The following is an excerpt from an article written by Jonathan Rauch for the Atlantic about a political ‘disease’ in America that he has dubbed the ‘chaos syndrome’. It reminded me of the chaos prevalent in Pushkin’s play that the conveners’ discussed earlier and that time we talked about the similarities between a demagogue like Trump and Oedipus the King. It’s a contemporary example of how disease can be used as a metaphor for a breakdown in sociopolitical systems and relationships. The parallels between the dysfunction in the current American (and perhaps global) political climate and in the fictional plagued societies we have been reading about are striking. Can you spot the common threads and themes running through them? Rauch suggests chaos syndrome leads us into positive feedback loops of self-destructive behavior antithetical to our shared commitment to the greater good. Could you say Walsingham and the revelers are in a similar predicament? Have you come across a treatment or cure for ‘chaos syndrome’? Also here’s link to a PBS News Hour Interview with Rauch.
“Trump, however, didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump. What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos but a chaos syndrome.
Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.
I like the claim made at the beginning of this blog post: “Trump, however, didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump”. I am assuming that Trump in this claim refers to Walsingham in Pushkin. It is true that had Walsingham not encountered or experienced the plague, he would not have developed his unique daredevil personality and expressed his feeling of ecstasy towards the plague situation. Therefore the chaos (the plague) caused the character of Walsingham within the context of the play.