Yemen may be where the Arab spring, this sweeping current of democratic upheaval in the Arabic-speaking world, takes a turn definitively toward violence or toward civic solutions. The regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a tribal dictatorship using feudal power tactics, based in the capital Sanaa, is now waging one war against extremist Islamists and another against non-violent pro-democracy protesters.
Yemen is an intensely poor country, likely to see its dwindling fresh water resources 100% depleted before any nation in the world, and could be the global home-base for jihadist extremists. Yemen could also, however, be a sparkling example of how peaceful democratic change can bring sustainable prosperity and security to an otherwise impoverished society ruled by feudal warlords and kleptocratic dictators.
Continue reading “The Road from Mokha to Sanaa”
‘Psychic numbing‘ is a relatively new term, assigned to the phenomenon which shows people tend to feel less urgent compassion, and tend to give less, when the suffering in question is shown to be more systemic and more pervasive, or affecting larger numbers of people. Some psychologists believe it is linked to our intuitive sense that if one suffers alone, the suffering is worse, but if one is accompanied, there might be some security in numbers, not just emotionally, but practically.
The individual does not actually suffer less, but somehow, human beings —across cultures, ages groups and regions— appear to have an almost inborn tendency to convince themselves that the one who suffers with others is somehow safer. This is, of course, rarely true. While yes, a young boy might survive because his older sister goes without food, two young children in a population beset with pervasive, persistent scarcity or political disorder, may be at significantly heightened risk of violence, or even enslavement.
Continue reading “‘Psychic Numbing’: Why does mass suffering induce mass indifference?”
All systems fail, all organized interactions are vulnerable to entropy, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And at best, we are but stardust, a beautiful yet haunting explanation of our origins. Infused with light. Doomed to shadow. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, in the mortal physical realm, entropy is always interfering. The intellect often uses convenient conceptualizations to feel it is better understood or more secure, more real and lasting, than it is.
Remember: the only constant is change, so to oversimplify is to willfully strip ourselves of needed understanding, the power of intellect that can do the best work against entropy. To paint in broad strokes an entire universe of experience to exist only in dualities of black and white, up and down, matter and void, is to confuse simplicity with clarity, at our peril. While the best explanation is usually the simplest one, the truth is almost always more complex than we can perceive.
So, we are left to navigate a universe of traumas and disappointments we cannot just dismiss as signs of the wrong thing happening or the other side gaining temporary control over our otherwise pure and decent environs. Darkness and light are lies in that they are not so diametrically opposed as they pretend; there are better options for understanding what they mean. As R. Buckminster Fuller has written: “We have relationships, not space”.
Continue reading “Resilient Complexity versus Exposure to Entropy”
We are living in a time of unprecedented global integration, where economies, security interests, legal systems, and languages and systems of learning have been dispersed and interwoven across the globe. There are obvious positive effects to this integration, along with certain overarching and seemingly intractable problems that cause real worry for even the most hopeful or studied observers.
Languages and cultures intermingle, yet seek to remain distinct and continuous, and individuals seek to enhance their own possibilities (requiring freedom of information, and freedom of movement), while seeking to prevent the corrosion of already structured social fabrics. The obvious problem is that some of our most vital human interests come into conflict more readily with those of others, when massive numbers of people mix and intermingle, individuals and cultures competing with one another for the spoils of a new global system.
Continue reading “Ziggurat Century: Global Civilization as the New Babel, with Reason for Hope”