Worrying About “Social Order” is Bad

Maybe I am a bit behind the times here. In my day people worried about society going to hell in a handbasket (Please help me invent a better expression!) thanks to crime, gangs, gun violence, crack, disturbing economic inequality, unchecked corporate greed, decaying inner cities, racial tensions, and broke governments.

Now all we need to worry about is global climate change, the war on terror, racial tensions, disturbing economic inequality, and corporate greed. 

All of these problems could make people really nervous. Maybe those people are going to start agitating for drastic measures to be taken. we;’ve got to get the situation under control you know. Our way of life is at stake here. The bad guys are gunning for us, for a variety of nutjob reasons. We need tougher laws, more military spending, more law enforcement, and courts that are really tough on the bad guys.

Anyone who ever took a history class or watched the news probably knows where this could lead: totalitarianism. Kiss your rights goodbye! Since that much is pretty clear to us all I will move on…

When we get all worked up over the eroding social order, we fall prey to all sorts of simplistic and misleading ideas. Consider these examples:

1. The solution to Washington DC’s "crime emergency" is to get more cops on patrol and impose a curfew on teens.

2. The root of our social problems comes from our society’s drift away from its Judeo-Christian roots and into the briar patch that is secular humanism.

3. We need tougher laws to deal with _________ (insert a crime problem, any crime problem).

(Those were just examples, mind you; I don’t take them seriously!)

Never mind that in all three cases we have no idea what the real problem is. Never mind that the "problem" may be something stirred up by activists or by reporters. Lastly, our belief in a "problem" or a "solution" may represent emotion and not a careful analysis of the situation.

The sociological lesson here: Knee-jerk reactions to problems of "social order" can cause us to waste a huge amount of labor and money on nonsolutions. We could even allow something like Nazism to take root.

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~ by chetdavis on August 17, 2006.

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