Meditation for 7/24/2020 — The social fabric of the world is getting more chaotic
Which means the political fabric too.
I’m an immigrant, who was born in Nigeria, a developing nation of 200+ million people. I’m also American and now have a dual identity as African American because I stand on the shoulders of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and a lot of black struggle. I was born to the struggle and an uncertain world.
But even I am amazed at the amount of flux in the world today. Two things stood out to me this week and caused a lot of reflection. I read something about Evangelical women questioning the devotion of their churches to Trump. And I listened to Austin citizens fuming about the meagre cuts to the Austin PD budget from the city council. In both cases, you find citizens not only disagreeing on the substance of the issue at hand, but more importantly, disagreeing on what the right thing to do is AND what moral compass to base judgement on. Part of that last bit is deconstructing through the lens of today, what happened in the past. For example, it was not Ok that the old King David (of the bible), essentially raped another man’s wife — Bathsheba — but he is still seen as a religious hero. Is that right?
The prevalent relativism of today means that there are few shared moral touchstones. But without moral touchstones, a collective understanding and judgement of what is right is elusive. And when you factor in the examination of historical actions against that relativity, you get even more divergence in the polity. We now call this many words — “ideological divide”, “populism”, “nationalism”, and more. But in the end, our rates of ‘not being on the same page’ is escalating dramatically, all over the world.
In prior ages, this kind of divergence was dangerous to established political authority and power. And in many ways it still is. Prior ages of political power had significant resources (police, propaganda, spys) directed at “order”; the control and/or the distraction of the masses — pointing their attention in singular directions, to prevent the eruptions of society and the loss of that power. But in 2020, that is increasingly hard. First, because the global consciousness is more relativist and not easy to control or point in singular directions. Second, because the ability to do planet-scale communication via social media has escaped state/political control. Let call these the twin roots of ‘disorder’.
I want a reexamination of past and present actions, attitudes and institutions related to colonization and chattel slavery. I want more justice and equality for black people in the earth. I want more equality for women and an adjustment of the legal structures that disagree. But in the abstract I understand the fears of moderating forces that don’t want change quickly. Its scary if you have profited from the status quo ante. And frankly the people who are requesting these things often don’t agree on the goal. And overall disorder tends to lead to upheavals — revolution, abrupt power transitions, war.
These forces of disorder are even bigger than racial or gender justice issues. They are becoming endemic to world society and I suspect will be a major force for how the world conducts business over the next few decades. Nothing will escape those forces both on the side of the powerful and the side of less powerful activists looking to harness the power of mass protest.
But, maybe connectedness makes it easier to tolerate disorder. Maybe the reason we craved order in ages past ages past, was because the political establishment did not have these new communication lines to deal with disorder adroitly. And the downtrodden did not know have robust enough resources to commiserate, connect and organize. Maybe we can have equilibrium at a higher state of entropy than before, because we have figured out how to substitute negotiation for violence.