The lunatic stylings of Roy Moore and his fanbois reminded me again what a strange world we live in.
For one thing, it's the bizarre upwelling of tribalism in a world where "tribe" functionally means less than ever. Humans are interconnected in ways inconceivable even a generation ago, and yet “Evangelical Christian” has stopped being a religious faith and become a “tribe”. It’s really as simple as that.
So just like the Mongol who could stop on the way out of his yurt to play with his sister’s little kid before mounting up to go slaughter the Polish peasants in the village over the ridge, these folks have convinced themselves that they are a tribe, and the "others" out there are not just another tribe, but not really "people". It's like how tribal societies usually have names for themselves that mean "People"; the implication being that if you're not in the tribe you're not "people".
To top that off, these gomers have convinced themselves that they're not just a tribe, but a threatened tribe in a dangerous, frightful world against which only deadly violence can protect them.
A lot of this is an ugly combination of human nature – we’ve been tribes for a lot longer than we’ve been nations, or religions, or scientists, or whatever (along with human foibles in general – remember that “average” intelligence means that half the human race is BELOW “average”) – and way too much exposure to electronic media, which thrives on fire and murder.
But, still...the degree ti which that combination drives us to stupid behavior sometimes seems beyond any sort of rational sense.
I can’t remember what the actual incident was but I do know that it was one of the usual acts of distant violence, maybe an Islamic State attack somewhere, that caused a friend of mine to exclaim about how horrible and violent the world is today. She’s a smart person – “above average” – and so I bothered to talk to her about this.
“So…had one of those pesky barbarian invasions again last Tuesday, then?”
“Didn’t get the massive pandemic this week? No Black Death, no whole-family-wiped-out-by-smallpox, eh?”
“Wha…what the hell do you mean?”
“So I take it that your city didn’t fall to the besiegers and you’re not currently being raped before being faced with a sort of “bad or worse” outcome of death or slavery? The famine caused by the summer’s crop failure not facing you with a hideously slow death to starvation? The rapacious king hasn’t taken up half your neighborhood in the corvee again?”
“What the hell does this have to do with (violent act in distant place)?”
“What it means is that we, we in the First World, really live in an insanely, historically unprecedentedly peaceful world. We are almost impervious to common disease. Medicine and public health have made pandemics hugely rare. Massive volkerwanderungs that caused continent-wide death, such as the mfecane in southern Africa or the Gothic invasions of western Europe or the Mongol incursions into western Eurasia haven’t occurred for centuries. We live, in general, under a rule of settled law; we don’t run the risk of a robber baron in Salem looting and murdering us on I-5 between Portland and Eugene. There ARE still horrible things that happen…but to those of us not able to afford our own mercenary bodyguards they happen less than almost any time in human history.”
“But…terrorism! School shootings! Urban gangs!”
“Happen. Yes. But…you’ll note that they happen in little bits and pieces in places all over the world. Remember that until probably two generations ago you would never have heard of those places at all, much less of some awful thing happening in them. Think about it; which of these horrible things happened to someone YOU know, personally. Someplace within, say, three days walk from you?”
“Thought so. So the world’s NOT “the most dangerous ever”. You just hear MORE of these dangerous things ever, because that’s what the “news” thinks will keep you watching their broadcasts so they can sell more airtime to the marketers of payday lenders and erectile-dysfunction pills. So your very best option is to chillax and have a nice dark ale with a whisky in abeyance and read something thoughtful.”
Mind you, I don’t think she bought it.
That's a huge part of the problem.
I have no idea what the hell you can do about that.