Friday, April 07, 2006

Possibility Space

There was this ongoing exchange with one of my favorite long-term readers Craig in the comments section about the last post that got me thinking about how marvelous the net can be.

In the older times, we would have all been much more limited to our actual geographic location without the possibilities of encountering many others to have exchanges with beyond the few that normally go on to comprise that group we call companions or are considered our fellow explorers.

This due to the marvels of modern technology and the myriad ways it has enriched our lives of course. So many more possibilities to consider now! No denying it as the grounding for a much more expansive horizon of possibilities than what was available to or at least deemed probable by our ancestors.

And look, Possibilities, is what constitute really the animating force of our lives. And it is even more central to what will increasingly help mold the new generations.

What is called “possibility space,” is a nifty little concept that has been at the heart of the many promising developments which will even more dramatically alter the way we live in the coming years.

However difficult it is at times to genuinely understand it intrinsically or in terms of ramifications or consequences, there is no denying that the essential imperative remains in being open to allowing our mental space to bring the counter-factual in to focus (pdf).

Isn’t that an absolute marvel despite it being at times annoying, disconcerting, or occasionally even dreadful? I think we can all appreciate how this may hold true even when simultaneously some of the more bleak elements of our lives continue to remain constant as well.

Doesn’t Yeats capture this latter in The Second Coming:

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

In the aftermath of the unleashing of the post 911 American fury, I was convinced that the Islamist murderers were about to get their due but at a price. Intensity is never enough. The Islamists are as creepy as they come. I have my doubts now.

Although at the time I simply couldn’t bring myself to go with the fury unreflectively —even though my own wrath was intense due to those formative experiences at those precise moments, Usama, Saddam and the murderous Mullahs were playing musical chair as allies/trading partners/recipients of the largess of the Western powers.

That and my best guesses about the costs in terms of human lives and the negative consequences for the global polity! And here, much like the rest of you, I’ve proven right in some of my assumptions or expectations and have been flat wrong about many others.

But at the end of day, I have come to wonder aloud asking myself a few questions repeatedly: What is this really about? Do words mean anything anymore? What are the competing visions at war here? What sets them apart?

I mean here, of course, that much like the rest of you I can understand confusion. I understand sharp or bitter exchanges. I live the anger, the tossing and turning at nights and the sense of insecurity and that dread of the worst to come. Not to mention, of course, the desire to lash out and help unleash the bigger toys to blow everything up to smithereens and start from scratch all over again.

But what is this about, really? Do words mean anything anymore?

And here is where everything has become increasingly murkier for me while also having produced some clarity about certain others. If this is about democracy, why then dismiss all the voices not to one’s liking so blithely? From the President on down! Noise, noise and more noise is all that they claim to hear in each one of our pleas:

The president has got a job to do. ... He ignores the background noise that's out there in the polls that are taken on a daily basis."

In what way is this any different from the conduct or those attitudes so annoyingly typical of the murderous Mullahs against whom our “liberators” promise to want to lead us in fighting?

If this is about helping bring about a more sane arrangement in societies that have foolishly attempted to freeze life, why then do they insist on imprisoning us in a terribly suffocating box? Why is it that when they hear our pleas against rape, torture, arbitrary detention, hoods and brutality, their retort is normally more of the same belligerance?

And even some of those who criticize those who lead this campaign don’t offer us any more of ability to breath.

It has now become a widely held truism, of course, that foreign policy is merely an extension of domestic policy. And here too what some of the more aggressive pundits intend to pass off as bold moves and earth shattering initiatives has proven merely more of the same smoke and mirrors:

IT'S TIME FOR PRESIDENT BUSH to think about a third term. No, he doesn't need to overturn the Constitution. He can start the equivalent of his third term now, by filling his presidential staff and cabinet with new faces--or old faces in new positions--and by concentrating on new or forgotten initiatives. The goal: rejuvenation of his presidency by shocking the media and political community with a sweeping overhaul of his administration….

In truth, there would be a large element of smoke and mirrors in his actions. The trade-off is that Bush might revitalize his presidency.

No sane person should venture to accuse Fred Barns of lying. There are no Straussians here hiding in the shadows. Everything has been/is wide open and explicit. But what is it that we can glean from their utterances about what they might actually believe in?

Why do some continue to insist on further squeezing “us” and remain so dead set on deepening an already too murderous a chasm? Long before there was anything called a Judeo-Christian tradition as presented to us today, there were the Hebrews living/exploring/thinking/exchanging in that god-forsaken region and there was Zoroaster, Mani or such movements at Mithraism and sustained encounters.

Long before Mr. Bush or some of his cronies got to thinking they can entirely alter the fabric of life and tradition there using fancy toys or a series of swift “cakewalks,” or through resorting to the run of a mill destabilization campaigns with a few meager bucks, there were centuries of exchanges, the Persian wars, Satrapies, gold, and Alexander, Seleucids and the Arcasids. And of course, the Roman wars, and Byzantium, Valerians, Parthian shots, and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Not to mention the medievals.

So why is it then that the Ahmadi Nejad’s Gang and Mr. Bush’s have come to mirror each other so eerily in terms of promoting culture wars? And why must we go along?

Is there really no point to it all? Is there to be only an abyss? Darkness, mirages, echoes and emptiness? Noise, static, smoke and mirrors?

Is there really no sense in bringing the counterfactual to focus? Opening our mind space to the possibilities of exploring or excavating layers upon layers. To be allowed out of the boxes to breath? And strive for more creative ways out?

Is it all to be babbles? All this talk of “turning around or periagoge (pdf) merely so many dead letters?

Is there a conviction here? Do words mean anything? Is this to be all smoke and mirrors? Murder, mayhem, torture, disinformation and corruption?

Is this really all there is?

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