10.14.19 | Embracing Chaos

"Just let them all burn" . . . . "when it comes to our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking just let them all burn." Forty percent concurred with that sentiment. Chaos was on the minds of that percentage responding to six surveys, four in the United States interviewing some 5,157 participants and two in Denmark interviewing 1,336 more. Respondents weren't terribly discriminating how Lord Shiva would go about his work: some fantasized a natural disaster wiping out most of humanity such that a small group of people could start over; others just "felt like destroying beautiful things." Burn baby burn (focus article, NYT, Edsall: 'Need for Chaos).

The threshold question, of course, goes to the accuracy of the polling. Respondents might have simply been gutless wonders, down on their luck or otherwise marginalized, acting out their frustration by playing armchair anarchist (though sampling methodology seemed quite sound, click here for the abstract and 34-page report: “A ‘Need for Chaos’ and the Sharing of Hostile Political Rumors in Advanced Democracies.”). Perhaps many simply registered this disaffection at the 2016 voting booth.

This then raises the chicken-and-egg question i.e. which came first, the Trump phenomenon or (the allure of) chaos. There is little question Trump rode the need-for-chaos express. We all remember his use of social media and campaign rallies to further the populist "us vs. them" tribal message. Such is the logical consequence of the phenomenon we discussed in our inaugural Member Monday session (MM 7/11/16) centered around the article How American Politics Went Insane (again linked HERE). In short, what we might be seeing now is the consequence of party elites and political leaders ignoring for too long the (economic) concerns of their voters. The author cites the earlier golden era of machine politics which worked to immunize against chaos as he bemoans the weakening of those political intermediaries especially party leaders who did much to stabilize the system and discourage selfish behavior.

Or, perhaps, it's just where we find ourselves in yet another historical cycle. The circular nature of time and historical patterns was the thrust of our discussion of The Fourth Turning, positing that history, rather than proceeding along a linear timeline, moves in broad cycles (MM 3/20/17). Followers will note we are in, or embarking on, the so-called winter phase. We happen to be caught between the entropy of the chaoticists and the hubris of the linearists. Roll your eyes if you want but this book (and its underlying philosophy) was (and is) favored by Steve Bannon, the architect of Trump's 2016 election victory.

All in all, these times will prove to be increasingly "interesting." Trump suggested, in the form of a retweet, that "if the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office, it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal."

Game on, stay tuned.

Steve SmithComment