The Fear of DisorderPosted: August 26, 2014
Greens engage in rituals to allay their anxieties
Ronald Bailey explores an interesting topic in a Reason article: Environmentalism and the fear of disorder. The quest for order is not exclusive to environmentalist food worriers, or obsessive recyclers. If we look for the mirror image of this, on the other end of the ideological spectrum, it would probably be found in the disorder-phobic elements of the prepper movement. A similar effort to achieve a feeling of personal control, to have “influence over their environments and the world in general that provides similar perceptions of an orderly world.”
I’ve had discussion about this with our Hong Kong Bureau Chief, a polymath with an interest in self-sustaining, grid-failure-proof home remodeling (not crazy if you live in a hurricane zone) and who predicted that there are fortunes to be made for those who can market effectively to this notion of personal control in a disorderly world.
Unlike the anti-vaxer, anti-science Left, prepper concerns aren’t necessarily irrational, or even paranoid. Our own Federal Government has web pages filled with advice encouraging citizens to take measures to be prepared for storms, earthquakes, power outages, and so forth. Things that aren’t imaginary. Things that kill, maim, and disrupt human populations worldwide every year. And that doesn’t even cover the valid concerns over a threat of an EMP attack.
On a personal note, I’ve met a hard-core, full-scale, exquisitely-armed, hyper-informed prepper. Instead of thinking he was nuts, I found him to be realistic, self-deprecating, and engaging. Light-hearted about his obsession, disciplined, trained in survivalism (from a previous career in the military) a hobbyist in gourmet food storage, an expert in lethal and non-lethal self-defense, a vintage wine collector, and an informed conversationalist. I came away thinking my own pampered, clueless urban sensibilities were irrational, and unrealistic, not the other way around.
Similarly, being mindful of food labels, or seeking organic and fresh over processed or unhealthy foods is not necessarily irrational or fear-driven behavior. But Baily’s on to something.
Other writers have noted an anxious purity obsession on fringes of the left–and even in the mainstream Left–that equals or exceeds the craziest paranoid right-wing John Birchers, anti-Semites, and fluoride-obsessed Dr. Strangelovean purity cultists of yesteryear. A key difference is, William F. Buckley purged the extremist elements nearly half a century ago.
Though new strains appear, in various forms (progressives seek them out and artificially elevate their perceived influence, in a political effort to make them appear emblematic). In mainstream conservatism, vigilant resistance and steady inoculation against the influence (or annoyance) of anti-democratic or apocalyptic extremist strains is an ongoing project that mostly succeeds.
A case can be made that the Left has yet to do this. Aside from some half-hearted, insincere efforts, the Left hasn’t even disavowed their radical Marxist, Maoist, neo-Stalinist elements. On the contrary, they’re free to openly celebrate them, in academia, entertainment, popular culture, and government. Modern Marxists easily get lucrative jobs in the Department of Labor, tenure at prestigious Ivy League colleges, positions of influence at HHS, HUD, and the DOJ. Our elite institutions shower them with fame, and awards. The Left hasen’t purged or effectively reigned in the anti-vaccination, anti-science, anti-Semitic, isolationist, enviro-alarmist elements in their ideological camp. On the contrary, environmentalism is now the largest and most dominant religious ideology in the western world.
Interesting article. See the full text here.
Ronald Bailey writes:
Why do people recycle and buy organic foods? According to Marijn Meijers and Bastiaan Rutjens, a couple of social scientists at the University of Amsterdam, they do it to realize a sense of personal control stemming from their fear that disorder is increasing in the world. Technological optimists, meanwhile, are more likely to eschew the comfort of such rituals.
[Bailey’s book “Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death“ is available at Amazon.com]
To be fair, that’s not exactly how the two researchers interpret their study, which was published in the August European Journal of Social Psychology. But as we shall see, it is not unreasonable to construe their results that way.
A popular new psychological model, compensatory control theory, argues that people are highly motivated to perceive the world as meaningful, orderly, and structured. When people perceive the world as being less orderly, Meijers and Rutjens explain, they strive to compensate for the anxiety and stress this produces. Often this entails attempting to achieve personal or external control. With personal control, Meijers and Rutjens write, “it is the feeling that people are able to influence their environment that provides them with the notion of an orderly and navigable world.” With external control, “it is the feeling that an external source (e.g. an intervening God or a powerful government) exerts influence over their environments and the world in general that provides similar perceptions of an orderly world.”
A threat to one source of order boosts the motivation to affirm the other. Instability in government, for example, produces more efforts to achieve personal control.
Meijers and Rutjens note that scientific progress “can be viewed as testimony to humanity’s increasing ability to exert control over the world, and bolstering belief in scientific progress as such can provide order.” The formulation “can be viewed” is just a bit too clever. In fact, the technologies developed as a result of the processes scientific discovery have dramatically reduced a lot of the randomness and disorder that a fickle and meager nature throws our way…(read more)
- What Preppers Are According To Non-Preppers (patriotrising.com)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Resources for Parents of Teens (doorwaysarizona.com)
- Do preppers have a mental disorder? (thesurvivalistblog.net)
- JESSE WALKER: Stop Demonizing Preppers: They’re More Diverse And Interesting Than Media Stereotype… (pjmedia.com)
- Taking Michael Mann’s Temperature (nationalreview.com)
- “International Conference on Islamophobia” tries to distinguish between “legitimate criticisms or anxieties on the one hand and hate-filled or irrational criticisms and anxieties on the other” (jihadwatch.org)