Blog 116. Understanding the social angst

There’s an angst in American society that has no single focus, no single cause.  Why do the political right and the political left promote simplistic, unrealistic solutions?  Because the system itself promotes those who promote the problems.
The tensions might be understood—and could be relieved—if recognized as emergent properties of a complex system.

Remember that a society is regulation, a society is a complex system.  A system is a set of things that work together.  A complex system is many independent decision makers interacting by nonlinear (non-proportional) rules.  Like a thousand drivers on one mile of freeway, or a thousand fish schooling, or the weather.  Think of how a driver’s response changes as fast-moving cars get closer together.  That’s a nonlinear process.  Science tells us that complex systems will have emergent properties different from the behavior of the individual actors.  In this example, traffic jams are different from drivers.  To generate a property of the system, there must be an amplifier somewhere.  In the traffic case, one driver’s brake lights cause several others to light up.

Let’s outline the social situation.

*  The largest social stressor is the income disparity.  More important is the disparity in opportunity.  Poor homes generate more people without opportunity.  That’s amplification.
*  Money, not work, makes more money.
*  Everything, including universities, and city councils seem corporatized—operating like for-profit companies.  Anyone who doesn’t support the corporate objective—money—won’t be on the job long, even if no one personally approves of the situation.
*  Big is getting bigger.  Instead of neighborhood banks we have branches of Big Banks, instead of small stores we have Big Boxes, instead of human-scale production we have large companies buying—and closing—smaller companies.
*  Winning is a dominant social objective: in politics, in business, in education.  Winning for its own sake.  Winning neglects governance, product quality, worker satisfaction, public well-being, the common air, water, and grass.

The angst in America isn’t due to one party, one group, or one class.  It’s an emergent behavior in a complex system where the rules—written and unwritten—the morality that previously provided public well-being—are being erased while the interconnections increase with every cel phone.

Three concepts provide a recipe for politicians who enroll the crowd.
Identity: The individual now gets a (false) sense of identity and power from association—even electronic association–with the group that inflames his beliefs.
Blame: Blame the social ills on targets within the system.  Disregard cause, effect, responsibility.
Confusion: Spread a distrust truth because the increasing communications can flood the people with alternative facts.

It’s the rules of interaction that affect the emergent behavior of a complex system.  Ambitious leaders adjust or limit the interactions of people:
1) Promise a benefit while restricting inquiry. Promise jobs, deny the media, belittle academic study, and reject science.  Science asks questions.  Identify questioning with treason.
2) Espouse inflammatory beliefs while demanding loyalty.
3) Never deal with reality or truth.
4) Instill fear of an internal enemy.  Induce a militaristic supporting group.
5) Identify an external enemy to solidify unity.

One example of the above five social rules was Nazi Germany.
1)  Make the trains on time and suppress questions and academics.
2)  Promote Arian racial superiority.
3)  Long lectures, large parades appeal to a great cause.
4)  Blame the Jews and let the Brownshirts harass them.
5)  Conquer Europe.  The Third Reich will be great, with lebensraum for the super race.

So what’s to do?

Stop money in politics.  Change the banking and tax rules that generate income disparity.

It’s that simple, but it requires unified action.  Oppressive leaders gain by division.  Current politics operates on polarization, winning, blame, and suppression of inquiry.  Those who know history are worried.