Blog 33. A New Civil War or Only Old Chaos?

Tea Party Rebellion

This month, the federal government was deliberately shut down by the Tea Party, a minor faction in the House of Representatives that controls the larger Republican Party. The objective was to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “ObamaCare”), which had already been passed by Congress and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. That’s extreme—to hold everything hostage to a particular narrow objective. The appropriate method would be to pass just another law to terminate the first law, if that’s what you want to do.

The Washington Post compares the Tea Party rebellion to the Civil War. True, a lot of Tea Party support comes from Confederate states, but there’s a more widespread feeling that something’s wrong. Why is the federal government seen as the enemy in associations that range from conservative Republicans down to the so-called patriot groups? Why do the upper crust (and some middle crust) feel oppressed, calling for extremes of freedom, including the freedom to destroy the environment in which we live?

Why do politicians deliberately fan the flames of fear? As Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) said of the ACA, “This law is going destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it.” Wow. One law, rather similar to social security, will destroy the nation? But paralyzing the federal government will not?  I’m not an apologist for ACA and I know Medicare pays exorbitant bills to keep my body alive, but I don’t think the ACA will fry the continent.  Greenhouse gases might.

Why the underlying angst? As I stated in Blog 3, society is a complex system, where small events may occasionally amplify into big events. Complex systems, including society and its parts, operate at the edge of chaos. As I suggested in Blog 26, we are becoming more and more connected with faceless, fragmentary information colored by advertising and embedded in entertainment. It’s not only confusing, it’s crazy-making. Frustrating. But get used to it.

When things become sufficiently chaotic, people will look for simple solutions, adhere to doctrine despite the evidence, and welcome dictatorial control that promises simplicity.

The Greeks knew that 2500 years ago, and THAT, Mr. Broun, can destroy America. There is no simple solution to all the chaos in a complex system, other than to revise the rules so small events can’t grow into big events. Small business can’t become big business, small ideas can’t spread, inquiring minds can’t threaten doctrine, and orders come down but messages don’t go up. That’s orderly. That’s also destroying the system you intended to protect.


We’ve seen clamor for order become revolution:

The Russian revolution that opened a momentary chaotic democracy followed by an oppressive, politically correct communism, followed by an unchecked set of freedoms including corruption and the freedom to get rich and buy government.

The chaos of printed money in Germany after WWI, followed by the order of National Socialism (NAZI) and the principle of a super race.

The warlords in Afghanistan and northern Africa apply terror to impose order by divine law as interpreted by humans.

What’s to do?

So what’s to do? Recognize that freedom to destroy is oppression. Apply selective limits to freedom: speed limits, political limits, and even health care limits, selectively adjusting the social rules to reduce personal and public catastrophes. Get off the fear based on belief that your life should be immune to turbulence. Take a deep breath, talk to each other, love and let live.

Maybe we’ll look at those old Greek ideas next time.