As I mentioned before, I'm reading Mary Beard's SPQR, and one of the things that I've been thinking about is the idea that in order for civilization to exist, a majority needs to believe that the system of order (government) is working for them. The moment that percentage dips below a certain number, then the protests start. When the protests are ignored the riots begin. And when the riots become violent and that violence grows into an everyday, ordinary thing...the sweater unravels and the whole mess catches on fire and then falls into the swamp. Everyone is screwed. The thing is, this has been going on since forever, and yet, we're still making the same mistakes. My hope is it's because we're learning different distinctions surrounding a very big, complex problem. I do believe (in spite of being a GenX cynic) that progress is a loop--like a waltz, and that humanity is making headway. We're just doing it while spinning in a pattern that we can't see. The idea of the larger view being a spinning pattern makes me think of fractals. And fractals (thanks to a recent re-read of Jurassic Park) make me think of Chaos Theory. And we'll stop there because we'll spin off course. But it's a fun direction, anyway...
I'm also reminded of a game I once played that was used to demonstrate this very idea--that in order for the whole to obtain the most benefit, a delicate balance of trust has to be maintained. And the instant that trust is violated, the whole thing goes horribly awry and is never regained--or, at least, not without a great deal of struggle and effort. It was a long time ago, but this is what I remember of how it was played: four players are assembled. Each is given two cards and several tokens. One card is an X and the other a O. Each play costs a token. If everyone throws down the O card, then everyone shares the pot equally. (Thus, the more often you get everyone to agree, the bigger the profits build up for everyone over time.) If everyone throws the X, then everyone loses. If three throw the X, then no one wins. If two throw the X, then the two Xs win a token each and the Os lose. If one throws the X and everyone else throws a O, then the lone X-thrower wins the entire pot. It was an excellent model for civilization, I thought. There's always going to be some asshole who would rather piss in the pool than let everyone win. It doesn't mean they're better or smarter. It just means they're the ones everyone wishes would leave. In other words, this is why we can't have nice things.
But SPQR makes me look at what is going on now in American politics (and here and elsewhere) and understand that it truly has all happened before. We aren't smarter than our ancestors. The presence of money ruining democracy? That's happened before--in Ancient Rome. Of course, they didn't call it Capitalism. [shrug] Nonetheless, it was the same lesson. We know where this is headed.
Here's hoping we all learn to believe again before it's too late.
is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.