Monday, 14 November 2016

The coming US Civil War?

There was an interesting article in the Telegraph (but unfortunately behind a paywall - about the failure of pollsters to read the emotions of the voters. That this is a mess is obvious - after the UK election, Brexit, and now Trump. That it is a problem which threatens the social fabric and may lead us to civil war is less obvious, but I fear no less real. The problem is not about voting intentions in the run-up to elections. It is about the 'audit' of the effects of policy on the emotions of the population during government. For all the data that fed back showing economic indicators saying that policies were working, individual families were suffering (largely in silence) the consequences of austerity - reduced income, unemployment, family breakup, homelessness through to suicide. Some of this shows up in the "stats" - but most of it doesn't. We are now beginning to see the political consequences of real feelings - and the effects are potentially very dangerous.

The question is whether the latent misery which politicians found it convenient to ignore was more obvious to them in their performance indicators, and the risks more obvious, they would not have pursued the policies which led to misery in the first place, Trump would not be president, and Obama, (even Cameron and Osborne), and co. would have been radically socially progressive, rather than being essentially conservative corporatists.

The point is that there is a scientific question about information that sits behind this. Today's science now turns on information - yet we don't understand it. This is partly because it is new:  today's science is radically different from the Newtonian science which we teach our kids about, and about which education ministers have become religious zealots in promoting STEM and suppressing the arts and humanities. We've taken a reductionist model of education which was formulated in the 17th century and forced it to address the holistic challenges of the science of the 21st century. Finland's experiments with education are an indication of we need to be doing here: but even those radical experiments are only the beginning of journey in understanding the relationship between information, learning and the needs of society.

Today's scientific revolution is comparable to our last one in the 17th century - in the switch from Aristotelian metaphysics to Baconian/Newtonian empiricism. That change was accompanied by immense political upheaval, as religious certainties of the past were overturned. The result was puritanism, civil war, and institutional upheaval in England, the country at the vanguard of the scientific developments. The parallels to our present situation and Trump's election are striking.

The US and the UK are at the vanguard of our new science of information. The old order is represented by a Newtonian view on the nature of economics and information (contained in prices and stock market indexes). The new order is represented by the ecologists who apprehend not individual values of stocks and shares but set of relations that recursively connect from the smallest dimensions of human relations in society to the health of the planet. The new order threatens those who have done very well in the old order, just as the new science of the 17th century threatened the religious dominion of Kings and the church.

Trump represents the old order, who insist on the rightness of their view by imposing upon the world their own constraints to make it fit with their model. That they are deeply mistaken and naive will spell misery for those who are subject to their interventions.

This misery will turn violent.

The US has the most heavily armed civilian population in the world. These statistics showing the number of guns per 100 residents from wikipedia (see are really scary:
1 United States112.6[6]According to the Congressional Research Service, there are roughly twice as many guns per capita in the United States as there were in 1968: more than 300 million guns in all.[7]
2 Serbia75.6
3 Yemen54.8
4  Switzerland45.7Estimates range widely, between roughly 25% and 55% for legally held firearms.[8] See Gun politics in Switzerland.
5 Cyprus36.4[9]
6 Saudi Arabia35
7 Iraq34.2
8 Uruguay31.8
9 Sweden31.6According to the Swedish National Police Agency in 2006, there were a total of 656,000 individuals who had a license for one or more guns;[10] 6.5% of the population. There were 2,032,000 guns or 21 guns per 100 residents. Of the 2,032,000 guns, 959,000 were rifles, 726,000 shotguns, 122,000 combination rifles, 88,000 pistols, 55,000 revolvers, 3,000 automatic guns and 78,000 weapons parts.
10 Norway31.3

Whilst Trump's victory is seen by those overseas as a threat to world peace, the level of emotion and anger among its own population is a far more serious threat to the world. 

People are worried that Trump is a kind of Hitler. He's certainly not a good man, but this doesn't look like nationalism. There is new Puritanism which has overtaken the White House which is disturbing because of deeper historical parallels. America is such a young country - and in the years leading to England's civil war, a bunch of English/Dutch puritans were first setting foot in Massachusetts. It's their traditions and conservatism which is most closely reflected by today's Republicans.

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