If anyone who isn’t like us becomes our enemy, we are asking our problems bigger. That’s what happens when we talk about problems in general terms. But what can we do here and now to solve the problems out there? Or are rising threat levels just a part of life?
Until we see these problems as ours to solve, we will expect someone else to do it. So problems get worse, and we blame others for not doing anything about them.
General Threat Response
This generalization of threats is another manifestation of the problem created by systems, and it affects the way we interact with people.
These systems magnify our sense that people want to do us harm, but they also generalize where that harm comes from. The result is that we go into many casual interactions already on guard, and suspicious of the ill intent that lies beneath that initial greeting.
Culture helps us manage our interactions with others. It creates a relational short-hand that allows us to communicate without having to establish all of the points of reference we would need to give our interaction meaning.
Culture helps us “get it” with other people, and more quickly creates a mutual experience of trust and shared perspective. But when we connect with fewer and fewer people, those outside that group are viewed with increasing mistrust and suspicion.
Problems Created by Systems
What’s the connection between these divisions and the systems underlying them? In short, these large-scale problems become large-scale because they are built on systems that expand their reach.
These are the same systems we hope will expand the reach of the message of the gospel, that God loves the world and sent his Son, Jesus, to make a way of salvation. But when something goes wrong, the harm done by these system-based programs is also multiplied.
This creates a tension. We are predisposed to trust systems, but intuitively know that no system will perform perfectly. So we compensate for this instability by relying on multiple systems in various places, and so hedge our bets against failure in one. This can lead to a contradictory and often chaotic view of the world.
Threat Levels Rising
We can keep these conflicting approaches working together for a time. But when one fails, it can create a cascading failure in the others. Or in times of stress, we can’t keep it all straight. We end up performing for one system when we should be functioning in another.
Yet this all falls apart because of us. People don’t work as systems do, and the problems with people can’t be solved by systems.