Sunday, July 20, 2014

Events and Entropy are in the saddle

by Gary Berg-Cross

Ralph Waldo Emerson is supposed to have said:
"Events are in the saddle and ride mankind." 

It seems an apt image for these eventful times which are riding roughshod over humanity. Just a while ago things were bad enough with Veteran Affair scandals and the Supreme Court riding citizens, especially women, and favoring business, religious & sectarian interests with activist retro decisions. Sure there were climate change issues with a record year of temperature in 2013 and monster storms, but this all seems mild compared to the flood of happenings now. Did I mention Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan? Or someone with guns named Bundy? Sorry I am distracted. One worries that it’s a bit like climate change itself with old weather patterns shifting and new turbulences everywhere. Just a while ago scenes of families and children on our border filled headlines and the sights of the children tugged at our hearts. This has been blown away by new headlines.  The NYT captured only a tiny bit of the tumult and angst with:

A Week of Agony, From Eastern Ukraine to the Gaza Strip

Russia’s asymmetric and opportunistic proxy war in Ukraine has turned into a real war with bombing of cities and shoot downs. Events seem to be evolving to a new form of Cold War which will bring more proxy state battles, red scares and us-against-them reasoning.  The elite adults, our best and brightest, seem inefective again and the populous has lost faith in them.  While it is not yet the floodgate of the  Guns of August, we've just celebrated  the 100th anniversary of Austrian  Archduke's assassination in Sarajevo. Chaos breaths new opportunities for violence and so we see the acute escalation in another asymmetric conflict as the Israeli state bombards areas and tanks “churned into Gaza to hunt down militants raining rockets on Israel.”  

It’s déjà vu all over again with unending and escalating conflicts & crises that can’t be stopped by normal means and we drift into that helpless feeling that events and animosities are in control. Every side sees itself as victims and can justify the carnage. That's not a good long range vision and as they say eventually an eye for an eye culture leaves us blind.

A predictable, percolating fallout of this blindness is that truth and its pursuit becomes the first casualty of conflict.  Conflict is just too important to the conflicted to be covered in an objective way. Sound discussion is silenced by conflicting emotions as the 2014s gets defined as a time when “paroxysms of senseless tragedy that the world cries out for a halt.”  But there seems no easy way to halt events till “We Win!”  Or to consider it another way, peace loses.

I was foolish enough to take a book of readings on Peace for a short
vacation and the contrast between such thinking and curre,nt events was triply upsetting as I wished for more than being at peace but being able to make peace. But then the investment in armaments is much greater than the investments is peace-ments.

In human affairs we’ve had momentous times. Some leading up to war and others following it.  One thinks of WWI and its immediate aftermath which involved the two current hotbed locations of Russian with the communist revolution and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and, as discussed by Paul McGeough its dicing up by Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s François Georges-Picot. They struck a deal on how to carve up the region should the Ottoman Empire collapse as a result of World War I. Fans included colonizing conservative pols like Winston Churchill:

”The British grabbed Palestine, attempted to set up puppet monarchies in Arabia and in 1921 cobbled together hostile peoples—Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Arabs—into the artificial and unstable kingdom of Iraq, ruled by the imposed Hashemite king Faisal. ….this form of indirect rule was "empire lite" as fashioned by Churchill, then colonial minister.(see Cambridge historian Catherwood’s Churchill's Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq)

Sure we need pols like Churchill at times that can ride events and like the feeling of control. But they can be invested in their own empires and occupations and associated visions and rhetoric that eventually un-horse us. As further discussed in McGeough's article on Mid-East borders, people are still devising ways of diving the territories up.

It’s the natural course of entropy that trends toward disorder, unless events are in the hands of a intelligent horseman.  So we’d like an intelligent horseman like FDR please. But then we'd need a whole stable of FDRs along with cultural change. Not likely, alas.

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