Couchiching Online
nav button nav button nav button nav button nav button nav button
History Table of Contents
1994 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1994
Globalism and Tribalism: The New World Disorder?

Nationalism: Can the Nation-State Cope?


Would Barbara Mossberg define chaos and, if you would, define order and is there such a thing as chaotic order, and is there such a thing as orderly chaos, and would you relate your explanation to what is going on and what has gone on in Rwanda this last few months please?

Mossberg:Chaos is a simple illogical way to understand diversity and change. Which manifests themselves as, or even disguised themselves as complexity and illogical behaviour, it is the continuous act of becoming and being over time, so that well things seem different, and to change in very unpredictable ways. The way that things change and manifest this change, are astonishingly similar. In other words and I am reading. "The structure of change and the rational for diversity are shared by such diverse forms as the past and frequency of lightening bolts. The path of cream as you pour it in your coffee. Traffic patterns that you negotiated in driving to Couch, on Thursday. How and when a river floods, the configuration of the shore line of our lake. The sound waves in a hall or across a play ground. Heart fibrillations. Now to Rwanda.. You look at what is happening in countries around the world in which have very different religious and cultural and historical and political and economic configurations, but you are seeing on different scales and different intensities, the same issues. And what scientists have identified when they look at cells and DNA and so on, they say there is some common elements which account for these patterns. Even though they manifest themselves in such different and seemingly unrelated forms.


If we need time and space to understand how diversity and change and complexity strengthen us, how does that help us make decisions about good and evil today, about public policy today, about what needs to be done to help our society to function today, if we lack the luxury of time and space? When do we know whether to kill off the butterfly, before the hurricane flattens New York?

Mossberg:By the time it has flapped its wings, it has already started to cause these. In fact I am writing a book and it is called Chaos for Planners: An Interplanetary Guide to Round World Thinking. And I do retreats for leaders who are saying how does this impact on long range planning, strategic planning, budgets and the chaos that we have in our organizations, our breakdown and so on? In one way what you can use is the time space paradigm and you can go back in history. And you can say, well, if you look globally at what was happening in whatever instance you are looking at, here and here and here and here, you can see the patterns, you can see the cycles, and you can see how it is connected. And that might give you a way of looking with less despair at what is occurring right now, you may need to take less drastic measures in evaluating something as a failure. So that there is an idea that when things seem to be going on they might be looking chaotic, but there might be in the larger scheme of the things, and the world is very pragmatic, it wants to survive, it is very survival oriented. That this is actually part of order.

Jones: The ordinary citizen doesn't have the time or the luxury of considering whether his death in Rwanda is going to, in the year 2076, contribute to the better solution of earthquakes in Japan. He is rightly concerned with order in his time now, he is not concerned, he hasn't the possibility of worrying whether this is part of some grand evolutionary plan. He says to himself for every butterfly that dies in Tokyo and causes a hurricane in New York, there are 40,000 million butterflies that die unseen and cause a hurricane nowhere. I am afraid you have a long way to go before you persuade the ordinary man, that chaos theory is going to serve him any purpose at all in a disorderly world.


My question is for Mr. Saumier, I heard a different symphony in Indonesia than the one that you heard. And in the back of that symphony is a very insistent drum in the from of so hard as gun ships. And I don't see the national institutions and the natural sort of centrifugal force in Indonesia that you talked about. What I see is a country held together because of the application of force and I don't, and I don't really know about the national interest other than the one that is defined by Soeharto. So I am curious about why you saw one thing and I saw something completely different. So how do we know when it is common interest and how do we know when it is just the exercise of power?

Saumier Reality is always as we know more complex than what we make of it. Even in chaos theory. And when you want to address a given issue you have to select the various aspects of it, that happen to suit your purpose at the moment. And the purpose I had this morning was to try and develop the notion that tribalism as we call it here when understood in a reasonably positive way and it is not always understood in that fashion. It can, in fact, be used as a building block, as it is being used in Indonesia, as a building block to a greater purpose. As opposed to being seen as an entirely negative and destructive force. Now if in my remarks I gave the impression that Indonesia is a kind of idealistic country where everybody is happy and rich and healthy. Let me hasten to agree with you and correct this impression.


Can we have three tribes to form a nation, the native, the French and the English speaking, or – if you want to expand the version of tribes, – there are 45 or 50 Indian tribes in this country. So, can we form a nation by having a different number of tribes?.

Jones:. The answer to me is very simple. When the tribe gets a state of its own, bingo, tribalism and nationalism are identical.

Mossbergone of the problems that we have certainly in the U.S. is that we have a very limited and narrow, tolerance of, and conception of diversity. And in a way we have created false order by particular units of tribes that has created a climate in which different configurations of tribe or community feel that they have to compete with each other and that their success and thriving has to be at the expense of another unit. .


I have a strong belief that the most efficient choice and very often the favourite choice to enforce nationalism and tribalism, remains strength and violence. With the exception of a few countries, mostly in the Western World. Can you give me any sense of hope that this is going to change?,And if you can not give me any reassurance that this will change or hopefully soon, what do envision of the mankind over the next century?

Jones: Look at your own country. Youhave 3,000 miles of frontier; undefended frontier between you and a much more powerful tribe. Have they used force against you since 1812? No, and yet you are a different tribe. India is not kept together by the mighty power of the central state or of the police; God knows what does keep it together! but I assure you there are hundreds of millions of people living side by side peacefully, no doubt they have disagreements; their daughter's don't marry the other guy's son, etc., etc. but the fact is that they can live together. I am far more optimistic. n.

Saumier: I think we live basically in an era where peace is much more prevalent than it was 100 years ago. I don't think we are moving towards some kind of millennium, but I do not have at all a pessimistic view of history. Quite the contrary.