This is a summary of the main theme of Barataria so far, written for the purpose of taking the discussion off to a new level. If you need more explanation, just follow the links. Thanks!
Pick a system that influences your life. You might start with the obvious physical networks of technology like the internet, telephones or highways that make it possible for you to meet the world on a daily basis. You might branch out to the systems that distribute food to grocery stores or electricity to every household. These link up eventually to more “soft” systems of people and ideas, such as religion, politics or academics. They are all systems that have their own purpose and daily grind that keeps it all keepin’ on.
All of these systems are part of a network of connections that make the world what it is. Each can be considered separately for the purpose of specializing, reducing it to a straightforward skill or task on a daily basis. That’s how institutions come together to put a name and an air of permanence on what is really a part of a dynamic system that changes to respond to changing needs.
The economic situation we are in right now is a Depression, not a Recession, in one important sense. A Recession is an event where one or more key systems finds out that it has too much capacity because it either outgrew its demand or the demand fell – there’s just too much of it, and people lose their jobs. A Depression happens when the money itself fails – there’s just not enough real money because people lost faith or credit collapsed – and nearly every system finds itself under a lot of stress. Right now, nearly everything is feeling the pinch. Historically, the result is rather dramatic change.
In these times, what matters less is how things are or how the systems of our lives are made into institutions, but how they are connected.
Whatever system you look at is made up of these connections. Apply stress at one person or institution, and that stress moves along the connections to someone else. When these forces hit other people along the way, their response to the new stress may be very different than the place where it started as they move it along through their connections. Soon, everything moves and shifts in ways that might seem unpredictable.
If you look at the connections of all these systems rather than what or where they are now, you can better predict how they will move as everything is stressed. Everything could change through economic restructuring as so much did from 1927 to 1937 to 1947, when a generation gradually passed into an entirely new world. Where things started out became trivially unimportant by the end, but their connections were what saw everyone through the turmoil.
No matter what systems you find important in your life, each one came from somewhere. There was an economic or social need, and people got together to fill it. They brought with them their connections and made new ones to make it all happen. Politics, technology, religion and even the economy ultimately all about the people whose talent and work made them happen.
Politics isn’t about zingers that give a temporary advantage, it’s about improving people’s lives. It works precisely to the extent that it fills the spaces inbetween people, spaces that came out of the cultural and economic arrangements – it comes from somewhere. The economy isn’t about spontaneously generating wealth, it’s about getting goods and services from someone that has them to someone that needs them. Technology is applying knowledge to make a change that people want or need. Without connections, none of them would matter.
Any system you might want to ponder is all about the connections to whatever made it useful in the first place. Ultimately, that’s about people, but what made it all possible are the connections between people and the institutions they come to depend on. All of this is under a lot more stress than before, and that stress is going to propagate through the networks of systems in weird ways.
If you want to get on top of it and understand what might happen to any system in these difficult times, you have to think about the connections that make it possible, not just the institutions or people that go through the daily grind. It’s the connections that really make everything happen. That’s where the forces of change are either concentrated or dispersed.
I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but for now I’d like to hear what you have to say.