Conspiracy Theories and the Collective Unconscious

Tribal Consultations Then and Now
Tribal Consultations
Then and Now

Following 9/11 and the crash of 2008, the Conspiracy Theory Industry, naturally enough, went into high gear. I say “naturally enough” because it is quite normal for human beings to seek an explanation for major disasters, and quite normal for them to do so by consulting with one another.

Jared Diamond, in his study of indigenous peoples, or “tribes” in common parlance, notes that they talk all the time. They may even wake up in the middle of the night and talk. They talk about minute details that might have an impact on their survival. To figure it out, to identify the problem, is literally a matter of life and death. We do the same, though mostly by using Twitter, texting and online forums.

Karl Jung, a famous psychiatrist, suggested that we have a collective unconscious, an unconscious pool of memories of all that our ancestors have gone through and we pull from this pool of memories without realizing it. In Jung’s model this is sort of genetic, inherited, something innate. My theory is that it could just be the influence of all our talk-talking, one generation to the next-after all, we don’t live in a vacuum.

Our ancestors have survived tribe-threatening events. Droughts, famines, volcanic eruptions, plagues, invasions, and the 6,000 year-long Ice Age. Our ancestors survived all these or we wouldn’t be here, and they survived them by consulting with each other to identify the problem and take corrective action. Have these events entered our collective unconscious?

To Americans, 9/11 was a tribe-threatening event. The government presented its conspiracy theory, which is the Official Story and those who disagree are dismissed as “conspiracy theorists.” But distrust of the government was already present in the tribe from the Kennedy assassination/cover up, the Gulf of Tonkin lie, Iran-Conta, etc. In fact, the government itself had been tentatively identified as “what’s wrong” and as possibly “the enemy.” The Crash of 2008 has turned out to threaten the world-tribe and we are still processing that one.

Is this the collective unconscious at work? I asked a 20 year-old what she knew about the Kennedy assassination. She said she knew he was a young, handsome president and he was shot in the head. She had never heard of Oswald or the Zapruder tape. But she believed that some people connected to the government killed him. Why? She did not know why, but she knew the government did crappy things and then lied about them.

Has “the government” as doers-of-crappy things and liars entered the collective unconscious? Is this a frame that future generations will need to survive? Or is it hyped-up paranoia?

By the way, the follow-up investigation of the JFK assassination and a civil case about MLK’s assassination ruled that their deaths were the results of a conspiracy.

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