Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


Identity politics:

On the edge of self-destructing chaos?

November 4, 2021

Doom The Politics of Catastrophe by Niall Ferguson


What could be less surprising than a mainstream academic, a pop historian at that, who misunderstands the social revolution? Niall Ferguson’s pandemic-inspired book Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe looks at a range of disasters past, present and possibly future while downplaying the upheaval all around us. But he unwittingly reinforces an interesting perspective on the fragility of the multi-faceted coalition intent on destroying the West.


.... As at least some of Ferguson’s previous 15 books indicate, he finds fascination in networks—social, political, economic, cultural, communications, infrastructure and so on. Each can be described as a complex system with many components held together only through a delicate equilibrium. The networks also intertwine into an even more complex entity.

As Ferguson explains, “Some such systems operate somewhere between order and disorder—‘on the edge of chaos,’ in the phrase of the computer scientist Christopher Langton.”

Bernice Cohen’s 1997 book The Edge of Chaos: Financial Booms, Bubbles, Crashes and Chaos applies that perspective to a highly technical but often fascinating analysis of economic disasters dating back to the 1630s Dutch Tulip Mania. Ferguson points out how American subprime mortgages shattered the delicate equilibrium of global finance to crash the world economy in 2008. Lionel Shriver refers to complex systems in The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047, a 2016 novel that wonderfully expresses the human element of a financially induced societal collapse. (Ferguson’s survey of sci-fi and dystopian fiction ignores this American classic, yet he praises Margaret Atwood and the equally lame TV series Survivors.)

A very delicate equilibrium might be seen in the current social revolution. Certainly not a movement of reform, it proposes nothing remotely realistic to replace the society and culture it’s destroying. That will delight the many activists who simply hate normality. But they themselves could be threatened by ensuing chaos.

As a complex system, the social revolution shows what Ferguson would call phase transitions. Some examples include the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the 2017 Charlottesville confrontation, the 2020 George Floyd martyrdom, and probably the 2021 January 6 Capitol Hill protest. Canada took these American events to heart and experienced an additional phase transition this year with sudden allegations that unmarked native graves that had long been publicly known indicate mass burials of atrocity victims. Each of these transitions brought a wildly disproportionate and seemingly irreversible escalation of activism, mainstream propaganda and sometimes official policy.

In addition to phase transitions, the revolution features a more fluid radicalization that continues through almost every aspect of Western society and culture. For example increasing levels of weirdness become mainstream with public celebrations of homosexuality, then homo marriage, homo adoption, sex change operations, and now gender fluidity and hormone injections for children.

Could all this constitute an overly complex system doomed for self-destruction?

Read the full article.

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