On The Politics Of Inflammation

From time to time I have noted the problem of inflammation both on a personal [1] as well as a general level [2].  As someone who suffers from a form of arthritis, which is one of the characteristic diseases of inflammation, it is worthwhile to note that I have acquired such insight as I possess in inflammation from painful personal experience as well as very highly motivated study resulting from such pain.  Inflammation is a response of the body to injury and perceived threats that frequently can be overcharged in such a way that it causes more harm to the body internally than the threats it is seeking to protect the body from.  Sometimes inflammation can be a good thing, such as when a cut is inflamed so that the body can send help to the area under attack and repair it.  Frequently, though, the body responds to threats that are not there, and the end result is a great deal of chronic pain and suffering for those whose internal defenses end up creating harm to various parts of the body because the body views itself as a kind of threat.  And what is true of the individual is also true of the body politic.  Inflammation, the result of stress and anxiety and a feeling of crisis, itself can frequently cause a great deal of harm to our societies just like personal stress and anxiety can provide lethal harm to the body by attacking itself to such an extent that it can lead to death.

How is it that we properly recognize threats to the body politic?  Just as the individual body possesses cells that communicate the existence of a threat to the brain so that defenses are mounted against that threat, so too societies possess noisy people who communicate the existence of internal and external threats to the well-being of society to marshal purposeful violence and coercion to act against that threat.  All too frequently, there is wide disagreement about what constitutes a genuine and legitimate threat that has to be responded to.  Once people view something or someone as a threat, then the response to anything that triggers a reminder of that person or group of people or that ideology or that approach or that situation of being in conflict and under assault brings upon it the defense mechanisms by which people defend themselves from assault and defend themselves against that which threatens them.  Frequently, as is the case with individuals, different aspects of society view other aspects of society as a latent or active threat and respond to it with rhetorical or physical violence.

And just as the physical body attacks that which is not genuinely threatening in such a way that the attack can itself be threatening, so too efforts to respond to perceived threats can themselves be threats to the well-being of the body politic as a whole.  It is hard to educate our body on what is and what is not threatening.  For example, I would love to not be allergic to mangoes, and to have that tasty fruit not be mortal threat to my earthly existence, so that I could enjoy it peacefully as so many others do.  I would like the uric acid in my blood to not reach such a level that it is deposited in my big toe and other parts of my feet to excruciating pain when I find it difficult to drink enough water and eat too much meat and drink too much sweet tea as I am wont to do from time to time.  I would like to not be so easy to startle and find it necessary to manually calm myself down because of being a somewhat irritable and sensitive person to the provocations that are all around me.  It is a difficult task to be a calmer and less inflamed person, and these times are not ideal in such efforts.  And what is true of me and many other people is also true of our society at large.

Frequently, what people find to be intolerable threats to the well-being of society as a whole are not necessarily as threatening as is believed.  The presence of a populist president elected by an electoral majority who will serve his one or two terms and then return to private life is not a sign of the rise of impending fascism.  However inflammatory one may find the social media habits of our president, he has acted with considerable restraint against those who are irrationally hostile to him, and this restraint should be recognized as a loyalty to our constitutional norms and not seen as weakness.  Likewise, the periodic reminder we have that we Americans are not entirely just that not everyone feels equally safe and secure as law abiding citizens within our republic need not be met with violent hostility.  That said, frequently the response that people have to the signals of threat are not always responded to in a rational fashion.  Just as allergies and lupus and arthritis and other inflammatory responses can go haywire and end up destructive to people, so too our response to what we view as a threat can frequently do more damage than that which we view to be threatening.

To the extent that we are anxious and on edge and easy to inflame by what goes on around us, we are part of the problem of the damage that results to civility and personal relationships because of the response of inflammation to what is perceived as a threat.  If you are part of the resistance and fancy yourself as a violent do-gooder against perceived fascist evils, you are encouraging and participating in inflammation against imaginary threats.  Those who put up resistance in vain will be held responsible for the harm that they inflict on others.  Few aspects of our life as individuals and members of larger communities are as poignant and painful as the way that those who view themselves as defenders and saviors frequently do vastly more harm than good, without ever being aware that they are destroying the body they fancy themselves as saving.  It is a shame that self awareness is so rare, and that it is so easy for people to think that they are doing well when they are doing very badly.  For if we were more self-aware, we would be far less trigger-happy when it came to inflaming the world around us and in inflicting pain on ourselves and others through our inflammatory response to the stimuli in our fallen and corrupt world.

[1] See, for example:



[2] See, for example:



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 History, History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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