the new panic

Andrew Sullivan notes something worth unpacking a little more – comments from E.O. Wilson on why we’re seeing the Tea Party/fundamentalist push back.

The gist: it’s a panic, brought on by accelerating change in the world. Says Wilson: “We are a Star Wars civilization. We have Stone Age emotions.”

(Read Sullivan’s take, with a link back to the original Wilson comments, here.)

As a Christian, it bothers me that Wilson (who is not in the ‘new atheist’ camp) can’t quite help but condescend toward churches. It’s just hard to find people of scientific bent who will take religion seriously.

But he makes a point: the conservatism I like and support is the kind that acts as a moderating force, the kind that says ‘Wait a sec. Let’s take another look at this.’ It’s mostly out in the open and conscious – if you’re engaging in that sort of argument, you know you’re doing it and know the facts could change.

Panics don’t make for that kind of measured thinking, or moderation. And when you have the kind of double dipper crisis we’ve had for the last decade – the threat from without of terrorism and the threat from within of a depression – you get panics. People can’t breathe, let alone think straight. It’s fertile ground for the worst among us to gain an edge.

Also – and I tread lightly here – ‘some’ of the same impulses at work here are behind the fundamentalist Islam that has so bedeviled us for the last decade. The right of this country is not at all the same as the Islamists, but they both reject much of modernity, they both get angry about uncertainty and they both believe they’re so right, the other guys aren’t legitimate. You can tear down a lot with those feelings.


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