I'm at a local event packed with bright, successful looking people and my bat-like ears are scanning the room -- on the hunt for an interesting conversation -- when I hear the now familiar refrain of the Great Conspiracy.
I hear a lot of conspiracy theories in my line of work, but I call this one the NWO Conspiracy, or New World Order-thinking, and the common theme is that a secretive, well-equipped power elite is moving to institute a global agenda and turn us all into powerless, un-thinking worker bees.
In this version the United Nations is the villain (just think what would have happened if those postwar plans to locate the U.N. headquarters in Moraga had gone through, Marone) and the plan is to first take our weapons, our wealth, our rights, and then our SUVs, apparently, before chaining us to a great big wheel and making us slaves to their machine.
We've gotten variations of the NWO conspiracy on our comment boards here at Lamorinda Patch and I've been paying attention to them in an effort to better understand the mind-set behind the fears. When I heard the now-familiar refrain of government intervention and Freedom Squashers I sidled over to take a closer look at the speaker: a fit, good-looking man in his 50s who, for reasons I couldn't immediately put my finger on, looked like he'd had military training and could field strip an M-16 in the dark.
He was deeply engaged with a smaller, but equally fit-looking man in a company windbreaker and baseball cap, and telling him how the key to the "takeover" would be the government gaining control of all the weaponry in private hands across the country.
"They're not getting my guns," the first man was saying while his shorter friend nodded affirmatively. "All of this attention they're giving to this thing in Colorado is just their trying to get people to surrender their weapons..."
That seemed like a bit of a stretch, but he was just warming up.
"It all goes back to Agenda 21," ConOne said, dragging out a decades-old plan for sustainable growth that came out of the United Nations and the Rio Conference on the environment, back in 1992. "It's all about private property rights (ConTwo nods even more assertively) and this... this radical environmentalist approach to get people living in their little green villages..."
I wanted to engage the pair but they moved away after I drifted in too closely. They took up a position at the far end of the room and picked up where they left off, fingers underscoring specific points and their heads bobbing in mutual understanding and agreement -- Freedom Fighters in the New Fight Against an old, undesignated but hated enemy.
While NWO conspiracism has been around in various forms for years, it appears to have taken on new life recently, and is no longer confined to the militantly anti-government right or fundamentalist Christians stockpiling weapons and bracing for some millennial apocalypse. Their fears, bizarre to some, appear to be making their way into our culture and politics -- and are sparking concerns about creeping political separatism and even lone-wolf acts of terrorism.
Who's concerned? I'm concerned, for one. Particularly as many of these firebrands corner enough people in the room to get their point across, run for political office -- and win.
As I so often do when formulating an opinion on these things I draw from personal experience, remembering my arrival at the home of a popular Pleasanton-area dentist soon after it caught fire one day about 20 years ago. I got there ahead of the fire department to find his wife frantically playing a garden hose on the blaze and gently removed her as the sirens wailed and I asked: "Is there anything in there that can hurt us?"
I remember the look on her face when I asked that, and how she scurried off as the fire trucks arrived -- and what we found in a hidden sub-basement an hour later when firefighters played their hoses across the embers and one of them fell through a false floor and into an underground arsenal stocked with enough black powder, arms and ammunition to take out three of the dentist's neighbors in either direction had it gone off.
Kinda makes you wonder where we're headed, doesn't it? I know I do.