A perspective from Perth, Western Australia

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Thoughts: Order in Chaos

(Written while in Turkey in September.)

Change is the only constant. Yet the nature of change is neither constant nor consistent. The only consistent thing in the history of the universe and its component parts is that nothing is consistent.

The basis of much of mankind's social definition - and indeed sanity and comprehension of the world around it - is order. Since earliest times, man has been trying to explain the complex web of interacting phenomena that is nature, and even man's own origins and interaction, in an ordered way.

At first, this was done by explaining the seemingly inexplicable by the behaviour of a pantheon of surprisingly manlike gods which represented both human enterprise and desire, and natural forces and objects. This was later simplified into one god, still with distinctly manlike characteristics, with ultimate authority and omniscient, omnipotent ability.

Over time, the powerful men of the day realised that fear of God or gods could be harnessed to control the populace and concentrate power in their own hands, and this came to be the ruling dictat of society and culture for millennia.

As some phenomena came to be understood in mechanistic terms, the mechanism itself came to be deified either directly or indirectly. Examples of these mechanisms include science, alchemy, industry and technology. Many realised that this was wrong, but by this stage, society, with education its shaping tool, came to be based on an increasingly complex array of tradition - based on deity but in many cases no longer acknowledging it - and mechanism.

Society in 2004 in large sections of the world have almost completely shifted in their focus from deity to mechanism as a basis for order. Without an order, insanity is believed to prevail. There are at present a number of dominant mechanisms, several smaller ones, and a number of deity-based systems each battling the other for supremacy and acceptance. Each is a man-made system which prescribes an order by which things should work, hides or ridicules any evidence which fundamentally contradicts it (although allows some evolution of the order) and creates an elite to enforce the order.

A change in order, even if gradual, is always met by resistance. The resistance, as far as I can see it, is of three forms at present:

FUTURE: Intellectual Resistance - create or find a "better" order or find a "better" explanation or mechanism to generate a new order.

PAST: Traditional Resistance - go back to the deity-mandated way, often as interpreted by a specific elite who feel disempowered by mechanism as a whole (eg Osama bin Laden, "religious right")

PRESENT: Anarchic Resistance - destroy the order with no real plan to replace it.

All of these three forms of resistance, however, insist on accepting what I believe to be a mistaken notion that order needs to be imposed, either intrinsically or from outside, and that chaos is bad or wrong. However, the earth is resilient, having progressed unabated for eons, along with the human race which has endured numerous past orders, all of which have crumbled. Many orders have, far from being good or right, in fact imperilled the nature and quality of life of both humanity and the planet on which we live - and now even the neighbouring area of space (refer NASA report on orbiting ex-satellite junk)

A new approach is needed which embraces chaos and tries to find an order within that chaos - a natural order, basically - within that chaos. This order may not make sense to us, but so many things do not, anyway. It doesn't require an elite to maintain it or an ideology to sustain it. The notion of not knowing, though, or not having certainty is the most fear-inducing to the human mind.


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