Which weirdo wanted a rear view? Own up.
I was late getting out of bed yesterday and I found myself, through a semi-sleepy haze, listening to Radio 4's Book of the Week
. This week, with a ruthless ability to cash in which I had assumed was beyond the staid managers of Radio 4, the book is The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. You'll recognise the name, as these are the guys currently suing Dan Brown
in the High Court for stealing their idea and using it for the Da Vinci Code. Good luck chaps; you'll need it.
Anyway, the bookhighlights, and claims to 'investigate' a familiar Christian conspiracy theory: Jesus wasn't crucified at all. He survived, married Mary Magdalene and had kids. Said kids emigrated to southern France, for some reason, where they established the Merovingian royal Dynasty, which ruled France from the fifth to the eighth centuries. The Catholic church knows this and will do anything to keep it secret. Also in the loop is a mysterious secret society known as the Priory of Sion. The Priory
- which does actually exist - is supposedly dedicated to the reinstatement of the Dynasty to the throne of France, and preferably Europe too. Oh, and Jerusalem. Finally, and best of all, the Priory of Sion is so influential that it counts major politicians, Royals and statespeople as members. Basically, it runs the world, and we don't know it.
This is, of course, nonsense. The Priory of Sion does not rule the world. Everybody knows that the world is ruled by shape-shifting lizards
. Like this one:
Or if not lizards, then Freemasons. Or Illuminati. Or the Trilateral Commission. Or the Bilderberg Group
. Or possibly Jews.
All of which is, of course, nonsense too. You and I are rational, intellectual types and so we reject all of this sort of thing. We are clever and realistic, and we all apply the principle of Occam's Razor
: the simplest explanation is usally the right one. We don't need conspiracy theories to explain why everything is such a disaster. There are no lizards or freemasons in charge of it all, because no-one is in charge of it all. The planet is run, badly and chaotically, by carbon-based bipedal life forms descended from apes, who have evolved far enough to invent cluster bombs, aeroplanes and global retail chains, but not far enough to know how to control them. This explains why everything is so fucked up, all the time.
Or does it? Half-asleep, listening to the radio, I did actually begin to wonder. What if the conspiracy theorists are right? What if you and I are helpless, sheepy dupes, smug in our intellectual soundness but actually completely wrong? It would explain a lot. It would explain, for example, why every government ever elected promising change ends up just like the one before it. It would explain why every revolution ends up making things worse, or just as bad. it would explain why capitalism and war just won't go away, whoever's in charge.
Perhaps it's really like this: you're elected to power, promising radical change. You sweep into your office or presidential palace, determined to end hunger, poverty and injustice forever. And the first thing that happens is that you are led into a small dark room, in which are sitting the ten people - or lizards - who actually rule the world. They give you your orders and explain what will happen if you don't carry them out. You walk out of that room a changed man. Six years later, you invade Iraq.
It's a tempting thought, isn't it? I think I'm going to keep listening.