zenpundit.com » symmetry

Archive for the ‘symmetry’ Category

Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders

Monday, February 25th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing our probing of borders, and liminality, with hints of mirroring and parallelism ]
.

Let’s start with a “borders” video for your consideration:

That’s worth viewing, though it’s no more the final word on the subject than Robert Frost‘s poem, Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

Walls here, I’d, suggest, are liminal as forming borders between one part of the neighborhood and another — but those gaps are likewise liminal, separating if you will one section of all from another. As this (minor) reading suggests, the situation is more complex than a simple statement that walls are bad / good.

Indeed, as here, poetry is often deployed in the service of nuance..

**

We’ve had earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • **

    My interest here is first drawn in by succinctly stated patterns of mirroring and parallelism found in an Atlantic article, What Does It Mean to Be a Canadian Citizen? The first comes from JFK, and may indeed be his most frequently quoted utterance:

    Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country

    That’s the mirroring example.

    The parallel universes example suggested here is no less succinct:

    The time-honored saying “No taxation without representation” does seem to imply, as a corollary, “No representation without taxation.”

    **

    Okay, those are the two quotes that caught my eye for reasons of formal symmetry. The rest of the article, I’d suggest, is extremely interesting for what it says about borders, nationalities and Canada in particular. Here’s one of the writer’s crucial observations:

    About 24 percent of immigrants from Hong Kong return to the territory after acquiring Canadian citizenship, as do 30 percent of immigrants from Taiwan.

    You can see the appeal. Hong Kong’s economy is growing much faster than Canada’s. Its income-tax rates top out at 17 percent. Canada does not tax the foreign-source income of nonresident citizens, in effect creating a geopolitical arbitrage opportunity too attractive to miss: the protections of Canadian nationality at low Hong Kong prices.

    And this, from the concluding para, will give you an idea of the questions the article leaves us with:

    Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?

    Two eminently watchable TV series by Hugo Blick

    Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I suspect Mike Sellers & Ali Minai might find them of interest as subtle narrative avenues into complexity ]
    .

    I’ve been watching Black Earth Rising , British writer-director Hugo Blick‘s latest series, starring Michaela Coel:

    As with his earlier series, The Honourable Woman featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal, I’m transfixed. Here is complexity delivered — in both cases, brilliantly — on TV:

    Once Blick puts down his first card, as a viewer you think, “Oh, that’s good. That will be interesting.” Then he essentially flips the other 51 into the air and lets them fall all over the script. That’s the ambitious beauty of The Honorable Woman, which explodes across each episode with elaborate twists involving the Israelis, the Palestinians, the British and the Americans.

    **

    Sources:

  • Hollywood Reporter, The Complicated, Ambitious Brilliance of ‘The Honorable Woman’
  • Hollywood Reporter, ‘Black Earth Rising’: TV Review
  • IndieWire, Netflix Thriller Shows the Danger of Treating Global Politics Like a Game
  • **

    I have been discussing systems dynamics and complexity with my game designer friend Mike Sellers recently — see his brilliant book, Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach — and complexity, glass bead games and AI with a new friend, Ali Minai — hear our podcast at BrownPundits. Let’s make it clear: I’m the student here.

    In the course of our discussion, I’d written:

    I think of novels and plays as offering approaches to an intuitive grasp of complex situations

    and

    I think polyphony and counterpoint are what we meet with in the social world, and indeed in our conflicted minds and hearts, and that Bach will prove to be the great master of our age, once we’ve matured enough to learn from him. But listening must come first, and that seems a skill that’s wildly at variance with our times..

    Mike responded:

    Novels and plays give us, I think, something of an implicit systemic view, in that we understand how a greater whole (a love story, a tragedy, etc.) emerges from the mutual interactions between actors. Same with counterpoint and polyphony — the notes mutually interact at the same time, and set up call-and-response interaction within our minds across time, to create a larger experienced whole from the entire musical piece.

    I’m trying to make those relationships more explicit and more generalized, seeing the commonalities in books, music, biology, and games

    so — for both Mike and Ali — I’d recommend these two Hugo Blick series as contemporary works of Shakespearean subtlety, to consider as avenues into coomplexity. And although I lack the linguistic skills to appreciate him I’m sure Ali would like to add the Urdu poet Ghalib to the list..

    So that’s my interest.

    Complexity, what is it? Which avenue takes us deepest into the heart of the matter?

    **

    Hugo Blick?

    Hugo Blick, who likes to teach the ambiguities to which a probing sense of morality will necessarily find itself subject, might like to examine “Combat charities” in the West and their jihadi twin:

    A NEW PHENOMENON OF THE 21ST CENTURY BATTLEFIELD

    “Combat charities”—entities that seek to provide non-profit military and political assistance to weaker armed groups or minorities resisting the military onslaught of others (like ISIS)—are one mechanism for foreign anti-ISIS volunteers to join the fight. “Combat charities” are a new rising phenomenon of the 21st century battlefield and political dispensation. They can significantly affect both local orders and international politics. [ … ]

    Thousands of Western foreign fighters have traveled to the Middle East in recent years to join the fighting that has engulfed the region. They have overwhelmingly participated on the side of jihadi organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS) or the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front).

    However, a smaller and often unnoticed segment of these volunteers has embedded with groups that resist the jihadis, such as Kurdish, Assyrian, and Yazidi militias. These fighters vary in their motivations for joining the fight: Some are driven by moral outrage and seek to prevent the atrocities minority groups have suffered at the hands of the jihadis, while others are motivated by co-religionist solidarity. Some seek a sense of adventure and the adrenaline highs of military tourism, while others wish to escape problems at home, finding in the fight a form of self-medicating for post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems. [ … ]

    THE WESTERN PATHBREAKERS

    SOLI is the oldest and most established combat charity in the world. Founded and led by American citizen Matthew VanDyke, it operates in Iraq, and is building abilities to operate in Syria and North Africa. Since its creation in 2014, SOLI has helped form, train, and to certain extent equip the two largest Assyrian militias in northern Iraq fighting against ISIS. [ … ]

    …AND THEIR JIHADI TWIN

    Founded in May 2016, Malhama Tactical is the first sunni jihadi private military company. As Rao Komar, Christian Borys, and Eric Woods reported in Foreign Policy magazine in February, during its short existence Malhama Tactical has provided training and battlefield consulting for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front, affiliated with al-Qaida) and the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Uighur extremist group from China’s restive Xinjiang province.

    Get that? Rival combat charities to throw a heavy dose of ambiguity into the already three-cornered Syrian situation..

    IMO, these combat charities on both sides of an already fraught situation might make excellent fodder for Hugo Blick‘s subtle story-telling mind..

    **

    Viewing:

  • Netflix, Black Earth Rising
  • Amazon, The Honorable Woman
  • Further reading — the full combat charities report:

  • Brookings, Combat charities or when humanitarians go to war:
  • Sports metaphor & politics, and much else besides, 1, pre-Flake

    Sunday, September 30th, 2018

    [ By Charles Cameron — the crisis builds — everything up to but not including Sen Flake’s elevator epiphany ]
    .

    **

    **

    Sen Graham acc BuzzFeed:

    “Here’s what I’m more convinced of, my friends on the other side set it up to be just the way it is. I feel ambushed,” Graham told reporters, after Ford finished testifying…

    Graham also dismissed the need for an FBI investigation, saying Ford had not provided enough detail to justify a search warrant or an arrest warrant. He also said an FBI investigation would take too long and he did not want to “reward” political gamesmanship.

    **

    Getting back to symmetry:

    The symmetry with her own parentage was uncannily exact, for Catherine and Seymour were themselves in an incestuous match, Catherine being Henry VIII’s widow while Seymour was his brother-in-law (the king had married Seymour’s sister Jane). ..

    and just a little earlier:

    What could have induced the normally modest queen dowager to have become an actor in these strange games?

    both from p 36 of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, by Charles Beauclerk

    **

    **

    Sen Hirono to CNN re re asterisk:

    I don’t know, but what I really want to hear from this administration, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, there will be an FBI investigation. That is what we need. And I think most people who look at this process, and want some monochrome (ph) of fairness, would agree that we should have an FBI investigation.

    But they continue to stonewall. And I think that they’re doing a tremendous disservice to the public – American people, as well as, should he get on the court, there will always be an asterisk, and a cloud, over his name, and on his name. And I think that is not what we want to do to the Supreme Court.

    **

    0/28/2018:

    Sen. Whitehouse:

    You do the basic blocking and tackling of investigation ..
    The sand is running through Kavanaugh’s hourglass ..

    Sen Cruz:

    These aren’t pawns on a chessboard, they are real people..
    We are living in a divided time. This country is divided right down the middle. In this polarized society we live in today, it’s almost tribalized. Where half of us wear one team’s jersey and the other half wear the other team’s jersey, and whatever we see, we see through the lens of our jersey ..

    Sen Booker:

    I’ve learned that, heck, from being a football player: between the whistles, you fight as hard as you can for that you believe, and if you want to call that partisanship, fine ..

    This is not a partisan moment, this is a amoral moment ..

    a time when the comedy {transcript} / comity [my guess} was deeper and greater

    Sen Kennedy:

    this is no country for creepy old men ..

    Sen Klobuchar:

    It’s not being run by we the people, it’s being run by we the ruling party ..

    Sen Graham:

    Somebody’s got to explain this to Trump, and I guess that’s my job.

    **

    a note — I’ll tend to add “tribal” and “tribalizing” to my list of items to note since tribalism is a major issue for David Ronfeldt, even though it has recently become mainstreamed and is therefore now frequently mentioned. I shall be looking in particular for original or extended usages.

    **

    Pres. Trump on Dr Ford:

    **

    Jon Meacham acc Breitbart:

    Stephanie was calling it quite rightly the other land. The lane here, instead of Yes or No, was Let’s find out more — and that’s the lane that Flake has opened up.

    the thing about tribalism .. level of hardball.. churchill.. off the cliff .. [details when transcript available]

    Stephanie Ruhle:

    the third lane is not a No or a Yes, it’s simply leaving the door open..

    Adam Serwer, The Confirmation of Trumpism
    The accusations against Brett Kavanaugh — and his angry, defiant response — have made him a fitting champion for the party of Trump.:

    The most important lie that Kavanaugh told, however, was in his initial testimony. Echoing Thomas’s broken promise to avoid ideology as a judge, Kavanaugh initially proclaimed that “as Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure … The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. If confirmed to the Court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player on the team of nine.”

    Enquirer Cover, Playboy Centerfold &c

    Monday, August 27th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — not hookers: one Playmate, one porn star, both sex-workers of one or another kind ? ]
    .

    Pravda on the Checkout Line – nice title — Politico Magazine — note last on the right, middle row

    **

    In Scaramucci on symmetry, I quoted James Fallows:

    I argue that “projection,” in the psychological sense, is the default explanation for anything Donald Trump says or does.

    Projection means deflecting any criticism (or half-conscious awareness) of flaws in yourself by accusing someone else of exactly those flaws. Is Trump’s most immediately obvious trait his narcissistic and completely ungoverned temperament? (Answer: yes.) By the logic of projection, it thus makes perfect sense that he would brag that he has “the greatest temperament” and judgment, and criticize the always-under-control Hillary Clinton for hers.

    **

    I just came across what looks to me like a perfect example of Trumpian projection — if you’ll grant me that Trump, via his friendship with David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, proactively influences the front page of that rag-mag.

    Here we go:

    last on the right, middle row, above — a closer look, a clearer image

    See there at the foot of the page?

    She Ordered Me To — pay HUSH MONEY to hookers

    That’s under a general header:

    24 Years of Cover Ups and Crimes Exposed

    **

    Oh dear, and Donald Trump, according to the sworn testimony of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, in Federal Court, caused considerable moneys to be paid to at least two young ladies, one a porn star and director, the other a Playboy Playmate of the Year if that falls under a different category, to buy their respective silences on his alleged affairs with them, the payments being made in time to avoid any sordid revelations in the immediate run-up to the 2016 election..

    Time, methinks, for the Enquirer to rerun that front page with a few of the details switched to reflect the Federal-bench-approved Truth.

    Reciprocal: a term for form, symmetry, balance — and beyond

    Monday, August 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — weaving a web of mirrors, echos, neurons and mimetics ]
    .

    Magic: the Gathering — the game designers know this pattern well!

    **

    The Far Right And Reciprocal Radicalisation

    Could fragmentation within the Far-Right contribute to increasingly extreme responses to Islamist terrorism? There is increasing evidence of instrumental responses from some of the most extreme groups, which seek to encourage the strategic use of violence.

    Reciprocal radicalisation, or cumulative extremism, is a concept that suggests extremist groups become more extreme in response to each other’s activity. This means a group may frame violence as justified or necessary because they perceive an opposing group as extreme. Identifying how to respond to such a dynamic has become increasingly important, as terrorist threats from both Far-Right and Islamist groups increase, alongside increased hate crime and group membership.

    The nature of siloing would encourage a focus on ISIS violence alone, a terrorism subset of natsec foreign policy, or on alt-right violence alone, a terrorism subset of natsec interior policy, thus remaining blind to the possibility that the two comprise a whole system, with systemic interactions between the two. The UK Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats report whose header and intro paragraph I’m quoting here is dealing with a pattern in that system, huzzah.

    Such patterns — true reciprocity, which is a form of mirroring, and the kind of escalating reciprocity described here, which is more like an echo chamber with built-in feedback loop, are significant both because they cross-pollinate silos, in a system-friendly way, but also because they offer hints of a pattern language of forms that can be watched for and cataloged.

    **

    Wilder speculation:

    Speaking of mirroring — other readings of mine recently have brought to my attention the intersection of two “hot” fields of study — mirror neurons as a biological substrate for much in human behavior, including our propensity of violence, and Rene Girard’s mimetics as a psychological substrate for much in human nature, including our propensity of violence..

    The conjunction of the two, which I intuited, is explored in Vittorio Gallese, The Two Sides of Mimesis: Girards Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation and Social Identification.

    Again, we have a creative leap, again we have silo-crossing, and again mirroring is the form that lies behind the analogical possibility that creates the possibility of the leap.


    Switch to our mobile site