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TRANSCULTURAL FRIENDSHIP: OUR POLITICAL FUTURE

Chapter One: The Search for a Pragmatic Utopia

Section 3: Stability--Synchronic

 

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Scottish Highland Dance during the 20th Anniversary Campbell Highland Games and Celtic Gathering on June 20, 1998, in Campbell, California. Competitor #175 is shown.

 

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The stability criterion has both a synchronic and a diachronic aspect. Synchronic stability exists when the society has enough control over its internal and external environment to limit severe disturbances and enough resiliency to rebound in the face of the perturbations which do occur. Consider the following physical analogue.

 

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The ball in the valley and the ball on the ridge are each in equilibrium in that all forces are in balance. If the balls are stationary, they will remain so in the absence of any additional forces. However, to dispel the assumption that being in equilibrium requires a static situation, the above diagrams may be considered cross-sections with the balls rolling toward the reader in their respective valley and ridge.

 

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If a lateral force impinges on the valley ball, it will move; gravity will operate as a counter-force bringing the ball back to its starting point or path -- at first periodically, and then, with friction, finally. This is characteristic of a stable equilibrium. However, gravity will supplement the effect of a lateral force on the ridge ball and move it away from its original point or path -- an example of unstable equilibrium.

 

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 Let us apply these concepts to the social realm by way of an example. Imagine - it is not too hard -- a utopia established by a group of pacifists. By agreement, no violence of any kind is allowed. Of course, sanctions for violence are limited to those that do not violate the principle of nonviolence.

 

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Assume that, either by the addition of a new member, or by a change in an existing member, violence is used to hoard the common property of the group, including food and clothing. Assume further that nonviolent control techniques fail to solve the problem. The others, believing it is better to suffer than to act aggressively, languish and perhaps die. Of course, that final outcome may or may not have been acceptable to the pacifists. For our purposes, such a result is unacceptable; we seek a utopia with greater longevity.

 

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The problem was that the pacifist equilibrium was unstable. Once a disturbance appeared, it grew unchecked and destroyed the system like a cancer. For a utopian scheme to have value, it must be able to restore its form when confronted by a disturbance. A pragmatic utopia must include mechanisms for dealing with perturbations in such a way that the utopia is preserved.

 

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Returning to our physical analogue, it is clear that a large enough force could destroy the system by knocking the ball beyond the valley walls. The size of force necessary would of course, be dependent on the size of the valley. In the social realm, the utopia must have enough control over its environment to render such catastrophes impossible, or at least highly improbable. This suggests that, at minimum, our utopia not be parasitic to a non-utopian society.

 

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Many counter-culture utopian experiments have flourished under the umbrella of the "military-industrial establishment." Groups as diverse as the Amish and flower children have suffered at the whim of establishment rules concerning housing and education. This may be fair, as it is doubtful that such communities would be viable outside the umbrella that shields them from the competitive forces of the international arena. However, such a parasitic existence is too tenuous a foundation for planning a future.

 

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The above reasoning can be extended. Most of the great external threats to a society are other human societies. Israel, itself the product of a utopian dream, has become a military and economic nightmare. Clearly, a larger utopia would have fewer external threats with which to contend. A global utopia, like that constructed in succeeding chapters, will have the fewest external threats and, thus, be more stable.

 

 

 

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The Search for a Pragmatic Utopia

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