I grew up at the height of Apartheid when it could brag to the world of its successes showing off an almost crime-free (at least for the white part of the population) country that boasted one of the fastest-growing economies of the Western world, with sanctions still two decades away and Nelson Mandela safely locked away on Robben Island. In its halcyon days, Apartheid Mandarins and its ingratiating apparatchiks in the mass-media exercised the tightest “Nazi” like control over the hearts and minds of the population, including black people. One of my abiding memories was hearing and being told upon innocent enquiry that, “I’m not into politics.” A pervasive social pathology of the oppressed that is the hardest to make sense of. The view amongst many of the grow-ups and later my contemporaries was the notion of leaving politics to the politicians, an extraordinary psychosis and in my view indicative of stunning successes of the Apartheid propaganda machinery in its abilities to persuade the oppressed that their oppression isn’t worth debating much less talking about?    

So I’m going to charge those unwitting supporters of the old Apartheid regime and those who ignore the existential dangers of our modern times with a brief description of Chaos Theory. Which is described in the work of the late great mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz is an interdisciplinary theory stating that, within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization. The butterfly effect, an underlying principle of chaos, describes how a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state (meaning that there is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions). A metaphor for this behaviour is that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a hurricane in China. Loosely translated, it means that a small change along a certain path can and/or may have huge implications, negative or positive at some point in the future. Arguably, Chaos Theory is best understood when you listen to that haunting 1985 melody “A different corner” by the late pop singer, George Michael.

Right throughout the history of the world, and the history of the oppression of people, most of them have chosen to ignore their oppression, an area of human psychology as yet largely unexplored, perhaps because we are taught to believe in the “hope of tomorrow” so we delude ourselves into believing that our circumstances will change for the better based on us wishing for them to change, or for it to be so? This puts us in line with our oppressors and weirdly makes us complicit in our oppression, perhaps the highest form of masochism or shall we say self-torture? How is this possible? How does one human being ignore its capture, the conditions of its capture and choose not to escape or to do something about it? I would think that the captured would at the very least inform or arm their progeny about their imprisonment, its conditions and impress upon them to do something about it, no matter how small? 

If Lorenz is indeed correct which I believe he is as I interpret the world around me, taking into account my own internal biases, then surely we should be looking to make the little differences and that the small matters? This is evident in everything we do from the weary father arriving home for a welcome dinner who notices that there isn’t salt in his food, to the finest teacher in the world lacking the ability to communicate his or her message because of a lack of chalk with which to elucidate that message? Parents know this that’s why they teach their children about the importance of the little button on traffic lights and so do lovers, that’s why florists are in business. Do we need to express over and over again the importance of little bits of information and how it may affect our lives going-forward, because I always thought this was self-evident, indeed an obvious axiom?    

To be continued: