Is the "fire" taking hold in the Arab world? Tunisian “burning man revolution” a lesson in Complexity Theory
Wednesday, 2 February, 2011 5 Comments
For obvious reasons this and other blogs that talk about the threat of contagion and systemic risk have focussed, almost exclusively, upon financial and ecological inter-connectedness.
HOWEVER, once again we see a “pattern from nature” in these Geo-Political events. The institutional model is and will continue to be under extreme pressure to change as it is the vehicle of the “elites” and in uncertain or turbulent economic times scrutiny and criticism will only increase. Only those that are “structurally resilient” can withstand the heat of a fire that started in Tunisia with a spark and is gathering in intensity as it spreads through peoples inter-connected on numerous levels. People unified by a common purpose…to bring about a cultural paradigm shift.
I would urge you to read: “Disaster myopia”: Failing to learn the lessons of increased uncertainty
A Fruit seller, whose cart was impounded, and complaints ignored, by authorities, set himself on fire in a desperate act of protest. His actions have since been mirrored across the Arab World. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is a measure of how disenfranchised the citizens of these countries feel. Whether fuelled by Political or Religious oppression, an increasing gulf between the “have’s” and the “have not’s”, corruption, crumbling infrastructure, a lack of jobs or food the message is the same. The “elites” who preside over institutions that have given them power and/or wealth will not give up power easily and are prepared to allow (or inflict) a considerable amount of suffering.
Since the unrest in Tunisia, now Egypt, with growing concerns about other middle eastern states, in particular Jordan, we are witnessing “the butterfly effect”, a characteristic of complex systems, on our TV screens. This is contagion akin to the “systemic risk” that crippled the global financial markets in a matter of hours. This time it’s visible (dare I say transparent) unlike so much that has been perpetrated against these citizens – the structures are not so closely coupled as are bank IT systems and financial markets so, by comparison, this is happening slow motion and in full view.
Many people, myself included, envisaged civilian unrest, similar to that seen in Greece, as a direct result of sovereign financial problems: Economic to Cultural and Social domains but such is the nature of complex systems that it is not possible to predict when, where or what will cause the sudden (and dramatic) switch from one mode to another at the point of “critical complexity”.
It is also worth observing that this “tipping point” can, in part, be attributed to the fact that current institutional models have been found wanting and inflexible. Paralysed by their own complexity! I have been pointing to the work of Joseph Tainter “The Collapse of Complex Civilizations” and there are obvious parallels.
It would be a very naive Exec. who cannot see, in these events, a lesson for business! For some, with, for example, Supply Chain exposure, or, the region as a key market it may be too late! Already people are experiencing what life is like without “order”, access to cash, food, mobile communications and internet. Think about it for a minute how would your business cope? How resilient is it really?
Scary!? Well, if you haven’t done so already, now think about how YOU and YOUR FAMILY would cope in a society without these things?
THE concern now is just how will the post-critical landscape look? We all should be fearful of the a series of new Islamic states but, if you are an Israeli this must be really difficult! Egypt are so much more than near neighbours.
Support the cause of freedom for a nation oppressed and brutalised by its own leader OR a Dictator who has provided a strategic and welcome “firebreak” due to his close allegiance with USA and efforts in peace talks.