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I wish I could sustain enough faith in humanity to believe in the conspiracy theories that I've heard recently regarding the H1N1 vaccine.

If government and pharmaceutical companies are capable of working together, with medical professionals, all committed to doing pure evil, this would at least demonstrate that mankind is capable of completing mammoth, future-altering projects.

We're just choosing not to.

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I'd sleep better knowing that there was a race of Bond villains among us. The task of converting all of that collective inventiveness and industriousness from diabolical evil into good would be simple, compared with the work of organizing actual messy people and mismanaged institutions into anything capable of achieving something momentous. At least the infrastructure would be there.

If H1N1 is a pharmaceutical-company scam, as I've been repeatedly told, or if 9/11 was an inside job, or if all of the peer-reviewed articles proving the existence of climate change were manufactured for eventual political gain, at least the human race would have demonstrated great foresight and ambition.

After all, it would arguably have been more difficult and imaginative to fake a moon landing than it was to actually land on the plain, old moon.

And, most impressively, in an era in which apparently many people can't make a casserole without "tweeting" that fact, these evil endeavours would've required discretion: No one ever talks.

As if.

It'd be reassuring to think 9/11 was an inside job. But if the people who pulled that off were, as the theory runs, the same people who subsequently invaded Iraq, Baghdad would be running like Geneva right now. At least those towers stayed down.

Oh, I know, they want it to be a mess so they can stay in Iraq; that's Part 2 of the theory. Again, it'd be nice to think that "they" ever felt that they needed an excuse.

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It's as if humanity had come a full 360 degrees. We've moved from the credulousness that thrives on ignorance (excusable when we were actually ignorant), to a healthy skepticism, to just skepticism, to cynicism. And this led increasing numbers of people right back to credulousness again.

The impulse to question (sit in on any undergraduate class if you don't believe me) is currently perhaps validated above the impulse to learn, or at least to learn first. And into that educational void, far more entertaining and easily communicated conspiracy theories have flooded.

The anti-vaccination movement, whose conspiracy-like claims shift as they're repeatedly debunked, thrives on a kind of reborn superstition, mainly by connecting vaccination to autism. It's a perfect example of pseudo-religious irrationality in that it offers conscientious parents a simple way to protect their children against something complex and frightening - autism.

Which would be great, if it were remotely true, because it would mean that bad things don't happen to good people. Which would be really great.

Ask people who have had cancer and they'll tell you that the initial sympathetic response of their associates quickly becomes a kind of 20-questions game designed to determine how the newly diagnosed people brought this cancer upon themselves.

As the mother of a child who was for a long time highly "special needs," I was sometimes tempted to tell horrified new or pregnant mothers who witnessed the grimmer moments of our lives that "I drank heavily only in the first trimester," just to put their minds at ease. They would never be us. Too good. Too clever.

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People keep announcing that they're "buying vitamins" in response to H1N1, which ignores the dual realities that immunizations work best when as many people as possible are immunized (in an orderly fashion and beginning always with the Calgary Flames) and that healthy people do become ill.

Historically, people routinely watched healthy people get sick and die at home - as we seldom do. Having few other options, they fought back mostly with a kind of magical thinking, believing in an imbalance of humours and in "the cursed."

Here again, having gone past dull science - which has, after all, failed to save every last one of us from everything - we're now coming around 360 degrees to attempting to ward off illness, simplified as evil, with insider information.

"I'm boosting my immune system," people keep saying to me, beatifically.

The phrase is like a new "Hail, Mary, mother of God" - it's said as if the mere knowledge of the words, and the things the utterance of those words suggests about the speaker, provided special protection.

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