by Roland Watson
October 2001

(Note: Please review the Introduction to Chaos Theory.)

Chaos in a social context is considered to be synonymous with violence, but this does not have to be the case. Widespread non-violent civil disobedience, the voluntary rejection and “opting-out” of a social system, is a form of chaos.

In this scenario the chaos occurs in individual brains, as they undergo a phase transition and rewire themselves to think in a new way. It is possible; it only requires education, that violence is not the solution, that peace is preferable to war, and cooperation to competition.

Having said that, though, the likelihood that such education can become widespread, rapidly, even in a generation or two, is slim. The general state of human development that prevails around the world precludes this. In culture after culture, violence is viewed as the solution, and competition is the norm.

The phase transition to defeat each specific form of dictatorship will require its own specific form of chaos. And, unfortunately, but we cannot avoid this fact, in the struggle against certain types of dictatorship, the chaos will involve violence. Global social systems of which violence is truly an integral part will require violent chaos to overthrow them.

Consider the system of Extreme Islam, which is based on the call of Islamic Jihad. The Prophet Mohammed himself declared the first Islamic Holy War, against all those who persecuted him in his birthplace, the city of Mecca. This call survived the defeat of the Meccans, by Mohammed and the people of what came to be known as Medina, and it has been taken up by today’s extreme wing of Islam, which infers the act of persecution to all non-Muslims. Extreme Islam incorporates a call to violence, which cannot be renounced by its followers, since the call came directly from God – from Allah – via the Prophet.

The chaos necessary to defeat Extreme Islam will involve violence, but, and this chance is minute, perhaps only the violence on the part of the extremists themselves. For this to happen, the rest of the Muslims of the world will have to renounce the extremists, and cut their funding, and pressure them out of the faith, at the same time redefining the faith, by ending the call for Jihad.

As another example, consider the chaos required to defeat a military dictatorship, one which uses violence but which does not have such a religious underpinning. In this case it is theoretically possible that all, or a critical mass, of the dictator’s soldiers could be convinced to lay down their arms.

This is not very probable, though, as the specific example of Burma demonstrates. It is extremely doubtful, for a variety of reasons, that the army of Burma would lay down its weapons and end its repression of the Burmese people. Far more likely is the possibility that some soldiers would turn their guns on the dictators – the generals – to lead the way to democracy. Barring that, the generals and the army will have to be defeated in combat.

However, to give one example where the chaos of the transition away from dictatorship will be non-violent, there is the prospective defeat of media and advertising brainwashing. There is no need to attack program executives and advertising copywriters, just to turn off the TV.

In summary, chaos is not equivalent to violence, but there is a substantial overlap, particularly involving the change of global systems which are based on violence. Such a system will not yield unless confronted by a greater force, and the current situation, given our state of development as a species, is that such a force must itself be violent.


© Roland O. Watson 2001-3