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An American Phase Transition

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Deena Stryker       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   10 comments

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After four days of unprecedented demonstrations across cities in the United States, the motives poked and prodded no one knows how they could end. Whether or not President-elect Donald Trump makes conciliatory remarks, as suggested on a Sunday talk-show, at this point we can usefully see these demonstra-tions as systemic phenomena, whose mechanisms I outline in A Taoist Politics: The Case for Sacredness:

Yin&Yang trasparent
Yin&Yang trasparent
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org))
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Since ancient Chinese times, feedback has been conceived as the opposites Yin/Yang growing out of each other. The Chinese knew instinctively that change occurs as a result of each element in a dyad acting upon the other, as many contemporary scientists recognize.

Today we know that energy flows into a system organize molecules, creating work . Lack of energy eventually results in a state of 'equilibrium' or 'entropy', where 'work' cannot happen. Ideally, as the ancient Chinese intuited, the flow of energy through a system keeps it 'just far enough' from equilibrium to avoid entropy, or death, allowing 'work' to happen. But any number of factors can cause that flow to increase, creating runaway instability. While a certain amount of instability is necessary for work to happen, too much instability takes the system so 'far from equilibrium' that it eventually reaches a threshold known as a bifurcation point, or phase transition, from which it "dissipates" into a new state.

The anti-Trump demonstrations can be seen as energy flows that increase instability, but what state will they dissipate into?

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Living systems are open to their environment, from which, via feedback, they receive matter and energy and into which they reject waste. They can, in theory go on forever. Very differently, non-living, or mechanical systems inevitably run down because they are separated from, or closed to their environment and its sources of energy.

The components of political "systems" include human, geographic, historical and cultural elements. Currently most political systems are "closed," in that 'the many' are largely kept outside the deliberations of 'the few'. Dictatorship, which seeks to maintain a status quo ('equilibrium') indefinitely, ends when revolution opens the system to the many that have been kept outside.

The anti-Trump demonstrations are rocking a country that has always boasted of its smooth transitions of power -- corresponding to the ideal state of 'equilibrium'. But once energy flows accelerate, they cannot be stopped. (The genie cannot be put back in the bottle.) In some instances they lead to revolutions, but even when they do not, they must run their course, and things will not be the same when they end.

Francis Fukuyama notwithstanding, history will not be 'over' until humanity is. To avoid self-inflicted extinction, we need to see history as an unending series of disruptions and bifurcations that will never achieve 'it', however hard we try. We can only influence processes, knowing that there is no final point, no perfect world that we shall be able to sit back and enjoy once we have created it. Aside from the intolerable dullness of such an eventuality, it isn't going to happen.

Anti-Trump demonstrators are the result of two things: sociologically, a 'me' generation expectation that everything must be the way they want it to be at all times; but politically, and more importantly, they stem from ignorance of the fact that Hillary Clinton also represents a turn toward fascism, not for domestic reasons, but because her foreign policy aim is war with Russia, seen as the first impediment to continued US hegemony (China being the second). Washington's Democrats may be savoring this moment, but those on the street are oblivious to the fact that had Clinton been elected, protesters against her wars would be treated much more harshly than those who opposed the Vietnam War, by relentless spying and a militarized police.

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