The term “chaos” is a word used by the mariner to describe the moment at which significant and rapid change occurs in society. It is borrowed from an area of mathematics called “chaos theory,” most recognized by the example that the air disturbed by a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can be the beginning of a tornado in Texas.
Generally, without getting lost in mathematical jargon, chaos theory has a set of mathematical equations that quantify increasing diversion from a single value. It is impossible to predict future weather from the butterfly’s action yet every possible weather pattern begins with this one event. The principle can be applied to increasing stress until the stress reaches a point that it discharges a sudden release of “chaotic” energy that changes the state of things. Simplest example is to study the breakdown of resistance in a rubber band until, all of a sudden, it snaps apart at an unpredictable moment.
Culturally, Rosa Parks was a butterfly on a bus on a normal day in Montgomery, Alabama that led to national unrest, marches into the deep south, activated National Guard in cities to prevent riots and looting, murder, military confrontation with Governor Wallace and became the Civil Rights Act signed by President Johnson. The chaotic moment occurred when the Civil Rights act became law and represented a new definition of American culture.
The chaotic process is the fragmentation of American society in many directions at once. Racism remains blatant. Class confrontation is growing. Conservative parties are splintered and all are in assault mode. Liberal and progressive parties flounder as liberal tenets are washed away by change not even thought of a year ago. Technology strips away social rules and mores. Privacy, fairness and respect for stability are disposable. Corporations tramp brutally on the security and fair fiscal policy expected by the middle class. The rich grow more distant while everyone else struggles. These are the stress values building toward a chaotic moment in American culture; the moment is unpredictable.
The Congress stands aside, focused on self-centered largesse and opportunity. Our government will continue to be useless and even interfere with sanity. We could claim that, as Nero, they fiddle while the U.S. burns – but they do not have fiddles. They are simply watching. No, they are not even watching.
At the street level, racial prejudice kills innocent individuals. It is unsafe for the wrong race or the wrong position on guns, abortion, government or global warming to be in the wrong neighborhood. In too many States, it is not safe to stand out culturally.
Constitutional rights to assemble, vote, work for a union, or stand up for gay rights, women’s rights or animal rights requires an understanding that one may be brutally injured or outcast at best.
The mariner remembers a cultish movie released in 1971 called “Little Murders.” It is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional American culture. It starred Elliott Gould who played a character whose hobby was photographing dog excrement. He is brought home to meet his girlfriend’s parents who randomly shoot people walking on the street. It is a classic Jules Feiffer creation. Sadly, it is not far from today’s society where the answer to everything is a permit to carry a concealed weapon and mass shootings occur with irregular but persistent frequency.
Banks and large corporations continue to mug the public with abusive rights and privileges and eventually step outside the ethical fabric of the American culture to become quasi-legal thieves.
Yet, in the neighborhoods of America, there seems to be normalcy. Sanity prevails at the community level as though there were no upheaval in society. The behavior of the innocent American in an innocent community reminds the mariner of “Stepford Wives,” a movie where men’s wives were clandestinely murdered and replaced with replicated robots that were always obedient to the husbands.
Are the innocents we meet each day when we take out the trash robot citizens? Are citizens programmed not to ask for a decent raise for the past forty years or to share in profits for retirement? Are they programmed to vote for a person without caring whether that person can help them with daily life? Do they care that the American military is used as an employment agency primarily for those who cannot find employment elsewhere while allowing the rest of the Country to be so uninvolved as to not care if the Country goes to war?
The mariner foresees chaos. However, the mariner is not a harbinger of doom. The commotion we experience today is typical as a situation draws near to a chaotic moment. The question remains unanswered: Can each citizen manage this disruptive stress in our culture? Now, our culture is a maverick. The future requires citizenry with the backbone of their ancestors: take charge of the situation, suffer the hardships, and make it work for everyone.
The institutions of government and faith have proven to be unable to handle the shift. They are anchored in the old model and will be of little use to the citizens.
Resolution of the disruptive atmosphere in American society today requires butterflies similar to Rosa Parks – those in the quiet communities who have had enough and will stir the citizenry to take charge of the chaotic process.