Cogito ergo inconditus – this is not a political story. This is a story about the inevitability of being wrong. It is by me.

Ernst_the-entire-city

Cogito ergo inconditus – T.N.W. Jackson

Detective Tyndal gave final instructions to his colleague before sitting down opposite the ordinary man once more. They sat looking at each other across the bare metal table for a moment and Tyndal was irked by the man’s composure; his apparently unshakeable confidence that he had done the right thing. “What if you were mistaken in your judgement?” he asked.

“If I was mistaken, that will accord perfectly with my view that confusion is intrinsic to the human condition,” the man replied.

“I see, but will you regret your decision if it turns out that you were wrong?”

“No. It is pointless to regret a decision already made. If indeed I was mistaken, and I do not believe that I was, then I won’t waste my energy in futile autoflagellation. I’m human and therefore confused. Cogito ergo inconditus. If I accept my confusion as a natural and unavoidable consequence of my being human, what would be the use in getting upset about the inevitability of making wrong decisions?”

Tyndal grimaced – had this guy rehearsed his statement? He had enough on his plate without having to deal with smug philosophers. “Aha,” he grunted disinterestedly, pressing a button on his recording device. “OK on the record this time – why did you kill Mr James Whitney?”

“I killed him because I believed him to be a false prophet.”

“You say you ‘believed him to be’, does this mean you no longer believe that he is a false prophet?”

“I now believe the man to be dead, therefore I no longer believe him to be a false prophet. A dead man can not be a prophet, false or otherwise. I continue to believe that he was a false prophet.”

“Uh huh. Well what about Mohammed then? Or Buddha? They’re prophets aren’t they?” Tyndal didn’t really care to argue the point; he just didn’t like smug pricks.

“They, like Mr Whitney, are former prophets. They are, being dead, no longer entities of any kind. Their consciousness has been extinguished, their matter recycled. They have no independent existence outside the fantasies of their devotees.”

“Righto.” The detective rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. “Moving on, can you tell me in what way exactly Mr Whitney behaved, as you claim, as a ‘false prophet’?”

“Whitney was Grand Master of the PPC.”

“The PPC?”

“The Path to Pure Consciousness.”

Tyndal groaned inwardly and looked at his watch – 8:30 in the morning, he hadn’t even had breakfast yet. “The Path To Pure Consciousness,” it sounded like some sort of secret society. Not only was this guy a smug prick and a murderer, he was obviously a crackpot conspiracy theorist too. “The man owned an organic grocery store. He worked as its manager.”

“Indeed, but that was only his livelihood. His passion was the PPC.”

“What exactly is the agenda of this PPC, and what was Whitney’s role?”

“The PPC operates according to the CFP that…”

“CFP?”

“Chosen Fundamental Principle. Everyone has CFPs. When exposed to novel information, one weighs it up in relation to one’s CFPs. If the information is in accord with those principles, it is accepted as gospel; if it contradicts them it is simply disregarded – it does not exist and therefore can not threaten one’s CFPs.”

“Don’t you think that’s slightly cynical?”

“No.”

“I see. So what,” Tyndal checked his notepad, “are the CFPs of the PPC?” Have to talk to these people in their lingo if you want the facts.

“The PPC believes that ‘They’ are out to get us…”

“I’m sorry,” said the detective, interrupting again, “you say ‘They’?”

“Yes, ‘They’. Who ‘They’ are is in fact of less importance than the simple fact that ‘They’ exist. ‘They’ could be the Government, The Jesuits, The Jews, The Communists, The Reptiloids etc. Their identity is not important. They exist and They are out to get us. According to the PPC the primary motivator of ‘Them’ is to keep ‘Us’ dull and docile so that ‘They’ can continue to hold dominion over us. The reasons they desire dominion are not clear – it seems that dominion is an end unto itself.”

“So how do they keep us dull and docile?”

“Are you certain, detective, that you are ‘Us’ and not ‘Them’?”

“Er…”

“According to the PPC, They have various means at their disposal – adding fluoride to our drinking water; forcing ‘Us’ to vaccinate our children with toxic cocktails; proliferating the use of GMO; high altitude spraying of chemicals; disseminating fallacious prophecies regarding the climate and the environment in order to justify restrictions of our freedom and increasing taxation; saturating of the air with radio waves and microwaves which may be used to read or control our minds; and various other arcane methods of subjugation.”

“And you say Whitney was involved with this organisation?”

“Not involved, he was Grand Master.

“Aha, and what exactly does the ‘Path to Pure Consciousness’ propose to do about all these attempts to deprive us of our freewill?”

“Members of the PPC follow a strict diet – you gathered of course that Whitney’s store stocks only organic produce and nothing of animal origin. They are, it goes without saying, vegans, believing that meat eating is unethical and has been indoctrinated by “Them” as a way of undermining our ethical integrity and corroding our intellect. Of course they do not consume GMO foods – they eat only ‘organic’ products. They drink only bottled water without added fluoride. They do not vaccinate their children. In addition to maintaining their own ‘pure’ lifestyle, they orchestrate a massive awareness campaign on and offline against all of the aforementioned ‘control measures’.”

“So they tell people not to eat meat, drink water with fluoride or vaccinate their children?”

“Precisely. They have been instrumental in having fluoride removed from the drinking water in several major council areas and have convinced tens of thousands of parents not to vaccinate their children. They have masterminded the destruction of experimental GMO crops and have spearheaded a campaign against what they refer to as the Great Conspiracy of Anthropogenic Global Warming.”

“So they’re crackpots.”

“Influential crackpots. Thanks to them the rate of dental disease in some communities in this country rivals that of communities in the developing world. We are seeing the return of preventable diseases such as measles and mumps; diseases that were all but eradicated thanks to vaccination programs. Their influence has extended beyond our shores too – in the developing world they have set back research into potentially life-saving GMO crops. There is blood on their hands. They are also making it easier for governments to cut back “green tape” put in place to safeguard our natural resources and to mitigate the impacts of climate change. I sometimes wonder if they’re not in the pocket of Big Industry themselves!” The man was clearly becoming excited; his face was ruddy and a sheen of sweat glistened on his forehead.

Detective Tyndal was slightly amused at the fervour of the man sitting opposite him – fanatics were all the same as far as he concerned, he didn’t much care what side of the coin they favoured. “So you took it upon yourself to put a stop to all this by killing their leader?”

“They had to be stopped. Whitney wasn’t just a leader; he was the figurehead of their entire movement. These people are essentially sheep, they need someone to follow – do away with the leader and the organisation will dissolve.”

“Did you try reasoning with him?”

“There is no reasoning with these people! Their CFPs are invulnerable, impervious to all the logic and evidence in the world. It had to be done. I did it for the good of humanity, for the good of the planet itself! I did it to protect Us from Them.”

“I see. Excuse me one moment please.” The detective got up and left the room. The man composed himself and sat back in the uncomfortable plastic chair, luxuriating once more in the knowledge that he had done the right thing. He was certain a colleague had come to tell the detective that they’d found the body just as he’d described it. Of course he would be charged with murder and would spend an extended period of time behind bars but at least he knew he had made a difference. The world was a better place for his actions and how many people could honestly say that? He imagined that his cell would be similar to the interview room in which he currently sat. The walls were unpainted cement, with no windows, and the floor was bare save for the small metal table and two plastic chairs. In one corner, near the ceiling, the eye of a small video camera regarded him impassively and the LED light indicating that he was being filmed glowed a warm and pleasing red. In his cell, he thought, he would have a bed and a toilet and no doubt he could decorate the walls with prints of his favourite works of art. He would hang a large print of Picasso’s Guernica on one wall and decorate another with smaller prints of his favourite Dali, Chagall and Ernst paintings. Definitely Ernst. Perhaps some of those creepy nocturnal landscapes that he painted. Landscapes would be nice actually – they’d make the room seem bigger. Maybe some Impressionist works too. Ah yes, prison wouldn’t be so bad. He smiled at the camera. They’d have a library too; think of all the reading he could catch up on! The door opened, interrupting his reverie, and the detective re-entered the room. He sat down opposite the man and placed a manila folder on the table.

“Did you find the body?” The man asked cheerily, still feeling flushed with pleasure from his fantasy of incarceration.

“We’ll get to that. Tell me again, please, how you killed Mr Whitney.”

“Ah yes. Well, I had been observing him for some time and had go to know his routines. He was a creature of habit you see. As for myself I feel that excessive adherence to routine is evidence of a weak mind and is easily exploited by one’s enemies. I have read many texts on the Art Of The Ninja and familiarisation with the target’s routine is a key stage in planning a clean kill.”

“Is that so?” Tyndal raised his eyebrows accommodatingly.

“Quite so. Each morning before opening the store Whitney would pick up fresh stock from the market place on Bunberry Lane and then stack the shelves in the front of the store and do a small stocktake to ensure adequate supplies of all products were available for the day’s business of purveying his wares to unwashed anarchists.” He gave Tyndal a knowing wink, but the detective did not smile. “During this stocktake he would spend some time in the storeroom behind the main shop, away from any prying eyes that might look through the window before he opened his doors to the public. He himself was not concerned about prying eyes of course, but for my purposes their absence was critical.”

“Of course.”

“I knew that this was where I must strike. So this morning I simply let myself in to the store when he was out the back, crept up on him from behind and slipped a garrotte around his throat. I pulled the noose tight and tied the end of the cord around a pipe that runs along the ceiling of the room. I watched him hang there kicking and gurgling until he ceased moving and I was sure he had expired. As I fully intended to confess I did not attempt to conceal the body or hide the evidence of my crime but marched straight here to the police station and placed myself in your custody. Did you not find the body as I described it?”

“No, there was no body in the back room. Indeed there was nobody, dead or alive, in the store at all. There were several customers, recently showered customers, waiting out the front for the doors to open. These customers told my colleague that it was most unusual for the store to remain closed at this hour. Inside, the lights were off. There was, apparently, some evidence of a struggle in the back room, some boxes were upset and bottles of fluoride free water had spilled across the floor. But: no body. You’re quite sure he was dead?”

“Quite sure. I checked his pulse. The man was no more!”

“There’s no chance that you were mistaken?”

“Detective there is always a chance that one is mistaken, but no, in this case, I am as certain as certain can be.”

“Quite so.” The detective was enjoying the interviewee’s increasing discomfort. “Would you take a look at this photo for me?” He opened the manila folder and withdrew an A4 sheet of paper with the face of an ordinary man printed on it. “Can you identify the man in this picture?”

“Certainly. That is a picture of Mr James Whitney, former owner/manager of Organic Produce For Life and former Grand Master of the PPC, now deceased.”

“Thank you. Excuse me for a moment please.” The detective got up and left the room and once more the man found himself alone with his thoughts. He wondered what could possibly have happened to Whitney’s body. Perhaps some meddling member of the PPC had come by and cut him down, taken his cadaver away to anoint and preserve in some sort of occult vegan ceremony. No matter, the man was dead; the state and whereabouts of his body were of no more consequence than the state and whereabouts of a sack of potatoes. Less consequence, in fact – a human body was nothing but a lump of useless meat whereas a sack of potatoes could feed a family for a week. Ho hum. Where had the detective gone? Nice man. It was high time for this matter to be resolved, however, so that he could get off to prison and get stuck into some serious reading. Perhaps they’ll have that new translation of Dante in the prison library. The door opened and the detective walked in carrying a small mirror with a plain black frame.

“Please have a look at this mirror sir.” The man obliged and saw his own, now slightly nonplussed, countenance looking back at him.

“Can you identify the man you see?”

“Can I identify myself? Are we playing games now detective? I’m not a dog; I’m quite capable of identifying my own reflection,” he snapped, beginning to get rankled.

“I see. Please have another look at this picture, which you have identified as a picture of Mr James Whitney, the man you say is the former Grand Master of the PPC.” The detective placed the printed photograph alongside the mirror.

“Yes, that’s Whitney, what’s your point?”

“Please look at the mirror once again sir.”

“What are you playing at…” glancing back and forth between the mirror and the photograph the man suddenly felt rather odd.

“I…..but……is this your idea of a joke detective?”

“Not at all, I assure you that I don’t have a sense of humour. Please tell me what you see, Mr Whitney.”

“I’m not Whitney you damned fool!” The man stood up suddenly, knocking his chair over. His face was distorted and his breathing had suddenly become ragged, “I….I….I…..I…..” He stammered.

“Yes Mr Whitney: you.” The man gave a strangled sob and fell to the ground, curling into the foetal position and whimpering. Tyndal smirked and made a thumbs up signal towards the camera. The door opened and a woman in a white coat entered.

“Mr Whitney, I’m a psychiatrist, my name is Dr Pendleton,” she said in a soothing voice. “I’d like to have a little chat with you, if that’s alright.”

Dr Pendleton’s diary, January 16th 2015.

Patient 0246, a Mr Whitney, suffers from acute personality disorder. Having devoted his life to the exposure of certain conspiracies he suffered a major psychotic break when confronted with certain irrefutable evidence that the very “truths” he stood for were in fact falsehoods. Why this particular piece of evidence was so damning when his “Chosen Fundamental Principles” (the patient’s term) had weathered the storm of so much similarly robust evidence in the past is unknown. Very likely the final piece of evidence was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Disturbingly, this is already the fourth such case I have seen this year and many other mental health professionals have reported patients with similar pathologies. It may be that, as we enter The Age of Dunning-Kruger, cases such as that of the unfortunate Mr Whitney will become increasingly common.

(The painting at the top of the page is Max Ernst’s The Entire City)

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