Shell Games

Last updated on June 2, 2022

Most conspiracies are hidden in plain sight. They’ve been cleverly woven into the fabric of everyday living. They’re not jagged little pills that we’re forced to swallow while strapped down to a hospital gurney. They’re presented to us with a smile and a colorful, candy shell. We gulp them down eagerly.

I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, to wit:

Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough

To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy:

Hide it in smiles and affability.

  – William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

This is Brutus advising his fellow conspirators to not to bother hiding themselves away, but to instead put on a “happy face” and do the buddy thing when in public. Brutus wanted to fool ole’ Julius Caesar into continuing to believe in the bro code. And we all know how things worked out for Julius Caesar whilst surrounded by all those smiles. (By the way: Who was the real tyrant in this melodrama?)

When’s the last time you had someone give you a big fat, forced, fake smile? You know, a real cheese-eater?

Anyone? Anyone?


Faced with this ugly realization, what are we to do? I mean, if we can’t trust the smiley types, then who can we trust? It’s enough to make the old gulliver spin.

Sharing is Caring

I think about conspiracies a lot. More than most, I confess. Why is this so? I mean, where do I get off thinking that I can sniff out conspiracies and call bullshit on propaganda ploys, while so many others are content to float around in tepid waters, gulping down their prescribed daily rations from The Man?

I can’t say for sure. It may be that I’m delusional, that I’ve drifted way, way off the island. This would explain a lot.

Or it maybe it has something to do with my upbringing. Example: I was raised by a couple of professional bullshitters. Perhaps this made me wise to the game.

In any case, and in support the real spirit of the “greater good” (as opposed to the misguided socialist spirit called the same), I offer the following slices of current American life for your conspiratorial consideration, ranging from the personal to the institutional, by way of the accepted.

Dempsey goes to Mardi Gras

Herein lies a personal story that involves my lovely niece, Dempsey. Dempsey went to Mardi Gras this year, earlier this month. Dempey is 22. She flew down to New Orleans with three friends and had one helluva groovy time. Good on her. Everyone should go to Mardi Gras when they’re 22. Or at least before they croak. It’s worth the trip.

Mardi Gras is a pretty easy scene to describe for those who have never been: Imagine a bunch of drunk and/or otherwise inebriated people packed into a really small city-scape, no more than a few city blocks, hoping to catch glimpses of boobs or butts or dicks.

Dempsey’s Mardi Gras experience was, unfortunately, diminished by the bogus specter of Covid-19.

Upon return from swamp country, Dempsey confessed that she’d broken down and gotten the Covid-19 jab whilst down in New Orleans.  [Gulp. Just so you know: Dempsey is a front-line health care worker who had thus far been able to avoid the dubious “vaccination.”] You know me. I just had to ask her about this. Here’s a snippet of our conversation…

“P”: Why’d you get the jab?

D: We got down there and we couldn’t get in anywhere without showing proof of vaccination.

“P”: What do you mean?

D: When we checked in to our hotel in downtown New Orleans, they asked for proof of vaccination. I was, like, oh my god. Luckily, Kyle had his vax card and they didn’t ask anyone else in our group except him. The room was on his credit card.

“P”: OK, so what led you to do it?

D: We got into the hotel OK, but then everywhere we went in the French Quarter was asking for ID plus vaccination status. On the first day, I had to sneak in to places. My friends would distract the bouncer, and then I could sneak in.”

“P”: What do you mean by “distract the bouncer?”

D: My friends would hold their phone right up in their face and get all loud about it, and then I would slip right past them.

“P”: What do you mean? Get all loud about what? What were the bouncers looking at?

D: They wanted to see a vaccination card.  I mean a photo of the card. Like, when you wanted to go into a place, they wanted to see a picture of your vaccination card, so you’d have to hold up your phone.

“P”: So your friends got into these places by showing a photo of their vax card on their phone?

D: Right! They took pictures of their vax cards ahead of time. The bouncers wanted to check the usual thing:  Is this person 21 years old? Check. OK. Driver’s license. Then they wanted to check to see if the name on the vax card matched the name on their ID.

“P”: So you couldn’t get in unless you had a photo of your vax card, right? I mean, without sneaking in.

D: Yep. I needed a picture of my vax card on my phone. My friends got tired of the sneaking-me-in-everywhere game pretty quick. It wasn’t just bars. The same thing happened when we tried to get into restaurants and whatever.  They were all asking to see your vax status. All of my friends had their vaccines. I didn’t. So they started giving me a hard time. They started picking on me for being a “Trumper.”

“P”: Why did they say “Trumper?” I mean, wasn’t the Covid-19 vaccine program initiated by the Trump administration? Operation Warp Speed? Isn’t it technically a Trump Vaccine?

D:  I don’t know about that. Anyway, I had to get into restaurants and bars if I wanted to hang with my friends, so I went ahead and got the shot. My friend, Kyle scheduled me at a CVS down the street from our hotel.

“P”: OK, so you got the shot.

D: Right! And then I was able to get into all the places, no problem!

“P”: You mean like the same day? Didn’t they think it was weird that the date on your vax card was so recent?

D: I guess they didn’t care so much. They just wanted to see that it was my name on there.

“P”: OK. I get that. I guess. But couldn’t you have done the same thing by just faking it? I mean, you could have just used one of your friends’ vax card photos and photo-shopped in your own name, right? Wouldn’t that have got you past the bouncers?

D: Yeah, I guess so. I didn’t really think of that.

“P”: What’s done is done. So how do you feel now?

D: I feel like I sold out, I guess. I never really wanted to get the vaccine in the first place, but then I felt like I had to when I was down there. Not just because I wanted to get into the clubs down in New Orleans and do all the Mardi Gras stuff – but because I didn’t want my friends calling me out for not getting on board.

“P”: So how do you feel now? I mean physically?

D: I got sick after the shot. I mean, I felt ill after getting it. And I still don’t feel like I’m 100%.

“P”: Umm.

But never mind all this noise. The story has changed. Covid is old news, It’s Russia that matters now. It’s best to keep up with the story board.

Putin goes to War

Herein lies an accepted story that involves a foreign guy who has recently been elevated to Hollywood A-lister Bad Guy status by our Ministry of Propaganda. I’m talking about Vladimir Putin, of course.

Why would this be conspiratorial? It’s obvious that Putin is a deranged demigod, right? He’s a lunatic Hitler type character who has forcefully, and without provocation, decided to roll a bunch of his personal tanks and planes into the sovereign, democratic nation called Ukraine, right?

Well, hold on to your britches, part’ners.

You might be surprised to learn that the Russo-Ukrainian War doesn’t really qualify as a “current event.” This war has, in fact, been going on for eight years, since February, 2014, when Russia began its annexation of Crimea.

Does anyone wonder why a war that’s been raging for nearly a decade has only recently made its way into the mainstream news? Does anyone wonder how and why Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s 4th president, was removed from office back in 2014? Does anyone wonder why most high-ranking handlers since Zbigniew Brzeziński have had such a raging  boner for Russia over the last quarter century?  These are certainly some good questions to ask if you’re of the questioning sort.

Another rogue question might be this: Over the years, Putin has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Islamic terrorists. I get that he’s coming at this from an entirely wrong point of view, i.e., Commies despise organized religion because it undermines worship of the State. But in the grand scheme of things, shouldn’t Putin’s hatred of religious-fundamentalist “terrorists” make him more of an existential ally?

But never mind all this noise. The story has changed. Russia is just temporary news, here today, gone tomorrow. It’s fundamental belief structures that really matter. It’s best to keep up with the story board.

Moses goes to the Mountain

Herein lies an institutional story that involves a famous tale that’s been told to us all wrong again and again and again.

How many news stories have there been in recent years regarding whether or not the Ten Commandments are allowed to be displayed in front of such and such a court house, in such and such a town, in the good old USA? More than we might imagine.

It’s all well and good, I’d say, because we damn well ought to question anything that intends to mix religious fervor with government (I hope anyone who identifies in 2022 as a “liberal” or “progressive” appreciates the full gravitas of this statement), but in doing so it might be good to have some foundational awareness.

What I mean is this: The so-called “Ten Commandments” that are trumpeted about and carved into courthouse edifices around the country are not the actual Ten Commandments described in the Holy Bible.

Here’s the thing: In the Bible, Moses coveys a ton of God’s “rules” (not commandments) to the Israelites after they escape from Egypt, and as they are wandering through the desert in hopes of finding their Promised Land. These “rules” are numerous and include the rules mistakenly referred to nowadays as the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:2-17), as well as a bunch of rules related to keeping slaves, instructions about animals and property rights (see Exodus 21-22), etc.

Then Moses and the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai where God writes the “Commandments,” the Greatest Hits list of all these rules, as it were, onto some stone tablets so that Moses can share them with the Israelites. This all occurs up on the top of Mount Sinai, and only Moses is up there to receive this information from God. But when Moses goes down the mountain to share all this goodness, he finds that the Israelites have gone astray.

It turns out that the Israelites have been down at the foot of the mountain worshiping a golden animal statue and having sex orgies and whatnot. Moses gets angry and throws the God-given stone tablets at the statue, and that shatters them to pieces.

Later, Moses goes back up to the top of Mount Sinai again, talks to God again, and brings down the “official” Ten Commandments. God says that the words He writes on these tablets are the same as the words written on the first tablets (see Exodus 34:1). These are the carved-in-stone Ten Commandments that are to be kept safe, forever and ever, inside the Ark of the Covenant of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame. The Ark, by the way, is meant to serve, thereafter, as some sort of communicator between a designated human priest and God.

Anyway, the Ten Commandments written in stone by The Big Guy Himself, kept inside the Ark, and meant to serve as the Covenant between God and the Israelites have very little to do with the ten commandments that we learned about in Sunday School, or the ten commandments memorialized in countless inscriptions around the Judaeo-Christian world. There’s no “Thou shall not kill.” There’s no “Thou shall not steal.” There’s no “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” So much for Greatest Hits.

The real Ten Commandments, as described in the Bible (see Exodus 34:14-26), are as follows. Hang on to your handlebars.

I Thou shalt worship no other god.

II Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

III The feast of the unleavened bread thou shalt keep.

IV All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

V Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

VI Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.

VII Thrice in the Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.

VIII Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven (bread); neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left unto the morning. 

IX The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.

X Thou shall not seethe (boil) a kid (a young goat) in his mother’s milk.

How ‘bout them apples? Does it seem a little weird to know that the Ten Commandments that you assumed were the basis of the civilized, western world are not what you imaged them to be? Also: Does it seem a little weird that this information is “hidden in plain sight,” right there for you to discover, any old time you might choose?

So it is, and so it shall be.

Phil’s Two Cents

All these stories. All these conspiracies.

It’s up to us, individually – not collectively – to belly up to the bar and decide, once and for all: Do we wish to continue to marinate in absurdity? Or do we wish to think for ourselves and discover the reality that’s hidden in plain sight, the reality that aligns with our True Selves?

Please know that I’m with you no matter what you decide.  But I’ll continue to applaud anyone who pulls up anchor and sets out across the open seas on their own journey, no matter where it may lead. Even if involves boiling a goat.

– “Phil”

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