Entangled Insurgencies: A Summary
I listened to the six Dune Novels written by Frank Herbert recently. It had been several decades since I read them, and I found many new insights this time around. These insights were triggered as much by the changes in our global environment since the series was written as anything in the novels.
Herbert wrestled with the ideas of wholeness, power, and social/cultural insurgencies in deep ways, without having the benefit of the conceptual scaffold of complex adaptive systems (CAS). My listening expanded my sense that he was telling a Deep-Time story that resonates now, with the same issues and choices that we face in struggling with our Entangled Insurgency-a wicked problem if ever there was one.
We operate socially and politically within a Macro-CAS whose major interacting subsystems are a right and a left insurgency, and a centrist elite with its own internal insurgencies. The boundaries of this Macro-CAS are strikingly porous. Individuals, families, small social groups, and communities shift where they are in this CAS all the time, internally consistent with their individual and community sense-making and way-making. It may seem inconsistent to others, but it isn’t.
There is no dynamic symmetry among any of the stakeholders of the CAS. Any attempt to conceptually impose symmetry might be useful for PR or political points, but will always be falsified by the ongoing dynamic of the Macro-CAS.
For all intents and purposes, any political victory alters, but does not eliminate, the fundamental tool of the insurgencies (sabotage) or the elites (exploitation of the society for personal gain, globally sabotaging the hopes and dreams of the exploited).
These dynamic dispositions (attractors) implicitly “manage” the purpose of the Macro-CAS and its various sub-CAS, and their interactions. The dynamism of these dispositions is conditioned by global economic uncertainty, climate change, and all the various actual processes that social/political insurgencies draw on for their surface memes and choices for action.
The solution to the many quandaries we face in this ongoing process is easy to describe, but oh so difficult to embrace. We must:
- Accept and respect the humanity of those individuals that sabotage our deepest hopes, without embracing the impact of their choices and their efforts to sabotage.
- Confront that sabotage effectively by using transformational tactics, and a strategy that respects the uncertainty and scarce resources that will be our common reality for the indefinite future.
The above solution is not a closed framework of limited possibilities, but, a scaffold that allows us to engage the CAS in ways that might produce change and undermine the momentum toward a universal social and political environment that treats people, animals, plants, and things as no more than assets to be exploited.
The currently inadequate bricolage approach to attempting such profound and difficult changes is described in my blog, “Change Strategy”. The focus of my previous writing has been on disability rights advocacy, and I view social justice advocacy in general as an intersectional version of sabotage that can be a scaffold for more effective transformation. (My next post series will focus on how advocacy can act as a way of producing change in CAS).
We have traditionally created consensus through the use of coercive social, political, and military power, as the only way around the typical struggles described. That won’t work in the current situation, at least not as a way of dissolving our constant conflict. Instead, our effort to enforce consensus through social and political power will drive the generation of continuous and more disruptive conflict. Such a choice will leave only social and economic desolation.
We need to forge a new path, and we are ill-equipped to do so. I think we must ourselves, and with others, “sabotage” the dynamic of the Macro-CAS through intentional and individual acts that will gradually alter our model of sabotage, from winning in the short-term to building social resilience for all, a kind of “remodeling the rapids with rocks”.
If we succeed, it will be because of relentless social justice sabotage over a very long timeline. May we embrace the possibility.
“For all those that have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.”
― N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season