Sunday, February 9, 2014

Contrived Superstition - How to control a populace.

“Imagine a land where people are afraid of dragons. It is a reasonable fear: dragons possess a number of qualities that make being afraid of them a very commendable response. Things like their terrible size, their ability to spout fire, or to crack boulders into splinters with their massive talons. In fact, the only terrifying quality that dragons do not possess is that of existence.

Now, the people of this land know about dragons because their leaders have warned them about them. They tell stories about cruel dragons with razor teeth and fiery breath. They recount legends of dragons hunting by night on silent wings. In short, the leaders make sure that the people believe in all the qualities of dragons, including that key quality of existence. And then they control the people — when they need to — with their fear of dragons. The people pay a dragon-slaying tax … everyone stays indoors after dark to avoid being snatched by swooping claws … and nobody ever strays out of bounds for fear of being eaten well and truly up.

Perhaps somebody will wonder if dragons aren’t, after all, fictitious because — despite their size — nobody seems to have actually seen one. And so it is necessary from time to time to provide evidence: a burnt tree or two, a splintered rock, the mysterious absence of a villager. The population is controlled by the dragons in its collective mind. It’s contrived superstition, and it is possible because the people do not know enough about the way the world works to know that dragons do not exist.”
― David Whiteland, Book of Pages