PNM THEORY: FOR DIFFERENT SOCIETIES, A SYSTEM PERTURBATION IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Reading Andrew Sullivan
the other day I was struck by this post
which Sullivan culled a quote from an article in the American Prospect
"The van Gogh murder is a little bit like our 9-11. The degree to which the United States had changed after 9-11 was hard to fathom in Europe. Now, this one murder seems to be having a similar effect on my fellow Dutch nationals. In Europe we have experienced our own homegrown terrorism for years, so although Dutch people felt enormous solidarity with Americans after 9-11, many asked, "Aren't Americans a bit too focused on themselves when they keep saying that 9-11 was some huge paradigm shift?" The Netherlands, right now, is undergoing a similar sort of attitudinal change. It will be interesting to watch whether this change sparks a shift in Europeans' generally hostile attitude towards George W. Bush's aggressive foreign policy and his "axis of evil" style approach to the world."
Having read a fair amount about the reaction of Dutch public opinion to the murder of Van Gogh by a radical Islamist activist this analysis not only strikes me as accurate but points to an important aspect of Sysytem Perturbations - mass psychology. What perturbs one system may not perturb another and the intensity of the perturbation may not depend upon experiencing the apocalyptic violence America saw on 9/11
Theo Van Gogh was only one man and normally a single murder is unremarkable news, even in Europe but- given the context of everything else-
to the people of the Netherlands, Van Gogh's assassination was a visceral shock. A horrifying and transfixing repudiation of the most deeply held values of Dutch society, a mortal threat to their national way of life. The implications resonated to every quarter of Holland and created a sea-change in Dutch attitudes toward Islamist extremism, Muslim immigration and the GWOT. Dutch society responded in a horozontal wave of fear and fury. Within hours of VanGogh's death, the most tolerant and liberal of Europeans who pride themselves on being a nation of refuge, were setting fire to the mosques. This extreme reaction has subsided but the horizontal scenario will continue to unfold in major policy changes as the Netherlands moves to a forward position in the Terror War.
It appears that a critical aspect or necessary condition for a System Perturbation is the capability for most of a society to perceive a systemic shock and frame the experience spontaneously in a natural consensus. Extreme violence, while likely to be a trigger of a System Perturbation, would seem to matter less than the perception that, in Dr. Barnett's words " the world has been turned upside down ".
Dr. Barnett argues that System Perturbations are " a new ordering principle "
forcing wide and deep revision of rule-sets and...
"If system perturbation theory has any relevance beyond being an ethereal model of a complex world, then we need to identify who or what the trigger agents are that can "drop the big rocks in the pond," what media they will use, how the shockwaves will be transmitted, what connections exist between the initial shock and the horizontal scenarios, what barriers can be erected to stop the spread of adverse effects, and what the consequences are of both the threat and the cure."
Perhaps the trigger is less important than the target - the core values of a nation's social contract and the implicit assumptions the society holds regarding itself.