The veneer of social order is so thin. We live in angry, selfish times. All it takes is a half-blocked intersection and some screwed up timing on traffic lights, and people start doing whatever it takes to get their way first, even if it obviously makes things worse for everyone including themselves. Horns blaring, windows rolled down to spew rage, people flapping their hands in frustration, and all over just an extra few minutes of travel time.
Maybe what I saw today was just a bad drive through a tense scene, but I’m really disturbed by the level of venom that I have observed more generally around the blizzard this week. A lot of people have really been put out, and, sure, public and private sector responses could have been better coordinated. But if the aftermath of some bad weather does this, then what’s next? Disorder arises too easily. When do impotent rage and primate aggression displays turn into true violence? It feels like a sign of much worse to come.
The likelihood that people could handle a crisis collaboratively has visibly gotten much lower. And it seems likely it will only get worse as infrastructure and environment degrade, as public services are defunded by deficit hawks and constitutional fundamentalists, and as the bubble of social anger grows.
In so many places, you see signs small and large of an opportunistic rot that eats away at government, at common good, and at each person. In that opportunity, a new form of sovereignty is taking hold, one that thrives on social fragmentation and radical privatization, and one that is undoing people’s basic ability to come together around a common problem. Reflecting on moments such as what I saw today, I worry. When the common problems created by this corporatized sovereignty become too intense for it to withstand, it will collapse; the only thing left behind will be the rot and the rage.
The state of men without civil society (which state may be called the state of nature) is nothing but a war of all against all; and that in that war, all have a right to all things.