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Consequences of Societal Breakdown

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As discussed last time, there is a potential that our democracy has devolved to the point that we are now in danger of suffering a significant collapse of the comfortable world we've all grown up in.

What probability you personally assign to that potential is dependent on your worldview, and is completely unique to you. This missive is not intended to make you believe that it's any more or less likely. Rather, the intent here is to inform you that societal collapse indicators are now present in our society, and as emergency management professionals, these indicators are going to impact your efforts to protect and serve the public.

Prevalent indicators

As discussed, here are some of the most prevalent indicators:

  • Our politics is now so completely polarized that consensus on any issue--including FEMA budgets, disaster declaration budget requirements, environmental protection regulation, even rights to basic health care for our fellow citizens--is being held hostage in brinkmanship initiatives to control the direction of our country.
  • These power initiatives have sacrificed the well-being of our fellow Americans--most visibly with the Flint Michigan poisoned water crisis, but evident in similar issues throughout the country:  In related issues such as refusal of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, closure of women's health clinics, deregulation of gun acquisition and carry controls, and so on. Our fellow citizens have died because of these initiatives to grab and maintain power.
  • These philosophies--which date as far back as the grievances that came out of the civil war, 150 years ago--have been enabled by our awesome 24/7 media--radical left positions that are presented to an unlimited audience without any kind of societal mediation by common sense--radical right positions that are presented to an unlimited audience without any kind of societal mediation by common sense--and in the turbulence and crossfire, what we have valued as Americans that are proud of our country has become lost.

I personally mourn that loss. ALL caring citizens of the US should mourn that loss. We were once the 'Shining City on the Hill' that humankind could aspire to become--and we've blown it. We had SO much to work with, and we couldn't overcome our lessor natures. This has had impact.

Some stats:
- The U.S. is now 13th on the global happiness index.
- The U.S. is now 5th on the global education index.
- The U.S. is now 11th on the global economic freedom index.
- The U.S. is one of only eight countries where the rate of women dying in childbirth is increasing.
- The U.S. leads all developed countries in incidents of gun death.

Are these the statistics that we would want for our United States?

Actions have consequences

But back to the point: Actions have consequences. Laws have consequences. Attitudes have consequences. Rhetoric has consequences. When we indulge in political intransigence and intolerance and the rhetoric and actions that follow, people die. People who should not have died. Examples include:

- The death of Walter Scott.
- The death of Laquan McDonald.
- The pepper-spraying of innocent motorcyclists by a police officer.

These are not representations of emergency management professionals at their finest. Or even at their minimally tolerable. These are representations of EM professionals that do not understand the trust that the public has placed in them--and as a result, the public that trusts us has been damaged. We as professionals have been damaged. I would assert, pending evidence to the contrary, that all of these individuals and participants of these stories have been caught up in hateful rhetoric that they have interpreted as being justification for their actions.

This hateful rhetoric is currently expanding, not contracting. What does it say about us as a nation that one of our major political candidates advocates racism, xenophobia, intolerance, advocation of violence against contrasting opinions--and rides that perspective to become the nominee for President of the United States? Are we still the Shining City on the Hill when that happens? Have we even earned the right to continue as a nation if that happens? Serious questions, which in my assessment, cannot be ignored.

The mission has not changed

So what does this mean to all honorable Emergency Management professionals that protect the public in everything that they do? Well, in one sense, nothing has changed. The MISSION has not changed. Everyone who comes in contact with you that would benefit from your services still deserves to have you provide those services to the best of your ability. That's why you exist. However, the CONDITIONS under which you provide those services have changed.

  • You now battle a faction of our citizenry that wants you to fail, in order to reinforce how evil government is.
  • You now face an intolerance to provision of your honorable service that has been advocated and accentuated through the hateful rhetoric of conservative media.
  • You now face a situation in which this intolerance may destroy your budgetary and institutional support.
  • You now face a tempting rhetoric that could justify dereliction of duty (just go shoot someone of a different race--it'll be fine).

You now have an additional responsibility to our served public and your profession to not allow these distractions from preventing you from completing the honorable execution of your commitment to your duties and a better America. It's getting harder--no question. It may be several years before that changes. It may never change. But even if it never changes, that should not change the commitment to a better America that I--and hopefully you--share.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.