Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Death Throes of the Hierarchy

A great explanation in 30 seconds, with implications.

And the implications ARE:

Simple: No one group, person, class or creed can determine "what's important" any more than they can choose what people "ought to be protected from." And that's just ONE implication - uncomfortable to Conservatives.

Information is education. It's now accessible to anyone, anywhere, at a price that's a lot lower than libraries. Once a person has "learned how to learn," they don't NEED a university to become educated. That's an implication sure to be uncomfortable to Liberals.

Yep, XML is not just a powerful tool, it's a powerful idea; the idea that information can (and should) be separable from presentation bias.

We are looking at a fundamental change in how we relate as human beings, how we communicate, indeed, this will affect how we think.

Those who thought that Armageddon was coming at the millennium were correct in a sense. It has. Those who still await the Messiah while staring at their screens are blind.

"In the beginning, there was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Now, lest you accuse me of committing heresy, I suggest I'm only committing an observation. My personal faith is not dependent upon the end of the world as we know it. In my lifetime, that's already happened several times, and a couple times each in my parents and grandparents lives. But this is significantly different from even such a fundamental shift as the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution. This is a quantum leap in the ability of human beings to communicate, to learn, to understand and - possibly the most practical difference - to do business without intermediaries or recourse to the offices of government.

Of course, we had to be ready for such a change, and I'm astonished to say, it appears that the preceding social and scientific upheavals have prepared us for that.

Despite all appearances and local anomalies, the world as a whole has become surprisingly more decent, livable and civilized over just my lifetime. We are now outraged at what would have been commonplaces for our parents and unquestionable, doctrinal realities for our grandparents.

George Bush - one of those anomalies - has tried to return the world to an older, more comfortable place for him and his ilk, where the common folk are but pawns and profit centers; electronically chained serfs to the New World Order.

It's a tried and true formula. A little more than a century ago, during the reign of the Robber Barons here in the US, it worked perfectly - until their sheer greed led them to folly, and yet they still managed to retain enough power to set up conditions for the Great Depression in '29.

There was not just one foreign war during that time - there were several, with appalling loss of life, losses that continue to affect many countries to this day.

It has taken a bare six years to go from applause to outrage here in the US. The fact that we get little or no credit for that speaks well, I think, of what the world expects of us - and the far higher standards they expect of themselves. Even fifty years ago, the general world reaction to the use of torture by the US would be, and I quote, "so?"

At that time it was a commonplace, a routine thing, both foreign and domestic. Now, it is still depressingly common as a form of governance, but it's becoming a guilty secret; a thing to be ashamed of; something definitive of lesser peoples and futile powers.

The difference is awareness - and the ability to communicate effectively to organize in opposition to, or in avoidance of coercive force.

And therein begins the seeds of peace; not from altruism, but from the realization that the use of naked force to control a population that can easily learn to create it's own counterforce is both terribly expensive and futile in the fairly short term.

The above link leads to a firm that markets new and used vehicles developed for the South African Defense Forces during the long struggle to end apartheid. These are arguably some of the very best such vehicles on the market. Our troops SHOULD be using vehicles this capable in Iraq.

And yet - there is no apartheid in South Africa, the long struggle to maintain control ended, not so much with a bang as a whimper of utter exhaustion, and I doubt you will find all that many Southern Africans pining for the Good Old Days, a grim, paranoid fortress state that in its way was as much of a prison for those it deemed worthy of it's "protection" as those it more honestly and ruthlessly oppressed.

As beautifully designed and brilliantly engineered as these marvelous sculptures of war are, they are symptomatic of a problem that is far better addressed by the means of Gandhi and Desmond Tutu than by the Sjambok and the testicle crushers of previous Administrations.

All of these things are the fruits and symptoms of the chaos Alvin Toffler predicted,
but he also missed the mark in his seminal work of the 70's, Future Shock. He saw chaos as dangerous and completely alien to the human psyche, a stance that while considerably better founded in the scientific consensus of the day, is essentially no different than the anti-science Dominionist Theocrats of the far and winged Right.

In fact, we seem to be adapting well to an increasingly chaotic world, and possibly this is due to the fact that all organic systems - us included - are chaotic systems.

But it does require letting go of Newtonian, deterministic and behaviorist approaches to the economy, to governance and, indeed, to all levels of human governance. We must adapt to the idea that it's impossible to "see the big picture" without changing the picture simply by looking at it. One abandons aiming for particular outcomes and instead navigates into a range of favorable possibilities.

When you start realizing that large chunks of immutable order are clamped into place and kept in rigid alignment to one another, the result is paradoxically a great deal of chaotic friction leading to far less than perfect order, you start realizing that Order, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a terrible master.

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