Sunday, July 01, 2007

How Many States?

In physics the state of a system can be (generally) determined by the number of objects in a system and the possible states of the various objects. A state could include the velocity of the objects, their direction and speed of rotation etc. When we get lots of particles we have numbers that are state averages, things like temperature and entropy.

Which brings us to humans. Very complex indeed. Lots of possible states. When humans are relatively uncoupled - individuals acting on their own interest - you have a lot of states but the available states are fairly continuous. When you have strongly coupled individuals - tribal societies - the state space consists of a number of preferred states.

David Warren expands on this from the dimension of politics and diplomacy.

The Israeli and Western diplomatic approach to the conquest of Gaza by the psychopaths of Hamas, has been to caress and pile aid upon Mahmoud Abbas and the psychopaths of Fatah. Since the obvious objection to this shouldn’t have to be explained -- never give weapons to psychopaths, nor food unless you have them securely in custody -- let me deal with the more subtle, tactical end in view.

So far as it could have any merit at all, the idea appears to be “divide and conquer.” The reasoning goes: this is the moment to embrace Fatah, against the outwardly more radical party the Palestinians actually voted into office, to have a “peace partner” who is scared enough by what Hamas has just achieved in Gaza, to welcome our embrace. Moreover, those “moderate” Arab “states,” starting with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are themselves aware that Hamas is, like Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, now beholden to Iran, and that revolutionary Iran is quickly becoming a bigger worry for them than Israel could ever be. Surely, under these circumstances, hay can be made. Let’s everybody who is frightened by Iran (and with cause) come to an arrangement that will subvert the ayatollahs.

It is one of those ideas, too clever by at least half, that has never worked in the Middle East, where all alliances are temporary, and no enemies are ever forgotten. The very concept of “national interest” does not exist among the Arabs. (I know that sounds strong, but it’s true.) This is not only because pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism have successively kept an alternative to the nation state alive, but because from the origin of modern Arab statehood, almost every Arab state has been almost constantly governed by a family clique. The Arab states remain today essentially dynastic, as well as essentially tyrannical. The interests being served are thus the interests of the clans -- whether Sauds, Assads, Hashemites, Mubaraks, or the others. In each case, the nation is perpetuated only as a kind of monstrous family business, and organized on the principles of the Mob.

We nevertheless persist, in the West, in thinking that we are dealing with states. Israel is a state, and we can certainly deal with it; the Americans are attempting to create proper states in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the difficulties we are encountering in the latter cases are such as we would encounter anywhere in the region.
Because the states are discontinuous the transition from one state to another is chaotic. A move from one point of stability to another is not a small increment on the curve when the change gets large enough. It means a transition to what chaos theory guys call a different strange attractor or in layman's terms a different quasi-stable state.

To make the nation state version of politics work people have to have a concept of the common good. The common good should take precedence over your brother in law.

This is a hugely disruptive change and it doesn't work totally. A look at Chicago politics will convince you of that. Still, it is the ideal. Which to some extent limits the number of hands in the cookie jar.

One of the first steps in breaking down the tribal mentality is to get honest courts so that grievances are settled by judgments enforced by the state rather than tribal blood feuds. This starts the breakdown of allegiance to the tribe. Another thing that helps is the creation of a national economy. To make that work we go back to the need for honest courts.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Two states, with sensitive dependence on local conditions: competition and cooperation. Each follows different laws of action. Competition is proportional to the distance, while cooperation is inversely proportional to some function of the distance. (the stranger someone is, the more they are viewed as competition, and the closer someone is, the better able we are to cooperate with them, with some distance becoming virtually impossible to cooperate)
Our society has completely embraced competition, even to the point of using pseudo-cooperation ("There is no 'I' in 'team') to enhance competitive behavior.
Complexity and technology detract from cooperation by displacing personal networking and creating unreliable connections which interfere with establishment of empathic ones. The additional use of resources to maintain complexity puts further demands on critical relaxed interaction time.

M. Simon said...

How do you explain people coming together spontaneously over the net to accomplish something?

For instance the gang I'm working with to try and get a Bussard Fusion Reactor built?

Then you are leaving out that you can pay for cooperation.

You also leave out that almost all people pay their bills and don't steal. Surely that is a form of cooperation.

In other words I'm sorry your daddy/mommy doesn't love you.