Deb Reich
It's not the people... it's the paradigm.

Chaos Theory to the Rescue

Luckily, at this chaotic time in Israel’s political evolution, despair is not the only choice.

You need not be a mathematician to grasp the notion that Chaos can have another, more attractive name. That name is Opportunity.

Googling “Chaos theory” will get you lots of explanations in terms anyone can understand.

One intriguing implication of Chaos theory emerged quite a while ago when the discussions began entering the general discourse. Phrased in simple terms, this one aspect suggests in part that turbulence in a system can throw up sudden unanticipated windows or portals for change, including potentially beneficial change, that would not have been projected to occur based only on direct linear timelines meant to map the path from past to future. Lucky breaks, so to speak.

Possibly this is how we should be viewing the seating of the next Israeli government thanks to which, apparently, what there is of Israeli democracy will soon be firmly in the crosshairs. The governing coalition will seek to trample equality underfoot once and for all with a toxic mix of Jewish fundamentalism, strongman-style leadership, contempt for the role of what is left of the judiciary, neoconservative grifter economics, neglect of looming environmental crises, dirty dealing galore, the last gasp of the last remaining vestiges of civil rights for dissenters, for Palestinian citizens, and for others considered dispensable.

The far right has openly declared its intention to usher in the victory of breach of trust and corruption disguising itself as legitimate political power – via the novel path of legislating “breach of trust” and “corruption” into non-crimes. Presto! If these elements have their way, our Crime Minister will morph into Emperor Sinister, thanks to a devastating Get Out of Jail Free card presented by his Kahanist enablers and their hapless constituents who have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid of incitement and hate.

A daunting prospect, indeed. However:

Enter the Butterfly Effect

The scholars of Chaos theory have proven, mathematically, that the most miniscule variations in original conditions can and do lead to wildly varying outcomes later on: One butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can change everything for us here, but is it a small yellow butterfly? Or perhaps a large red and black one? One movement of its wings? Two? The consequences can massively alter thanks to these miniscule variations. So the mathematicians have assured us.

Embed from Getty Images

Rephrased in our own terms, this might turn out to involve just one more – just one more – courageous young Jew becoming a prisoner of conscience rather than be conscripted into the Jewish supremacy settlement movement’s private militia (formerly known as the Israel Defense Forces). The soldiers are on call 24/7, including on Shabbat, to stand by in uniform, unmoved and unmoving, as if turned to stone  — while vicious settler pogroms against Palestinian civilians take place right there in real time. Then perhaps one soldier, one day soon, will intervene? And then a whole squad? Or perhaps the butterfly will be just one more viral video of a Palestinian pre-teen being carted away, cuffed with zip ties and blindfolded, for no reason or any reason. Which part of the mosaic will resonate, echo, and be magnified?

We Jews know about pogroms but we can’t bear to see ourselves reflected in these crimes and, yes, atrocities taking place every day in the West Bank – so we look away. That’s why there’s now a social media presence for a group calling itself Look the Occupation in the Eye. Perhaps one of their tweets will be the butterfly that awakens our own dissident multitudes to our power for positive change.

Butterfly wings come in many forms. This, we ought to bear in mind. Sometimes it happens that one prisoner sit behind bars and gradually accumulates moral authority until one day the unthinkable happens: Nelson Mandela emerges at age 71 to become (some years later) Prime Minister of a former kingdom of apartheid; in a matter of hours, the Berlin Wall is dismantled and turns into a pile of souvenir blocks and bricks; Gorbachev has a vision of reform – Perestroika – a new beginning, and the former Soviet Union falls apart.

Of course, the unanticipated and unpredictable may not always be encouraging: Witness Putin emerging decades later to try to reanimate the corpse of the old Soviet Union as if the former empire were a gargantuan mummy having its bandages unwound by force, generating a global stench of decay as the missiles rain down on neighboring populations. There are no guarantees. And yet.

Embracing the butterfly             

Since the chaos all around us is quite evident, and since the nature and course of what may emerge cannot be known in advance, let us – visionaries of a different way – let us be brave and creative and grasp the opportunity as if by right. Right now.

Now, now is the time for visionaries of a better way to speak up louder and speak out stronger, together. You know who you are! It is time to co-create a joyous Zone of Egalitarian Co-Evolution in what is now Israel/Palestine. If the Irish could do it, why can’t we? Believing that every human being here has an equal right to live free and deserves equal opportunity to flourish and contribute to the common good, let us seize this portal to the unknown future and behave as if it belongs to us all, together. This can be our time. This can be our portal. This can be our shared greenhouse for the nurturing of our shared humanity. This can become the shining city on the hill, where our children and grandchildren in their multilingual gatherings will put their weapons away, put their heads together, and build the kind of future they deserve on this frail and precious planet. One person, one vote, one shared vision of shared freedom and shared stewardship of this land, from the river to the sea. Regardless of how many nation-states that may involve.

About the Author
A native New Yorker, by profession a writer, editor, and translator, my passion after nearly forty years in Israel/Palestine is to explore how we might craft a better shared future by discarding the paradigm of enemies – an obsolete social design, now highly toxic. Read more in my book, No More Enemies, available on my website or from online booksellers.
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