The Guest Blog

Guest post by Andres Ginestet, Assistant Professor at Martin Buber University & complexity theory expert.

Humanity exists evolving and growing complexity. Violence is its counterpart and threatens European democracy, and one of the many facets of the threat is terrorism. Generally speaking, complexity is a term that has come into fashion but is not yet substantiated within politics in the European Union. Hence terrorism and other forms of violence are occupying more and more time and space in day-to-day life.

Why is understanding complexity important?
Understanding complexity today is the equivalent of understanding temperature previous to industrial revolution. Complexity is a physical property of matter, as it is temperature. Temperature was scaled and measured after the invention of the thermometer in early 18th Century. In past times, scaling temperature allowed running steam engines, and enabled industrial revolution. Today, scaling complexity allows for interpretation of information and for social transformation. A sustainable EU-complexity policy speeding up political reaction reduces terrorism risk and spares EU-citizens several Maalbeek and Zaventem incidents per year. Scaling complexity in terms of sustainability and governance is a bypass into future requiring EU political implementation.

How does complexity appear in daily life?
An example: Complexity and complication are different. A clock is complicated, but not complex. A clock has a complicated mechanism, but its future is predictable and it fulfills 1 single task counting time. A bacterium is complex because it is a living being and its future is not predictable.

How operates terrorism within EU?

Relevant data about possible attacks was available to Belgium and EU authorities. The potential danger was underestimated resulting in Zaventem and Maalbeek attacks. Was the risk wrongly assessed at EU or Belgium level? There is no sufficiently unified response to terrorism within the EU. Discrepancies make it easy for violence to dig in. Focusing on EU-simplicity and coherence helps preventing attacks. Here is why:

Terrorism is not complicated as a clock; instead it operates like a living organism that is hardly predictable. But one of its traits is simple enough: terrorism (as part of the system of violence) is complex and has a paradox role, destroying, reducing and simplifying social complexity (life). Fragmentation after destruction is a long-standing consequence of terrorism. Fragmentation is the opposite of diversity, hence the opposite of complexity. Diversity is positive. Fragmentation is destructive and mostly the result of violence, of traumatic impact. Trauma destroys coping abilities, resilience, empathy and solidarity along several generations deforming i.e. brain functions in terms of epigenetics. Hence, we see fragmentation of social tissue and precisely also in political decision-making.

Terrorism finds an easy prey in scattered fragmentation of public opinion and lifeboat-EU-politics, torn between i.e. warfare corporate lobbyism and consequences of self-created violence reality abroad. This is why coherence and expertise is required when facing terrorism. Fugitives, victims of war and EU citizens ask for a coherent humanitarian and qualified response. Otherwise fragmentation turns victims of trauma into easy prey for further violence or worse: terrorism on innocent people.

Where does the EU fail?
Politicians do not provide coherence and adhere to fragmented moral/personal opinions in the face of a problem that needs to be scientifically assessed. Failing political coherence grows out of not understanding system differentiation between the system of violence, epigenetic malfunctions and the key-role of terrorism. Not understanding violence in technical terms hinders a unified answer. Securing European borders and addressing mass-migration politicians do not deliver adequate and unified answers. Instead they respond too late to visible symptoms of the system of violence mistaking problems for solutions. Early warning options are completely dismissed.

Why do politicians not address complexity and terrorism in clear terms?
According to complexity research humanity crossed a complexity threshold around 1995. This threshold consists in human complexity growing to the extent that individual persons and hierarchic social systems do not cope with complexity, thus requiring intense networking in terms of complexity governance and architecture. Networking politics require a new set of rules for communication within society, based on trust and empathy, to achieve reliability. Trauma disrupting reliability is a major obstacle that needs to be tackled in technical terms. This can only be achieved in a bottom-up approach designed for the purpose and requires concepts, which politics do not yet provide or publish. A European network of complexity and trauma experts combined addressing trauma reduction below critical levels is a first step to solve the problem ahead of more work to do.

How to deal with terrorism in a EU-political perspective?
In a political perspective, violence and terrorism regulate complexity down when complication gets too big, efficiency too low and transaction costs tend to destroy all revenue (recalling Douglas C. North). Violence has the mission to destroy existing unsustainable complexity: complication. In system terms it is “healthy” to allow for violence, when social complexity is plaid at with no consideration for its internal rules due to ignorance, but this is also inhumane. Alternatively, politicians i.e at the EU-Commission need to grow expertise as how to deal with entropy and defeat the power law of violence and terrorism. The best way forward is a quick implementation of complexity-violence expertise and the EU-wide agreement on a convention and nomenclature facing terrorism.

What is to be gained from expertise?
System theory of violence and complexity theory combined allow for a good prevention of terrorism to be expected ahead. The graph is meant as illustration and helps understanding. The picture shows how a hyperbolic complexity rise leads into entropy and violence. This analysis can be performed on several levels (World, Europe, Belgium; Brussels, families).

Current epigenetics testing in white blood cells enables fast and precise reading and evaluating risk and danger potential at the individual and the system level (see. i.e. Moshe Szyf, Montreal, Canada).

Facing terrorism in a system setting requires a definition of friend and enemy in terms of epidemiology of violence (see i.e. Gary Slutkin and his project “Cure Violence” in Chicago). This implies the identifying of violence agents, their targets, their pathways as to identify best opportunities to seize the infectious violence core and destroy its potential.Complexity


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