I’ve a good friend who suffers, if that’s the right verb, occasionally at least, from a sort of paranoid set of delusions that the world is, in the last resort, controlled by a set of illuminati, a conspiracy of powerful people.
I was an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge in the early 1980s where I had the opportunity to fraternise with a social class whose influence on cultural, political and economic life in Britain is without doubt.
When I mention this to my friend I realise how easy it is, or rather how easy it would be, for me to encourage the conspiracy theories to which she is prey. There is an eagerness to believe what is an easy conclusion that somebody is in control. My little dip into the water of powerful elites in and of itself gives me the opportunity to promote such ideas. In fact I could gain some sort of power myself through repeating such ideas. As if having seen inside the box I suddenly know that there are no limits to its capacity to hold the world.
But I don’t do it. In fact I don’t believe it. I don’t think that people are capable of that level of conspirator behaviour. Things are far messier than that. Outcomes much more difficult to second-guess. So I don’t play the game of encouraging belief in total control by an elite.