We're at a weird point in history, and the Tea Party is a symptom of it. Now, if you’ll allow me to get all Clay Shirky on your ass, we are in a point in history when institutions that appeared solid are dissolving. The internet has thrashed the old information asymmetry, the monopoly on data that institutions used to have back when the boomers were young and new models aren't appearing fast enough. And of the models that do arise, not one is going to dominate. It'll be, for good or bad, a world of choice.
The costs of organizing people has fallen through the floor, so large institutions, while still extant, are going to have to shrink and take up new policies of transparency in order to survive. We're going through a cycle of demystification, so it makes sense that folks are clinging to symbols.
It doesn't help demographics are going bonkers through movement of people, changing birth rates, rates and types of technology adoption, anchor industries disappearing or shrinking, and that this disruption will be semi-permanent because the rate of innovation is going nowhere but up and the price of innovation is next to nothing. This is life in the big city.
The tea-partiers are actually responding to the creative force of CAPITALISM, which despite the temporary straits we find ourselves in now, is churning along with more vitality than at any point in history.
Think about how short the cycle of innovation is these days! And think about how alienating it is to people who have other concerns than keeping track of technology trends. One downside to all the constant tidal pressure of innovation that is our postmodern condition is it becomes very easy to cling to outmoded ideologies (I mean ideology in the broadest sense here, not just politics, but modes of life).
When the world you knew is upended, all you can depend on is your grievances.
This is who they are—the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn't "have had all these problems," this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a "Real American" with no demonstrable interest in "Real America" then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.
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