There are some very disturbing trends here in the States lately. As our economy continues to go downhill and our government seems increasingly incompetent, people grow more fearful. The longer we continue to view our institutions as ineffective the stress and worry among us will increase. So will distrust.
In the past this has led to greater acceptance of authoritarian measures than people were willing to accept in times of plenty. Compare Depression-era Germany with the Germany of the 90’s, for example. When we get desperate we countenance a much stronger hand for civil authority. Here, too we have our own examples such as the Civil War and more recently 9/11 in 2001, when people were fine with suspending individual rights because of perceived security needs. The more desperate the situation, the more people are willing to give away.
We are not in good shape right now. There is a looming financial crises for the government which will of course translate into financial disaster for the public due to the government’s efforts to handle its problem. They have already started the first round of “quantitative easing” (printing money) and all signs point to more of the same. Much more. Add to this the pending debt wall, and there is a hard limit approaching fast.
I don’t think we appreciate just how much of our social fabric rests on perception. We live our lives against a backdrop of assumptions. The lights will come on when I flip the switch, water will flow when I turn the faucet. Driving down the road, most people will obey traffic laws. My neighbors will respect my property and strangers will respect my boundaries.
The underpinning to all of this is our great national contract with each other as represented by our mutual faith in our government to handle problems. Most of this is a convenient illusion, a sort of mass delusion that we all share. The system works because it works, not because there is a great force overseeing us all and making sure that we behave. If but a few people out of our 300 some million were to be naughty, police forces would not be able to handle them. The illusion would be shattered and the true nature of our fragile civilization would be revealed.
This is what will happen should the US Government decide to destroy the dollar. Even if they stop short of full devaluation (something I am not sure is possible given that most of the problem is already out of their hands- they suffer from their own delusions of control) the resulting cascade would still accomplish the same effect. Public confidence will be destroyed and we’ll have financial chaos- followed shortly by civil chaos.
Even before we get to nightmare scenarios like that one, we can all sense the rising paranoia and worry among ourselves. While overall crime rates, especially against property, are said to be down random outbursts of violence occur more frequently. Police response is growing more brutal, just scan the headlines around the net. Relationships and trust are breaking down.
So why did I title this LGBT activism? I see some of this anger manifesting among activists and the rank and file in the blogosphere just as it is with everyone else. As the coalition disintegrates, people are struggling to establish a new paradigm and as part of that process various factions and strategies will jostle for position. No one knows for certain the course they will choose to take. There have even been angry calls for some kind of armed militancy, though I am sure it was mainly frustration. Still, can you imagine lesbians and gays talking like that just a couple years ago?
I’m getting worried at the kind of activism being proposed. There are some rousing calls for the activism of old; marches, sit ins, disrupting meetings and harassing officials. General civil disobedience. But there is a time and place for everything; that kind of activism was appropriate in the 50’s and 60’s, when we had a different sort of government and atmosphere. Right now these things still sound reasonable, if not particularly effective in this day and age, due to our knowledge of their use by Dr. King and the activists of the 60’s fighting for social causes. What will these sorts of strategies sound like as we careen further down this rabbit hole and our government grows ever more menacing in its efforts to enforce order?
Ghandi, speaking about nonviolence as means of change, remarked that it rests on the assumption of having a principled opponent. I’m not so sure they will be up against that kind of adversary as things unfold. It can happen here.