mature, we have to necessarily abandon our parents (God) in order to become complete and whole individuals. Assassinated as powerful symbols our mothers and fathers regain their humanity. Everything that we blame them for has to be resolved because until then you cannot take on the responsibility for your own existence.

“Instead of killing and dying in order to produce the being that we are not, we have to live and let live in order to create what we are.” – Albert Camus

Are feelings of paranoia and rebelliousness related to unresolved emotions? After all, what is rebellion but the expression of negation? Where does the desire spring from? Rebellion is not the same as disinterest or disregard. Rebellion requires an idea or authority to push against. It cannot exist without it’s opponent.

Camus investigates the subject of rebellion and nihilism in The Rebel:

“Nihilism is not only despair and negation, but above all the desire to despair and to negate.” The Rebel, part 2, “The Rejection of Salvation” (1951)

“Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic”. The Rebel, part 3, “Rebellion and Revolution” (1951)

“We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others. The Rebel, part 5, “Moderation and Excess” (1951)”

“Men are never really willing to die except for the sake of freedom: therefore they do not believe in dying completely.” The Rebel, part 5, “Historic Murder” (1951)

1 comment

  1. I think you’re conflating rebellion and nihilism a little too much here. What about the fact that sometimes things in the world are fucked up and it’s appropriate to rebel against that? Sure, rebellion requires something to react to, but much of what we consider “rebellious” could also be framed in a more active (vs. reactive) way–proposing alternative models, etc.

    I think it you write off rebellion too much, you can end up in a trap where instead of being resistant towards powerful forces reminiscent of parental authority, you end up identifying with the parental/hegemonic forces in your life in an uncritical way, as if it’s an either/or proposition. When the point should be, one might say, to stop being a kid without having to turn into your parents.