By Roland Watson

I now want to examine the relationship between chaos and violence. The reason for this is that many people assume - wrongly - that they are the same thing.

I've tried to show in the University of Life that many common ideas - form and dictatorship are other examples - are actually much broader than we normally think. For chaos, it is present everywhere, from physical systems to the behavioral systems of life. Sometimes, it must be triggered for certain goals to be achieved. But, by no means will all of these situations involve violence.

Non-violent social chaos

As an example of this, widespread non-violent civil disobedience, the voluntary rejection and opting-out of a particular social system, is a form of chaos.

There are many situations where this might occur. One example in the United States is where, in response to the civil rights movement and subsequent developments, many people left racist attitudes behind.

Racism is where you label a particular group as being bad. You do not allow for any distinctions between individuals. If someone has a certain characteristic - they're bad.

This is of course absurd, but such beliefs are common, all around the world. Racism is one of the clearest testaments to the power of behavioral form.

Chaos in the brain

Fortunately, many people have been able to escape from it. To do so, they have undergone chaos, but in this case the chaos has occurred inside their brains.

They have undergone a phase transition and rewired their neural circuits, physically formed new synaptic connections, and pruned others, to think in a new way, one that does not accept collective guilt and branding.

It is possible, and many people have accomplished it. Indeed, all it requires is education, to learn that it is wrong to stereotype people, and instead to think of everyone as unique individuals.

Non-violent civil disobedience has also been effective in many other social movements, through protests and demonstrations. Examples include for women's suffrage, for labor rights, for care for the natural environment, and with anti-war movements. For the last, the education that is required is that violence is not the solution, that peace is preferable to war, and cooperation to competition.

Barriers to non-violent change

Some people might say, wait a second, there has been violence in many of the movements that I just described. Clear examples are the use of strikebreakers with the labor movement, and, again in the U.S., the shootings at Kent State University by National Guard soldiers of peaceful protestors against the Vietnam War.

What these cases show, though, is that the violence was instigated by agents of the dictatorial system. This isn't surprising at all. Violence is regularly a tactic of behavioral form.

It is most commonly applied by political dictatorships, but it is actually used in any type of dictatorship, if real change will mean an end to the money stream that the system provides to the dictators.

To be fair, though, non-violent movements may degenerate into violence of their own accord, if the leaders of the movement, or agent provocateurs infiltrated into it by the dictators, argue that violence on their part is justified. In these cases, such as in response to a crackdown on a non-violent protest, these individuals may say that the protestors need to escalate and use the same types of tactics to which they are being subjected.

What this also shows is that substituting violence with education is the fundamental change that is required. Unfortunately, the likelihood that this education - that peaceful negotiation and compromise is preferable to violence - that this can become widespread, even in a generation or two, is slim. The general state of human development that prevails around the world precludes this. In culture after culture, violence is viewed as a solution, and competition is the norm.

The phase transition to defeat each specific form of dictatorship will require its own specific form of chaos. And, again unfortunately, but we cannot avoid this fact, in the struggle against certain types of dictatorship, the chaos will involve violence. Global social systems of which violence is truly an integral part, will require violent chaos to overthrow them.

Limits of non-violence

I want to explore this sorry fact a bit more, with some examples. First, I want to consider the system of Extreme Islam, which is based on the call of Islamic Jihad.

The Prophet Mohammed himself declared the first Islamic Holy War against all those who persecuted him in his birthplace, the city of Mecca. This call survived the defeat of the Meccans by Mohammed and the people of what came to be known as Medina, and it has been taken up by today's extreme wing of Islam, which infers the act of persecution to all non-Muslims. Extreme Islam incorporates a call to violence, which cannot be renounced by its followers since the call came directly from God – from Allah – via the Prophet.

The chaos necessary to defeat Extreme Islam will therefore unquestionably involve violence, but, and this chance is minute, perhaps only the violence on the part of the extremists themselves. For this to happen, the rest of the Muslims of the world will have to renounce the extremists, and cut their funding, and pressure them out of the faith, at the same time redefining the faith, by ending the call for Jihad.

As another example, we might consider the chaos that is required to defeat a military dictatorship, one that uses violence but which does not have such a religious underpinning. In this case, it is theoretically possible that all, or a critical mass, of the dictator's soldiers could be convinced to lay down their arms. This is not very probable, though. It is highly doubtful, for a variety of reasons, that such an army would lay down its weapons and end its repression. Far more likely is the possibility that a group of soldiers would launch a coup, and turn their guns on the dictators – the generals – to lead the way to democracy. Barring that, the generals and the army will have to be defeated in combat, or overthrown in a popular uprising.

Violence as a strange attractor

There is another important point as well. In the theory talk, I said that chaos is not truly chaotic, not truly random. Patterns still exist, embedded in the chaos, called strange attractors.

In a social change situation, the ethical basis of the means that are used to trigger chaos are incorporated into it. These means are a type of strange attractor.

For example, anger and violence may be more effective at creating social turbulence, but they will retain a primary role in any subsequent order that arises from it. The practical reason for this is that if chaos is fueled by violence, this normally leads to massive social disruption, and hence great barriers to establishing a new democratic order. But, if chaos is fueled by reason and activism, to force a change in government structures and practices, and social values and conventions, with such changes and values thought out in advance, to the extent that they can be, a new and better order likely can be formed.

Also, to give one example where the chaos of the transition away from dictatorship should never require violence, there is the prospective defeat of media and advertising brainwashing. There is no need to attack program executives and advertising copywriters, just to turn off the TV.

In conclusion, chaos is not equivalent to violence, but there is a substantial overlap, particularly involving the change of global systems that are themselves based on violence. These systems will not yield unless they are confronted by a greater force, and the current situation, given our state of development as a species, is that such a force must itself be violent.

In the next and final article in this series, I will describe a template that you can use to plan your own personal change.

© Roland Watson 2013