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OPINION | Who’s the villain?

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HAGÅTÑA — There must be some mysterious force at work seeking to undermine our old society and its values! Look at what they’ve done to our nation and our faith!

Here’s what a friend of mine posted recently. ...After World War II, the other world leaders clearly understood that the United States, solid as One Nation under God, with its highly patriotic people, could never be brought down. Out of fear and greed, they planted false immigrants in the U.S. to spread the use of drugs, cheap alcohol, and prostitution ... They had men enter Religious Orders who only intended to bring down the Church from within. This is all documented to be true by plans found written up by the likes of Stalin and Lenin of the USSR to begin with; other leaderships entered the plot later on.”

More and more people these days seem to be looking for an explanation for the destruction of all that we once held dear. There must be a plot against us, some of them argue. What else could explain the damage inflicted on us?

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, we don’t believe in Superman. But it must be a super-villain with magical powers. Is it Stalin, as the poster suggested? Or perhaps his successor Putin? Or a conspiracy by other world powers to bring down the U.S. and all it stands for?

Conspiracy theory is popular everywhere, and it is invoked to account for just about everything. QAnon may be the most well-known source, but there are plenty of others, including some that target conspiracies in church circles.

But could the real culprit be within? Not spies or infiltrators, as my friend suggests in his post, but the dynamics of change? Let’s look at Big Government, for example. Is Big Government really the malicious design of some manipulator, or is it just the result of gradual changes over time as we have had to call on the government to get us through crises that we couldn’t handle with our own meager resources?

How about the spread of drugs, cheap alcohol and prostitution? To halt this spread, are we supposed to call on the government to become even bigger — big enough to combat this plague on our society? One minute we turn to government for solutions to our most fearful problems. The next minute we shudder with fear at the terrible things that Big Government is doing to our society. Give us health coverage, we say, but not legalized marijuana or gay marriage.

In my opinion, we would do much better to explore social change than to blame some mysterious and malign force for the shape of our society today. Much of what we currently shake our heads at in island society is the unintended consequence of changes we ourselves once applauded. After World War II, the Seabees built new roads, and cheap autos enabled us to move around the island at will. (Good, or so it seems). But the karabao and kareta faded, and so did the frequency of the family gathering at the lancho. (Maybe not so good.) New jobs opened up, allowing people to buy much more than the old mom and pop stores offered. (Great!) But to provide the service expected, stores were expected to stay open seven days a week. (Oh, what about Sunday church services?) Higher salaries made it possible for young couples to build their own homes on the other side of the island. (Fine, go for it!) But that meant that it was harder for the whole extended family to gather for their customary dinners. (Well, that is a problem.) Meanwhile, with the rapid growth of jobs, the island had to bring in outside labor, but as the population grew the mayors didn’t know their people as well and so couldn’t resolve community problems as easily as they once could.

We could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Good things happen, but they have side-effects that change our lives in ways we hadn’t anticipated. As these little changes accumulate over time, we find ourselves in a very different world.

It wasn’t some masked villain who did the job. It was the dynamics of change that created what some seem to feel is an alien society. It wasn’t a bird, or a plane. It was we ourselves.

Father Fran Hezel is a former director of the research-pastoral institute Micronesian Seminar. After serving as Jesuit mission superior in the Micronesian islands for six years, he continued heading the Micronesian Seminar until 2010.

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