Oct
15
2009
16

Conspiracy Theories and the expats who love them

It seems that I bit off more than I could chew. I started writing this post about two months ago and it’s slowly grown out of control. I became fascinated, and just a little bit obsessed, by all of the conspiracy theories I’ve been hearing around town and the bigger view of what makes people believe them. Following links endlessly down the rabbit-hole, I’ve spent many a day and night researching each of the various tangents. It’s given me interesting insight into the human condition and social theory constructs. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did in compiling it. And please comment!

Many thanks to Wikipedia for the wealth of information, much of which I’ve paraphrased below. As this post is simply a rumination and not an academic paper, I haven’t bothered to exhaustively credit or footnote all of the sources.

Note that this discussion only represents theories (which locals take as fact) that I’ve heard discussed around here in Vilcabamba. There are many wonderfully more outlandish theories. Here is the full list, and here is a sampling from A to Z.

The seminal reference book General Psychopathology defines three main criteria for a belief to be considered delusional:

  • certainty (held with absolute conviction)
  • incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
  • impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre or patently untrue)

Many, if not most, of the expats living here in Vilcabamba exhibit the classic indicators of delusion.


New World Order

Illuminati

One theory holds that the Illuminati is behind the so-called “New World Order“. This is ironic, since the organization was originally set up by freethinkers, secularists, liberals, pro-feminists, etc who were bent on overthrowing the existing oppressive ruling class of the 18th Century. Of course, some believe that the Illuminati have been operational for thousands of years. Others believe that Skull and Bones and other modern secret societies are today’s continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. By the way, the Wizard of Oz was an Illuminati mind control project funded by the CIA. Where does it stop?

Masons

Then there are the Freemasons. This conspiracy theorizes that the founding fathers of the United States interwove Masonic symbolism and sacred geometry into the Great Seal of the United States (on the one-dollar bill – the words “Novus Ordo Seclorum” means “New World Order”… well, actually, it doesn’t, but wouldn’t it be creepy if it did? It makes you think, doesn’t it?), the National Mall, and even the street layout of Washington, D.C. All as part of a great plan “to mystically bind their vision of a government in conformity with the Luciferian plan of the Great Architect of the Universe who has tasked the United States with the eventual establishment of an hermetic ‘Kingdom of God on Earth’ and the building of the Third Temple in New Jerusalem as its holiest site.”

Masonic Washington, DC“The Pentagram connected to ‘The White House’ is geographically up-side down. A classic, or rather the classic logo of Satanism! Also important to point out is the fact that ‘The Pentagon’ is angled at thirty-three degrees (as in the thirty-three degrees of Freemasonry) and that at this angle appears as an another upside-down pentagram!” Notice how the large pentagram on the left is completely arbitrary – any geometric symbol could have been laid on top of the street layout.

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Oct
09
2009
2

Vilcabamba Diary

More from the wilds of Vilcabamba, southern Ecuador. I thought sharing some random encounters with you might give some insight into the life down here.

8/14:
Got into an argument with a Canadian anarcho-capitalist about political systems. He honestly believes that the world would be a better place if all governments were eliminated and every public service became privatized – schools, roads, hospitals, police, everything. [Here is a great chart of what America would look like under that system.] He makes a point that the state uses violence and coercion to enforce laws – but I’m not sure those would go away under a private system. Every time an industry has been deregulated in the U.S. it has proven worse for the consumer. An anarcho-capitalist society would be a wonderful place for those with money, that’s clear – and the rest of us would become more and more destitute! The question is, would you rather be poor in a capitalist country or in a socialist one? Because in my view, “the strongest nation is the one that takes care of it’s weakest members”. The answer is obvious to me – Cuba (for example) treats their poor far better than the United States does – free, excellent health care and education for all. The one thing we agreed on is that the U.S. does not currently have a capitalist economy – it’s corporatist – with limited liability preventing true capitalism from operating. He argues that in a true capitalist society, market forces would eliminate practices we currently label as evils of capitalism. For example, without the safety net of limited liability, the repercussions following an Exxon Valdez-type environmental disaster would put the company out of business rather than being protected by a legal framework that favor corporate interests above all else.

A great band played at the corner bar tonight and all the South American hippies that camp in the hills surrounding came out to dance.
I keep hearing about questionable murders and suicides of people who “knew too much”… I think it all revolves around the town rapist and his powerful family. There are apparently just three families that own most of the property and businesses (at least, pre-gringo influx).

8/16:
This town is so small that if you want to go to visit a friend, all you have to say to the taxi driver is “Blair’s house, please” – and they know where to go. There are about a dozen or so taxis which are actually 4×4 pickup trucks in order to get around on the rough dirt roads.

I keep taking hikes in the late afternoon and ending up in the middle of nowhere after dark. The first time I got a bit nervous since I was on the side of a ridge full of brambles, miles and many valleys away from town. But I calmed myself down and simply backtracked the way I’d come, although it was a bit of a challenge in the dark. [I often subconsciously put myself in challenging situations simply to overcome them.] Returning to town from these night walks I’ve often accidentally come upon young couples courting on the edge of town. Sorry, guys!
The hiking here is superb – almost any direction you go, there is a different type of terrain just minutes from town. It’s great not having to organize a tour or take transport to begin a hike.

8/20:
Met a guy tonight from Silicon Valley who retired at 44 with multiple degrees and who it turns out is a paranoid conspiracy theorist. He runs one of the most popular 9/11 “truth” web sites, and believes that Wikipedia is “being controlled” because they still label it the “9/11 conspiracy theory”, despite the “overwhelming” evidence to the contrary. “Truthers” believe that the government/mass media/scientific explanation is the conspiracy, not the other way round. Leaving aside whether 9/11 was an inside job or not, I tried to explain the meaning of “theory” – as in, the theory of relativity is still a theory even though it’s the accepted truth of modern science. Regarding Wikipedia being “controlled”, I know for a fact this is not true – the stewards of Wikimedia take any kind of undue influence, governmental or otherwise, very seriously and have numerous safeguards against such intrusion.

This guy proceeds to explain to me that AIDS was created by the U.S. Government at Fort Dixon, that the “mandatory” inoculations for H1N1 are actually nanobots or chips that will later be activated, and that the Rothschilds run everything, start wars, choose presidents and prime ministers and pit countries against each other for profit. I asked how people like Noam Chomsky, who is so well-read and informed, could not know of all this going on. He says that Chomsky and others like him are “gatekeepers” – someone who is allowed to satisfy the rebels, but whom they know won’t go too far (and if he does, he’ll be eliminated).

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Written by Josh in: Ecuador | Tags: ,
Sep
26
2009
8

Horse Trekking

I’ve been on three horse trips in the last couple of months while here in Vilcabamba. Here they are combined into this one blog post.

8/25:
Gavin (the Kiwi cowboy I wrote about in the last post) convinced me to try a one-day horse trip. He didn’t have to twist very hard, I’ve been curious for a while now. I’ve never been on a horse before if you can believe it.
Gavin isn’t riding these days since he’s still recovering from testicular surgery after getting kicked in the balls by a horse, so there were two guides on the trip plus myself, four German girls and an Australian woman named Ferne that I hit it off with. Ferne grew up riding, so naturally she looked beautifully right at home on the animal. I was a bit nervous at first but managed to relax (which is the best way to not get sore and injured) and get into it. Heading out of town, I was impressed that the horses were not spooked by cars or chasing dogs. I guess they’re used to it. I really didn’t have to control the horse much – he knew the way by heart. “Your horse will lead you home.” We rode for several hours up into Podocarpus National Park, eventually making it to a beautiful high waterfall.

Wow. Being carried on a living, thinking, feeling animal is something special. The trust you hold in one another. The non-verbal communication. They’re amazing creatures – carrying all that weight on those spindly legs. Powering straight up 45° hills, scrambling over rocks and mud and straight through rivers. And all they eat is grass! It’s hard to believe they can summon such strength without eating protein. Point goes to the vegetarians.

The cantering and galloping was my favorite part – the horses really loved to run, leaving me holding on for dear life. The whole experience was fantastic, I immediately fell in love with riding. I also became intrigued by all the associated gear (the “tack“) – the saddles, stirrups, straps, bridles, bits, halters, reins. They’re all hand-crafted out of leather and steel, specially purposed and really tough. But my sore butt was asking why they don’t make modern saddles out of the same gel that those fancy bicycle seats are made from (which Aunt Marty says “feels like human flesh”). One would think in this day and age that nylon, neoprene, and other modern materials would have supplanted the leather of old. Perhaps I’ve found my calling.

After a hike to the bottom of the waterfall and a picnic (why does food always taste better outdoors?) we returned to town. About six hours round-trip. I was saddle sore for a couple of days afterward, but hooked.

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Written by Josh in: Ecuador | Tags: , ,
Aug
30
2009
7

Vilcabamba, the valley of eternal spring

Hello again! Haven’t written in a while because I’ve spent the past few weeks blissfully hanging out in the tiny outpost of Vilcabamba. It’s a small town (only 6,000 souls in the entire valley) located in the far south of Ecuador. It’s the kind of town where you could lie down in the street for half an hour before being run over.. by a horse. Unusual for such a small town, there is a strong community of expats and tourists – which results in a variety of dining options, massage, internet, and other amenities. The climate is perfect – as high as 90° (32C) on hot days, dipping to the 50′s (13C) on cool nights; but generally the temperature hovers in the 60′s to 70′s (18-24C). We’re currently in the dry season, so the surrounding hills and mountains are fairly brown, looking a lot like Montana or Mediterranean Greece or Italy. But I’m told the rainy season turns everything lush and verdant, akin to Ireland. The hiking is superb – I keep discovering new trails leading to stunning vistas. Incredible sunsets every night and five rivers criss-crossing the valley add to the feeling of paradise.

Unfortunately, all is not well in paradise. Occasional xenophobia towards foreigners. Armed robberies on the sacred mountain of Mandango, which used to be the prime hiking spot. There was a town rapist until he was finally run out of town by Gavin the Kiwi. [An awful saga - the former owner of a hostel in town, he would prey on blond-haired blue-eyed women tourists arriving on the bus and convince them to stay at his place; later that night he would slip horse tranquilizers into their drinks, use his master key to get into their rooms after they passed out, then rape them. Incredibly, the whole town knew what was going on for years. It even made the Lonely Planet guidebook, and still he was not prosecuted. The problem with small towns in corrupt countries is the police will just as often cover up problems, or be on the side of powerful and/or rich people, as actually meting out justice.]
And of course, real estate prices are skyrocketing thanks to exposure in magazines like International Living (which ranked Ecuador the second-best country to retire to, after New Zealand), thereby pricing out the locals. 20 years ago one could buy 100 hectares for $3,000; now, 5 acres is going for $300,000 and up. [The rapist's hotel has been court-ordered to be sold, and is currently listing for $650k. That's quite a deal, actually - it has a pool, spa, jacuzzis, pool table, disco, bars, the works.] A lot of the local kids move away after growing up leaving no one to work the land, thus accelerating further change to the way of life here.

Vilcabamba was put first put on the gringo map in the 1960′s by Johnny Lovewisdom, a somewhat troubled spiritual seeker who promoted vitarianism and breatharianism (the incredible belief that one can live on air alone. Is it any wonder he died of malnutrition?) For a while Johnny lived up at Lake Quilotoa and Cotopaxi Volcano where he did a series of seven-month fasts. Johnny founded his churches with creative names, my favorite being the Pristine Order of Paradisian Perfection (POOPP). A lot of hippies and followers of Johnny arrived in the ensuing years, some drawn by the legendary shamanic use of the San Pedro cactus. I’ve recently met some of his disciples who are still here.

Many people have come for health reasons – the valley has long been known for the longevity of it’s residents. Although it’s difficult to prove since birth records were not common until recently, many of the residents claim to be centenarians. In a 1970 interview for a British television programme, a man who purported to be 123 at the time was asked what his secret to a long life was. He replied that it was due to his continuing to work in the fields, smoking natural tobacco, drinking aguadiente (pure cane alcohol), and lots of good sex. When this man died a few years later he was survived by 14 children, 90 grandchildren, and 56 great-grandchildren. Another man supposedly fathered children at age 105. In 1992, Wellbeing magazine wrote that only two other places in the world had residents with such longevity – the Abkhazia of Russia and the Hunzas of Pakistan.

Various scientists have investigated over the years and conclude the residents’ longevity to be a combination of factors: the chelating effect of the negative ions produced by the charged air; an ideal balance of minerals found in the water (including magnesium, selenium, zinc, manganese, and calcium which helps bone calcification preventing osteoporosis as well as prevents hardening of the arteries by breaking up saturated fats. Manganese is also a chelating agent – it chemically binds with metals, including toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury, so that they are neutralized and are more easily flushed from the body); as well as basic clean living with a good diet. The average daily caloric intake here has traditionally been 1200, compared to the 2400 daily calories recommended in the U.S. for persons over 55. Locals traditionally eat half the meat that Americans do. One Japanese doctor who recuperated from his longer-suffering heart condition simply by living here for a few months was so grateful that he donated all new cardiac equipment to the hospital. It’s interesting to note that residents are not living nearly as long nowadays as they were 50 years ago. Some say this is due to the introduction of modern chemicals (such as fertilizers and chlorine) into the formerly pristine environment.

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Written by Josh in: Ecuador | Tags: , ,

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