E Pluribus Plurum
I take such an odd view of things. I try to use science to illuminate my view of the world, but I’m not a scientist. My view is that looking at our society without understanding complexity theory is hopeless. Problem for me is, complexity is a mathematical discipline, and includes that terrifying ‘i’, that number we have to pretend exists. It needs to be there to roll the dice; none of our models of complexity work as good as needed to solve, say, cold fusion because our i is but a fake, a pseudo-random list. But the math that proves it to be so is beyond me.
Still; adapt, adopt and improve . . .
Plus, as an American, I’m born with the right to have as many uninformed opinions as the best. So.
The technological cultures of sentient beings are considered by science as being the most complex systems in the known universe, more complex than the universe they (might) inhabit. What the hell they mean by this is hard to say; take it as a given that such societies are complex enough to be getting on with. Our scientific analyses of where we’re at starts there.
Highly complex systems cannot be analyzed using common tools, which were created to deal with the simple processes we are used to. To our considerable disadvantage, we are accustomed to push buttons and have known results occur, unless the damn kids were using it and ran the batteries down. There’s a deep-brain reason we are strongly influenced to see simple, linear systems where there are actually highly complex ones which give results that are random, often in ways we don’t see. Even when we are talking about something like ‘culture’ that we can admit is very complex, the tendency is to think that just means a whole lot of simple systems arranged in a hierarchy; if we could just find the control room and get all the switches flipped the right way …
And sadly, for almost all of us, that thought – getting to the control room, by any means possible, and flipping switches – is our entire politics. Left or right, call yourself what you will, I know you really think that; that once you have control of that room, flip switches the way you know is Right and Good, that that will end all dispute, everyone will have to see how better life is with the right control settings, and happily will be lived ever after.
In straight-out words, I accuse you of believing that, as long as you’re right about what you are telling other people they must or must not do, you are as willing to make others dance to your tune as any bloody dictator – and of believing that your rightness about what you’re telling others to do absolves you of the crime. Because it’s just another switch. Without those controls, le deluge.
This simple view is hopeless. Societies are highly complex; that is, they are large systems in which a very large number of individuals inter-relate in a very large number of ways over time. We have discovered the way such systems must be approached. Such systems are capable of tremendous productivity and a high degree of order; but only if the individual units are free to connect with other units limited only by their own nature, and specifically if no external force is applied to impose order.
It’s this last part that’s nearly impossible for most people to believe. ‘Law and order’ is the way Jack Webb taught Americans to put it; Order dependent on Law, but first Law. This is impossible. ‘Law’ cannot arise at all until it is at minimum the codification of existing social practice. In every case, laws grow out of already-existing order. Else how could there be anyone to make or enforce it? The very existence of law implies someone to make and enforce it; that structure must exist. Even the ‘Barbarians’ that the Romans saw themselves as blessing with their culture had in every case their own structures, their own law – just not of a form or shape the Roman culture could recognize. And in every case, that structure re-emerged, either to be peacefully absorbed into the Roman or erupting in constant warfare on it. Eventually, they burned Rome down.
Think also of the states that do depend on an imposed ordering. North Korea is probably the most prominent example, China the greatest, Saudi Arabia, Iran less than we enjoy thinking, Putin’s gangster-culture Russia and others, all to varying degrees are an imposition of order by law; that is, an order that depends on law to maintain it. They are also each variably, at least relative to the free world, unproductive and uncreative. This isn’t an accident.
Americans have become obsessed with security, though we’ll accept a soft blanket instead; so we get law after law. We depend on laws to maintain order, an impossible thing everyone believes without question, and so if you stand against any of them you are An Enemy of Order.
You believe this. Right, left, middle, up, down, communist, socialist, Tea-bagger or fascist, it’s always a debate about policy, never how to enact it, never the unintended consequence. Because Law, and then order. One Answer; to rule them all. But just as in the great trilogy, it is not what you do with power that does evil; it’s power.
Meantime, what science tells us is that trying to impose order on a non-determinative, non-linear, highly complex system – remember, ‘culture’ is an extreme example – collapses the highly self-ordered, highly productive system into a determinative one of less order and much less productivity. Collapse the chaos of a prairie into the order of a wheat field and you get a fraction of the biomass, but it’s the fraction we need, so it looks productive to us. Collapse the complexity of thriving America into the simplicity of jingoism and we get vastly less productivity, even if it seems productive when you measure it by just that wealth that accrues – for a short time, anyway – to the .1%
So who does Science say is responsible for The Donald?
It’s a lesson in granularity and insect wings; who can say which law, which control knob turned up, which act of limiting choice, whether passed because ‘oh the horror!’ or because God or Science, or because ‘think of the children’, who can say what was just that one intrusion too many. It doesn’t matter how honest and decent and admirable was the reason for your vote to pass it; nobody can say which attempt at law-enforced societal control has tipped a sufficient mass of people from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ and on into ‘HELL NO!!!’ on the E Pluribus Unum scale.
Once tipped, their behavior just astounds; how can they not see the entirety of Trump in his irony-pitch-perfect name, his Cheeto-stained face, his aggressively absurd comb-over? They are not seeing him; they see only their own anger.
Of course they don’t. You don’t, when angry. The surprising thing is how it is you don’t understand the core of that anger, the place where it is reasonable; that people don’t like being forced. Not just wrongly forced. People don’t like being rightly forced any better.
How can you not see their anger? Yes, I know, all their facts are wrong, their fears invented or Trumped up, their solutions to non-existent problems destructive. But you are spinning in circles trying to explain it while just as furiously ignoring the anger. Accept their anger as a thing neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong but still important and real.
So here’s the answer Science demands:
Stop telling others what to do. Just stop. You, now, whatever you are saying, whether that others must pray to your god or recycle their pop cans or use all the right letters in the right order of sexual orientation – people, honest to lack-of-God, I am one at least of those letters, two, I think, and I’m not even sure which ones any more. That “Q” that got fused on last? Aren’t we all Q’ing? AAAAAH! – whatever Correct Order you promulgate, the thing to do to move the world toward what you see as greater order and productivity is for you personally to use your own beliefs to guide your own steps and get your mind off everybody else’s feet. America is talking-other-people’s-walk absorbed.
So on to Drumpf. A completely predictable result, showing that angry minds don’t work very well as analytical machines. Big surprise.
Trump is proof of nothing more deep than that people by and large don’t like to have other people making their decisions for them, proof that societies obey complex rules that show that order must arise and cannot be imposed, or else productivity declines. Complexity 101, people, and yet you cannot be convinced. Whatever conclusions you come to, motivated by whatever impulse, whether God or enlightened self-interest, if it involves at any point the thought “We all must do something about this! We all need to [insert favored ordering here]” then it is part of the problem, not the solution.
Too many are too angry. The internal logic of that anger is unimportant. That their anger is wrong-headed and being heightened and purified by a strip-mining Victim Industry disguised as a political movement is not central – that’s not what’s going on, only the predictable result. Vultures like Rupert Murdoch, Rush, the Koch brothers always gather about the stench of decay. They are what they are; that there is a body to feed upon, don’t blame them.
The decaying body upon which Foxes feed was encouraged, but not made, by them. Too many citizens feel trapped by a system demanding and commanding too much. Because all sides of all political arguments for generations have grabbed for Law as the only mechanism of Order, too many of We The People don’t feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are or want to be Us just now. And like any highly complex system, that rate of disconnection is a variable that can become determinative – destructive of order – if it increases beyond an unpredictable tipping point, so only a small increase of disconnect will have huge consequences.
And you – you – cannot see this, because of course we all must and then you insert your own list, cite your own reality, invoke your pet gods; and since of course it must be so, you are blind to the reality that if you make it so by law, then We All becomes You Must, backed by people in blue with guns and approval to use them at will. Because they are the Thin Blue Excuse that is all that stands between Us and The Other. Because Law and Order.
Trump is the result – your result, chosen by you every time you’ve used We All Must because you were too lazy for I Will.
The reply from Trumpists to your of course is very loud and starts with an ‘f’.