THE SOCIAL CELL:
Conspiracy theories and social mythology are not a recent phenomena, nor invented to make the most enlightened of unemployed internet connoisseurs look “ridiculous”. The world isn’t about you, Mark. Conspiracy theories, government plots, back door dealings, high profile deaths, have been a part of many societies, and in the histories of many peoples. English Students are no doubt familiar with Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. What might be less familiar is the social climate in which the play was written. There was a long secession crisis during the 1560s1 and the possibility of civil war was very real2. With no heir and obvious successor, it’s not hard to imagine that Elizabeth I sensed plots all around her, with the Parliament standing in for the senators of Rome in Shakespeare’s drama. There were plots all around Elizabeth I, denounced by the Pope as a heretic, there were factions underground in Rome, France, and Spain, all intent on putting Mary Steward on the throne.3
The interesting thing about the way conspiracies is in how they motivate people. Conspiracy theory is a popular, secular mythography. In ancient cultures, beliefs and cultural identity came from traditions, traditions in storytelling or ritual. Of particular interest is how the Greek and Roman historical myths came together to form a social cell. Heads of state capitalized on the popularity of these traditions: Caesar claimed to be a descendant of Aeneas, the hero of Virgil’s national epic the Aeneid, as recorded by Livy.4 Virgil’s Aeneid also gives the Roman people a virtuous civic model, in Aeneas, someone to be admired for his personal sacrifices for the great good of Rome.4 A civilization is more properly a social cell, and its interaction between other cultures and social cells determines its growth or diminishment. Historically, an organized society as a social cell has survived by overtaking smaller, undefended social cells, or cells that are pre-social, or in the process of an establishing, social myth. Conspiracy theorists have branched off from their parent social cell, either out of foundational failures of individual trust, or the failure for a cultural construct to ensure the contentment of all its individual parts. A conspiratorial group, with specific aims and intents, can overturn a parent cell and replace it with a new, more motivational alternative ideal.
Oral literature refers to traditions of storytelling that survive through cultural tradition and word of mouth before being written down. Roman myths, such as the Aeneid, inspire citizens, with the courage of their warriors and the nobility of their deeds. These ideas of heroes and traitors were a model of social behavior, and the traditions they represent was an inexorable part of the national identity and social conscience. Though Rome, as a social cell, did absorb and take on the Greek traditions and mythology, many of them were given a unique Roman flavor. The creation myth remains the same, though the names change. Greek heroes like Odysseus and Achilles struggle against their personal limitations and learn from their failures to become better people, to grow, to look at the pillars differently, as Gilgamesh did upon returning to Uruk in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Odysseus’ struggles to return home, though it gives him added appreciation for home, and the comforts of hearth and family, of domestic calm and marital tranquility. While Greek heroes are models of behavior and virtue by their personal quests, Roman heroes were distinctly nationalistic, fiercely loyal to their great city of Rome.1
What myth offered pre-scientific revolution societies were explanations for what they otherwise saw as inexplicable or unsettling. Any force beyond control capable of disturbing social order like famine or natural disasters, if the social cell is wiped out, its mythology is often survived by a microbe of a social cell, one of an individual bound by family and tradition, each of which works as a coping device against the uncertainties of change. By finding a non-personal social idea, it is all that is sometimes left of large and once prosperous communities. Clinging to the notion of tradition is a sense of permanence, giving us footing in a world of harsh conditions, in times of scarcity and plague. A given social pantheon could be considered the anthropomorphic library of human faces projected onto abstract forces of nature. Concepts of the seasons are given personality and intent; faces for river gods or names for the god of thunderstorms. We see the sea swells eddied on by Poseidon’s great trident. And winter was explained as Demeter’s despair, knowing her daughter Persephone, is bound for a season in the underworld.2 Autumn comes and plants die; trees become barren and the leaves fall away. This was a personal relationship of interactive social forces. For the Norse they saw an avalanche of boulders and rock as the rumblings of giants.3 Sometimes those boulders would take out entire settlements, leaving a few microbes behind; sometimes they had almost starved before they could plant again. There were great quarrels between powerful, unimaginable forces, throwing the contentment of daily rhythms into disarray, portending the end of the world, Ragnarok, armageddon, etc. It's not about you, Mark. Cultures of great scarcity have severe gods, but to be a part of that curiosity of what’s behind the skin and motivational factors we give to the forces of nature, humanity’s endurance in times of great confusion and chaos is reflected in the horrors of their myth, the monsters they despised, more accurately a representation of them as a social people than of abstract nature, then. To give randomness over to a personality, benevolent or malevolent, frightening shapes are less frightening than the shapeless. And we project onto it, sometimes our worst, sometimes our best, which determines the character of the surviving social cell as a social people; a. A people who understand their fellows, empathize with them and laugh, talk about the great myths and legends and take strength from the cunning goddess Athena, or inspiration from the deeds of Heracles. Sharing a mythology and culture of consistency among people is the sharing of thought, and social thinking, connecting an individual’s misfortunes with that of the social cell, motivating itself by the example of great heroes or mystical beings. This is an important element of civilizing by social, mutually agreeable history and the values they impart. It is an agreement of a myth created through interactive sharing over fires and on travels, a way of consenting to our ability to understand nature or the mysteries of the gods. the mysteries of gods, whether there is a beauty contest among goddesses for an apple from the garden of Hesperides [or? No resolution to sentence]. There is truth in our understanding of fiction.understood fiction. There is a German word that expresses our frustration at being deeply unaware of not understanding, or being flat out wrong: Erklärungsnot – literally, a distress at not having an explanation. A compound word for explanation and crisis. It is a deeply meaningful word, with a range of meanings attached, but the largest is that of cosmic unawareness, and the implication of how distressing it is to have no explanation. This can sometimes lead to weltschmertz – a world sadness, a way to respond to pervasive and lasting melancholy. These words are often behind social discontent. A rebellious cell is a dissenting outgrowth of an established mythology, that one might not understand, organized by shared opposition to other, disagreeable social cells, those with which one may feel that world sadness, the weltschmertz of aging or loneliness. Social cells that are larger tend to absorb smaller, less organized, less socialized cells of human tribes. A myth helps us to understand what we don’t understand. A conspiracy is a social project that allows us to discover. A conspiracy in theory is a shared dissenting myth, not as much rallied around agreement as much as a group of social-minded individuals rallied around a principle, often with an aim that is political or social thinking, or a political apolitical social disharmony. In Rome, they shared all the Gods they stole. Sometimes the dissent within a myth, a schism between religious sects during times of reformation and reforms, leads to a reactive, responsive social cell in itself. Sometimes the denunciation of a previously established social ideal becomes a social cell itself. It can be seen as a rebellious cell’s attempt to force agreement for survival upon a possibly weaker separate social cell. As with Rome and Greece, a larger social cell absorbed a smaller one. A post-industrialized social cell is a modern social language, different than these pre-modern social cells, especially those unable to be socially or interpersonally interactive. When there is stagnation, the human mind rebels, and the imagination sees things it has no’t seen before. These individual organizers are akin to a designer of a social cell. Non-social, -personal interactions within cells can change the nature of the social sphere, the space between the inner and outer walls. The outer wall is our organizing impulse, maintained by social-interpersonal agreements. Social thought is a cohesive structure for maintaining a stable society. These transformations of abstract into persona take many forms, and vary from place to place, influenced by local culture and environs, social mores and tradition. The practice of making sense of chaos and of tragedy is a recognizable primordial form of conspiracies. Powerful forces behind the scenes, mighty and awesome beings of immense influence and empires, capable of holding empires beneath the whims and caprice of invisible hands – the use of anthropomorphic gods as stand-ins for natural abstracts – makes them more familiar; and there is comfort in familiarity.
is an imprint of what individual lives within the cell were like; it is a social thumbprint
Etiology4 is the ennobling of one’s past and allows for something in the social sphere to mean something, rather than it be a senseless loss, or unpoetic, cruel human loss. In the case of a conspiracy, the subsequent imparting of meaning somehow adds our non-social person to the material relationship within the social cell. As ancient civilizations build their myth and culture around the powers that held them in thrall, each reckoned as an abstracted quality given human form, modern conspiracy theory often contains many of these elements. From the prevalence of powerful groups manipulating events from behind the scenes, to a small group of recurring powers with control extending like long filaments into every orifice of the worlds, until they’re omnipresent The relationship between the building of myth and conspiracy is not superficial. Both attempt to explain the inexplicable; each are populated by an attempt to give meaning to and find solace in a tragedy by giving it a familiar, recognizable face. Further, the modern conspiracy culture is an ever expanding group, with a founding myth that gives purpose to their efforts, with the task of giving a human face to these unseen forces and ascribing meaning to the innumerable questions conspiracy theories generate. With a human face and a sense of meaning, a group has an identity and , a purpose, with their actions ennobled. With a foundation myth and history, groups are formed around a shared belief. As an organizing principle in conspiracy theory communities, the motivation is rather similar to those who made sense of winter by explaining Demeter’s sorrow over the loss of her daughter Persephone: in conspiracy, groups evolve into societies, and often share many beliefs as it pertains to individual theories, while something more specific may have brought them together. Finally, as a myth is bound to reinforce a sense of cultural identity through the organizing principle and build bonds through a new, shared understanding, like the pantheon of Roman gods, by looking closely at them and seeing their fears, their idea of heroism and virtue, of villainy and vice. In short, it is the window into the anatomy of an ancient and long-lived human tendency to look for meaning, to look for patterns in nature and in human behavior. The manner of a founding myth’s stability for a civilization and larger society comes from much older processes in the human brain, not limited to human beings. Connecting the dots, pattern recognition, seeing causal relationships between nature and material action. In pre-industrial social cells, the inclination to conspiratorial thinking and designs of competing social cells, cells competing within with out-growths or at war with a foreign, differently organized and motivated cell, allowed for individuals to have a sense that they were a part of something larger than themselves, and that it wasn’t all meaningless. Sometimes that’s enough for a society to survive, as long as some part of it becomes a part of a future socio-organizational myth.
In a Times article in 20141 Here’s Why We Believe in Conspiracies, prominent conspiracy scholar Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor in social and organizational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, said, “Conspiracy theories often crop up during times of uncertainty and fear: after terrorist strikes, financial crises, high-profile deaths and natural disasters. Past research suggests that if people feel they don’t have control over a situation, they’ll try to make sense of it and find out what happened. The sense-making leads them to connect dots that aren’t necessarily connected in reality,” van Prooijen says..”
After reviewing JFK, Roger Ebert was approached by Walter Cronkite for his review.2 “There is not a bit of truth in it!” Cronkite said. The late film critic later wrote in his review that he felt that Stone was capturing a pervasive mood in the counter-culture about the assassination, that it was a film that captured the way some Americans felt, about the need for answers in the days and then years after the assassination. Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison worked well enough, and his patriotism and passion for the truth is understandable. He is sympathetic, seen as an individual against an established social cell. To seek the truth is a heroic act, to expose crime in places where the abuse of power is most possible, as Woodward and Bernstein did in All the President’s Men3 by uncovering the break-in at the Watergate hotel and working to get to the bottom of a case. They follow their leads, doggedly pursue each of them, and work hard. They are physically and morally courageous. JFK perverts this in a way, historically, but emulates the formula well enough to appear to start with a morally defensible perspective on your mission, motivation, and what the end result looks like. Seeking the truth despite the establishment is heroic, patriotic even, and benefits from having a morally defensible argument. Where it becomes social mythmaking, is in providing questions and then answering them selectively. It is informative in showing the process of popular myth and belief as it is being made. A small group of patriots are pitted against the endless bureaucracies of the US Government, and they have their phones tapped. Team members betray the group (an evolving rebellion cell against an established social cell). The film’s world is a small group of men who are behind the major events, while we little people, can’t even begin to comprehend the vast and inexplicable subtleties of this grand design. It is a tale of betrayal and personal sacrifice, but it’s for the sanctity of American traditions, for the truth. I, in a way, it is Jim Garrison playing Octavian in the Final War of the Roman Republic4, following Caesar’s assassination in Shakespeare’s play – something Garrison mentions to a team member who’s having doubts. But, not to digress. Garrison sees everything that touches something else. , if one person knows another through an event prior to the assassination, it is followed up. They talk to prostitutes, male and female – which was progressive for its time – and then Tommy Lee Jones is made Ssuspect Nnumber One1. This attempts to set it up for the trial of Clay Shaw, which is less a trial than a repudiation of the Warren Commission Report, here and there bringing Clay Shaw back into the picture, and they focus on Oswald after the assassination, as we have never seen him before. Though Wwith the way the argument is presented, the evidence amounts to an accusation without any direct link and amounts to Clay Shaw giving his name as Clay Bertrand, which was kept out of court because he did not have his lawyer present. Garrison protests. Shaw is presented as an effete, frivolous man, while Garrison is shown trying to be a good father and still fight for justice. Again, his advantage is that his goals are admirable: he believes there has been injustice, and he intends to right it. And Stone, with the final summation at the end of the film, gets to offer his personal, Figaro-esque indictment on the social oppressive behavior of a self-destructive establishment. Garisson compares Lee Harvey Oswald to He mentions Oswald being as Josef K.5 in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, suggesting Oswald was a timid, neurotic man, forever under the control and purview of powerful forces surrounding him, forces which he cannot recogonize personally or comprehend. , moldable to who never quite knew what was going on, while all of this drama and intrigue goes on around him, never knowing what he’d done wrong. [redundant and tense change] In JFK, Oliver Stone is attempting to present a widespread discontent American’s had in the Warren Commission Report, though a smaller percentage disagreed with its findings after the movie was released. The majority of Americans now believe that there was a conspiracy involved, and a cottage industry of books has sprung from it. This is common in cases of social thinking, or individual-social ideation – where a single person is influencing through social means the thoughts of a significant amount of people. As a legal historical drama, JFK works as a film, but only by using ahistorical composite characters, such as X. X is important because he supplies the foundation myth for the generation of anti-social cells, as Oliver Stone’s personal experiences shaped his social thinking. has been criticized by or [of or for?] sensationalism, creating composite characters to avoid discredited sources (a witness who claimed that Garrison had given him truth serum and under hypnosis he had made incriminating statements), and ignoring some of the more easily refutable claims of the film in regards to the Warren Commission. The foundational and motivational aspect of this particular story for Oliver Stone is tinged by his personal experience in Vietnam. Oliver Stone joined the United States Army in April of 1967. He would be emotionally scarred by his experiences, writing that he was “very mixed up, very paranoid, and very alienated”6 upon his return to the States. The Death of Kennedy therefore to be an issue that touched the director’s life in a significant, foundational principle. The foundational myth of the government, or elements within the government, CIA & FBI plots to assassinate Kennedy are grounded in the belief that it was Kennedy’s intention to withdraw from Vietnam. At the time of his death, the audience learns out, he was in the process of withdrawing troops. This information comes to us from the character X, a composite character loosely based on L. Fletcher Prouty, but this creates a number of problems. X tells us that he spent much of September ’63 working on planning and drawing up National Security Action Memorandum 263. The plan is represented as the strongest and most important paper to come out of the Kennedy White House. The first 1,000 troops had been ordered home for Christmas. In his book, JFK: The Cia, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy7, L. Fletcher Prouty, “X” in the film, Prouty summarizes the cover letter accommpanying Presidential Action Memo 263. . [whose book & what’s the actual title?] While X accurately summarized the cover letter accompanying the action memo 263: Perhaps more than anything the key toIn order to understanding Oliver Stone’s perspective in evaluating this film and its legacy, one might attempt to ‘solve’ it, or at least draw an inference based on our understanding of conspiratorial groups as potential societies / social cells wherein a rebel cell might at any time attempt majority, and grow, based on how many social objects reject the official explanation, from once trusted foundations. By our study of myth as etiology, the case against Oswald is itself an aside to ever larger, more expansive machinations. What i’s going on may be hiding in plain sight. One of the most prominent reasons given for the question as to what would compel the government or its agencies to murder a sitting president is that he planned to withdraw from Vietnam. This is the founding myth of the Kennedy Assassination, and surely something that would be understandably appealing and motivational for Oliver Stone, himself a disillusioned veteran, another young man whose innocence died in the jungles far away. It i’s easy to understand how it appeals to Stone, if it is a misconception, and it doesn’t make one more prone to dismissal or disparaging of what gives an artist the drive to search for truth and meaning. For many, the tragedy of the JFK assassination is compounded by the tragedy of the Vietnam War, in which millions would be killed or wounded, and millions more shocked and sobered by the horrors of war. To take JFK from the people by this assassination, from the people he might have otherwise spared the traumas of this divisive, ignominious war, is a greater tragedy than that of a lone assassin. This is how a social event can directly affect someone on a non-social level, and motivate them to try to somehow affect the event. From the perspective of Stone and many, an entire generation – a lost microbe of what may have become foundational and contributed to the stability of the national/cultural – to look at this film as fact, the conspiracy theory turns JFK into more than a victim, shot while the world looked on, in broad daylight – it gives us a martyr, someone who died for a cause, giving meaning to his death beyond the event itself, but, as we’ve seen, gives us closure, stability, and a chance to get our bearings. When a rebellion cell achieves majority, the record is distorted. History is viewed through a warped lens, and when the social majority of individuals within a social cell, succeed in conversion of a given society, particularly the foundational, outer layer of the social cell,  from which they spring as  rebellious cells,  for want of a better word, as each directly rebels against  the established cell. In such a case, the social cell’s outer membrane loses cohesion and assumes the identity of the rebel cell, wherein the filters of conspiracy are placed atop the historical record. Our socio-personal development of conspiratorial thinking is an early stage of social-cognitive development, where we begin to consider others as social objects, with intent, motivation, belief, and purpose as oneself. R, recognizing that someone can exist outside of the self as an independent object in a social environment, we can look at scenarios and project more or less how we would act if put in the same situation. As we gradually become aware of another person as a thinking agent, the first step towards psychological, motivational inference i, as in reading someone’s intent by an examination of their actions. Our ability to infer the inner thoughts of another person is problematic; as we first acknowledge the common Rashomon effect, based on the famous film by Akira Kurosawa9, with the aforementioned effect coined to describe the subjectivity of the storytellingstory telling structure, which recounts the same event from a number of individual events, and represents the truth as each character saw it, despite irreconcilable variations between one perspective to the next. It is the personal, limited perspective of a wider view, which is the totality of the whole of each socially orienting object. In Cognitive Development by professor of developmental psychology John H. Flavell,10 he outlines a series of developmental stages, each a part of social cognition’s complexities as we interact with others. The first stage is the mere recognizing of another person, or persons,’ as social phenomena within the realm of interactive possibility. To think sociably, one considers that others, as individuals and groups, and among groups, have different ideas, beliefs, and unique perspective. The next stage of social cognition is need, which amounts to individual attempts at understanding and acting with awareness of others’ feelings and experiences. Inference concerns a capacity to carry out social thinking successfully, though the thinking need not be strictly defined as inference, but more broadly as any social cognitive process, the discussion of personal ideas between individuals on a given subject. If you have the disposition to rely on inference as an act of social cognition, for example, you might look at a conversation and find a specific remark that is indicative of a broader range of beliefs and personal feelings. Social cogitation is the sharing of inferences about the relationship between people and , events, and the collective process of social cogitation is an organizing principle behind social groups, persons and individuals. I, as interactions between one person engaged in social cogitation and another influence anyone else involved in the social sphere capable of further inferences from these micro-interactions, or interactions among groups. , discord. “Non-social concepts can be concrete or exact … in some cases we may have trouble deciding whether the object of our cognition is a social or non-social one.”
Surprisingly, non-social cognition can be seen in the social sphere of cognitive development. What is developed in private may spread, through literature such as this, literature and film, and participate in the act of social cogitation. Another aspect of cognitive development Flavell11 discusses is the awareness of another person’s possible benefit from deceiving you.11
With the development of a rewards-punishments manner of social-thinking we attempt, by social interaction, the correction of socio-personal discord. An important realization is that any cohesive society is an active social cell, one among many in the world, one that is the product of socially cognitive objects in a realm of possible actions. Social thinking is the cogitation of many different perspectives engaged in one social-object or part of the inner-core of the social cell, what I would call the beginning tale, the recounting of the cell’s formation as a celebration, as a means of its ensured perpetuation and survival.
It could be argued that the microbe of the eventual majority myth of the JFK assassination has an historical disconnect unlike anything to be found elsewhere in the American character, nor an American film that so biased us and put the fire in our hearts to rebel against such outrages of the state. But our next story , it brought down a kingdom, as one social cell in discord was an amorphous, fluctuating membrane of rebel cells attempting to absorb and wrest change for the establishment of the new.
In France in the 1780s the theatre could be a political space.1 Ordinary people got involved in the questions before the government. The new ideas of enlightenment philosophes, books that were banned by Royal Censors. Works that undermined the monarchy or the clergy, like Voltaire’s Candide and Rousseau’s The Social Contract were in prison. Literally, the books themselves were locked up for the ideas they contained, contributing the public political foment.
Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro in the 1780s. Reading it now, it seems tame. But at the time it was so radical that the censor took it to King Louis XVI himself. Louis said: “This shall never be played. It would be necessary to dismantle the Bastille itself before this could be played without consequences. This man mocks at everything in the government which ought to be respected.”2 Despite being formally banned, the play was an enormous hit in private salons. And when the ban was lifted, Figaro became one of the smash hits of the century. It broke records. It did 73 nights in its first year and netted 350,000 French livres. What was it that made it so popular? It had the Royal Censor, which was sure to bring a crowd. But on the other hand, it was cheap, and accessible to a wide class of society,. fFrom the madams and monsieur in the boxes to the often illiterate peasants in the pit. The subversion that cut so deep into the traditions of old regime France aren’t noticeable today. But in a society of rank inequality between the classes, the rich and the poor, its egalitarian message, its winks to the clever and scrappy princes of Spain, Beaumarchais undermined the very foundation of French society. (Emphases mine) “Nobility, rank, position, how proud they make a man feel! You think because you are great nobleman you are a genius? Put yourself to the trouble of being born, nothing more. Nobility, fortune, rank, position! How proud they make a man feel! What have you done to deserve such advantages? Put yourself to the trouble of being born—nothing more. For the rest—a very ordinary man! Whereas I, lost among the obscure crowd, have had to deploy more knowledge, more calculation and skill merely to survive than has sufficed to rule all the provinces of Spain for a century.” Nobility, rank, and position determined to a large degree what kind of life you could expect in old regime France. The word privilege means private law. And historically, certain classes had special rights before the law. Rank, position and , fortune , were largely hereditary gifts rather than that of wit or talent, and Beaumarchais pokes this structure in the eye, by the not-fooling-anyone substitution of Spain for France, as everyone knew when the words were spoken, this ordinary man, had to use more knowledge and skill just to survive than that that has been used in the governing of France for a hundred years. The play opens by toying with the idea of an old medieval tradition, prima nocta, which allowed a seigneur to replace the groom in the marriage bed. This barbarous custom (and similarly still existing customs) was the order of things: hierarchy was written into the traditions of state, just as a king was above his subjects, lords were above their peasants, as a man was over a woman. Traditionally, society was divided into three estates. The first was the clergy, those who pray; the second was the nobility, those who fight, and these two groups had special rights and tax exemptions. The third estate was those who work, and they paid the bulk of the royal taxes, including the salt tax. It was impossible for someone of non-noble birth to become a noble, not even when nobility was put up for sale in the debt crisis. A seigneur or seigneury upon taking up residence in their parish takes their special pew at the front of the church, usually adorned by their coat of arms. The peasants of the lands pledge to work so much and dedicate so much barley and grain over the year. Traditional seigneurial dues allowed them to make bizarrely specific requests and demands of their peasants: for example, one nobleman’s list of dues was a number of ornamental feathers, a quota of olive oil and wine, a chicken, and a pair of leather gloves. This all seemed natural. God had sanctified the king, Louis XVI was the head of a dynasty of the Capet family (the King would later be addressed as Louis Capet when he was put on trial for conspiracy and treason) and according to the divine right of kings, in theory his power was absolute. But the clergy, the Ccatholic political arm of the old regime, they weren’t only exempt from royal taxes, but got to impose a tithe on the peasants, while the seigneurial dues were owed to landowners by all peasants who worked in the lord’s bakery, or who made wine in the lord’s press. The ritual was a simple one. Whenever a new lord or madam took possession of their parish, a peasant signed their oath to work the land, always signing promises to work but to provide anything the nobleman or lady would demand of them. A commentator quipped, “Over time, a seigneurial title was less than that of a landlord and more that of an investor.”12
The King between his heavy breakfasts and hunting would mediate between these three estates. The hierarchy had lasted d, well, forever, a. As far back as anyone knew. A recent ritual had fallen out of touch, however. The royal touch was performed by the King to cure victims of the skin disease scrofula. “The King touches you, God heals you,”3 was the traditional ritual performed by the French kings upon their ascension, but that was an old rule, and Louis XIV had stopped performing the Royal Touch entirely. When Louis XVI came to the throne in 1863, . Louis’ performed the ritual, but changed it a bit. “The King touches you, may God heal you.”4
Society was not seen as a collection of individuals with legal or civil rights before the law. For poor peasants, the possibility of an education was slim, and the opportunity to advance based on personal talent, merit, or strength of character was astronomically slim. Life among the aristocrats, on the other hand, is a life of balls and luxuries, whilst t, the peasants tended their land and coughed up their dues and royal taxes. The struggle to survive, as we find at the center of Figaro’s most famous soliloquy, was very real. In 1709, the winter was so harsh that Louis XIV’s wine froze in his glass – and a million people died in France that year.5
Life in the cities was a dramatic contrast between the highest lords and women selling tea on black roads. Visitors to Paris were shocked by what they saw. O as opulence rubbeding shoulders with squalor and filthy streets where beggar women sold tea, a place where regular men and women rubbed shoulders with the wealthiest nobles in the land. Half of Paris was too poor to make the roll of taxpayers, while the top 1% were too rich to make this roll. Just above the poor were the shopkeepers, artisans and, skilled woodworkers, and they had a little bit more money than the farmers, but virtually no rights. Justice was carried out by local seigneurial justice courts, where local seigneuries would rule on legal matters.6
The question that has been asked is why revolution broke out in an economically dynamic country. And while the answer isn’t a simple one, the peasants of France got to see themselves as just as deserving of natural rights as all the other citizens of France. Figaro stirred up a social cell and gave it egalitarian social goals, inspired by the great philosophes of the Enlightenment such as Diderot, who compiled the first encyclopedia, and his great compilation of articles intended as a future repository of the basics of human knowledge, systematizing it, and getting the people to think about these freedoms made them extremely motivated; s. Sometimes motivated by the latest discussion of the new ideas, sometimes by brandy mixed with gunpowder and heads lopped off with fruit knives, with the Swiss Guard firing into the crowd with cannon. Between the years 1792 and 1815, the attempted establishment of a new social foundation swung wildly between differently inspired and reasoned motivations within a former social cell, that of old regime France, and the rebel cell as attempted foundation, such as that of the revolutionaries during the French Revolution, and even those of the American Civil War, though the moral sphere of etiological foundation is not done as much violence by the possible social foundations of a society that wanted to pull itself into a new, more scientific, and reasonable world. This amorphous sense of identity would lead to the age most habitable to suspicion and conspiracy theories, because there was less agreement among those attempting to lay a foundation than in any other instance we’ve discussed. The social cell took one identity after another, changing with the will of the crowd, and without being able to establish a sense of a shared socio-cultural cell, the first French Republic was unable to remain viable, as the task the revolutionaries set before themselves was to set a new foundation on a ground that keeps moving. Yet somehow, some microbe from the former social cell, of the old regime, always reemerged, as attempting to wash one shirt stained with blood with a load of clean shirts. Because it goes into the spin cycle together, the stain spreads from one to another, and motivation that’s not towards foundation and stability is by nature perpetual, and the comforts provided by the celebration of tradition extend to one’s sense of identity, one’s values, one’s fears, virtues, and aspirations.
Religion in a World With Lasers: The Social Cell in Rebellion
While JFK’s posthumous reputation has done to glorify him and lament the loss of promise shown by the handsome, young president and charming wife, o. Only time will tell if this interactive social mythmaking keeps majority as a rebel cell, and further, how long a traditional social cell can remain cohesive with an alternative majority within a wider cultural consensus. One needs to look only to Nero, or to the irony of Lee Harvey Oswald, the person to whom all evidence points as the assassin, has been pardoned, with many within the conspiracy community believing in his absolute innocence. To contrast that, it’s a popular myth that the Emperor Nero ‘fiddled while Rome burned’.1
Cassius Dio’s account of the Great Fire and Nero’s Role in it can be found in his Roman History. Cassius Dio’s account is unflattering to say the least. He begins with the claim that “‘Nero set his heart on making an end of the whole realm dying during his lifetime.”2 Dio’s account continues as Nero sets about sending out men pretending to be drunk or engaged in general hooliganism while setting fire to different parts of the city. After several days and nights of destruction and deluge, the wailing of children and lamentations of the women fill the air. Nero ascends to the roof of the palace which offered the greatest view of the conflagration. And assuming his lyre player’s garb he sang the Capture of Troy, as he styled the song himself. Suetonius’ account of Nero in The Twelve Caesars3 is similarly unflattering. In this account, Suetonius states that Nero pretended to be disgusted with the drab old apartments and the narrow, winding streets of Rome. H, he brazenly set fire to the series. Suetonius adds that two ex-consuls caught Nero’s attendants with tow and blazing torches trespassing on their property but did not interfere. Nero also used the fire to take over several granaries he coveted, solidly built of stone. Suetonius claims the terror lasted for six days and seven nights , as people were forced to take shelter in monuments and tombs while Nero’s men destroyed apartment buildings as well as mansions that once belonged to famous generals, still decorated in their triumphal trophies; temples, dedicated and vowed by the Kings and others during the Punic & Gallic wars – in fact every ancient monument that had hitherto survived. Here’s where Suetonius deviates from the account of Cassius Dio: “‘Nero watched the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas, enraptured by ‘the beauty of the flames”4. Then Nero put on his tragedians’ costume & and sang the sack of Illyricum. This is an example of a social myth in progress, though not quite congealed yet as a hardened part of the social cell. The thorough establishment of this socio-political myth is interrupted by Tacitus’ accounts from Annals. In this account Nero was staying at his country estate at Antium and didn’t even return to the capital until the fire was nearing the house by which he had connected the Palatine with the gardens of Maecenas. After the fire proved unstoppable, before it could engulf the Palatine and the house and all their immediate surroundings, Nero continued to work to save property and lives. In this account, instead of singing (just yet) Nero worked hard to provide relief for the homeless and fugitive populace, opening the Campus Martius, the buildings of Agrippa, even his own gardens and threw up a number of extemporized shelters to accommodate the helpless multitude. The necessities of life were brought up from Ostia and the neighboring municipalities, and the price of grain was lowered to three sesterces. With all of this effort, how did the Emperor become the suspect and ultimately accused of starting the fire? Tacitus gives us a hint at how tales, like those of Cassius Dio and Suetonius, were “‘the subject of few substantial conversations, but many earnest whispered accusations.”4’ Nero’s measures may not have been as popular as their moral character might be, having failed in their effect to reassure and console; for the report spread that at the very moment when Rome was aflame, he had taken to his private stage and, typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, he had sung of the destruction of Troy. The hint he gives for why this rumor might have caught on was that, after the first fire was finally brought under control at the edge of the Esquiline by demolishing the buildings over a vast area and opposing the great unabated fury, a clear tract of ground opened on the horizon. But the fears had not been allayed, nor had hope returned to the people when the fire resumed its ravages. Here we have a massive tragedy, again, the conspiratorial fountain of youth, confusion and chaos are in the blood, and social thinking has been blanked by fear; the loss of home and shelter and, the second flame according to Tacitus caused the greater controversy as it had broken out on Aemilian property of Tigellinus and appearances suggested that Nero was seeking the glory of founding a new capital and endowing it with his own name.”5 The ensuing national trauma was naturally a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, instead of reconciling their lot with the type of senseless tragedy this would be without some agency behind it, the people are left with nothing: no home or property, and no totem, or fear ikon on which to concentrate their exasperation. In the instance of natural disasters, humanity has the seemingly natural inclination to give intent and personality to the forces responsible. They gave Zeus the lightning bolt and virtue, Demeter weeping in the winter over the departure of the summer and her daughter. T, this instance of a human being given human traits is unique, as – at least as far as absolute power was concerned – an Emperor of Rome had as much power as was capable of being concentrated in two hands in the world at the time, a type of power less than a thousand people have historically wielded, and in front of this type of human power we have the same fear response. It is, as ever, a social definition that runs contrary to the official record. Instilling such fear in a populace can be beneficial for a ruler like Caesar Augustus, the longest uninterrupted ruler of Roman in its history at that time. And after Nero, there would be no heirs to the Julio-Claudian family, and again, there would be civil war.6
Suetonius himself was born in the Year of the Four Emperors, a society in which generals and pretenders vied for the Imperial title7 the first civil war since the assassination of Julius Caesar, which we discussed in the very first chapter. As it was with Figaro, poking at the structure of a long lived social cell can cause it to deteriorate. Over and over we’ve looked at conspiracy as an organizing principle, but organizational principles are operative when there is first separateness. The organizing principle of conspiracy theorizing and socio-mythography among individuals coming together is the motivational tendency toward civilization and culture.
We’ve also looked at cells within social cells, minority cells that can, with enough prodding, can impart agency to individuals within social cells not as cohesive as the individuals would like for it to be, and attempts to consciously hold together a specific sociocultural cell or culture, the more it leads to stagnation. A relationship structure can be socio-hierarchal, as it was in old regime France7, or it can be what the revolutionaries spilled so many tears and blood drops for – a conscious personal-social agreement, in mutual agreement and of like devotion, dedicated to improving the cohesion and strengthening the core of the social cell’s character. A social conscience and shared culture is easy to take for granted; all the movie references our friends make , we are able to share in a social moment only because in being saturated by the same pop culture, and as we share meanings we can move onto share meaningful things. Social cognition is the necessary condition of a conscious social cell. Discontent with the foundations of an established cell in a time of stagnation is the outgrowth of displacement or reform, that of the rebel cell. During an outgrowth of a potential replacement cell – when a rebel off-shoot obtains majority – we can see how people form into groups and how groups and civilizations tend towards collective villains and heroes, shared favorite songs, which ultimately adds up to a group sharing perspectives, rather than the limitation of inference and suspicion, a motivating principle of shared means and ends would be collective thinking, in which people imagine together. The social cell is the end result of the mechanism of cultural exchange involved in the faces of snow clouds, the personalities of a violent sea, and within the American social cell we have our founding myths, as well as Rome, and our heroes. Our heroes have moved from abstractions into more humble forces. To understand an age, look at what’s inside its social cell. In America, the inner walls are filled with books and movies, thrillers and supernatural thrillers, and unique in the American social scale is its welcome addition of those from other social cells to bring a piece of it with them, to enrich the social cell intended to be a place of many cultures, towards the idea of a multi-social cell, in which the individual foundational principles of other cells that mix without malcontent. To get past suspicions, of which conspiracy theory is now the formal disbelief, the inter-social exchange should be encouraged, when a social cell can interact with others and incorporate without absorbing, then the multisocial cell construct becomes possible.
A multisocial cell is the achievement of a society that can survive the attempts of anti-social opposition from without and rebel cells from within. This is a national stage of social development, as our first tribes were strictly isolated and xenophobic, our most modern social cells run the spectrum of hated, tolerated, supportive in its willingness towards socially acceptable multiculturalism without turning into a Nazi. It’s not about you, Mark.
In the anti-social cell, the tradition is a collected is the collection of traditions the individual social objects reject. But, as a rebel cell can only survive amid opposition, it cannot outlast the multisocial cell; for the cell in rebellion must be in rebellion to survive. And it can sometimes take odd shapes just to fit the times, after all. In the end, we must remember, it’s not about you, Mark. Life is not a science fiction movie. It’s better, but like my old friend always says: Truth is stranger than fiction, but it has pacing problems.
5 February 2017
Ithaca, New York
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8: Stone, Oliver, Sklar, Zacharcy. “JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992) p.106
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11: Flavel, John H. Ibid.
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