”When he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”
And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”1
Have you noticed that our culture is drifting further and further into chaos?
God, the source of all good, allows chaos in our lives to teach us the importance of principles of life that matter for stability and flourishing. Evil people seek to create chaos in order to achieve the power they believe they need to remake civilization to their imagined ideal. That imagined ideal may even involve the perpetrator becoming the “supreme leader” - in other words, a dictator answerable to no one but themselves (or so they think).
In a society that is stable and flourishing, the danger of a descent into chaos and dictatorship is usually not immanent. Nevertheless, every society is vulnerable, no matter how stable.
Such dictatorships are inherently unstable. The dictator is inherently narcissistic, inherently addicted to power, quick to react to any challenges to that power, and increasingly desperate when that challenge increases. Study the lives of Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and many others.
World War I, the so-called war to end all wars, ended with the humiliating defeat of Kaiser2 Wilhelm II’s Germany. The Treaty of Paris, largely controlled by Prime Ministers of England (David LLoyd George) and France (Georges Clemenceau), imposed heavy reparations on the defeated Germany. Those duties proved to be ruinous to Germany’s economy, and the Weimar Republic that took power after the war reacted by radically inflating the Deutschmark.
This created the possibility of an obscure enlisted man who served in the war, Adolph Hitler, to climb to power. Hitler, of course, engineered the Jewish Holocaust to vent his spleen, and saw to it that his opponents were executed. He, Benito Mussolini and General Hideki Tojo3 joined forces to impose their will on those they considered their enemies.
World War II ensued. The defeat of the so-called Axis Powers (first Italy, then Germany and, finally Japan) ended the war. The biggest mistake of World War I’s ending, however, was not repeated, thanks to the Marshall Plan. The world has yet to experience anything like the devastation of that War since that time. The advent of the nuclear age has also given leaders pause to reflect on the devastation that would result from a World War III.
Apart from another world war, there are other world calamities that can strike. Mismanagement of fiscal, monetary or economic policy by a government can all produce huge destructive swings. Such policies can be either deliberate (with the government knowing full well that a crash can ensue, while presuming that the people will turn to the government for help) or merely the result of incompetence in one or more of these spheres.
The so-called Black Death4 (the bubonic plague of 1346-1353AD) produced huge social and economic upheaval due to the huge death toll, estimated to be about 100 million people in Europe and Asia. By contrast, the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1918-19205 also exacted a huge death toll, but in a different economic and social climate, not to mention a lower fear factor accompanying rapid communication and a growing knowledge and understanding of disease. The recent SARS-COVID2 pandemic6 has resulted in far fewer deaths, in spite of government mismanagement. Nevertheless, the impact on the economy due to that mismanagement has produced record government debt, growing inflation and (in combination with government mismanagement in other areas) huge shortages of vital commodities.
The desperation to avoid global cataclysms (such as global war, pandemics, population explosion, great depressions, and global warming/"climate change") has led many to propose a world government. The prospect of globalism has seemed to many to be a solution to these problems. Add to that the occurrence of sporadic riots, mass shootings, weather events (such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and monsoons), earthquakes, forest fires, etc. and people can easily be persuaded to seek big government solutions. Of course Chinese President Xi Jinping has his own ideas about how that should work, as does the European Union7 8 as does the "Party of Davos"9 .
Chaos is a scary thing. It's particularly scary to people who are wealthy. Check out "black swan theory"10 to see one reason rich people are anxious about the future and the impact that such unforeseen events can have on market volatility, and "futures markets"11 as ways that rich people try to cope with that volatility.
Wealthy people have a proportionally greater impact on government policies. Very wealthy people have a great impact on major news outlets and social media. The combination of the two can present huge challenges to free religious, academic, social, economic and political dialogue. This has enormous consequences to a country’s ability to adjust to the challenges of change in any of these areas as well as changes in technology, weather and international relations. Major changes in any of these areas can produce chaos. Major institutions in all areas take the pulse (so to speak) of social and political turmoil via polls in order to anticipate (where possible) trends and head off anything that might challenge their place in the power structure, especially chaos.
When water in a pot boils, it transitions from calm to chaos. When political conflict heats up enough, chaos increases in every area of life. Radical groups come to the surface. Crime increases. Businesses shut down and some even go bankrupt. Riots break out. Only the most Machiavellian see this as something to be exploited12 . Alas, they are not so rare.
When our own "emotional pot" boils over, we are more apt to make rash decisions. This can result in a marriage ending in a contentious divorce. It can result in suicide attacks. It can result in some form of "cancel culture". It can result in a civil war13 . It can result in a world war. Wisdom calls for serious reflection, neither to minimize14 nor to exaggerate15 a crisis.
Nor is it helpful for a leader to develop a god complex, as did many ancient pharaohs, many caesars and even some modern era leaders. Nor is it helpful to become an acolyte of such a one. Such leaders are more to be pitied than admired. Some are to be feared, as one ought to fear touching a hot coal.
When in doubt, take your doubt to God in prayer!
- 1Matthew 8:23-27, RSV
- 2A Germanic adaptation of the Latin Caesar.
- 3Prime Minister of Japan under Emperor Hirohito
- 4See Black Death.
- 5See Spanish flue.
- 6See COVID-19 pandemic.
- 7Successor to the European Economic Community
- 8The EU’s policy of open borders and the remoteness of its rule inspired the BrExit movement.
- 9Otherwise known as the World Economic Forum founded by Klaus Schwab, with roots going back at least to the Bilderberg Group.
- 10See Black swan theory
- 11See Futures market and GameStop short squeeze.
- 12There is some dispute over what Rahm Emanuel (White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama) said regarding letting a crisis go to waste. He was quoted as saying "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." in the Wall Street Journal. See "In Crisis, Opportunity for Obama", by Gerald F. Seib. See, also "VIDEO: Rahm Emanuel Clarifies 2008 Comment 'You Never Want A Serious Crisis To Go To Waste'" by Ruth Ravve of Fox News.
- 13Abraham Lincoln quoted Mark 3:25 in his debate with Steven Douglas on June 16, 1858. See "Lincoln's House Divided Speech".
- 14See "Munich Agreement".
- 15Might World War I have been avoided if alliances among European nations were not secret? See a disputed quote of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in "Otto von Bismarck"