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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/17/16

ISIS as a Runaway System

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Hardly a day goes by without an ISIS-inspired attack somewhere in the world, as states appear ever more helpless. Recently, the man in charge of security in France stated bluntly that 'We'll be living with terrorism for the foreseeable future." That remark enraged the public, who took it for a lack of determination. But the minister was right for one very simple reason: terrorism is the result of runaway energy flows through the world-as-system. K-terrorism-enHD-AR1.gif

A system is a group of related elements in which a change in one element modifies the whole. In a system, energy organizes molecules to do work. Lack of energy leads to entropy, meaning that nothing happens. Between these two states is one which is 'just far enough from equilibrium' (or entropy) to keep the system working smoothly. It's also the ideal state for political systems, with potential conflicts resolved through negotiation.

There are two kinds of systems: open and closed. Open systems are those which communicate with their environment, receiving a constant flow of energy/information and rejecting waste. Closed systems are those that do not communicate with their environment.. Oligarchical political systems - or kleptocracies - are closed systems that neither respond to inputs from society nor automatically recycle their waste.

The expression 'stable state' is usually thought to mean one that is immobile. In fact, a stable state is "just far enough from equilibrium" to allow things to happen. But any number of factors can cause the flow of energy to increase to the point where change becomes uncontrollable, moving the system so far from equilibrium that it reaches a bifurcation, or tipping point, followed by dissipation and the creation of a new system at a higher or lower level of organization.

The irreversible process that leads to a tipping point makes open systems unpredictable, and depending on their previous history, the resulting new level of organization may or may not represent a higher level of civilization.

The current world situation is very far from equilibrium, a situation likely to continue for several years before bifurcating to a new level of organization. If we are living the 'history' that will eventually lead to the next tipping point, the result is not likely to be a higher level of civilization.

The increase in terrorist attacks, both in number and location, result from the uncontrollable energy inherent in the war waged by the 'developed, Judeo-Christian white' world in order to secure the oil on which it runs, against the 'developing, brown, Muslim' world that largely owns it. The acceleration of energy through the world-as-system in the form of war provokes a corresponding acceleration of energy on the part of groups determined to put an end to victimization.

Demonstrations of occupied Palestinians, Greek workers or American students also show that the planet is so far from equilibrium that bifurcations are inevitable. And here's the kicker: in physics, the arrow of time is irreversible, meaning that once popular discontent reaches a certain level, it will more likely lead to revolution than revert to a peaceful situation (otherwise known as putting the genie back in the bottle). Revolutions are catalysts that turn a state of extreme order into one of extreme disorder.

The common-sense notion that the only way to end terrorism is to end the developed world's interference in the developing world, is confirmed by systems analysis. Viewing war and terrorism as runaway energy flows enables us to realize that we are all part of the same system and that we need to replace the uncontrollable energy of war and terrorism with negotiations, i.e., a higher level of open system that is just far enough from equilibrium to work smoothly, equalizing access to wealth.

If we cannot do this, the tit for tat will continue.

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Born in Phila, I spent most of my adolescent and adult years in Europe, resulting over time in several unique books, my latest being Russia's Americans.

CUBA: Diary of a Revolution, Inside the Cuban Revolution with Fidel, Raul, Che, and Celia Sanchez

Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel: An Illustrated Personal Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring


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