I've known for many years that people prefer not to change,* but the conservatism that we are seeing now is greater than I've ever experienced. Although this conservatism seems a mirror image of the radicalism that we saw under George Bush (starting two wars, massive spending, radical tax cuts, etc.), it is driven by the same emotion that many felt then: fear.
It seems to me that people are afraid now, and they were afraid after 9/11. In fact, it seems that they have been afraid for many years.**
In fact, I think that fear is the dominating emotion for most people, and for men in particular.***
So what's the upshot of fearful men? Control. A fearful man will compromise, back-down, take orders, etc. A fearless man will question authority, fight, and/or walk away.
Now step back and ask yourself how politicians (leaders) will respond to fear. Some may try to reduce it, but others will try to use it to further their own power and demagoguery. We know how Hitler and Stalin used fear. We see today how American politicians use it. Is there any difference? Yes, but only in magnitude. We are not exactly prepared to kill the Jews or Kulaks, but we are being told that "others" are trying to invade our country, poison our food, take away our houses, etc.
Note that power can be defined as control over others. A leader without followers is (relatively) powerless. A good leaders will have followers because s/he takes care of them; a bad leader will have followers because s/he makes them too fearful to take care of themselves.
I wonder -- seriously -- where this is all going. Will we (the People) be able to counter this fear? Will some leaders swim against the tide? Will we realize that some people are trying to use our fear against us, to control us?
Bottom Line: Freemen control their lives; slaves do not. If you are not in control of your life, consider how to regain it -- if you want to.
* My personal website (kysq.org) is named after "Kill Your Status Quo." I personally do not feel much fear. I've scavenged for my food; seen people die; lost my mother; and made my peace with what I see as the futility of life-after-death. Since I have nothing to lose (or do not fear losing what I have), I am willing to take
** I thought that Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine was brilliant in its treatment of fear in this country. Now that I think about it, Moore has made a career in highlighting the fears that we have: Fear of job loss in Roger and Me; fear of illness in Sicko, etc. Nevertheless, I don't think he's a fear-monger as much as a progressive who wants to reduce our fears...
*** Women can fall back on a simpler recipe for success (children), and they can also seek shelter with men. I don't say this as a chauvinist as much as a believer in the importance of evolutionary biology and psychology.
Addendum: I thought of this post before I read Peter Gleick's post on fear; we're talking about similar things.