[ by Charles Cameron – extended analytic game on Israeli-Palestinian conflict ]
I have begun work on a major personal project, the Said Symphony, and I’ll be posting the work as it proceeds, privately in the Alumni forum of Howard Rheingold‘s online classes, and in public here on Zenpundit.
Here’s the deal.
The idea of the Said Symphony Game:
Edward Said, the Palestinian “public intellectual” was also an accomplished musician, and the music critic of The Nation for quite a while. One time he brought his musical and Palestinian interests together in a stunning suggestion:
When you think about it, when you think about Jew and Palestinian not separately, but as part of a symphony, there is something magnificently imposing about it…
I intend to explore that idea, in an attempt to “see” the Israeli-Palestinian question with fresh eyes, to hear it in some of the many voices – from sound-bites to scriptures – embodied in that conflict, some of the many individuals whose dreams and lives and olive trees are rooted in that sacred ground… and to present it in a way that is at once analysis and synthesis, history and work of art.
The complexity of the situation:
Let’s make this personal. Here’s a poem that expresses the way I’m thinking here:
I am Charles
My concern is the human mind in service
to an open heart, and my problem
is that the heart picks issues rich in ambiguity
and multiplicity of voices, tensions
and torsions tugging not one way but
in many directions, even dimensions, as does
a spider’s web weighed down with dew –
to clarify which a mind’s abacus is required
equal in subtlety to subtlety itself, while
in all our thinking and talking, one
effect follows one cause from question
to conclusion down one sentence or white
paper — whereas in counterpoint,
Bach’s fugal voices contain their dissonance.
Take a look at this spider’s web, for example:
Spiders and dewdrops do a pretty convincing job of portraying a certain level of complexity in what I think of as (virtually, metaphorically) a node-and-edge diagram of the global situation.
Mapping ideas and places:
Now, to apply that style of thinking to a serious world problem… the Palestinian-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflict…
When, say, Hamas and Fatah signed their National Reconciliation Agreement on May 4, 2011, or Netanyahu won 29 standing ovations during his May 24 speech before a joint session of the US Congress, it’s like a few new drops of rain falling on that spider’s web — the droplets fall this way and that, carom into one another, the fine threads they’re on snap or stretch and swing down and around… until a new equilibrium is reached…
But try thinking the issues through before breakfast one morning if you’re the US Secretary of Defense — with the fresh winds of the Arab Spring promising a new Egypt, Iran announcing its intention to test a nuclear weapon shortly, and al-Qaida and associates training and recruiting in the background…
And your problem isn’t a two-dimensional spider’s web with gravity pulling in just one direction – it’s more like an n-dimensional spider’s web, with multiple gravities, tugs, and tensions – and some of those tensions are in the category of known unknowns that one of your predecessors talked about, some of them unknown unknowns, and some of them literally unknowable – hidden in the hearts of more devious men than you, and known only to God.
That’s the complexity of the thing: to map the spaces where salaam might meet shalom.
That’s also the node-and-edge nature of the graphical approach I shall use.
Coming up shortly:
In my next post, I’ll explain the HipBone gameplay – the way in which moves are made on the board, and what their juxtapositions mean — and introduce the board.