An introduction to causing change
When we are unsatisfied with our lives, we need to determine the cause of the insatisfaction. This cause may be internal. Our own behavior, driven by inadequate attitudes and perceptions may be causing the undesirable outcomes we experience. This will be true in the vast majority of cases, thankfully, correcting behavior, attitudes and perceptions is a rather well studied matter. A sizeable industry has grown around this, unfortunately, in this area, you will have to wade through a significant quantity of offerings, from sound professional advice to well meaning charlatans, all the way to outright scammers. All of them tend to have cult like followings (look at Tony Robbins, NLP and the Secret to know what I mean). Good luck.
The typical cycle of a revolution is replacing mentally ill destructive people with people who have made themselves mentally ill to overthrow them, ultimately becoming destructive themselves.
I am a professional student of violence, my area of interest and knowledge is external causes. By external causes, I mean situations where your insatisfaction will be caused by the actions of others. We must understand that we exist in a state of interconnection with others, what we do affects them, what they do affects us. In basic game theory, you can classify three types of interactions
Zero-Sum: A zero-sum interaction has a winner and a loser, one has +1, the other -1. A casino is a good example of zero-sum interaction. The casino sells the dream of becoming rich, people voluntarily bring their money to the casino to try and win this dream. A tiny amount of people do win, most leave with nothing, the casino keeps a significant share, gives out the rest to clients on a randomized basis. What the casino has, it took from clients, what winners have, they took from the casino. Nothing is lost, nothing is gained, nothing created or destroyed, just moved around.
Negative-Sum: A negative-sum interaction can be represented by pillage. Raiders come to your town, steal your food and valuables, and burn your house down. In this case, the net result is destruction, there is less of whatever we are counting at the end of the process.
Positive-Sum: A positive sum interaction concludes in a net benefit. A plant can have 50 seeds on it, I can eat 49 and plant 1, and the result will be another 50 seeds or I can plant 2 and have 100 seeds. A teacher spends an hour educating kids, this hour will enhance every hour of all the kids in the class, these are examples of positive-sum outcomes.
You may find ways to prosper in any of these types of conditions, certainly. Can anyone prosper in zero or negative sum conditions? Perhaps. Can everyone? Absolutely not, zero and negative sum conditions MUST have losers, the only way to prosper in them is to make sure the losers are other people. Even if there are ways to profit and prosper in such situations, it has to come through harming others.
When given a choice between receiving harm or causing it, the only truly reasonable and sustainable choice is changing the conditions, to move away from zero or negative sum interactions to positive sum interactions.
That means changing the behavior of other people.
But how do we do this?
Let’s start at the beginning, with the real nuts and bolts basics, systems.
You are a system, the environment you live in is a system, the interactions people have with each other are systems.
What do systems do? They receive, process and emit information. Be aware, in this definition, information is anything a system receives, processes or emits, even if it is physical or tangible. You go to the movies, you receive sounds and images, the way you process them determines the thoughts and feelings you experience, and then you may emit some of this information as you discuss the film with others. But the same model also applies to the air you breathe, you receive it, you process it you emit it (transformed), or the food you eat, or any physical thing you consume, as well as anything we more traditionally would call information.
In any exchange of information, first you will have encoding. That may be the choice of words and tone when you speak, or it may be the physical and chemical properties of something physical. In the case of information moving from one person to another, the encoding is a voluntary process that may or may not be carefully thought out and deliberate, in objects, the encoding happens automatically from the natural properties of the object.
Then, you have transmission, moving the information from the sender to the receiver. There are two very important concepts in information transmission, bandwidth and noise. Bandwidth is the speed at which the information can move. For instance, how fast my brain can interpret images, or how short zeros and ones can be in an electrical wire yet still be differentiated from one another, or the speed at which chemical can react with one another, based on the contact surface, the temperature and the presence or absence of catalysts. Noise is the ability of the signal to move undistorted from the sender to the receiver. If the images I am looking at are close by, or if they are behind a dirty window upon which other images are reflected, or how the heat in the wire knocks about electrons that muddle the difference between my zeroes and my ones, or if my chemicals are in a clean tube, or one filled with impurities.
Then, you have decoding. This is the process by which the information affects its receiver. It can be a physical event, like a ball bouncing after hitting (exchanging information with) the floor, chemical, or it can affect the state and/or behavior of people.
Information transmission can be either efficient or resilient. Efficient transmission seeks to move the information around at a minimal cost in bandwidth. Compression is what an efficient system seeks. Resilient transmission seeks to move information around at a minimal cost in loss of information integrity. There are two methods to make a transmission resilient, the first is redundancy, sending the same signal multiple times, the other is variety, sending the same signal many ways, having a picture and a description, for instance.
Any system, be it a person, a society or a rock will exist in a state (not meant in the government sense, here), and this state will require a continuous exchange of information within itself and with it’s surroundings to continue. The person needs a sustained intake of oxygen, water and nutrients, and these must permanently be processed and moved around. A society needs everything the person needs, multiplied by the number of people, the rock, at the very least needs constant heat from it’s surroundings, and the effect of gravity to maintain it in its current state.
That was pretty boring, right?
But let’s compare what understanding this allows us to do compared to what our culture and education has given us. Culture and education has basically given us two models of conflict resolution:
1-Hit them until they stop moving, and your problem is solved.
2-Be kind and polite and considerate, and they will come around to your side.
How’s that been working out for you?
With any problem you may have, you must first understand the system it exists in, and the subsystems involved. It does not matter if it’s the relationship with your significant other, the office politics at work or the global political-economic system, you need to understand how you encode the information you send to it, how the information that is transmitted through the system moves, what that information is, what is the bandwidth and the noise it is subjected to, how it is decoded, how it encodes the information it sends you, and how you decode it.
Take your time, read that over a few times. Your goal is to change the state of your relationship with a system from zero or negative sum to positive sum. To change the state of the system, you need to change what information moves through the system, or how the information moves through the system.
This is what is called strategy. Strategic objectives are carried out through tactics. Tactical actions with or without a clear strategy is the difference between demolition and vandalism.
Once we have analyzed our target system and devised a strategy to carry out in order to change it to a state more agreeable to us, we must select tactics. There are 3 main families of tactics, non-violent, soft violence and hard violence.
There is only one non violent tactic, it is the appeal to reason. With the appeal to reason, we seek to convince individuals to alter their behavior, changing it from something that sustains the current system state to something that is more to your liking.
Soft violence is basically everything that is currently called “non violence”. Why use the term “soft violence” instead? Because it is actually a use of force, a use of violence. When you use fear or pain to change behaviors, you are using violence. When you go on strike, when you set up a boycott, when you publically shame people for certain actions you deem unacceptable, you seek to cause pain or fear in your target, and thus are using violence.
There are significant advantages to soft violence over hard violence. The main one is the difference between the two. The brain recognizes certain things as violence, and has very strong emotional reactions to it. Actions that cause death, physical injury or loss of personal property will cause the human mind to react and empathize with the victim, we are programmed against intra-species violence. It is much more difficult to obtain support for hard violence because of this, and the traditional means to obtain this support (dehumanizing the targets) should be distasteful for most readers. Second, because we are programmed against using intra-species violence, most people will not be capable of using hard violence without significant, time consuming and expensive training. This training, as well as putting it to use, is likely to inflict psychological injuries. The typical cycle of a revolution is replacing mentally ill destructive people with people who have made themselves mentally ill to overthrow them, ultimately becoming destructive themselves. There are people who can use hard violence without harm to themselves, but they are rare, and at least half of them are not people you want to deal with.
Thus, soft violence is an excellent tool to apply fear and pain to target groups and individuals, it can be used without psychological harm by most of the population. Remember, however, the tools of soft violence are tactics, and tactics must be chosen to support and accomplish a strategy. Actions must be carefully targeted and planned, as well as carried out with discipline to achieve maximum effect. They must be viewed, planned and executed as military operations.
Hard violence will sometimes be needed. In some systems, a tiny part of the population exploits the vast majority. In such cases, isolating and excluding the minority can be achieved exclusively with soft violence. In other cases, like in tribal societies, the division comes between sizeable groups, and loyalties may be impossible to dissolve. In such cases, hard violence may be inevitable. Other cases may include conditions where a minority group is being exploited or cases where the system uses large scale force to destroy resistance. Sometimes, events can be precipitated by a small, careful application of hard violence.
Again, these tactics must, at all times be carefully thought out and executed with the sole objective of furthering the strategy.
This is a small introduction to a much more ambitious text I’ve been working on for a while. It will go in much greater depth on the subjects of types of information circulating in human systems, modes of transmission, vulnerabilities and the specifics of applying force to them. I am looking forward to comments and suggestions.