Crises Of The Houses Divided

I come from a house divided. I have long recognized that I was not alone in this, but it has taken a lifetime to realize just how divided all of the houses I have ever belonged to are. In fact, it is very difficult for me to think of any united houses that I have belonged to, and this fact bothers me very deeply. As a result of nearly constant experience with division, I am keenly aware of cracks in the foundation, of upcoming tremors and splits, and more than a little skittish as a person, doubtful that any institution or structure made by man can last in such a world as this.

I was prompted to think about the subject recently by an article in one of the blogs I am subscribed to that complained about how Republican congressmen compromise too much with the Democrats in making government bigger. I then read an article about Thailand where grassroots redshirts complained about the compromises made by the victorious Pheu Thai party to stay in power. The problems are the same everywhere. The world is full of apparently insoluble crises and divisions between radically different worldviews, and no victory seems to be a large enough mandate to overcome these divisions given the closely divided nature of so many countries. Most politicians would rather compromise and ensure peace and a continued civil atmosphere rather than dig in for battle to wage warfare over the crises that threaten to overwhelm them. And the grassroots wants to wage those battles, but there are grassroots on both sides losing the interest in compromise and desiring a big and total victory. This bodes ill.

As a student of history I am reminded of the period just before the Civil War. Endless debates (even physical violence) in Congress. Corrupt courts making decisions that were seen as blindly partisan and lacking in legitimacy. Grass roots pushing for politicians to make firm stances to draw lines in the sand. Hotheads pushing for war, and eventually a massive and ugly conflict that resolved the crisis at the cost of 600,000 lives and the permanent (so far) removal of the South from the elite area of society to an internal colony of the North. Right now I see a similar sense of crisis, not only in the United States but it many parts of the world, from Europe to the Middle East and North Africa (forget that, all of Africa), Latin America, Southeast and East Asia, and even into Australia. Civil society depends on a consensus. One can disagree (even in a spirited manner) about peripheral matters while retaining unity so long as one is agreed on the essentials. But when there are worldview differences that cannot be compromised and that are harshly divided into two (or more) camps, with the middle trying vainly for some kind of compromise, then war clouds are on the horizon. The red horse looks fully ready to pounce.

I have lived my entire life in a state of crisis. I was born in 1981, to a deeply divided family (that broke up when I was 3), in a nation that had just elected a president to help fend off ‘malaise’ and in a church that was in a dark ‘reign of the ayatollahs’ that pretended to be ‘back on track’ after a period of attempted reforms. I have spent most of my time in schools in periods of economic and political crisis, and once almost got caught in the middle of a race riot in the sixth grade (after which my school was put under marshall law–no joke). Even my high school was divided between an “International Bacchalaurate” and “traditional” program, and I was a very devoted partisan to the IB program, at least until I was a senior and saw how grim the high school was for everyone, and not just me. I have gone to college in a period of crisis–where educational standards for jobs are increasing, but wages and the job availability for qualified graduates has not kept pace. And of course there is the crisis of college sports and its lack of legitimacy, a subject about which I have blogged often.

And that is not to include the fact that I have been involved in internecine religious struggles, as well as an atmosphere of political crisis within my nation, since at least the mid-1990’s. This sense of crisis has been constant and never-ending, without resolution. Nor has this crisis just been in the United States, but it has been in just about every country I have ever visited. My first international trip was to Trinidad & Tobago, normally a pleasant island spot, except the fact that I visited there seven weeks after a Libyan coup attempt and the island was under marshal law, with the troops marching outside of my hotel room at night (which is really scary for an already nervous eight-year old). I visited Guatemala at the tail end of their 30-year civil war in 1996. I visited Great Britain during the mad cow scare in 1998. I visited Ghana during their election season in 2000 that removed their longtime dictator Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings. I have visited Chile several times (2000, 2008, 2009), and witnessed contentious fights over the legacy of their dictator Pinochet, as well as the struggle between the left and right wing politics there. I have been to Thailand during a period of longstanding crisis going back at least five years. Wherever I go there are problems and deep divisions.

My concern about the constant state of division in the world around me has led me to examine why this might be the case. Part of it appears to be a spectacular case of bad timing. According to scholars Howe and Strauss, who study generational cycles, the period since 1973 or so has been a period of general crisis. Since the late 1960’s there has been a cultural crisis in Western civilization, and so my whole life has been spent underneath a cloud of deep division without any room for compromise. Eventually these conflicts will have be settled by some kind of war–neither side in the many conflicts that are a part of the cultural war are going to lay down their arms in surrender any time soon. It’s just sad that so many years have spent in craven attempts at compromise and papering over the divisions and so little time has been spent preparing for the seemingly inevitable conflicts. I have spent my whole life at war in one way or the other, and yet all around there are people crying “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace, and no peace in sight.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Crises Of The Houses Divided

  1. Nathan, your article demonstrates what many of us feel as well, not just in terms of your personal experience but as American citizens in general. Ever since the founding of this great nation we have gone from one crisis to another with a few lulls in between. I was reading an interesting Wikipedia article that lists the US recessions and depressions since 1790 that really drives home the point and it associates the cause of each. Crisis and change just seem to be the natural order of things within governments run by men.

    • Yes, it truly does seem that way. Had I not seen it everywhere I have traveled around the world I might have myopically thought that it was something defective close to home, but as you say, it does seem to be the nature of human governments and institutions in general.

  2. Richard says:

    Neglecting the Sabbath (rest), not understanding the importance of the natural ability to become depressed (rest), and not agreeing to forgive (rest) may have some significance to this problem. There is something natural that takes place in all areas and it is the second law of thermodynamics where heat always moves towards the cold. Some have tried to find and explain a violation of this second law but have failed. They have failed because they are looking for the absolutes in a chaotic world. There can only be a cycling of the second law just as much as a person becomes excited about a thing and in time after exposure becomes bored.

    The world at present is on high charge and is reluctant to rest (equilibrium). Where an individual cannot “rest”, “forgive”, or establish “equlibrium” such a person runs the risk of losing control, running out of options and is then forced by the second law of thermodynamics to rest, or “cool off”.

    Whether a person or an entire nation is operating on a 24-7 schedual makes no difference the law still applies and rest even a depression is the result. We live in and experience cycles yes but when they are out of synch with natural laws that govern all living organisms there is more chaos that eventually leads to the point of exhaustion after which the cycle starts over.

    Point being, are we willing to abide by such natural laws as work-rest-work-rest, or are we merely going to burn our selves out with work-work-work——

    Are we more powerful and have more available energy than God?

    “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work”. Genesis 2:2

    As absurd as this may sound, it is not that we need to “wake up” as much as we need to rest and go to sleep for a short while and refresh to begin anew.

    • You make a very good point here. There is a reason why I write so much about the freedom of Sabbath rest, and its connection with debt forgiveness and the chance to start again at the Jubilee. All of these issues are related–the desire to exploit people’s labor, profit from their time, and give them no rest leads to depression and discontent, and the lack of forgiveness in this world (in all manner of areas) means that there are permanent grudges between all sides and all groups in societies, with the desire for revenge as soon as they are able to. Everyone is sinned against and sinning, no one will forgive or repent, and so there is no rest. The world is in a permanent state of crisis as a result.

      • Richard says:

        There have been many “good points” made in the history of humanity, however with all respect for what we call “common sense”, and the places that it shows up. Whether it shows up as being something sought after to be used in a humanistic and philanthropic way, or as something ignored and misused, misconstrued or outright argued against with such things as relativity and mere absurdity. A “good point” is nothing without affirmative action of which many people lack because of the acceptance that fear is a tangible thing where it is not.

        It’s no secret that common sense is also at times simply ignored to allow for desires to be sustained, but then who cares when we live in an apathetic condition. The lack of common sense permits us to “not” be able to see that humans have only four basic needs of which many intentionally refuse to demand even from themselves. So it is as you have stated “The world is in a permanent state of crisis as a result”.
        So what is one to do then, except seek equilibrium within and wait on the Lord as the saying goes? The question becomes then. What is this equilibrium and how does one obtain it? Is it enlightenment, ascension, nirvana, the Kingdom of God, maturity, or all of the above? Whatever or which ever it is, in a crisis situation such as on a national or global scale, would not “common sense” be the letter of the day, and does not all of these and the major religions and academic schools of thought openly confess to be not the delighters of ignorance but of logic and intelligence? If indeed we are, why then do we act like beasts without a care or a concern for the true wellbeing of the person(s) standing directly within a hands reach of ourselves on a daily basis as we pass by? Fear is like a neurotransmitter antagnoist to love. But forgiveness is the agonist and smashes away at and destroys all fear because love is forgiveness is love.

        I know how frightening it can be to think that we can really love each other because we can never be sure that we are going to be loved in return, its a human defect that we all share.


      • Genuine love demands action, not mere sentiment.

  3. Julio in Chile says:

    I just stumbled on this site when I searched “No guile in this one.” Your article, Nathaniel, resonates with my experience as well. I also liked the thoughtful insight form the comments.

    I liked the idea of Sabbath rest and it reminded me of the notion of “Jubilee years and the forgiveness of debt.

    Lastly, the other day I came to the realization that we are brought up, conditioned to see ourselves and others as ‘competitive consumers’ in a world of scarcity as opposed to ‘cooperative producers in a world of abundance.

    • That is very true. I think in many ways having a spirit of competition with others cuts us off from the joys of community and pits us against those who ultimately share our interests and even have an interest in our well-being. When we see the world as not having enough for everyone we start ensuring that we have a seat on the lifeboat, whatever it takes. If we see the world as (potentially, through the blessing of God) having more than enough for everyone, we act less out of fear and more out of love.

    • luzer says:

      If you are interested in what non-competitiveness is, look up the Nash equilibrium and dig deep to find out who is using it and why they are benifiting from it and why we (the general public) are not and are still in competition. (the dark)

      • There is no shame in being ignorant–I’m quite fond of Nash’s work in Game Theory–but it is a travesty to know something and deliberately keep others in the dark so that one can profit from knowledge and in continuing ignorance for others.

      • Julio in Chile says:

        Thank you for the considerate replies. I am sort of new to this type of discourse.
        I imagine that a lot of theologians, philosophers, Lit people read this and post.
        Is this so? Are the folk here from other parts of the world?

        Just curious.

        I read Nathanal that you dont like to talk about yourself… I respect and understand that.

        As for me, I was born in NY , I have a BS in philosophy and an M.div I would not consider myself an Academic type but like to think that I have decent education.

        I just got to Chile after two years of teaching in Saudi Arabia where I had a positive experience of the Saudis and of Islam.

      • That’s very interesting. I would be concerned about going to Saudi Arabia as a devout Christian, personally. All of the posts on this blog (with, so far, one exception) have been personally written by me. There is no team of people behind this blog. It is the work of one historically, literally, politically, and theologically inclined person. I have even included my e-mail address for those who want to write personal questions (that, fair warning, could end up as future blog entries) without putting themselves out in public. I happen to be a well-educated and well-traveled American who currently lives in Thailand.

  4. Julio in Chile says:

    Just read the about us. thanks. sorry for the questions

  5. Julio in Chile says:

    Ko Pun Krap

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