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Parallels Part 2

For the other entries see Part 1, Part 3.

The events are grouped as follows -

- Behaviour
- Cluster building
- Conceptual intersections
- Drugs
- Dysfunctional demographics
- Education
- European Union
- Global politics
- Indigenous culture
- Infrastructure
- Iraq war - and now Afghanistan
- Religion
- Role of governments in society
- Science in general
- Terrorism
- Water

anchor arrow Behaviour:
Yet another marker along the road towards "2050: Age of the Silverback". The drive towards greater efficiency and organisation by developed nations and at the same time the growing signs of deficiency in their counterparts is defining the world in ever more acute terms. Over the last few years Australia has been the final stop for asylum seekers from areas such as the Middle East and Sri Lanka. Unlike refugees under the official program they come by boat and are picked up by the navy, to be transferred to transit stations on Christmas Island, Nauru and the mainland. While the willingness on Australia's part to accept them has waxed and waned over time although the majority had been accepted in the end, the issues of their legitimacy and the use of criminal gangs (dubbed 'people smugglers' here) has always fuelled the debate. The thousands of dollars demanded by the gangs to secure a place on a rickety vessel were deemed reasonable enough given the - usually - positive outcome: settlement in Australia. So much so that their numbers increased dramatically, leading to a significant industry in departure countries. By August 2013 over 45,000 asylum seekers had landed here, costing the tax payer $2.5 billion, which includes 13,500 this year alone. Then there are the breakouts by detainees and the riots. The latest involved burning down the detention facility in Nauru. By the end of August the current prime minister Kevin Rudd announced a new immigration policy under which anyone arriving by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea in a deal recently made; Australia is no longer an option. Papua New Guinea is paid for its acquiescence in addition to a boost in other aid (how much no-one knows but PNG's prime minister thinks it's an open cheque), the facilities are provided by Australia, and the hope is the traffic will dry up. We are not the only country having a problem with the poor world drawn to the rich, but our neighbouring nations happen to be not much better off (sometimes worse) than the places the refugees came from to begin with. They would be worse off still were it not for the constant flow of aid money, much of it pouring from Australia (the Solomon Islands announced they would consider a similar deal once they began to see the sums involved). In terms of overall economic efficiency the current tightening of rules is already questionable therefore, and countries like Fiji see the development as a big bully throwing his weight around the region. In PNG itself there is political and street level opposition to having hundreds if not thousands of Iranians, Afghanis, and so on, settle in their midst. Ethnic violence (what's called plain 'racism' if white people do it) is common already and that's only between themselves. What is being played out here is a relative microcosm to what the global scenario will grow into alongside the economic and social pressures on either side. While the money keeps flowing some poorer nations may enter into similar pacts only to exacerbate their social issues, leading to a collapse once their governments become deprived of much-needed financial resources eventually. The organisational ability in the industrialised world can overcome the internal load of protecting themselves, but among the rest the current standard will no longer be deployable. This includes the resources for defining their very identity as nation states. (Sources: Courier Mail, 10 Aug 13, "$2.5 Billion", 1 Aug, "People smuggling expands", 25 May, "The great escape", 20 Aug, "Fortress Australia", 22 Aug, "Rudd's boat show", 23 Aug, "Manus asylum camp cost could top $1b", 24 Aug, "Solomons open to refugee deal")

An article in the latest issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry by T. Bastiampillai, S. Allison and S. Chan describes the influence of the peer group on an individual's state of happiness and/or depression. Mood, even mental illness, can be transmitted through such means. Associate Professor Stephen Allison is quoted as saying, "happiness does tend to spread through networks", "people become .. more like each other when they are in a big group", and "peer groups among young people are where the influence of friends is at its strongest - there is a cluster effect". Under the Otoom model the phenomenon is described in terms of affinity relationships. It goes further. If one considers affinities as a particular functionality and therefore focuses on the principle form of behaviour rather than on content (which of course is important for the purpose of identification in the first place), then any scenario which makes them possible will come to the attention of the observer. Any characteristic, real or perceived, lends itself to enabling the link between one person and another, between one group and another, or between demographics and beyond. Since functionalities are dynamic entities in their own right, the scale at which they occur does not matter. For example, an individual can be drawn to a certain demographic, and so on. Such linkages may well seem nothing new, but their detailed nature is not often understood. For some time the official assumption had been that Islamic fanatics are the product of a deprived background, discrimination, or just plain poverty. In reality the link is established via the conceptual medium Islam provides; the assumed factors come secondary, sometimes used as an excuse by either side. The picture becomes complicated once the respective strengths of affinities are taken into account, and how such a combination influences the overall result. The analysis of their strength leads to their historical timeline, in other words, how fundamental a role they play within the wider context. The significance of those factors determines the effectiveness of cluster building. Culture and religion generally come first; in a globalised world the element of nationality has become less prominent. It is something politicians in young countries haven't learned yet. (Source: Courier Mail, 20 Apr 13, "Bad moods 'contagious'")

Queensland has just been at the receiving end of a long-lasting depression that started as a relatively minor cyclone in the Gulf of Carpentaria, moved eastwards to Cairns and was drawn all the way down to Sydney due to a particular combination of metrological conditions. During its almost 3000km journey it caused major flooding along Australia's eastern seaboard. As a particular weather event it was somewhat unusual. Nevertheless, as far as the potential for flooding is concerned, there are a number of reasons why the east coast can be a wet place. A combination of factors ensure it; the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges, tropical seas, the annual monsoon coming in from the equator, a vast inland to the west, the continual emergence of weather systems from the Antarctic, and an ocean to the east with its own potential for low as well as high pressure systems. Therefore flooding is an inherent feature of this part of the continent, even the geological strata tell of it. Despite such a history significant population centres have been established in low-lying areas, and each one them has its own annals of devastation, community effort, and renewal; all repeated over and over again. Even the capital Brisbane is built on a flood plain. After the most recent event newly-elected premier Campbell Newman decided enough was enough and declared a policy involving the relocation of residences, roads, bridges, railway lines. While some councils supported the idea, it remains to be seen how successful the plan will be. The major impediment (as usual in this type of scenario) is the will of the population, where the phenomenon of identity plays an over-arching role. Yes, having your house literally washed away is bad; having to clean a stinking, squelching mess of septic ooze is bad; having to spend hundreds of millions of private and public money to put it all together again is bad; but moving a few kilometres away from the hollows, giving up the beloved housing style and being deprived of the reasons for celebrating one's endurance and spirit - that is worse. "I know that might sound a little weird... but it's part of who I am, even the floods", a resident in Rockhampton said when told about the options. And so it happens that flood appeals are launched once again with the accompanying donor fatigue, roads and bridges are fixed in exactly the same spots, and the rest of the nation faces another repair bill of untold millions. Identity manifests in many ways, and if ever the question arises why on earth people are doing the same thing over and over again, even when each time they are confronted with suffering and devastation, the fundamental reason is their respective identity. It represents one of the most powerful prisons human nature has in store for us. (Sources: Courier Mail, 4 Feb 13, "Newman calls end to rebuild 'insanity', "Moving them on an uphill prospect", 5 Feb, "Donor fatigue means funds aren't flowing")

(1) The EU has worked its way to a decision about its debt crisis, meaning it will give Greece another 130 billion euros and write off 50% of that country's debt. Meanwhile Prime Minister George Papandreou wants to put the bailout to a referendum, no doubt prompted by the increasing restlessness among the population faced with the conditions attached to the money handout. The situation must be bad if French President Nicolas Sarkozy asks China for help. (2) In Afghanistan an ANA soldier kills his Australian mentors during a morning parade with seven others also injured, four of them critically. (3) The Australian Defence Force has decided to allow women to serve in the frontline, yet we also hear of a female cadet being sufficiently traumatised when filmed during sex that even the Minister for Defence has to interrupt his work. What have those items in common? In all cases the inherent incompatibility of one human activity system with another it is associated with causes the overall system to suffer. Under the Otoom model the parameters defining cognitive systems at any scale suggest differences in quality on the basis of the number of members, their connectivity and their respective nature; further factors such as emotional influence, information content and how that is tiered across the various domains, equally play a role. Therefore no individuals are exactly the same, there are differences in terms of gender, even entire societies display their own average as their situatedness, culture and history impact on their paths through time. Decisions made in the cloistered atmosphere of political elites do not reflect the reality of the situation, a discrepancy played out in devastating clarity as soon as those plans are put into practice. As technology allows a global interconnectedness as never before and the world's population is moving towards the eight billion mark, the sheer density of it all makes the illusion of unmitigated equality a highly dangerous one. (Sources: PressTV, 1 Nov 11, "World markets fall on EU debt concerns", Bloomberg, 28 Oct 11, "Sarkozy's Political Rivals Criticize His Request for China's Help on Debt", stuff.co.nz, 31 Oct 11, "Afghan soldier kills Australian mentors", news.com.au, 11 Apr 11, "Failed by the system: the cadet's true story", ABC PM, 27 Sep 11, "Australia allows women to serve in frontline roles")

Under the Otoom model the image our mind has formed from outside input is the result of further processing within the context of affinity relationships between representative clusters. The 'bland' input has now acquired 'meaning'. For example, in one person a red bus may evoke happy memories of a holiday, in another the object may trigger anxiety because the image is associated with an accident. Since the brain is a highly inter-connected system with its cognitive dynamics following suit, our mental imagery is also the source of emotions, actions and behaviour in general - all based on pre-existing representative domains. The effects percolate - no preemptive pun intended - throughout the body. Research from the University of East London showed that subjects who were given decaffeinated coffee but told it was the real thing demonstrated effects usually associated with imbibing caffeine knowingly. Another study measured the difference in expectancy derived from emotionally charged scenes between men and women. Researchers from the University College London found that when shown emotionally charged scenes women presented a heightened neural response in anticipation of a negative experience, but not a positive one. In turn memory recall was improved in relation to the former. Men did not show such a neural response. Under Otoom emotions are another form of input accompanying the presentation of perceived data among localised representative domains, the difference being their essentially chemical nature. Generally speaking, memory recall is the result of a triggering process of affinitive clusters, and emotions are contributory. As such they represent a more primitive form of 'thinking', since any representative content derived from abstractions occurred later along the evolutionary timeline. Because expectations are based on pre-existing content the resultant behaviour is first and foremost a function of experience, and what gets constructed out of the momentary context is secondary. In other words, when contexts are created as part of a societal culture, then generally speaking those with negative connotations will evoke a more antagonistic anticipation in women if the context featured emotional aspects. That response preempts the content as it is being perceived at the moment. The disadvantages in terms of what we understand by 'reason' and 'justice' should be obvious. (Source: AOL Healthy Living, 2 Sep 11, "Is The 'Coffee Buzz' Actually Real?"; University College London News, 24 Aug 11, "Women anticipate negative experiences differently to men")

Investigating thought structures (which emerge from the neuronal clusters defined by their affinitive states) leads to the discovery of hierarchies in terms of how fundamental a role they play within the entire system of mind. One of the most fundamental of their kind are those configured by genetic and historical precedents, for example those that are gender-based. Although complex systems allow variance at any level of manifestation, sexual differences remain significant. The more inward-looking, protective and nurturing aspects of the female find their opposite in the outward-focused, challenging and aggressive nature of the male. Being fundamental they are subject to relative interpretation and repositioning further down the line (eg, a mother can be aggressively protective, and a male can nurture a comrade). In the West one of the effects of feminism has been the transposition of the female mindset into wider society. This has been especially illustrated through the comparison between the Chinese journalist Xinran's account of her attempts to adopt a baby girl she fell in love with, and her failure in the face of China's one-child policy. For Xinran what mattered was the fulfillment of her instincts which she pursued with considerable vigour. On the other side stood the decision by a government that had to deal with the stark reality of curbing a population reaching one billion. Subjective desire vs objective assessment; or, the ego of an individual against the needs of all. As far as our culture is concerned, the "I want it all" stance of Western woman is a world apart from the objective pragmatism of a nation that has to deal with a major problem. The inclusively protective approach has produced results that become more and more significant as time goes on. The veneration of the Child led to arrogance and a lack of discipline among youth where teachers leave the profession due to aggression even from primary school children; acts of violence are found in ever-younger age groups having reached the stage where even children's lives are lost at the hands of other children. Mantras such as "all in the interest of the child" (relegating their guardians to a servile role), "if only one child has benefited from [some action] it will have been worthwhile" (continually lowering the bar and therefore fundamentally undercutting evolution), or "only the best for our children" (wasting resources and removing the need to learn and improvise) created generations of demanding, attention-seeking brats who are socially inept and prone to self-righteous indulgence. After half a century of this kind of thinking not only are many children rendered dysfunctional, their parents are no different themselves. The definition of a system per see does not necessarily entail the recognition of a problem, since some particular plan may well be executed successfully as such. The question is, to what extent does the modification harmonise or otherwise with the rest. In the case of male and female minds there is more at stake than the short-term gratification of feminists. (Source: Courier Mail-qweekend, 13 Feb 10, "nobody's child")

A research paper just published outlines the gender differences between males and females when it comes to risk taking under stress. While in men the tendency is to increase risks, females tend to become more conservative. The authors associate the differences with the biological role of mothers whose first priority is to protect the young whereas for males the flight-or-fight response is more appropriate. The gender roles are already examined under Otoom in terms of functional behaviour types, starting with the fundamentals as they apply to females and/or males in general and delineating from there to address more complex behaviour patterns that have evolved in human society over the ages. In line with emerging complexity in general the role of progression locks (prerequisite functionalities that from the building blocks but also constraints in terms of the potential options in future more complex scenarios) become apparent as even in our present females tend to be more protective and therefore are likely change the environment in favour of their charges. Males on the other are more likely to modify/teach/compel their charges to adapt to a threatening environment. The fundamental nature of these differences can be observed as far as the gender-specific neurochemical processes in the respective brains. Although behaviour is always subject to modification in complex organisms such as humans, the developments along the evolutionary timeline need to taken into account when speculating about the efficacy of changes under the banner of contemporary fashions. On that note it is interesting to observe the tendentious headline provided by the Courier Mail editors to their article on this research. While the differences related to women are highlighted, when it comes to males their characteristic is circumscribed as "madmen", reflecting the ideological side of feminism. (Source: Nichole R. Lighthall, Mara Mather, Marissa A. Gorlick, "Acute Stress Increases Sex Differences in Risk Seeking in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task", American Psychological Association, Inc., 1 Jul 09; Courier Mail, 2 Jul 09, "Stress sires madmen")

Academic psychiatrist and Black Dog Institute executive director Gordon Parker points to an increasing number of schoolchildren who suffer from wild mood swings, identified as bipolar disorder 2 (unlike bipolar disorder 1 these are not psychotic). His views were supported by Sydney school counsellors at a conference last month. An international survey of principals is presented by Sydney University mental health expert Louise Rowlings where "one in five students needed mental health or emotional wellbeing support". Such statements are the latest in a series responding to a gradual deterioration of young minds. What is particularly disturbing from Otoom's point of view is the type of manifestation: a distancing from an orderly processing of information that puts the owner on a collision course with their surrounds and ultimately with reality. In Otoom (On the origin of Mind) the influence of feminism with its pervasive encroachment of emotional and disparate feedback substituted for more rational discourse has been detailed at great length (and supported by numerous references). Essentially illogical response dynamics unseat the cognitive pattern formation as a true mirror of the outside, and nowhere is this more critical than in the developing mind (but if applied with skill even adults can be brought to the brink of madness). Over the past few decades fathers have become increasingly absent from their children's home, women have their children later in life raising the chances of an ideologically determined home environment, the general media have elevated irrational discourse to a standard whether in the news or in general entertainment, and hysterical responses to incidents of a sexual nature do nothing to contribute to a calm and informed upbringing. The pernicious aspect of that trend lies in the state of denial sponsored by practically half the population based on gender together with its flatterers, and its profoundly fundamental nature. This is not about overcoming a famine, or winning a war against some enemy - it is about succumbing to a cancer that feeds on the very substance needed for survival. Nobody it seems is willing to stand up to such threats; women won't renege on the sisterhood and men are scared of loud shrieks. (Source: Courier Mail, 16 Sep 08, "Mental disorder rises in students")

Amanda Haehner, the incoming president of a British teachers' union, issued a warning at a recent conference. She criticises "middle-class parents" who fail to bring up their children in a challenging atmosphere that teaches responsibility and social know-how. The failure to set boundaries has created a class of "little princes and princesses" who are so spoilt they are unable to behave and accept rules in school. Consequently they think nothing of throwing a tantrum in class. "Anything negative that happens is someone else's responsibility and - if this right to a stress-free existence is questioned - then a doting relative will appear immediately to sort everything out", she said. In the Otoom model a social phenomenon of a wider scope (that is, a general tendency rather than isolated incidents) invites the search for fundamental dynamics, since it is those which would furnish the wider resource base in terms of the contributive elements. The role of the mother, transposed into wider society via the ideological side of feminism, answers the criteria. Generally speaking, the female seeks to correct the environment in favour of her offspring; the male seeks to correct his offspring in order to master the environment. While the former holds for infants, that approach becomes less and less valid the older the child. Neglecting such fundamentals leads to the development of scenarios such as highlighted above - predicted years ago under Otoom. The above comments only add to a growing number of similar assertions, but so far the step has not been made to take a closer look at the basics. Evidently the pressure is not big enough yet. (Source: Courier Mail, 26 Mar 08, "Spoiled brats")

A type of behaviour observable in nature that ties in with one aspect of the Otoom model is the "sneaky fucker". When the top males of a species fight each other for the right to mate with females, sometimes other males lower in the hierarchy take the opportunity to mate while the alphas are busy. As a result the genes that get passed on are not those of the strongest. This goes against the more conventional view that only the fittest survive. In terms of the Otoom model however it is not necessarily the 'fittest' mode that determines the evolutionary path but the most opportune, in other words the mode which does not meet effective constraints along the way. If such a niche survives it has passed the fitness test - in a manner of speaking. A similar phenomenon is alluded to in the post The reasons against Otoom - again where the subject was exotic developments in insects, in this case the horns of the stag beetle. An example of "sneaky fuckers" has been observed among southern elephant seals (M. Biuw, et al, Procedures, Protocols and Notes for Elephant Seal Research on Macquarie Island, Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St. Andrews, >= 2001, p. 8). While labels such as 'strongest' and 'fittest' have their place in the evolutionary timeline, in the complete picture any genetic variant that does not get mitigated by some hostile response needs to be added. Such a functional module occupies a place in its own right.

Right now Australia experiences equine influenza, a disease that generally comes and goes over the course of a few days. On the other hand, the horse racing industry is of such proportions that stables and venues have been locked down, races are cancelled, and an army of minders are trying to trace the immediate history of the outbreak. We are told the national racing industry could be closed for a month and loose $1 billion as a result. All this is a classic case of progression lock as described under Otoom. An initial scenario has settled in to such an extent that subsequent developments are moving in a very specific direction and no other. Whether the effects are good or bad, everyone affected bears the consequences with no way out. It says something about the fibre of a nation when even a single weekend without racing can cause one betting agency to loose $150 million in turnover. This is money freely spent by a particular demographic of society, a society which in turn is called upon to provide the funds to make up for the financial shortcomings created by the gamblers in the first place. The power of progression locks can be considerable. In this case a general activity that could hardly be more useless has managed to grow into an industry that causes front-page, nation-wide headlines of a format even tsunamis or sex rarely command. (Source: Courier Mail, 27 Aug 07, "BILLION DOLLAR FLU")

Nirpal Dhaliwal writes about the differences between men and women and concludes that they have almost nothing in common besides an interest in sex and care for their children. Under Otoom this was never in question. A female mind and body are positioned for taking care of her offspring in a largely uncritical, self-important manner as far as her personal space is concerned, with a critical and even hostile attitude reserved for the outside; the home has to be safe, children come first and need care regardless, and if anything needs to give it is the rest. For a male the outside is the range, its contents need to be negotiated or resolved, and if necessary it is him who needs to adapt in order to succeed; the home is a result of what happens around it, children are far from perfect and need to grow up eventually, and the outside is the ultimate testing ground. Such fundamentally different orientations of body and mind will program their respective owners from birth onwards. What is interesting about Dhaliwal's article (taken from UK's Daily Mail where he writes) is firstly his more direct style, a choice of words an ordinary Western male who has been groomed by feminism would hardly dare think, let alone voice in public. Secondly the feminist culture did create an atmosphere in which females with their whims have become the new untouchables, and characteristics that invited ridicule or even scorn under normal circumstances are suddenly elevated to stardom (take 'feisty' for example). What's more the female attitude has been transposed into wider society resulting in the matron state. There had to be a response sooner or later, and if honesty comes from someone like Dhaliwal it is yet further confirmation that non-Whites do not necessarily share the same angst before political correctness that their paler counterparts have submitted themselves to. (Source: Courier Mail, 15 Mar 07, "What's love got to do with it?")

Malalai Joya, a women's rights campaigner from Afghanistan, is in Brisbane for International Women's Day. In an interview with Mike O'Connor she recounts the general situation in her homeland and her personal experiences as a campaigner in particular. The US have sided with the warlords in order to counter the Taliban, but the former are just as brutal and conservative as the latter. For political purposes however such details do not count for the West. The warlords ban girls from attending school; a five-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped; another 11-year-old was killed after being raped and her body was exchanged for a dog; a member of one of the leading political parties in the country raped a 22-year-old women in front of her children and urinated on the faces of the children; another killed two children and threw them in the river. Such things are not followed up under the conservative regime. As to her own life, she sleeps in a different bed every night, has survived four assassination attempts, and has to move about with body guards. Such accounts highlight the brutal nature of certain demographics, which in the West is only used as convenient detail if it suits the political purpose, but even then tends to be hushed up out of political correctness. Yet such behaviour is part of the overall dynamic and influences a society in general - all that matters when dealing with that type of demographic from the outside. (Source: Courier Mail, 7 Mar 07, "Breaking the silence")

anchor arrow Cluster building:
One of the most significant features of complex dynamic systems is progression lock. A given state of the system constrains its dynamics from then onwards due to the former's particular characteristics. For example, a city centre had been built according to contemporary demands and from then on subsequent streets and buildings with their functions emerged in relation to those beginnings. Only extreme events unseat such an influence (a fire for example). On a larger scale societies, indeed cultures, can also have their events which from then on predispose the system towards certain behavioural phenomena and not others. The events generate clusters of behaviour that cause the erstwhile source to proliferate throughout the system, leading to particular directions in terms of outcomes. The West had its origins in the European mindset, which in turn experienced a major form of reorientation through Christianity, an outcrop of Middle Eastern religiosity that started with the ancient Syrian/Babylonian beliefs and their concepts of a god, his son and the element of redemption. Ever since, European societies and in modern times the West overall formed their responses in line with the values and priorities stemming from that part of the world. The obsession with a single god and its accompanying dictatorial authoritarianism towards any competitor (even within its own main subsets of Judaism and Islam), the ongoing conceptual transpositions involving 'love' and 'tolerance' on one hand but then turning them into war against the enemies of 'love' on the other, the single-minded preoccupation with the human eros and all its manifestations to be persecuted at any time, and last but not least the intense focus on regions which harbour the link to the ancient past, they all represent a progression lock from which even after 2000 years there is no escape. Consider the crusades during the Middle Ages, those mad dashes into foreign lands while depriving Europe of its resources for its own good. In modern times we have a similar preoccupation with the Middle East, an area which by and large offers nothing in return except loss and suffering. Instead the West is time and again compelled to engage itself with one local convulsion after another as if nothing else mattered in this world. Now, ten years after the Iraq war the sums are done again to count the total costs endured there as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For the US the cost has been estimated as $3,000,000,000,000 (3 trillion in the short-scale large-number naming system, and all the figures given are in US dollars), for the UK the amount is $30,784,000,000, and for Australia $6,643,560,000 was spent in Iraq and $11,396,000,000 in Afghanistan. To put this into perspective, the average/median income in the US is $62,273, in the UK it is $40,789 and in Australia the 2012 figures put it at $86,510. The average of these three comes to $63,190. The latest population figures for the US are 313,914,040, for the UK 63,181,775, and for Australia 22,785,500. Therefore, if the governments of the US, the UK and Australia had decided to leave the Middle East to its own devices and spend the money on their respective citizens (and not merely the earners of income), every man, woman and child of those nations would have received $7,625. The arguments regarding resources such as oil and threats to homeland security are rather artificial. We manage to attain resources anywhere else through the normal channels of trade and commerce and protecting a country within its own borders is always cheaper than launching expeditions thousands of miles away. And in any case, there are many conflicts around the globe where the participants do not posture as the seemingly self-evident centre of the West's attention. Naturally their spiel doesn't work with nations where no chiliastic hearts burn. As said at the beginning, progression locks only become unseated once an extreme event takes place; it is their nature. What such events could be for us is quite another story.

In the last entry (see below) the concept of cluster building was used to identify activity systems that emerged to serve a certain purpose but grow into self-serving entities which in the end need the original negativity for their own existence. Therefore industries come into being which actually prolong a particular status quo - to actually solve the problem is the last thing they want. Here is a further refinement. Karen Brooks (associate professor at the University of Queensland Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies) writes about television shows that use associated traffic on Twitter and Facebook to measure their success or appeal. However, some shows did not meet with approval at all (they "loathed" it, Brooks writes) but there was still a lot of traffic. In the current context the phenomenon is due to the innate tendency of clustering, so much so that even in the event of something that is not deemed to be desirable the satisfaction gained from cluster building (in this case, being part of a community, making your comments, interacting with others) takes precedence. The question is, what is more important - a rational ascertainable quality of life, or not so good times but the opportunity to use them as a basis for social interaction? Some more examples: the ongoing bailouts for struggling economies (eg, Greece got E137.1 billion in 2010, the current package is E130 billion in loans and E107 billion private sector debt write-off, and UK's David Cameron now looks to India and China because the crisis may last for years), the Rio+20 summit on the environment (no binding agreement reached, just like its predecessor in 1992 and nothing has changed since), the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species says that out of 63,837 species assessed 19,817 are threatened (that's a ratio of 3:1 and it does sound alarming, until one considers that the total number of species on this planet has been estimated at 8.7 million with over 80% still being undiscovered, hence a ratio of 439:1 based on what is known - not that alarming, so what's the point?) (Source: Courier Mail, 20 Jun 12, "When Twitter meets television, criticism becomes fast and faceless", 20 Jun 12, "Cameron fears euro crisis may last years", 18 Jun 12, "Greeks must stick to deal, warns Germany", 20 Jun 12, "Red List shows world biodiversity in crisis as animals and plants vanish")

Dr Paul Williams (senior lecturer at the School of Humanities, Griffith University) writes an article about bullying in the Courier Mail ("Narcissistic bullies must make room for rights and feelings of others"). The issue of bullying has firmly settled itself within the general landscape of public awareness. It turns out it is rife amongst school staff, it occurs at the work place, in the armed forces, the paper itself runs a campaign "say NO to bullying", and of course there is the inevitable academic research such as the one that found that bullies do not think their actions have much of an impact on their targets. The list goes on. Dr Williams refers to some more research that shows bullies have in fact very high self-esteem, an "unbridled narcissism" that "explodes into a violent sense of entitlement". As he says, his experience as a former primary school teacher makes him agree. From Otoom's point of view all that can be seen under the perspective of clustering - the continuation of bullying locally if unchecked, and the publicity given to the topic leading to a perceived sense of acquiescence on behalf of wider society, leading to still more bullying. But the functional element of clustering suggest another side as well. If an issue is raised to such an extent that hardly any aspect of society is left alone, an industry emerges which, answering to the dynamics of clustering in itself, indirectly needs its source to remain sustainable. Once that stage has been reached, the output of that industry will be relevant but will stop short of eliminating the source. After all, it depends on its existence. Hence the one remedy that stops a bully in his or her tracks will not be countenanced: self-defence. In principle the acting out of "entitlement" happens all the time, it is a matter of self-assertion, albeit an extreme one. Nevertheless, it forms the general tapestry of competition and the settling in of social ranking which occurs as soon as a group of humans has formed. The only question that should be asked is, "Does the victim's type of self-defence remain within the bounds of that particular activity system?" An office for example is a different environment compared to a platoon. Yet putting bullies in their place is not allowed, in fact invites retribution. In the end the victim not only has his personal torturer to contend with but the authorities to boot. The mutual dependency in clustering in fact allows to posit the possibility that anything offered by such an industry will most likely not be the proper response - 'proper' from the perspective of the victim, that is. Some people may not agree, but just like Dr Williams refers to his experience as an observer, this writer has his own, as one of the victims. And so I can say that self-defence works. Not only that: your ranking will have improved too! (Sources: Courier Mail, 19 Jun 12, "Narcissistic bullies must make room for rights and feelings of others", 15 May 12, "Bullies abound in school jobs", 10 Mar 12, "Mean girl culture moving from taunts to violence", 9 Mar 12, "Net thugs in denial over pain they give victims")

For over a month now the protest movement "Occupy Wall Street" has grabbed the headlines. Why wouldn't it: there is a website, there are the thousands who rallied in New York, London, Sydney... and there is the background of financial dislocation across so many areas of society and indeed across societies. No sector could have remained ignorant of #OWS - via the ripples through cyberspace, to readers of the Guardian, to the Sydney Morning Herald middle class, to perusers of the financial media. As broad as the publicity is the focus of the phenomenon. Greed, insularity, disconnect, deprivation; all significant topics but do they serve as a focal point for an initiative? When discontent is the result of a multi-faceted, multi-stranded culture which needed a whole range of causes to come into being, any solution is equally distributed across humanity. The relatively singular elements grow until they reach the stage where they can interact with other functional regions in society, and so the single domains, through their mutual overlaps, merge into a pervasive whole. Under Otoom it is the emergence of functional clusters having an affinity with each other and eventually becoming a meta-domain. The specific contents are not as important as the functionalities underpinning their dynamics. Back in 2003 I wrote, "In the meantime governments are being seen as ineffective weights around the public's neck but manage to preserve their culture amongst the corridors of self-confirming entities. In this age of globalisation their officers have more in common with their colleagues from around the world than with the constituents they are meant to work for, generating the atmosphere of an isolated will to survive, prompting ever more remoteness. There comes a stage when a critical line has been reached, a threshold beyond which the ability to reconnect with the larger system has been lost. It is a point that cannot be recognised; not by the public because the operatives are hidden from them, nor by the members themselves since they have forgone the necessary reference. The only signs are small hints here and there, differing in context maybe but similar in their functional appearance: it comes when basically unconnected members of the public are being recruited to perform for the state's executive. It is a step towards the ultimate resolution of incongruent abstraction levels brought forcefully together - a collapse within the complexity levels of a resource space. The final stage? When the public is arraigned on one side of the street and the troops on the other" ("On the origin of Mind", ch. 16, p. 348). The focus was on laws that have become too oppressive, causing more and more members of the public to react. Although with financial extremes it is more a case of insufficient regulation, the two are not that dissimilar. No laws means a free-for-all, an uncivilised, unprotected environment; too oppressive laws lead to disengagement from the law by the public, therefore effectively the result is once again a law-less atmosphere. For example, ill-considered drug laws do not make for peace but have created highly-geared crime cartels and thousands of dead bodies. The absence of regulatory frameworks in the finance sector has lead to executives paying themselves hundreds of times more than the average worker with their own quality of leadership no factor at all, people loosing their jobs and entire nations at the brink of chaos - the public on one side of the street and the troops on the other. (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Sep 11, "CEO pay: is it out of control?", Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Sep 11, "Paypacket doubles for bosses", Emigrate to Australia, 22 Oct 11, "Wages in Australia", Kyklos Productions, 2004, "Wages in America, 2011: The Rich Get Richer and the Rest Get Less", ACTU, 22 Oct 11, "Executive PayWatch", The Daily Telegraph, 22 Oct 11, "Chief executive pay vs average worker pay: in graphs", CNN Money, 20 Apr 11, "CEOs earn 343 times more than typical workers", Courier Mail, 7 May 11, "Pay soars for top boffins", OccupyWallStreet, 22 Oct 11)

Under Otoom memory represents the latent representative content of some former input that gets modified in terms of additional, affinitive input over the years and is triggered (ie, the memory is recalled) by still other input that is affinitive to that particular cluster (defined by the state of the participating neurons). Latency and recall can also be demonstrated in the OtoomCM program and its versions. Professor Giuliana Mazzoni from Hull University writes in the latest study (reported on 2 Aug 10) that "our most cherished and vivid childhood memories may be nothing but figments of imagination". As Professor Mazzoni says, "Autobiographical memory provides us with a sense of identity and it is usually accurate enough to help us negotiate our lives. But as our study shows, not all that we remember about our past is true. Our research also shows that this phenomenon of non-believed memories is much more frequent than people had imagined. Crucially, if these memories are not challenged by some form of evidence, they would still be considered part of the individual's autobiographical experience". Usually such phenomena are categorised under 'false memory', but according to the Otoom model any memory is essentially a false one since its recall is subject to the notions that evoke it in the first place and since its inception other, more or less affinitive memories have modified it to some degree. The only question is, to what degree has the original representative content been altered. In fact, the very nature of latent representative content requires similar (ie, affinitive) input to be accessed at all. The ramifications are often not recognised for the potentially serious problem they pose. For example, in one experiment, also by Mazzoni, the participants' early childhood memories were tested and successfully modified by a therapist who interpreted their dreams in a negative manner, which in turn prompted the participants to modify their own versions of those memories (the interpretation consisted of being bullied as a child). The result was a fabrication caused by the therapist. In our times tendentious assumptions from the area of psychology or feminism for that matter have seemingly unearthed yet unheard-of trauma in their subjects which are firstly questionable and secondly serve the agenda of the respective ideology.

A study that investigated the income levels of adults and compared them with the degree of popularity they enjoyed during their high school senior year 35 years earlier found a direct relationship between the two; that is, a higher degree of popularity was followed by higher income levels. Popularity was based on the number of friendship nominations received from school mates. Respondents from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) were asked to provide the names of up to three best friends from their class. The researchers identified three main factors that contributed to having friends: the effects of early family life, the proportion of classmates who share similar characteristics with the respondent, and whether they are relatively older and smarter. The ability to establish successful relationships carries over into later life, which in turn results in a higher degree of appreciation by others. Some of those others make the decisions to hire and set the level of income. From the Otoom model's perspective the entire scenario is a function of cluster building, whether inside the mind or within a group. A supportive family environment induces a preference for the development of thought structures that are conducive to behaviour which will be appreciated by others. Individuals tend to form groups in which the members are able to relate to each other in a meaningful way. Older and smarter individuals tend to attract others because the chances of a productive relationship with them are higher. As adults those people are selected for more significant positions (attracting higher incomes) who invite more positive feedback from colleagues including their superiors. The study by Conti et al focuses on content, the actual detail forming the identified characteristics. The Otoom model on the other hand focuses on functionality, behaviour types which through their instantiated patterns give rise to similar conclusions compared to the patterns observed at the beginning. Content analysis is important in order to establish the detail; subsequent analysis based on functionality leads to more productive outcomes since only certain possibilities are explored rather than searching through a general field in a more or less stochastic manner. Hence both have their uses. (Source: Gabriella Conti, Andrea Galeotti, Gerrit Mueller, Stephen Pudney, "Popularity", ISER Working Paper Series, Institute for Social & Economic Research, University of Essex, No. 2009-03 February 2009)

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Washington, released the report Global Trends 2025 - A Transformed World, which analyses the current global state of affairs and presents possible developments on that basis. Under Otoom's perspective the report can be described as being focused on content rather than functionality, since nations and demographics are identified by their name and location first followed by the type of behaviour to be expected, rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, compared with Otoom's 2050: Age of the Silverback there are certain similarities, although 2050 looks further ahead. Most notable is the assertion of growing clusters of common interests, whatever those may relate to; this includes crime syndicates (eg, "Multipolarity without Multilateralism", p. 81, "Proliferating Identities and Growing Intolerance?", p. 86). It results in the emergence of demographics within their own right that can span countries or are restricted to specific locales. In either case they do not answer to the political intent of their host nation. (Source: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Nov 08, "Global Trends 2025 - A Transformed World")

An affinity between domains causes the emergence of clusters. The link can have various sources, from inherent characteristics to shared experiences, to common desires. A confidential survey by the New South Wales Secondary Principals Council found that white students are leaving the public school system mostly to avoid mixing with Muslims or Aboriginals. For example, the percentage of Anglo-European students has decreased by 42 percent in North Sydney and by 37 percent in New England. According to one principal in the Middle Eastern part of Sydney there are no white kids in his school. Some Asian students are scared off by Lebanese enrolments. The Sydney Morning Herald article quotes the various figures at some length. In the Courier Mail article Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says parents should embrace the racial mix and value their child learning about different cultures. The phenomenon in schools is a sign of people responding to their perceptions about other demographics, and the exposure to international and local affairs must surely play a role. If Aboriginal children have consistently proven to be falling substantially below the standards outside their own demographics, and Middle Eastern countries also have lower incidences of literacy and stability overall when compared with Western societies, an autonomous segregation that affects the choice of schools can be expected. The comments by Julia Gillard demonstrate the ideological bent of many politicians. Since marks in school are not awarded for familiarity with another Muslim or Aboriginal kid but are reserved for something more tangible it is only natural that parents seek out better environments. It happens all the time; above average uni students for example will always attract like for forming teams. After all, who in their right mind wants to waste precious time on problematic contributions? (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Mar 08, "White flight leaves system segregated by race", Courier Mail, 11 Mar 08, "Diverse schools precious: Gillard")

For a number of years Queensland has been the destination of interstate migrants. The 'common wisdom' was that people from the south looked for the opportunities the state offered. In some cases this may well have been so, but there is also another side to the coin. There are people who have been dysfunctional to begin with and are under the impression leaving their problems behind would give them a different life. As the statistics show, this is not so. As the state's south bears the brunt of newcomers it has also emerged as the region with the second-highest rates of child abuse, as well as featuring a growing "trade in and use of the drug ice". The Courier Mail headlines it as "ABUSE SHOCK", but considering the aspect of cluster building under the Otoom model it should come as no surprise. Although the recognition of relatively cheaper house prices attracting a certain market does not need the insight Otoom provides, there are other, more subtle, markers with their own affinities. Demographics of a lower standard manifest themselves in several ways, from the looks of a street to the characteristics of amenities to the mien of a people. For that reason slums grow once they have acquired a certain critical mass that allows them to act as attractors. In the case of southern Queensland the number of child abuse notifications was 1174 per 100,000 during the period 2006/7. As a comparison, in the far-northern region which includes many indigenous communities, the number was 849 per 100,000 - particularly significant since it is usually Aborigines who are the focus of the media. The increasing strain on child services is now the subject of a departmental investigation. (Source: Courier Mail, 10 Jan 08, "Abuse Shock")

A study of the spread of obesity among people has found that social factors outweigh other influences. For example, a person's chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if their friend had become obese during the same time span; among siblings the figure was 40%; among spouses the likelihood increased by 37%. The authors also note, "Whereas increasing social distance appeared to decrease the effect of an alter [a person connected to the ego who may influence the behavior of the ego] on an ego [the person whose behavior is being analyzed], increasing geographic distance did not". The findings agree with the dynamics identified under Otoom regarding cluster building, where functional characteristics allow affinity relationships to emerge which in turn prompt and/or emphasise the existence of a cluster of similarly identifiable functional entities. These entities can be the nodes in the matrix of the computer program (OtoomCM, etc), they can be the constituent elements of thought structures, they can be individuals within a demographic or indeed demographics within a society at an even higher scale. The research into the spread of obesity concentrated on object-related phenomena and is therefore relatively narrow-focused; employing a perspective which uses functionalities as under Otoom allows the range of applicability to be widened considerably. (Source: N.A. Christakis, J.H. Fowler, "The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years", New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 357:370-379, Number 4, July 26, 2007, Number 4)

An update on the previous entry on the emergence of slums as a culture in its own right. The Brazilian government announced it will spend $US1.7 billion to provide running water and services to Rio de Janeiro slums to counter the gangs there. "If the state doesn't fulfill its role and does not provide (adequate) conditions for the people, drug traffickers and organised crime will", says President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Rio de Janeiro's state security chief Jose Beltrame says slum residents are "at the mercy of a parallel state, where criminals dictate their will". That's just the point, although probably not in the exact context the government would like to see it (and governments in general for that matter). Demographics that drift away from the cultural markers of their previous host society - for whatever reason - tend to settle into an entity containing similar checks and balances as more 'acceptable' societies; not because of some inherent nobility by its members but because any demographic is a collective of minds functioning in terms of essential cognitive dynamics, regardless of the setting. To those living there their demographics are just as much 'home' as more established configurations are to their inhabitants. Moreover, from a certain critical stage onwards the attempts by outsiders (such as a government for example) are not perceived as a form of help, but are interpreted as an intrusion into one's own affairs. And eventually the gangs - now the established authority - will indeed play the role of rulers: represent the law, provide services, maintain the culture. It is a typical case of affinity relationships played out on a large scale. (Source: Courier Mail, 4 Jul 07, "Brazil declares war on gangs")

anchor arrow Conceptual intersections:
The idea of Islamic slaughter practices summarised by the word 'halal', the concept of Indonesia being a Muslim country, the propensity for human personality types to align with a way of life and/or religion that is affinitive with their specific type - all these are relatively high-level abstractions. The words and ideas only gain their meaning by being linked in the person's mind to the realm of the concrete. In the absence of that connection the response is generally ambiguous. This was the case regarding the above until ABC TV screened a documentary on what it actually means for cattle to be slaughtered in Indonesia, a major recipient of Australian live exports (Four Corners, "A Bloody Business"). For the first time many Australians saw what it looks like when brutish people enact brutish practices and the outcry followed within hours. So much so that the federal government imposed a ban on live exports to Indonesia pending further discussions. This type of killing has been going on all the time, but it took a low-level abstraction (ie, the direct footage) for the meaning to sink in. The killing will go on because no TV program in Australia will change an entire culture and its religion. It worked here because by and large Australia does not adhere to Islam nor does it contain people aligned with its brutality in the first place. The problem with transmitting information across disparate abstraction levels with loss of information occurring happens any time two different individuals or groups or societies represent the source and/or audience. Hopefully some positive outcome, at least on our side, will emerge from that sudden awakening in this case. Yet there are many examples of information loss in other areas of human affairs, and without a low-level abstraction, that is a direct representation of the situation on the ground, Australia's and indeed the Western population's concept of certain other societies remains protected from the real world. How would Australian citizens react if a similar documentary shows what it means to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia - would the average person regard our relationship with that nation in the same more or less accepting light as before? What about caning in Malaysia, or the mutilation between tribes in Africa, or the killing of unacceptable babies right after their birth among indigenous societies? (Sources: ABC TV Four Corners, 30 May 11, "A Bloody Business"; perth now, 8 Jun 11, "We've got to stop treating animals like animals")

Sparked by a suicide in Tunisia the unrest has spread to Egypt and then to Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Oman, to mention only the major locales. The protests have several features in common. They occur in countries ruled by an authoritarian entity where Western-style democratic checks and balances are absent, a significant part of their populations suffer grievances the respective regimes were unwilling to address, their social frameworks are based on tribal affiliations, and their religious background is Islam, an authoritarian belief system in its own right. The protests are expressed through forms of violence such as street battles, looting, or even what amounts to civil war (depending on one's political readiness to call a spade a spade). Verbally however they are couched in demands for 'democracy', 'freedom', 'human rights' and 'popular participation'; all of which are sentiments borrowed from their demographic surrounds where such notions have been implemented in established administrative structures which play their part in the daily life of a society. The temptation exists for members of the latter to regard the shouts for 'democracy' and so on seriously, leading to an expectation that the general unrest will herald a new age of harmony across the Arab world. Unfortunately this is not the case. Rather, we are witnessing a classic scenario of conceptual intersections, where concepts from a region of higher complexity get transposed into areas of a lower kind. In a conceptual environment where the capacity to rule is determined by authoritarianism from one's brand of spirituality down to tribal and familial power bases, such concepts as 'democracy' and 'freedom' are seen as another set of means to power, especially when the rulership has been in someone else's hands. Societal concepts have their own hierarchies, laid down in terms of their respective historical significance. First come family connections, then the tribe, all situated upon the broader grounds of an encompassing religion. Unseat any one of their manifestations and the replacement will be one that adheres to the next higher form with the substitute another version of the one below that was replaced. Tor Hundloe, Professor of Environmental Science and Management at Bond University, in his article "Secularity may not be on agenda" got closest to reality when he argues that the calls for democracy and such have not been born out of a centuries-long movement away from monarchical structures towards ever more representative governance, such as the protest movements in the 60s throughout the West. A republic, a constitutional monarchy, a John Locke are not the elements that inform the agitated masses on the streets of Cairo and Tunis. Not without reason does the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for example see an opportunity to step forward. The dilemma for a West almost obsessed with the Middle East is two-fold: the direct problem of disrupted commerce (just think of oil) as well as its longer-term disposition towards the resultant regimes which remain tied to the fundamentals of their culture, putting them at odds with Western priorities as they have always done. Under those regional circumstances stability will only come when either a new player has stepped forward using the same mechanisms of power to maintain order under the guise of a 'new government', or the existing political elite has managed to re-assert its hold while subduing the dissatisfied. Overall nothing much will have changed, but the West will once again wrangle with a new set of names. (Sources: Courier Mail, 14 Jan 11, "Terrified students trapped", 31 Jan, "Inmates escape as police flee Cairo streets", 16 Feb, "Unrest spreads to Gulf", 18 Feb, "Shi'ite fury at deadly assault", 22 Feb, "Besieged Gaddafi vows fight to 'the last bullet'", 1 Mar, "Secularity may not be on agenda", 5 Mar, "Winds of change in Syria", 9 Mar, "Oman reshuffle")

Barack Obama has announced a tentative exit plan for US troops from Afghanistan while at the same time the rhetoric about that nation's internal problems is ramped up. Mounting dissatisfaction among Americans with the war there and the glaring shortcomings by Afghans set the scene for high-complex planning on the American side against the relatively low-complex cognitive environment in their war zone. Although a rational analysis of local demographics would have revealed the precarious nature of any enterprise there from the very beginning, at least the official tone of US reports could point to the newness of the conflict. Now however, after years of engagement and especially an election that was meant to demonstrate Afghanistan's readiness for the democratic process brought the inherent problems to the surface. Ongoing corruption, lack of commitment and poor military skills, let alone an ill-disciplined administration move the idea of a viable democracy right out of the picture. Yet at the same time the US - and many of its allies - want out. Under the perspective of Otoom one can say the ground is being prepared for the moment when the whole adventure can be called off using the inadequacy of Afghan society as a reason and not loosing too much face in the process. In essence this is nothing new: using a particular negativity as an excuse to remove oneself from a disastrous situation - brought about by having neglected that negativity in the first place - has been done before. Although this type of strategy is fraught with danger, nifty verbiage and effective spin can even endow it with a certain amount of success. Bad memory on behalf of your target audience helps.

One glaring example of how the transference of a high-complexity concept into a low-complexity region ends in disastrous results can be observed during and after the recent elections in Afghanistan. The idea of introducing democracy to an ill-suited demographic has been misconceived from the start. A democratic system needs a relatively high-complexity framework. In general terms its prerequisites are: large-scale functionalities of a sufficiently complex nature, a social horizon spanning an entire nation, emotional and filial detachment from - at times even pressing - issues, an organisational conviviality supporting the political process, and an overall stability allowing all of that to unfold in due course. In Afghanistan we find a smaller social horizon, an excessive emotionalism obsessed with tribal and sectarian demands, aggressive mannerisms spilling over into the political domain, and a cauldron of ideals, expectations and frustrations imposing short-term perspectives on daily affairs. The elections, in a proper democracy a straightforward process, has instead dissolved into a thicket of claims and counterclaims. All of this has been predictable if only the understanding of functional activity patterns had been available and applied. (Source: Courier Mail, 10 Sep 09, "Furore on poll fraud")

Conceptual intersections usually relate to the shifting of data, but the same phenomenon can also be observed when it comes to transfer the results of data, such as technology, from one region of complexity to another. Although somewhat easier to observe, conclusions are not always drawn. An example is the ongoing problem with the Queensland rail system. Railway technology comes from outside demographics, many of which have developed a sophisticated infrastructure in that regard. The more compact Queensland society finds it difficult to translate the demands of a modern railway system into the necessary actions. Yesterday a tilt train smashed into a truck on a crossing with lights only and no boom gates. The train reaches speeds up to 160km/h and the road happened to be the Bruce Highway, a major traffic artery. Yet such is the local mentality that surrounding safeguards are not up to scratch. In an accompanying article some of the other failures besetting the system are listed: a derailment when the train was travelling at 112km/h in a 60km/h zone, trains overshooting red lights, dashboard lights failing and therefore instruments cannot be read, drivers mixing up light signals, and an overall "macho culture" preventing the reporting of safety issues. By the way, the tilt train had been introduced in 1998 (to Queensland), is the first in Australia to travel at 160km/h, and it took seven years to make an automatic train protection system work. (Source: Courier Mail, 28 Nov 08, "Rail horror 'in slow motion'", "Safety record causes concern")

Essentially a conceptual intersection refers to the phenomenon of information being transferred from a high-complexity region to a lower one or vice versa. It is also understood that 'complexity' is a more or less generalised description in itself (for example, in economic terms a demographic may be highly complex, but can be lower with reference to another when it comes to family relationships). One core ingredient of human activity systems is identity, playing a major role in the resultant dynamics within such a system. The current development of the Kosovo issue demonstrates the importance of identity together with the change in perception actualised by the transfer of information. The idealising West sees nothing wrong with a relatively small number of people declaring their independence. Serbia, its own conceptualisation based on an identity reaching back to the 14th century, sees such visions differently. Countries like Spain, Russia, and China are also brought to consider their own minorities for whom Kosovo could well constitute a rallying point. Whatever can be said about Otto von Bismarck, the 19th century Prussian chancellor, he certainly was a realist when it came to the assessment of European relationships. His statement, "Watch out for the Balkans", when lying on his death bed in 1898, may have been apocryphal, but it does hint at an understanding of the historical contingencies found in that region throughout the centuries. As history tells us, he was right. US Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice may well feel it is time for Serbia to move on from an event going back 700 odd years, but does not take into account the character of this particular demographic. Editor-in-Chief Michael Fleischhacker from Die Presse in Austria expresses his misgivings about the predominant attitude in the West and particularly in the EU about the Serbs, an attitude that does not recognise how a people's character can mould itself over the ages. High-flying rhetoric in coffee shops is not a substitute for reality. There are times when underlying concerns as to the wider stability of an area should come to the fore. What is the 'freedom' of a small cluster of people worth when considering the implications for hundreds of millions more? 'Freedom' becomes rather meaningless when a new nation can only exist through constant assistance derived from the resources of others, and now playing a part among the multitude of interests imported from elsewhere. Think of East Timor, and the burden its own so-called independence imposes on entities such as Australia and the UN. In overall terms, the validity of such policies can and will be questioned for decades to come. (Source: Courier Mail, 24 Feb 08, "US tells Serbs not to fan flames", 20 Feb 08, "West backs Kosovo", 19 Feb 08, "Vote heralds final Yugoslavia break-up", Die Presse, 24 Feb 08, "So ist er eben, der Serbe"; and of course the entire history of Serbia)

A scenario that provides an abundant set of samples from which to study the effects of conceptual intersections is in the making right now. A report just released, "Little Children are Sacred", details violent behaviour in remote indigenous communities, with emphasis on children as the victims. The report also includes what is legally termed child sexual abuse. Literally within days the - conservative - federal government under John Howard puts a list of measures together targeting indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Generally speaking they involve a ban on alcohol, taking over the spending of welfare payments, the banning of X-rated pornography, and compulsory health checks for all Aboriginal children. Army personnel and "newly sworn police officers" are on the way to one central Australian town of Mutitjulu. The conceptual background is as follows. Firstly, to my knowledge Middle Eastern religions and/or Christianity are the only mindset anywhere in the world that hunts down what it deems to be sexual deviance with a comparable degree of ferocity. The intent has remained the same throughout the ages, only the implementation changed. Once it meant being burned alive, or ten-year-olds having their limbs torn from the sockets, at other times it meant incarceration, or it could be lobotomy or electric shock treatment. Today religion has combined with feminism which, through claiming ownership of the child per se, has found a convenient support for its own fear of unencumbered eros. Both do what they can under the auspices of the modern judicial system. Secondly, by observing demographics around the world it becomes clear that people have different perspectives and hence perceptions, varying degrees of complexity in their world views, and therefore sometimes vastly differing conceptualisations of reality. Indigenous demographics represent an overall mixture that is less complex than that of their surrounds. Love and hate, honesty and lies, honour and disgrace - they all occur in all of us but are used in varying contexts created by the respective culture. Sexual customs are no exception. There are many studies confirming the sheer variety but in today's climate of neo-conservatism are quietly forgotten (a very small sample: B Malinowski, "Sex, culture and myth", Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962; B Malinowski, "The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia", Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982; SF Nadel, "The Nuba", 1947; M Shostak, "Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman", Penguin Books, 1981; RC Suggs, "Marquesan sexual behavior", Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966). Violence on the other hand, while following similar parallels with cognitive complexity, has never been a secret in any demographic in Australia and yet has always been treated with relative non-chalance. As far as indigenous communities are concerned, violent behaviour as a compact response to a perceived problem could be observed at any time. The claim by the government that adequate information had not been available before does not fit the facts. Personally I was able to witness such incidents - with or without alcohol - in Fremantle, WA (1972), Roebuck, WA (1986), Alice Springs, NT (1986), Mt Isa, Qld (1974), Townsville, Qld (1972), Longreach, Qld (1986), Brisbane-South Brisbane, Qld (1970), Bourke, NSW (1986), Sydney-Redfern, NSW (1985). As for the sexual aspect, according to data collected by Queensland's Child Safety Department for 2005-06, 0.9 per 1000 indigenous children aged 0-17 years have been sexually abused, whereas for non-indigenous children the rate was 0.6 per 1000; with the rider that the data only relate to instances within the family. Nevertheless, it does seem that violence is neither a newly discovered phenomenon, nor are incidents of sexual abuse as defined by law predominantly restricted to indigenous communities. So here we are faced with a conservative Christian cum feminist ruling class, parochial in its outlook towards other demographics, applying itself to a scenario ill-understood and ill-perceived for decades, acting on impulses from its imagery; confronting a different demographic altogether, its world view and mannerisms derived from an ancient past, possessing virtually no affinity with the contingencies of the moderne, yet represented by individuals straddling two cultures and having no intuition for either; combining together to create an intractable situation filled with chimeras and shadows. According to federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough this initiative has no limit in terms of time and money. Army and police forces activated in the service of wooly idealism to set things right in another culture with no formal plan and closure - sounds familiar? And by the way, there is also a federal election coming up. Follow the developments via The Australian, the Northern Territory News, or the Alice Springs News. (Source: Courier Mail, 22 Jun 07, "Black power grab", 23 Jun 07, "Rudd rebuke raps Beattie", 26 Jun 07, "Howard humbled by abuse", "Statistics show backgrounds don't count", 27 Jun 07, "Premier joins in fight", SBS-TV News, 27 Jun 07)

Arguably there is no greater gulf than between indigenous people and present-day Western society. Under Otoom a mindset is defined by the number of members in the system, the members' processing capacity, their connectivity across the system's space, and the information value of the data moving in a feedback loop from the system to its environment and back to the system. Decrease any of those elements and the overall capacity suffers. Indigenous demographics represent human activity systems that are simplistic in terms of their organisational and informational structure, always left behind by the rest of the world where complexity has been increased steadily over the centuries, particularly in the West. Effectively this means the perspective derived by the former will always be different from one formed by the latter. In the West cumbersome methods are devised to overcome such discrepancies, driven by stark reality on one hand and political correctness and its wishful thinking on the other. A classic example is the case of a man from Palm Island (an indigenous community in northern Queensland), who had been killed under controversial circumstances while being taken into custody by a white police officer stationed there. After his death the island erupts into riots with the police station and other buildings burned to the ground, a coronial inquiry is launched which finds the police officer responsible for the death, a private investigator is brought in, the Director of Public Prosecutions finds the officer has no case to answer, a former chief justice reviews the case and finds there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the officer after all, a trial is set, some island residents are found not guilty of rioting and one other is after pleading guilty, another accused rioter is released from jail under strict conditions, and finally the case against the police officer takes place in the State Supreme Court. It ends with a not-guilty verdict. Swirling around the whole affair are commentators who question our standards because it seems a "disgrace" that in the 21st century people who are drunk and behave offensively in public are taken away to watch houses, while not offering any advice on what should be done in such situations (for those who are unfamiliar with local conditions: a drunk individual staggers about, shouts and swears, lunges at passers-by, manages to hit some, others manage to step aside, and in this manner the nuisance proceeds up the street); public infrastructure is evoked to the tune of millions of dollars because no-one is willing to call a spade a spade and everyone needs a conduit that absorbs potential criticism away from them; during the trial smoking ceremonies are held to evoke ancestral spirits of justice and reporters tell their readers solemnly how the mother and father of the dead fly overhead in the form of two eagles - a scenario that in other circumstances would have brought the drug squad with their attack dogs onto the scene. Trying to find solutions while being captive to self-indulgent imagination leads to nowhere, and conceptual intersections are no exception. (Source: Courier Mail, 21 Jun 07, "No winners, just losers from tragic tale", "Jury's call greeted with tears, silence", "How it unfolded")

Sometimes the phenomenon is more subtle, although no less consequential. A system is developed in a high-complex environment and subsequently gets imported into a lesser-complex one. If the import is run under the local conditions a more simplistic interpretation of the system's intent, rules, and potential does not deliver the envisaged outcomes. It is at odds with its host environment and the participants there will suffer because of the discrepancy. In such a case the conceptual intersection does not represent a direct relationship between one and the other demographic, but consists in the product of one and the usage in the other. Examples are the ongoing problems with Queensland Health (a complex health system is run in an atmosphere of authoritarianism and lack of understanding leading to questionable medical treatments and even deaths) and the proximity of toxic industries to housing estates (a lack of appreciation by councils leads to bad planning decisions causing public health issues of a serious nature). Throwing money at these issues is not enough unless the demographic handling the finances has improved. A similar scenario occurs on a global scale when it comes to international aid to collapsed regions. As well-meaning as the intent by altruists may be, a demographic that is dysfunctional to begin with does not raise its complexity through the injection of millions of dollars. Rather, the activity systems there will absorb those funds and scale-up existing power structures and ambitions, but on the same complexity level as before. The situation has now degenerated further. (Source: Courier Mail, 1 Jul 06, "It's still sick", 3 Jul 06, "Housing approved near toxic estate", 1 Jul 06, "Poverty pact fails")

Conceptual intersections on a large scale can be seen in the difference of perceptions between Islamic countries and the West, particularly as it applies to the "war on terror". This was reflected in a recent interview with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia. At the Peace Forum he described the conflict as the "4th World War". The perception by the US and its allies that a military show of force in Iraq can somehow instill the concept of democracy as envisaged in the West does not lead to the creation of similar governmental and administrative structures, let alone a commensurate cultural mirror. Rather, the initiative is translated into a construct situated within the realm of Middle Eastern/Islamic interpretation in general and its local detail in particular, drawing on associative events surrounding Israel, Afghanistan, and so on. Since both sides do not modify their respective views, any action by one party is adding further fuel to the need to confirm the other's perspective under its own auspices. Under such circumstances neither a short nor long term solution is possible. (Source: ABC-TV Foreign Correspondent interview, broadcast 27 Jun 06)

anchor arrow Drugs:
The US states of Colorado and Washington legalised the personal use of cannabis. A study released in October 2012 by the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness found that Mexico's drug cartels could lose as much as 30 percent of their revenue if three US states pass such legislation, although other sources put the figure between 15 and 26 percent. Drug cartels don't just deal in cannabis of course. Nevertheless, it is an indication of what to expect once the use of illegal drugs is legalised. As the report notes, "Mexico's cartels would lose $1.425 billion [US] if the initiative passes in Colorado, $1.372 billion if Washington votes to legalize, and $1.839 billion if Oregon approves its ballot measure". For moralists anything beyond their ideals is off the table, but the dynamics of systems demonstrate the need for a system, any system, to sustain itself during its life cycle. To render a system useless, either the system needs to be destroyed to a sufficient degree or its sustenance is undermined - an inescapable lesson learned when studying any eco-system in nature. In the case of complex dynamic systems the first option is virtually impossible due to the sheer interdependence of such entities. Yet this is exactly the policy pursued over the past decades at great cost and with the loss of thousands of lives, the majority of which did not even include the actual targets.

A report just released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy argues that the global war on drugs has failed and illegal drug use should be decriminalised. The commission includes former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former US official George Schultz, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Columbia and British businessman Richard Branson. Quite apart from the debilitating societal effects on any demographic that encounters repressive measures by its overall society, which are furthermore perpetuated beyond its immediate radius due to that very demographic's situatedness within their host, such moralism actually enhances the criminal element; the effect is multiplied many times over in today's climate of globalisation. The more aggressive the measures, the wilder the character of those who are willing to counter them. It is a fundamental aspect of biological systems. Without that moral idealism, especially coming from the US, the Mexican and South American crime syndicates would merely be a few thuggish village yokels, billions of dollars would not escape Western economies, and the Taliban could never afford the sophisticated weapons directed against our soldiers. As far as the relatively small number of individuals is concerned that does succumb to the negative effects of drug use (illegal or otherwise), in terms of functional dynamics under the Otoom model that result can be seen as a regulatory process taking the place of dangers which weeded out the weak in previous times when pre-industrial society did not have the modern-day safeguards in place. Such a form of discrimination started at birth and continued with coming-of-age rituals and beyond that ensured the members of society were strong enough to ensure survival. It's a matter of maintaining the natural balance, as environmentalists would say. The West's current obsession with 'helping' at any cost has led to societies emaciated by mental problems, physical shortcomings such as obesity, and an increasing inability to maintain themselves in daily life. On the other hand, it makes room for cultures that have not embarked on such a path of self-destruction. (Source: Courier Mail, 3 Jun 11, "Drugs war 'has failed'")

In 2001 Portugal decriminalised drugs and now a report commissioned by the Cato Institute and released in April reveals that the policy worked. The nation has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in the EU, lifetime heroin use in the 16-18-year age group decreased, new HIV infections fell and death related to heroin and similar drugs decreased as well. Furthermore, the money saved on law enforcement was used to fund rehabilitation programs. Glenn Greenwald, who conducted the research is quoted as saying, "Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success". Under the Otoom mind model prohibition works if the reasons given tally with the perception by the target audience; so much so that in such cases prohibition does not actually perform a regulatory role but rather an informative one. If however perception differs then the reasons for the difference need to be taken into account and go as far as mitigating the threat posed by the accompanying judicial process. When it comes to drugs the factors relate to the innate nature of the nervous system, encompassing the desire for pleasure, the attraction of challenge, and the exploratory function of the mind. Pressure by the establishment can actually enhance the significance of those factors depending on the inherent characteristics of a given demographic. Disregarding those dynamics lead to other effects as well: an increased pressure on the resources needed by society at large, a narrowing of political options even if not directly related to drugs per se, and disrespect for the rule of law which, after all, is meant to hold a society together. Under those circumstances the law does not support but constrain, with constantly added resources required to make it work. (Source: Time, 26 Apr 09, Maia Szalavitz, "Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?")

In a book just published John Rainford provides a historical background to legal and illegal drugs, touching upon medical, political, military, financial and moral aspects. The scope allows him to draw connections between a drug's medical purpose, its growing attractiveness to organised medicine, and the eventual capital derived from political character assassinations of certain demographics and the resultant justification construed under moralistic auspices. The historical and financial data speak for themselves, and Rainford uses the evidence to conclude that ultimately perception is allowed to override the facts. The direct relationship between increased illegality and heightened spread and/or increased potency of any drug type becomes clear and leads to the conclusion that a declared illegality does not have the purpose of lessening any negative effects a particular drug may have but serves the interests of those for whom the added value represents an advantage. Those interests reach across society at large, from crime syndicates, militias, professional bodies, to governments. Under Otoom the same case is presented, using the mind model in terms of affinity relationships and cognitive clusters at any scale to demonstrate the growth of particular sentiments that tend to acquire a life of their own. Such dynamics are not based on logic and reason, but derive their sustenance from the principles underpinning such affinities. (Source: John Rainford, "Consuming Pleasures - Australia and the International Drug Business", Fremantle Press, Fremantle, 2009)

Going by certain feedback on the drug issue and the perspective adopted under Otoom (the previous entry was not the first time this theme has been explored) I thought it necessary to provide an addendum, not to be more specific but to actually widen the scope. There are many initiatives which in the West have been gradually added with the intent to address certain problems as they have been perceived. How we ended up dealing with drugs is only one of those measures. Against the background of the issues mentioned before (ie, climate change, terrorism, migrations, etc) - I left out peak oil - it becomes increasingly apparent that those initiatives may well be seen as luxuries we could afford to pursue because we had the resources to do so (just think of the proliferation of laws). With a shrinking resource base however the pressure to revisit our erstwhile assumptions will rise, not only in terms of sheer budgetary constraints but also in the context of cultural norms and priorities. Just as in times of war a nation sets a different agenda than in peace time, so will the not-so-distant future demand a more dramatic discrimination between what we would like to have and what we know we must, and can, have. Add to that the sheer scale of the shift (global reach, diversity of demographics with their own priorities, an increasing world population) and the utter extent of the problem becomes clear. However well-deserved the initiatives and/or regulations may have been (and not all of them are on equal footing) they are a mark of an essentially rich society. What is defined as 'rich' or 'well-deserved' is bound to undergo a profound re-evaluation in the decades to come. Or, to put it differently, everything has a cost; everything.

anchor arrow Dysfunctional demographics:
The debacle surrounding the Queensland Health payroll system has been described as "one of the nation's greatest failures in public administration". What was once expected to be an upgrade of an outdated computer software costing $98 million (according to the successful tender by IBM) has turned into a massive blowout to the tune of $1.2 billion, and even today it still swallows $140 million per year of tax payers' money. Staff was paid not at all, not paid enough, or paid too much, at one stage payrolls had to be managed manually. Eventually this led to an inquiry by Richard Chesterman, QC. One of the most remarkable findings by the inquiry was the continuing attempt by relevant individuals to protect themselves and each other, so much so that despite the price tag of $5 million the inquiry did not result in any legal charges to be laid, although it was extended by several months (yet did not ask for extra funds, it has to be said). A demographic like Queensland's featuring relatively low educational levels, a population spread over a vast area with few centres of any kind of expertise leading to incestuous relationships, is a prime candidate for self-serving cliques. Their members can get away with much that otherwise would be subject to an effective response. There is a pattern. In 1999 The Queensland Government received the findings by an inquiry into child abuse by religious and state-run institutions. Allegations referred to girls being beaten, held under water, and branded in the back with a red-hot poker to "exorcise the Devil". The inquiry, run by Leneen Forde, once Governor of Queensland and Chancellor of Griffith University since 2000, was only able to result in few successful criminal persecutions. In 2008, when Griffith's Vice-Chancellor Ian O'Connor was found to have approached Saudi Arabia for funding the university's Islamic Research Unit, Chancellor Forde defended him as well as his - verbatim and unreferenced - use of text from Wikipedia to justify his actions. And in 2012, when the University of Queensland found itself under focus because a student had complained about unfair treatment, Barrister Greg Williams described a "culture of fear" at the university and a lack of accountability across government departments, the university and the Crime and Misconduct Commission. While demographics with their own characteristics are largely immune to drastic changes due to their very nature, any attempt at some mitigation should have at least the mechanisms to affect the desired change. Not so in closed systems of the mutually-supporting kind, as these examples show. (Sources: Courier Mail, 10 Aug 13, "Paying, paying for the payroll", 30 Mar 98, "Neerkol fallout lingers: sisters", 25 Aug 00, "Abuse victims left out in cold", 29 Apr 08, "University's defence straight off Wikipedia", 27 Jan 12, "Culture of fear holding back whistleblowers")

In his article "How to blow a billion dollars" Des Houghton reports on recent findings by a Senate Foreign Affairs committee investigating Australia's reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. It found "Australia's efforts were blighted by bribery and corruption in allocating contracts and jobs". This is not the first time the results of interactions between a Western-style system of administrative organisation and another beset by tribalism, sectarian factions, religious obsession and high emotionalism has been highlighted on these pages. The list demonstrates - once again - what cognitive dynamics mean on the ground. For example, schools were built with teachers who cannot even read, where girls were prevented by the Taliban from attending, where a mosque was built but stayed empty because it was built by Australians, and in general the country being described as a "God-forsaken nation living in poverty and traumatised by decades of war". Of course, a more insightful investigation would have revealed that a demographic running under the rule set of warrior tribes answering to an intense religiosity would not be able to create a functional nation to begin with, and that a state of war is the default, never mind the last few decades. Despite it all Australia's aid is increasing and is likely to reach $1 billion in coming years. This policy has never been subjected to a direct and comprehensive mandate from the people, from which those sums are taken in addition to the lives of our soldiers lost on a continual basis. To have politicians from the prime minister down reciting their mantra with a stony face of how we have to accept such sacrifice, on behalf of those who actually did lose a brother, a son, or a father in war is simply breath-taking. Way back in 1827 Carl von Clausewitz, in his papers later collated under the title "On War" by his wife Marie von Clausewitz, wrote about war as a continuation of a political process, about the problem of not only disarming but changing the will of one's opponent, and the inherent ambiguity of peace. To quote only once, "the motives to peace on both sides will rise or fall on each side according to the probability of future success and the required outlay". It seems many very important lessons have not been learned. (Source: Courier Mail, 6 Jul 13, D. Houghton, "How to blow a billion dollars"; C. von Clausewitz, "On War", The Project Gutenberg EBook of On War, EBook #1946, 2006)

Any human activity system relies on its innate cohesion as well as it synchronisation with its surrounds to function. If a society is wracked by dissent and internal incoherence its stability will be compromised. Libya is one example where its members are unable to form a cohesive whole. The only way such a system can maintain itself is through a strong government that is capable of suppressing the volatile factions. After the removal of Muammar Gaddafi - a phenomenon alluded to as the "Arab spring" by a naive West - the field was left open for the turbulence to manifest. The latest report mentions over 3000 surface-to-air missiles unaccounted for, and the entire country has become a "weapons supermarket for terrorists". Although the previous dictator is gone, the pro-active, violent face of Islam makes good use of any military hardware the West has so generously provided. (Source: Courier Mail, 18 Jun 13, "Missiles missing")

The video which showed a Syrian rebel cutting out and eating the organs of a soldier caused outrage. As gruesome as such a display is in any case, part of the emotion would have been due to the idea about the Syrian opposition held in the West - innocent people suffering from oppression and cruelty. That may well be true to some degree, but considering the dynamics of complex systems (including human society) the interdependency among their members must be taken into account. In other words, often violent behaviour by one party is, if not triggered then certainly exacerbated, by some other. In the case of the Middle East many oppressive regimes exist because without such authority the nation would disintegrate into factions (Iraq is one example). In the West some quarters have adopted the attitude of seeing the oppressed as guiltless by default and the oppressors as deserving all the blame. As a consequence of such thinking it cannot be imagined that victims could be just as cruel once given the chance. Joseph Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council, writes about the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ostensibly a vehicle for pointing out human rights abuses by the Assad government, but having shown disregard for the presence of al-Qa'ida groups operating in the country, among other examples of malice. He mentions the al-Nusra Front as part of the rebels, revealed as a branch of the state of Iraq, it having been declared a terrorist organisation by the US State Department in December. By the way, the irony of such an outfit emerging from a country seemingly liberated by the US should not escape an objective observer either. (Sources: Courier Mail, 16 May 2013, "Soldier defends cannibal atrocity"; 17 May, J. Wakim, "Doubts raised over legitimacy of who speaks for Syrians")

Despite the idealistic expectations by many in the West the situation in Libya is not improving. The UN Security Council has raised new concerns about arms going to neighbouring countries and thousands of detainees held in secret by the militias. As pointed out on several occasions under the Parallels section the romantic notion of a quest for liberty in removing former dictator Gaddafi is ill-founded when considering the type of demographics in existence there. Sectarianism, religious obsession, and the striving for power for its own sake have merely replaced on oppression with another. And the West even assisted. (Source: Courier Mail, 16 Mar 13, "Libya")

Ian McPhedran writes in the Courier Mail about the results of the Iraq war ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. To quote, "A decade, tens of thousands of lives and between $1 trillion and $2 trillion later, Iraq's fledgling democracy teeters on the brink of a sectarian cliff and the nation's massive oil reserves remain largely untapped". From the very beginning former Australian Defence Force chief General Peter Gration was against Australia joining the US in the war, and he was not alone; former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, ex-army chief General John Sanderson and former Defence secretary Paul Barratt shared his opinion and at the time demanded an independent inquiry. Macquarie terrorism expert Clive Williams describes the invasion as a terrible mistake. He said it allowed the Taliban to regroup, remain in existence and creating a "huge refugee problem". As well, sectarianism is still rife between Sunni and Shia. Quite apart from any detailed knowledge about the particular situation on the ground there, the same conclusion could be reached by analysing the type of demographics the US and its allies were and are dealing with. No culture has ever been fundamentally changed by outside military force, and from a certain scale onwards its members merely adjust their behaviour to accommodate the current contingencies. It also would be a reasonable question how many of the electorate have a clear concept what 1 trillion (ie, 1,000,000,000,000 in short scale countries such as the US) actually means. Two US professors of public health cite figures from the website costofwar.com and estimate the ultimate cost could be as high as $US3 trillion with $US810 billion spent so far, arguing the money could have been better spent on domestic and global programs to improve health. To put this into context, according to the US Census Bureau "State and County Quick Facts", the per capita income in the past twelve months was $US27,915, the population numbered 313,914,040 with 14.3% living below poverty level, which amounts to 44,889,708 people (!). Therefore over 29 million people - more than half of those below poverty level - could have received the per capita income for an entire year if one uses the 810 billion as base figure, and that's not counting the cost of lives lost and the deteriorating political and military situation in the area and elsewhere. (Sources: Courier Mail, 16 Mar 13, "Treasure and blood lost for little in Iraq", "Professors count high cost of war")

On the 6 March 2013 PBS Newshour aired an interview with Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Out of US$60 billion $8 billion were wasted (as he mentioned in the report, there are three definitions: (1) fraud - "...is the intentional wrongdoing by persons seeking to enrich themselves", (2) waste - "...is the product of poor planning and weak controls", (3) abuse - "...is bad management", report page 1, hence the $8 billion refer to one category only). Although the circumstances listed in the report are virtually synonymous with what has already been described under "Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report" and "Notes on Where is Iraq heading? Lessons from Basra", the specific information and the context are different this time, so the findings are worth mentioning here. The Iraq reconstruction was the largest such enterprise undertaken by the US, costing the US taxpayer $60 billion, only to be superseded now by Afghanistan (p. ix). On the latter $90 billion have been spent so far, as Bowen confirmed in the PBS interview. Despite the efforts by the US and its allies, by 2007 the US "very nearly lost Iraq" because it was "in the throes of a virtual civil war" (p. xi). "Corruption daunted Iraq in the Saddam era, and it continued to dog the country after his fall" (p. 102). "Throughout 2006, Iraq fell further into deadly chaos" (p. 43). What this meant on the ground can be gleaned from the following paragraphs: "When Coalition forces entered Iraq, they found the country in much worse condition than pre-war planners anticipated. Indeed, it is not a stretch to say that Iraq was broken before the invasion." "The widespread looting following the invasion devastated the country's infrastructure. Looters ransacked government buildings, stole munitions from military depots, robbed and destroyed banks, ravaged oil-sector facilities, ripped apart electrical systems, and incapacitated most of Iraq's 192 state-owned enterprises. This indiscriminate pillaging caused billions of dollars in damage, provided weapons for insurgents, and destroyed hopes that Iraq's public institutions and critical infrastructure could quickly resume operations" (p. 72). This is in line with Otoom where an interference from the outside does not change the set of functional elements within a demographic, only triggering responses in line with those characteristics. What the 'surge' effectively has done is provide a further input from the US/Western side such that the existent subsystems settled into a form that was suitable for local consumption, and the only way to achieve this was through injection of massive funds - whether well-managed or not hardly made a difference; in fact, given the chaotic nature of the society, a steadfast and firm regimen of accountability would probably inflame more minds and hearts than a system of black-market bribery with which the society had been familiar over centuries already. Not that the funds were all that well-managed anyway. For example, a convicted felon is tasked with overseeing and disbursing hundreds of millions in construction funds, and bribes and kickbacks with overseas bank accounts were used (p. 6); military officers, even a lieutenant colonel participated in fraudulent schemes (p. 52). Regardless what the moral fibre of these individuals had been to begin with, to place an entire army into an environment where bribery is a way of life is bound to produce certain results. In the face of such entanglements the offical response is often a convoluted phraseology which is also reflected in the organisational framework of the players. The following flowchart (p. 45) illustrates the extent to which that can evolve: US Embassy Org Chart Note the remarks by the author: "It was not always clear who was in charge of the reconstruction effort" - a rather good example of dry humour. Also interesting is the use of the somewhat putative 'should' and 'would' in the closing section of the report which is meant to present an optimistic outlook for the future (p. 121 onwards). The underpinning mindset producing such outcomes can be traced to a considerable naivité, to super power arrogance, new-age ideology that does not admit to differences among the world's populations, and lack of character on all sides - and last but not least, a Western electorate that has no idea what life is like outside its own comfort zone.

At present the Carmody Inquiry into child protection in Queensland is taking place. Its final report is due on 30 April 2013. While there are issues derived from largely administrative and organisational factors, as far as Otoom's approach to society as a system is concerned, some of the presentations point to considerable systemic problems. Children and teenagers who come to the attention of the authorities (a process which in itself often raises questions) are put into state care, which means placing them in residences that are run by private companies which take care of the daily necessities such as cooking, cleaning, washing, transport, and so on. This costs more than $1000 per child per day. One youth - who turns 17 this year - and lives in a home costing $800,000 per year altogether has told the inquiry he can do what he wanted and the staff were there to serve him. He also knew no-one was allowed by law to physically touch him. In another case a nine-year-old girl managed to smash her home over a two-day period (including suitable rest periods during the operation). She was taken to hospital, discharged and returned to the home where she resumed the destruction. "All the walls were punched in, all the furniture broken," her carer said. The girl's final act was to turn on a tap and flood the house. The staff was powerless to do anything about it. In her column Madonna King from the Courier Mail relates other instances where 14- and 15-year-old boys are so bored with their large-screen TVs and video games they stir up their carers just to have some fun, all the while knowing nothing can happen to them. In terms of human activity systems such occurrences represent members who have been imbued with a status that does not reflect their functional value to society but rather an artificially construed aura. That aura is the result of several strands coming together: the perception of a delinquent as a 'victim' requiring 'protection' (while disregarding possible causes such as dysfunctional parents), the infusion of the female mindset into wider society under feminism (applying the role of 'mother' and 'carer' from the home to the public arena where reality holds sway), the adoration of the child as a product of the 'mother goddess' and therefore demanding genuflection, and the current obsession with sex and under-age where any slightest connotation in this regard is feared so much that willful destruction is seen as the lesser evil (see "The not so hidden costs of feminism"). No society can survive that hands over its control to children, regardless of what this or that ideology may prescribe. Authority given to elements that are inherently unable to exercise reason and circumspection undermine their host in a fundamental manner. It is the major reason dictatorships never survive for long. As the Carmody Inquiry shows, the witless squandering of public funds on dysfunctional members is yet another step towards the scenario depicted in "2050: Age of the Silverback". (Sources: Courier Mail, 5 Feb 13, "Teen's shock care insight", 8 Feb, "Girl in care logs $15,000 rampage bill", 9 Feb, M King, "Child protection treated as joke")

Wenzel Michalsk from the Human Rights Watch in Germany comments on the disturbances in the Middle East. He mentions the high hopes many in the West had when the revolutions started, giving rise to the label 'Arab Spring'. Its positive connotations have to be re-framed now that the volatile and ideology-driven nature of these demographics has once again come to the fore. Under the Otoom mind model the current image was created by romantically tinged optimists who transposed their interpretation of Western politics into other demographics, disregarding their culture, history, and character. Therefore that optimism had never been entertained because observing the events under the auspices of specific functionalities the uprisings can be identified not as a search for democracy but as ideological groups fighting for supremacy in the absence of an overarching authority. See under "Global politics" and "Role of governments in society" on this page. (Source: DW-TV, broadcast on SBS-TV 1 Feb 13)

In Queensland the unions are planning massive strike actions to protest against the state government's drastic cutbacks in the public service. In Spain tens of thousands have protested in 80 cities while the government announces details of a 100 billion euro financial assistance agreement. In Afghanistan the Haqqani network poses a substantial threat to the US' operation and its relationship with Pakistan. The network also engages in a Mafia-style financing system that supports its activities in the region. Consider the wider picture here. Over the past decades Western governments have given in to various interest groups and channeled money into activities which were rather indulgent than necessary. Nobody stood up to those demands and sooner or later the money runs out and drastic curtailments are put in place. People don't like their comforts taken away and disturbances follow as a matter of course. Any human activity system creates opportunities for some, problems for others; it depends on one's taste or disposition. Some of the Afghani demographics have made use of the disturbance created by US foreign policies and a subsystem emerges that is in line with the functionalities of tribalism, religion and a warrior culture. By doing so the other side is forced to incur an even greater drain on its resources, all the while feeding the very systems it is trying to subdue, because the conditions are just the ones conducive to the enemy in the first place. All this represents the type of scenario already described in "2050: Age of the Silverback". While something like the Haqqani network is not mentioned there, the principle dynamics (government overspending, upheavals within populations, groups making use of whatever contingencies present themselves) have been presented to illustrate what they eventually amount to. Although we still have a few years to go until we reach 2050 the trend lines are set. (Source: Courier Mail, 3 Aug 12, "Strikes too damaging, unions told"; "Terror group sees war as big business")

According to Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Graham Rynders the demographic of motorcycle gangs is changing. Today they are more likely to be Middle Eastern or from the Balkans, and their business is drugs, extortion and standover. Their tribal nature makes them "extremely dangerous". In terms of the Otoom model the development represents an example of affinities manifested in a societal environment that accentuates itself through its innate difference from the host society. The first hints came during the 1980s when largely Lebanese gangs moved into the eastern suburbs of Sydney, attacking businesses and harassing people on the beaches. The riots in Cronulla at the end of 2005 were the result of whole suburbs erupting in anger at those infiltrations. They were not a display of racism as obsessively reported by the mainstream press, rather a proof of that area's tolerance since it took over a decade for people finally to explode in the absence of any action from the police and politicians (search for "The Sydney riots on the 11 Dec 05" further down this page). Middle Eastern demographics are characterised by a relatively higher degree of tribalism and a religion which underlines being different. Disregarding such functional markers makes for a naive response to these societies engaging in their usual turmoil on the international scene, and for a deterioration within a society since the factors are not discriminated against. What makes the presence of those demographics in a place like Australia even more problematic is the absence of appropriate checks and balances which would dampen their effectiveness within their original culture. We do not have the necessary brutality here, nor do local decision makers understand what this means. (Source: Courier Mail, 30 Apr 12, "The new breed of bikie 'a law unto himself'")

Over the last few days Brisbane has experienced a number of violent attacks by gangs on individuals and businesses. The police has identified the gangs as largely composed of youths and children and has set up a special unit, called Task Force Perpetual. Around thirty suspects are being tracked thought to be responsible for over 190 crimes in the past six months. One shop owner is fortifying his business by installing "16 security cameras inside, 16 outside, mesh on the windows, bars and bollards". He is not the only one resorting to such measures. One of the Otoom model's strength is to identify a demographic in terms of its manifested functionalities, which then can be used to cross-refer to each other's characteristics. In this case the appearance of one of those shops tells the observer something about the social nature of the locale, and the general nature of that demographic leads to the justified assumption of having the appropriate response reflected in the establishments situated there. While this may seem trivial (a violent suburb has fortified shops, and fortified shops exist in a violent suburb), for an outsider the mutual relationship is not given at first glance. Yet functionalities and what they stand for do allow such informative conclusions to be made. A traveller can make use of this methodology to arrive at useful insights about the type of society they happen to be in. Simply walk through their streets, enter shops and observe how the inside is arranged. How the goods are displayed, how they are sectioned across the shelves, which are more accessible than others, and, most importantly, how the counter and the place of payment has been constructed (open, behind a grille, a cash register even out of sight altogether, access from the rest of the space, etc). That alone speaks volumes about the overall characteristics of the people inhabiting the area. What functionalities do not reveal at that point are the reasons why they have come into being, and a more comprehensive picture emerges once the wider strata in a demographic together with the rest of society are taken into account. There may be poverty as a function of bureaucratic mismanagement but also the diminished capacities of citizens, a heightened emotional intensity leading to exacerbated responses to negative situations in general, and the tendency towards irrationality when attached to a form of religion. They could equally emerge as a result of parental lethargy and dissolution, a feminist reluctance to stand up to the whims of the Child, and a wider unwillingness to confront the undermining vicissitudes of unmitigated individualism. In Brisbane's case its population pays; at the higher scale of societies industrialised nations pay when an ongoing stream of resources are poured into areas of lesser capacity. (Source: Courier Mail, 11 Apr 12, "Under Siege"; 12 Apr 12, "Police to focus on violent robberies"; 14 Apr 12, "Gunshots roar in week of violence")

The US Democrats have issued a report about the country's foreign aid to Afghanistan. Over the last ten years about US$18.8 billion has been spent and that nation is nowhere near shaping up to the stable democratic ideal envisioned by the US and its allies. Apart from the sheer zeal that would be necessary for anyone to be prompted to change an entire culture, surely one of the steps to take before any investment takes place would be to ascertain the conditions prevailing on the other's side. In this case religious obsession, tribal affiliations and emotional intensity are all factors which mitigate against an atmosphere conducive to a democratic system, with its need for a bureaucratic framework, organisational fairness and an intellectual scope that extends across society and not just to one's immediate tribe. If after ten years' worth of such massive spending the ultimate outcome of that exercise is in so much doubt that right now the foreign military still needs to be there to "save" the locals from themselves, reality does suggest that here is one locale where romantic idealism does not work. As this report shows once again, taking the time to analyse a demographic in terms of cognitive dynamics can save even billions. (Source: Yahoo! news, 8 Jun 11, "Senate report: Afghanistan's economy at risk")

One of the most significant features of complex systems is the sheer interdependency of their subsystems. Even size doesn't matter so much, rather it is the affinity of one dynamic element in relation to some other/s that determines the former's influence across the whole. Hence relatively small events can influence the rest provided a connection exists (that's the reason fashions emerge out of nowhere). On one day Brisbane's Courier Mail ran four articles, each independent from the others as such but nevertheless containing functional elements (those subsystems) that together influence the fabric of Australian society. The first informed us that the Navy is forced to reduce their activities due to budget cuts. Two "key emergency response ships" are unable to go on duty, officers have been told to cut speeds to save fuel and for the first time the new entry officer course has to be conducted on a New Zealand Navy ship for lack of space on one of its own. For an island continent like Australia the problem is not exactly trivial. Article 2 concerned the country's skills crisis with the prospect of having to import skilled labour from overseas. Over the past years education and training had been sufficiently neglected for the mining boom and the coming wave of baby boomer retirements to become critical for the whole economy. Don Matthews, outgoing president of the Australian Industry Group, is quoted as saying, "Too many Australians do not have even the language, literacy and numeracy skills of a level sufficient to meet the demands of the modern economy". The issue is not new. Back in 1987 an enquiry was held into Australia's immigration policies against the background of a competitive future. This author made a submission pointing to the advance in technology and complexity and therefore the need to prepare the country accordingly (the submission was written under the pen name of Peter Wenger in the context of a newsletter dealing with issues of contemporary interest during that time). Now, over twenty years later, the problem still exists. The third article concerns the rising rate of developmental shortcomings in young children because TV and DVDs are often used as a substitute for parental interaction. "Seattle Children Research Institute researcher Dr Pooja Tandon said television viewing among pre-schoolers had been linked to speech delays, aggressive behaviour and obesity". Here the situation is no different. Article 4 deals with the difficulties of establishing tourist ventures in far north Cape York because indigenous tribes are unable to come to a common agreement due to their mutual rivalry; "But the whiff of money and deep age-old tensions between rival clans over tribal boundaries threatens to thwart the project before it has even begun". Yet Peter Michael, the Courier Mail's North Queensland correspondent, nevertheless enthuses about the mystical forests, canyons and falls and how the ancient customs "cleanse the soul" and sees the "songlines up to three mountain rocks, shaped like sperm whales". Evidently those profound emotions were not enough for the local tribes to settle their territorial issues over the centuries. - A society represents a human activity system on a large scale and its overall character is formed by many strands. Negativity in one influences the wider system and due to the power of affinity relationships can even exacerbate the effect of the first. Sub-standard education leads to an inability to keep up with the new, makes for uninformed parents who in turn bring up dysfunctional children. Feminism with its biased demands on society unsettles the gender equilibrium producing fantasy-laden women who change the nature of the family, leaving unprepared off-spring in their wake. Children lacking in confidence grow into similar adults and the resultant men are unable to confront the gender-based demands placed on society causing resources to be squandered on myths while reality has to wait. The money has to come from somewhere and even the armed forces have become a target for budget cuts. A reduced military weakens the nation's stature overall and, combined with shortcomings in education, diminishes the population's ability to distinguish realism from nonsense where even thousand-years' old superstitions manage to displace the interests of the wider society. A lack in rationality makes it that much harder to understand what a good education means and the relevant policies are a reflection of such decay. And on it goes. (Source: Courier Mail, 30 Oct 10, "Navy half-steam ahead in battle of the budget", "Come on down", "Playful toddlers in TV trap", "Tribe tussle stalls tourist trek")

The previous entry concerned the general state of dysfunctionality in a society that should know better. Overall features are a combination of the large and the small, interdependently forming the whole. So, here is a scene observed while sitting at a coffee shop in West End on a weekday afternoon. A young mother walks along with her five or six-year-old son and their dog - nothing else. Still, the kid wears a helmet for protection. As he skips past a table he leans over and starts licking the candle holder put there by the staff of the coffee shop. Now: the little boy is old enough to walk, run, and jump. Yet he is made to wear protective head gear and thus kept in a state of lingering immaturity, such that despite his ability to move around and explore he is stupid enough to lick an object he just happens to come across. Q.E.D.

A Four Corners program, titled "Crime Incorporated", examined the increasing sophistication and international spread of organised crime in relation to illegal drugs. Despite the efforts by police in Australia and overseas the growth of crime has been substantial and the availability of drugs has not diminished, quite the opposite in fact. As Jim O'Brien, former Detective Inspector Purana Task Force, Victoria Police, said on the program, "You'd have to be kidding yourself if you thought you'd be getting any more than probably 10 or 15% off the street". Under the perspective of Otoom none of this is surprising. To begin with, the idea that behaviour officially classified as 'illegal' can be exterminated by a police force is a myth. If such behaviour represents the exceptional action by some individuals here and there police can and do act as a social cleaner, nothing more. On the other hand, should that behaviour pervade a substantial part of society any regulatory force becomes ineffective simply because the resources required cannot be committed (authoritarian regimes have tried and ultimately failed; consider the policies by the Nazis, the East Germans, Stalinist and/or Communist Russia, Pol Pot, etc etc). Either the police force (or whatever it may be called) is too small to penetrate the entire society and therefore niches can and will form that mitigate its attempts at control, or the ratio of police to citizen is so small that the former has become virtually part of the citizenry and is therefore too close to act as its enemy. Add the scale of profits to be made (caused by the drugs' illegality and attractiveness) and the advantage lies with society and its criminals. Furthermore, whatever a society is capable of in terms of sophistication and technology will naturally be made use of by everyone, crime syndicates included; how can it be otherwise. As is common with social problems on that scale, their sources sustaining them are not restricted to the issue per se. Over the last few decades a mind set has emerged that is obsessed with correcting the chronic mistakes made by individuals regardless of the latter's ability to take personal responsibility. At the same time, discipline and achievement have become qualities left aside as largely inconsequential to the overall character of a nation. Combine the two and we get ongoing efforts to pour a continuing stream of resources into areas that are incapable of a response, and those demographics are given the opportunity to continue their destructive influence in our midst while those that do not allow their lives to be destroyed are disregarded. We have arrived at the ironic situation (if that's the word) where the innocent and the productive are increasingly burdened with the effects of dysfunctionality while at the same time society's failures are uselessly supported. The natural weeding-out process in which nature takes care of failures has been stymied. As that process is ameliorated by a society due to its technological power and hence its ability to keep old dangers at bay, it becomes the duty of that society to consciously make room so that the process can take place once again. It is a truth we disregard at our own peril. (Source: ABC1-TV, Four Corners, "Crime Incorporated", screened 30 Aug 10)

A study by the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia and commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions found that the nation's work-life balance was getting worse and what has been termed the "flexibility revolution" has failed. Particularly affected were women. Professional women had a worse balance than men and their situation had even deteriorated with a 10% increase "in the proportion who find that work interferes with activities outside work" between 2007 and 2010. Under Otoom the inherent mindset and therefore cognitive dynamics in women and men respectively have been identified in terms of how each group perceives reality in relation to its own disposition and actualises their life accordingly. Under feminism those essential characteristics have been dismissed and society reconfigured in terms of one all-encompassing ideal. The result is not a composite society oriented towards the male version of perceived opportunities and advantages, but a hybrid that causes increasing stress for women. Such stress means more and more resources are being thrown at a problem of society's own making and the proportionate lack of responses in other areas. (Source: Courier Mail, 4 Aug 10, "Working our way to stress")

When Queensland Health, the entity that looks after public health through the administration of hospitals, the delivery of medicines and other treatment processes, decided to replace their ailing payroll system with a newer one it became clear very quickly that the implementation left much to be desired. Guidelines were not followed, necessary tests were not done, data bases were not matched, all with the results that many staff still are not paid their proper salaries or not getting paid at all, and this for weeks. As can be imagined, the fall-out is considerable with many employees being forced to turn to charities to help them out. Under Otoom much has been said about systems that are of insufficient complexity to meet the demands of added subsystems because the latter are of a complexity not commensurate with the standard of their host. A possible scenario that can be observed at the scale of an individual's mind as well as on the much larger scale of organisations and society. Cases similar to the Health fiasco have occurred with computerised ambulance systems where crews were dispatched to wrong addresses; complaints within the health system were not read for up to five months; the Queensland Police Records and Information Management Exchange System which, at a cost of over $100 million, has become "the felon's best friend"; fire trucks were being recommended for jobs hundreds of kilometers away due to the new dispatch system for Emergency Services; peak-hour commuters trying to buy TransLink tickets with some presenting information in Japanese; and a $40 million Integrated Client Management System for Child Safety Department workers they had to struggle with. Outside IT technicians and managers expressed dismay at the way Qld Health went about installing their new program - software which, by the way, has been used successfully around the world. While the content in all these examples varies, from the perspective of functionalities the analyses would be similar as well as the conclusions drawn. (Source: Courier Mail, 22 Apr 10, "Great leap ahead lost in the matrix"; 29 Apr 10, "Payroll rush slammed")

The financial crisis spreading around Europe is symptomatic of a large-scale system that contains incompatible elements. In the context of Otoom the incongruence is represented by insufficient affinities between the subsystems, a mismatch of high- and low-complex dynamic clusters, and a subsequent lack of communication which under better circumstances would be able to articulate the warning signals. An elaboration on these matters can be found in The social Europe: a formal view, written in 2006. Sadly, the functional problems outlined there have materialised in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland. In Germany, the nation which bears the major burden of a bailout for Greece, the reservations about any assistance are mounting. The situation has become a dangerous balancing act with the stability of Europe on one side and the high drain on funds for a faltering economy on the other vying for even a hint of some prescience. In the euphoria to gather as many countries as possible into its fold the European Union overlooked the very characteristics that made its beginnings possible in the first place. A similarity between the original economies, a broadly shared history and comparable demographics allowed the nations to merge. Eventually however the lies and deceptions set in. "We are all Cretans" thinks Jürgen Kaube (Wir sind alle Kreter), alluding to the ancient comment that "all Cretans are liars" - spoken by a Cretan. Do the 'Cretans' in Brussels know about the financial situation of the Portuguese, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians or the Italians? he asks. Actually, they do, he says, but when it comes to the political expediency of spreading welfare across entire continents the impossibility to finance it all remains out of sight. The general standards of demographics as an indirect relation to their tendency for ideological interpretation of their respective realities can be observed anywhere in the world, the only difference lies in the degree. It does not help when language itself, the very medium through which information is passed around, becomes entangled in confusing webs of morphed semantics that prevent issues from being seen clearly. The response, a communal reiterating of fears of what these novel articulations could mean, is mostly ascribed to far-right extremism by most members of the press. Although there are links to past phenomena, the concerns are of today and not so much about what stirred people between the two world wars. Anti-Islamic sentiments about minarets, mosques, the wearing of burqas together with a steady encroachment by medieval values jar against the average modern European mindset. A comprehensive perception of the discrepancy has not set in fully, but when it comes the few billion Euros swallowed by Greece right now will dwarf in comparison.

During the past few weeks significant problems have emerged with the Australian government's home insulation scheme. Under the plan home owners are financially assisted installing insulation bats and/or foils under their roofs. This led to wide-spread rorting. Four installers were electrocuted, improperly installed foils caused dwellings to become short-circuited, 240,000 homes are at risk from faulty installations and 93 house fires appeared to have been caused by sub-standard work. The entire scenario can be described as a system which did possess a framework of checks but did not feature the necessary linkages to allow them to fulfill their role. Essentially we are witnessing a mismatch of subsystems. Australia does have national standards, as a quick glance at the multitude of accreditation bodies confirms (see the lists under "Certified Organisation Search"). Unfortunately, the people charged with the implementation of the plan did not match up. The financial impact is considerable: a program worth $2.45 billion had to be abandoned, not to mention the huge amount of imported glass-fibre products filling warehouses with nowhere to go. Just as the principle characteristics are identifiable through the Otoom model, their scalability is equally evident. Comments have been made about Peter Garrett's choice of words when trying to explain the debacle (he is, or rather was, the minister responsible for implementing the scheme). Actually, the article mentioning Mr Garrett's speech patterns unintentionally confirms that scalability. Bella Counihan, the article's author, compares his current choice of language with his earlier expressions, a time when he was the front man of the rock band Midnight Oil. The song quoted refers to the land rights issue of Australia's indigenous people and demands "Let's give it back". Counihan admires the words' clarity. No doubt they were curt and short, but they lacked semantic precision. "Let's give it back" may be a sincere sentiment but is ultimately meaningless considering the multi-faceted context of modern society. What exactly should be given back and under what circumstances? Mr Garrett is part of wider society, just as his ministry is situated within the wider arena of administrative and organisational entities. Then as now his words should have reflected a congruence between idea and reality. The mismatch represents a functionality in itself and already then hinted at things to come. Functionally speaking we are now in the same mode, only in a different setting (a good thing he hadn't been charged with 'giving it back' - what a debacle that would have been). On a similar note recurring problems with the Queensland health system demonstrate a lack of awareness when it comes to understanding the appropriate relationships between the organisational entities of a society and their underlying intended purpose. Here a pensioner was reduced to pull out one of his own teeth because no dentist was available. NB: to show how simple a process can become once such relationships are taken care of consider the following: (1) the government envisages an insulation rebate scheme for homes across the country; (2) the various trades are identified which possess the necessary expertise to do the job; (3) it is made clear that payment is limited to those companies which have the proper certification. Problem solved. (Additional source: Courier Mail, 27 Feb 10, "Garrett stripped of power")

The United Nations released a report on the state of indigenous people around the globe. Compared to the rest of the world's population their rates of disease, life expectancies, incidences of violence, suicide rates and poverty are far worse. While representing only five per cent of the global population they nevertheless make up about a third of the world's extremely poor rural people. UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Chairperson Vicki Tauli-Corpuz described the report as "very daring" because it identified countries and the conditions in countries within the developed as well as within the developing world. One could speculate on the reason for the label "very daring" on what is essentially a summary of information known for decades if not centuries in one form or another. As reasons for the shortcomings colonisation, dispossession and lack of control over their lives have been cited. Although the report obviously compares the standards of indigenous people with those of others, a similar juxtaposition has not been endeavoured when it comes to the above given reasons. Colonialism did not discriminate in terms of the age of a cultural disposition, nor was the inclination towards attempts to take control over another demographic dependent upon some societal analysis hinting at the possibility of success or otherwise of such a plan by the respective colonial powers at the time. Yet the ultimate outcomes regarding the fate of their target populations can now, with the hindsight of decades and/or centuries, be clearly seen (employing the additional focus on China, Japan, or India for instance). The report does not seem to contain the necessary deeper analysis to find the reasons for the disparate outcomes. Considering the multifaceted nature of a culture, many factors play a part in ensuring its long-term viability and survival. From the intensity of its beliefs to the innate flexibility of the overall mindset right down to the semantic potential of its language, they all determine its fate when pitted against competing counterparts. The current tendency to preserve what has been proven to be dysfunctional can be seen for example in the call to preserve the language of indigenous people, as if a vocabulary of several hundred words and the ambiguous expression of anything involving more than the simplest of numbering has any chance of equipping their users to hold their own in an evermore complex and challenging world. The illogicality of that perspective becomes evident in the description accompanying the report where it says, "Indigenous peoples are stewards of some of the most biologically diverse areas of the globe, and their biological and cultural wealth has allowed indigenous peoples to gather a wealth of traditional knowledge which is of immense value to all humankind". Firstly, that "immense value" has clearly not translated into tangible benefits regarding their destiny; secondly, stewardship implies knowledge and control which a hunter-gatherer society, by its very definition, does not entail; and thirdly, although biological diversity can be identified in many areas, this happens in the laboratory rather than in the context of age-old superstitions or, using the preferred terminology of today, "traditional knowledge and spirituality". The insistence of preserving a way of life incompatible with the demands of the present sits at odds with the complexity required to tackle issues of global proportions. When it comes to the discrimination against indigenous people the mentioning of certain countries such as Columbia and Peru is interesting, nations not noted for their human rights record. Again, the direct relationship between a society's general sophistication and its leaning towards violence and brutality can be seen. That this relationship continues all the way down to hunter-gatherer societies has not been allowed to be recognised. Only when some analysis finally manages to apply its framework consistently and without ideological impediments could the result be called "daring".

It is now believed the attack by a US Army psychiatrist was caused by "a welter of emotional, ideological and religious pressures". At the same time there has been no evidence that Major Nidal Malik Hasan was steered towards violence or had been meeting extremist groups. Yet such ideological and/or religious pressures do exist in any case. Today's Western society has largely moved away from the more extreme forms of Christianity, it has created protective zones against many of life's dangers, and despite (or rather, because of) globalised mass tourism the opportunity for anyone to realistically engage with non-Western demographics hardly exists. Generally speaking we have therefore unlearned to appreciate the compulsion a profoundly religious mindset exerts on its bearer, and what is left of it under Christian auspices has been integrated into and synchronised with our own history. Add a generous dose of political correctness and hardly anyone dares to question the problematic nature of Muslims in the West. A mindset is a framework of layered thought structures whose content manifests according to the respective times in one's life when they have been created. In addition the priority of emergence of one or the other attitude reflects the scope of the source; for example, religious sentiments embedded in wider societies around the world come before any customs stemming from one's family. This is why Alan Howe, the executive editor of the Herald and Weekly Times, in his article, "Duty to a god and country", points out that no-one, certainly not in the US Army, foresaw the possible result of a clash between god and country in a soldier's mind should both be foreign to each other. In the past the notion of this kind of potential conflict may have been expressed crudely, using expressions such as "bloodline", "homeland", or "tribe". But the underlying principle they tried to address held true then and, as we have seen, still holds true today.

One of the strengths of the Otoom model consists in its ability to draw on functionalities as they are observed within a human activity system. Not only does this lead to a greater appreciation of the sheer complexity of our affairs, it also allows the identification of a single functionality should it manifest in several contexts. The significance of such a dynamic module across the spectrum of wider society thus becomes apparent. Three news items have recently shown their common link, although a superficial glance puts them in different categories altogether. In the UK the loss of British soldiers as they tried to protect the election process in Afghanistan raised the anger about the Western involvement there even further; in Australia a 15-year-old boy died from injuries he received in a brawl at a school in northern New South Wales; and the federal government's Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program is under attack for allocating $672 million with claims not a single house having been built. Policies and/or initiatives are sourced from many strands, but in this case there is one major factor having made itself felt in the West over the past fifty years or so. The ideological side of feminism, transposing the female mind set into wider society, has produced profound changes in our values and priorities. In evolutionary terms a woman is geared towards looking after her young, whereas for a male the first priority is to master an often threatening environment. Put simply, if a young child falls off a bike the mother wants to make the bike safer, but the father trains the child to be better (complex societies have the luxury of diversifying the fundamentals, but the essence remains). Transpose that basic attitude into wider society and the result is a downward spiral of dumbing-down - a set of protective measures followed by a re-setting of standards towards the lower, followed by further attempts of cocooning, which lowers the standards even more, and so on. Although a young child cannot be expected to adjust to the demands of their surrounds, eventually time moves on and the tests begin. Society at large however does not mature at those time intervals; it represents the playing field of adults in the here and now. In principle terms this type of functionality preserves childhood and disowns maturity; it shifts responsibility away from the actor and drops it into the lap of the guardian. Our entanglement in Afghanistan is comparable to the Iraq adventure, already outlined elsewhere ("Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report" and "Notes on Where is Iraq heading?"). In the current context the feminised West imagines a duty to look after the housing, education, infrastructure and political processes of a people who for centuries have demonstrated their incapacity at nation-building. Our lives and billions of our money are being sacrificed to that relocated motherly ideal. The concept of terrorism is used to provide an excuse when a fraction of that effort would be enough to exercise the necessary protection within our borders (starting with more discriminatory immigration policies). The adulation of the Child has led to a deterioration of overall standards within our education system, to the point where teachers leave their profession because they are becoming sick and tired of being hit, spat upon, and subjected to other forms of violence. Yet the response consists in more counselling and demands for more resources in order to change the environment but not the bullies. For a mother her child is always most beautiful and most intelligent, but the reality is different. Such is the profound nature of fundamental functionalities that they influence society in an equally profound manner; to be faced with even dysfunctional primary school children proves just how fundamental the change has been. On a larger scale the attitude of the Australian government towards our indigenous people reflects the nanny-like approach towards a demographic that has consistently remained below the achievement levels of the rest. The latest attempt to close the gap siphons the tidy sum of $672 million off our general resource base to once more replace the vandalised houses with the next generation. It's been done before so many times, and here we go again. In the case of immature youngsters the investment by society in protective shielding is warranted, indeed necessary. However, it is expected for the child to grow up and take the place of the previous contributors. On the other hand, if society itself is now the child there is no replacement and resources do not last for ever. In overall terms energy needs to be spent to advance, not to forever patch up ongoing failures. There is a word for such a state of affairs: decadence. (Source: Courier Mail, 28 Aug 09, "Anger over son lost for 15 Afghan votes"; 31 Aug 09, "Bully Shame"; The Australian, 15 Aug 09, "Henderson survives but put 'on notice'")

Research on the possible link between a person's IQ and general health has found that higher intelligence does indeed have an attenuating effect on risks for poor mental health, long term illness, poor self perceived health, respiratory function, coronary heart disease mortality, and total mortality. When explaining socioeconomic differences, the authors write, more traditionally attention was given to access to resources, physical exposure in the living and working environments, and health related behaviours. However such factors do not explain the differences completely. To quote, 'One novel hypothesis is that intelligence (denoted here as IQ) might be: "the epidemiologists' elusive `fundamental cause' of social class inequalities in health."' Under Otoom the system of mind is described as a composite of functional modules in which they interact with their surrounds in accordance with their respective affinity potential. Any factors and/or influences relating to one's health therefore tend to exhibit the quality ascertainable among the contributing modules. In the article "Life expectancies" the life spans of 4643 individuals across the centuries whose exceptional work gained them an entry into an encyclopaedia were compared against their contemporary peers. The differences in longevity were remarkable. There is also a more insidious reason for being more accurate in such assessments. Although a higher IQ in itself is not necessarily always a determinant, from the general social point of view appreciating its existence would also be fairer. Over the years political correctness has crept into language use leading to a forced circumscription of many characteristics, often at the expense of accuracy. "Socioeconomic" is one word that came to be used to describe a status that actually referred to the intellectual status rather than one's financial circumstances. However, to put it bluntly, being poor does not mean being stupid. A semantic transference has taken place, in which an expression is used to describe a person by using an essentially false label, with the result that the description is now more wrong than ever. At the same time, negative effects through exposure to less than desirable environmental conditions because of poverty does have a general effect on one's health. The label "socioeconomic" as a colloquialism puts the cart before the horse. (Source: G David Batty, Geoff Der, Sally Macintyre, Ian J Deary, "Does IQ explain socioeconomic inequalities in health? Evidence from a population based cohort study in the west of Scotland", BMJ. 2006 March 11; 332(7541): 580-584. doi: 10.1136/bmj.38723.660637.AE)

Just as it matters to an individual what type of people surround them, it is a concern to nations what their neighbours are doing. Duncan Lewis, Australia's new national security chief, identified the failings of Pacific island states as a risk second only to the threat of terrorism. Dysfunctional demographics fail as a culture due to the dismembering of their internal checks and balances, they fail as a society because their infrastructure crumbles, and they fail on an individual level because the necessary feedback loops between a person and their surrounds have broken down. On that basis the danger to Australia already has been identified under the Otoom model, and in addition the possibility of a breakdown here and there had been predicted correctly. Failed nations leave themselves open to outside influences which answer to their own intents and purposes. For Australia the issue is not limited to the problems at their respective locales; we do not have the required means to protect ourselves against a spill-over. In the past the "white Australia" policy discriminated against many who often were more intelligent and industrious than the locals simply because they had a different racial background. Half a century later, and with still no rational system in place, some people are allowed to settle who do not have the intellectual and cultural prerequisites that allow them to eventually integrate with success. If ever a Pacific island nation should present Australia with a refugee problem the assessment of applicants does not include the mental profiling the Otoom model would provide (by the way, this does not mean no assessment takes place). As a consequence there is the heightened chance a migrant will not develop an affinity with the host culture and will instead link with outside domains that could be antagonistic to this country. (Source: Courier Mail, 6 Dec 08, "Terror our top threat: chief")

One advantage of using the concept of functionality over content lies with the means to transpose the observations across the scales. A type of behaviour observed in an individual can, if properly defined, be revisited among groups or in society at large. Due to the new scale the size would have changed and the content, but the type remains visible. The following example comes from the welfare sector. Every now and then pensioners receive government bonuses, usually around the end of the financial year. The most recent one was followed by a significant rise in moneys spent on poker machines, as figures from the Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation show. While not every pensioner gambles, certain demographics manifest their brand of dysfunctionality through phantasy spending and many of its members would join the official category 'pensioner' because of their lifestyle. Assistance from outside (such as more money) does not translate into a realistic improvement but merely adds more opportunity to the existing disposition acting out its preferences. Neglecting the role of functionalities in favour of temporary content only obfuscates the underlying characteristics. The same holds in different contexts. Foreign aid for instance injects means from the outside into demographics that now continue to act out their cultural/cognitive specifics but with a heightened intensity. On the smaller scale an advice given to someone could well spell disaster unless the recipient is able to respond to the effects of that advice in a manner commensurate with the quality (and hence power) of the advice. In the case of Queensland its general demographic is one of the lesser developed in the West, and destructive lifestyles, inherent brutishness and ideological intensity define its society overall. (Source: Courier Mail, 25 Aug 08, "Pokies swallow pension windfall")

The conditions in indigenous communities are an example of dysfunctional demographics as identified under the Otoom model. They were especially highlighted by the recent case of a 10-year-old girl in Aurukun in far-north Queensland who traded sex for alcohol and drugs, with the young offenders given non-custodial sentences. This caused wide-spread outrage in this state and the rest of the country. Generally speaking, the more intractable a problem is the greater the possibility that many factors contributed to its existence. Since those factors usually involve various interests, values, and perceptions, the solution relies on a consensus that proves elusive. Same here. Indigenous demographics have a history going back thousands of years, and while the rest of the world saw entire civilisations come and go they have remained the same. There is no written language, no wheel, no higher-level abstraction - all fundamental characteristics of people progressing along the onwards road of evolution. A 21st century society like Australia has no conceptual bridges left with which to engage on a meaningful level. While individuals can and do move on, as a culture indigenous people are stuck in a very real time-warp. Secondly, Australia being a predominantly Christian country, moral and sexual values have evolved under the auspices of that religion. The issue of age and sex is seen under a far more restrictive light than in many cultures around the world. Add modern-day feminism with its own brand of ideology and there is hardly room to move. And within that pre-configured spectrum we have Queensland society with its tendency to be particularly intensive about ideological values. The media here, always with an eye towards their market, follow suit. In practice all this translates into indigenous communities kept in virtual reserves, supposedly to allow them their own way of life but actually condemning them to exist in an anthropological zoo. Hardly anyone dares to interfere in their affairs because to do so would seem patronising and against the political correctness of the times. Those who do interact for professional reasons have to shield the outside - a world that cannot relate to age-frozen cultures and a different morality - from the decisions they need to make in the context of the locale. When something does leak out all hell breaks loose as if such a case was in any way unusual. Nothing seems to work. Once children were taken into white households to be brought up there; a few decades later that same measure was labeled "stolen generation" and invited law suits. Every year hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into housing and welfare; the additional funds have allowed the alcohol and drug problem to engulf adults as well as young children. For generations attempts at comprehensive schooling tried to open the doors to a healthier life; educational and health standards among Aborigines are still consistently well below the national average. Under Otoom demographics are defined in terms of their cognitive-abstractive potential, their adaptability to changing conditions, and their capacity for society-building. The history of the world demonstrates the degree to which any of those factors had been present. Positive change has never come from pressure, but rather a respectful engagement by both parties through which - however gradually - a demographic modified its inherent characteristics. Either that or its members were simply wiped out in the end. (Source: Courier Mail, 21 Dec 07, "Abuse shame files buried", "Despair of the young")

anchor arrow Education:
Over some years now a tendency to formally structure the play of children has displaced the more random and ad-hoc environment of earlier times. This is wrong, says Dr Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Temple University, Philadelphia, who emphasises that children need unstructured playtime in order to develop flexible minds. The threat to the cognitive ability of later adults is as serious as global warming, she says. Her remarks came from an interview during her visit to a conference in Brisbane, but her concerns are not new (see for example, Play = Learning, co-authored by Dr Pasek, Oxford University Press, 2006). Under the Otoom model the importance of free play is recognised as the means to establish not only neuronal but also cognitive connections between small- and large-scale concepts, especially during early growth phases. Not only are such pathways essential for the multiplicity of interconnected notions, impediments such as 'progression locks' will also be prevented (under Otoom a progression lock is a cognitive state which prevents further delineations from occurring because of its pre-configured nature; eg, I realise I don't like the taste of some raw fruit and so I'll never bother to try their prepared variety). A further problem with overly-structured play environments is their origin: parents and their society who unlearned to value freedom and risk-taking and have become inward-looking and therefore too much obsessed with short-term rewards of a superficial nature. The environment provided for their children obviously reflects the underlying attitude and won't change unless society changes. (Source: Courier Mail, 25 May 09, "Learning to play a priority for little explorers")

Still on daylight saving: a functional corollary to the above is provided by Paul Williams, lecturer with the Department of Politics and Public Policy at Griffith University. Williams (who, it must be said, comes up with astute insights into the field of politics around the nation on many occasions) describes the debate about daylight saving in purely political terms. Its rejection and/or adoption is therefore a matter of voting patterns, constituencies, and past and future election results. Under Otoom his approach demonstrates a cognitive progression lock, where the initial definition of the problem sets the stage for subsequent developments in conceptualisation along the preset theme. Therefore the issue is being addressed without taking recourse to the basic reasons of why it is the saga it has become. Those reasons are to be found in geography and astronomy and they come first, people's reactions come second. The progression lock leads Williams to belittle the fading curtain argument once again and suggest as the "rational option" introducing daylight saving up to the Tropic of Capricorn. The choice of latitudinal marker only comes from the political perspective, indicating as it does the growing opposition the further north one goes. Within that perspective the reasoning is entirely correct and so attracts status, but it still does not address the issue per se - an insidious side effect of progression locks. (Source: Courier Mail, 28 Oct 06, "Time Beattie stopped dithering on daylight saving")

An example of how an ailing education system can manifest itself is to be found in some comments made by Queensland University of Technology lecturer Joanne Jacobs. The topic is daylight saving and whether Queensland should fall in line with most other states and adopt it. The debate itself has raged for years (there was even a referendum against it 14 years ago) but the arguments won't go away. One significant factor could be the ignorance about the underlying geographical issue within the general population and even among persons of higher education. A lack of knowledge does not merely mean knowing less, it also leads to a fool's confidence by not realising when one doesn't know. Peter Ridd, a Reader in physics at James Cook University, argued that the school syllabus has been hijacked by ideologues who care more about their "trendy left-wing mantra" (which basically denounces Western culture) than imparting facts to students. "..they have made little effort to address the concerns regarding their syllabuses of academics at universities in disciplines such as English, geography, maths, physics and engineering", he writes. The ground is already prepared in primary and secondary schools and so we arrive at one consequence coming from geography or the lack of it. Joanne Jacobs is for daylight saving, regarding the opposition as uninformed and referring to the older days by saying, "The two main arguments that are often put forward are the silly Joh (former premier Bjelke-Petersen) arguments that the curtains will fade and the cows won't know when to be milked". Bjelke-Petersen's regime certainly was not exactly enlightened (see elsewhere on this page) but at least as far as the curtains are concerned he had a point (quite possibly milking time and hour of the day are important for cows too). The facts are as follows: the day has 24 hours, a circle has 360 degrees, hence every 15 degrees of longitude account for one hour of time. Starting at Greenwich (0 deg long) we move eastwards until we end up in Queensland, Australia. The state is of considerable width, stretching from 138.00E longitude to approximately 153.32E. Brisbane lies at 27.28S 153.02E. Usually a particular time zone is set by the 15 deg multiple and so the whole of Queensland, lying on both sides of 150.00E, is 10 hours ahead of London. There's the rub. When on the 21st of September the sun dips below the horizon at 18:00 hours on 150.00E, in the capital Brisbane that event has already occurred 12 minutes ago (1 deg equals 4 minutes). In Mount Isa however (120.44S 139.30E) sundown will not happen for another 42 minutes, yet both locations are in the same time zone. 18:00 in the capital means the sun is just about gone, in Mt Isa it still burns your face (up there it does, right to the last minute). Now consider being on daylight saving. If the sun sets at 19:00 geographical time in Brisbane it will be 20:00 daylight saving time, so even an hour earlier it would be quite warm, never mind around 4-5 in the afternoon. But in Mt Isa, being west of 150 deg, the sun still has 42 minutes plus that extra hour to go. For residents out there 4-5 in the afternoon means having not about 3 or 4 hours' worth of a higher sun in the sky like in Brisbane, but around 4 or 5 hours' worth. Which means, assuming they pull the curtains to keep the sun out, 4 or 5 hours of fading time. In other words, while the people of Brisbane effectively have extra sunlight to the tune of not quite an hour, those out west endure up to two hours of heat, depending on how far west of the 150E they live. QED. It is also interesting to note that on the rare occasion time differences within the state are contemplated, the talk is mostly about latitude, but never to my knowledge about longitude - judging by what's available through the media. For residents at higher latitudes daylight saving is wonderful because of the extra sunlight, but the closer to the equator one gets the less attractive even more sun becomes. On the other hand, from a business' point of view being out of step with southern neighbours adds to the costs. In the case of an area such as Queensland there are very real arguments for and against, but it helps if they are rational. (Source: Courier Mail, 12 Oct 06, "Ideologues hijack education", 21 Oct 06, "Time for councils to see the light"; for the rest a good atlas and a good education system)

Similar to the previous report, in Australia the report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy is released. It also recommends the phonics method because clear evidence existed that phonics in the early years of schooling "is an essential foundation for teaching children to read". Evidence also showed students learned best when teachers adopted "an integrated approach to reading that explicitly teaches phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds), phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension". (Source: Courier Mail, 9 Dec 05, "Reading tests for all children")

Britain's Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, adopted the recommendations of a review by reintroducing 'synthetic phonics' as teaching method. In the 60s and 70s it was replaced by an approach that focused on whole words which were meant to be understood through their context. Similar to paragraphs above, phonics follows the format identified in Otoom as important in building re-representative conceptual domains from simpler to more complex structures. If not followed the result is an amalgam of re-representative clusters that ultimately do not make much sense. Since by now entire generations of children had been forced into the more confusing alternative, the criticism by many observers regarding the decreasing ability to 'think straight' in society would have a very real basis in the education system. (Source: Courier Mail, 3 Dec 05, "Spelling reform catches MP's ear")

anchor arrow European Union:
After yet another EU summit to find a way around the Greek problem (which by the way turns more and more into a general symbol for economic incompatibility), Nicholas Sambanis writes an opinion piece in the New York Times. Titled "Has 'Europe' Failed?" (note the quotes around Europe) he looks at the issue under the angle of identity. Published on the 26 August 2012 his article deals with a perception that exists in the here and now. Identity is the most powerful of factors in biological systems; without it there would be only one single species, in fact, given the nature of complex dynamic systems interdependently adjusting themselves to suit their environment, there would not be any species. The closer a threat gets to one's identity, the more aggressive the response. When it comes to humans their self-awareness prompts them to fashion an identity they can perceive as a positive one. No-one likes being called lazy, to be labeled contemplative is better. Hence identity is a prominent feature of the Otoom model. When Europe fared well, so Sambanis writes, its general public did not mind identifying themselves as European. Now, with that large-scale system failing on so many fronts, the priorities have changed. Now, the richer nations such as Germany and France find it more amenable to identify themselves along national lines; after all, it's not them that cause the problem. Culturally distant Greece does not fit into the picture. For Sambanis, "social psychology suggests that many Greeks might be desperately clinging to the last shreds of their European identity, because that gives them more self-esteem than the alternative - the Near Eastern or Balkan identity they have been trying to shed for decades". Note the time spans involved: European societies and cultures reaching back centuries, and Greece trying to find a new cultural home over the past decades. Identity comes in layers; over time new ones are added, and the older override the more recent ones. Pare away the other shells and what comes to the fore is a more fundamental core that has withstood the tests of time. A disparate element of an identity virtually forces its owner to retreat to the basics, and that applies to the scale of an individual, upwards to groups and on to society. "I may have done something bad, but deep down I'm a good person"; "We may have this wayward uncle, but overall we are still a good family"; "Our nation's past may contain some shady episodes, but look at all that we have achieved over the generations"; our sense of survival makes us shed the undesirable and focus on what we 'really' are. For that equation to work on both sides the 'other' is denigrated just as one's core is raised in esteem. So here we go again. The likes of Greece and Spain are contagious southerners and for the Greeks the Germans are Nazis. Both camps become unsettled. Is this the price the better must pay for sharing their space with the rest?

Isn't it interesting how the proverbial 'elephant in the room' is studiously avoided by all lest its presence forces them to say openly what already exists anyway. The avoidance is made possible through indulgence in a luxury that in the end is only a phantasy; like any phantasy it needs belief to continue. In 2006 the paper "The social Europe: a formal view" contemplated the possibility of the European Union collapsing due to the disparate nature of its member states. In those days to question the EU's viability was a taboo in polite circles, let alone mentioning the dysfunctionality candidates by name. Five years later and with the world media spelling out words like 'Greece' and 'Spain' on a daily basis not even the most timid are afraid of saying them too. Now, with the barrier in pieces, one dares to talk openly about the consequences of a collapse. Poland's foreign minister Radek Sikorski declared his wish that Germany exercise her power to do something about Europe's malaise. "I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity. . . The biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland would be the collapse of the euro zone" he said. A short-term gain for Poland vs longer-term results for the whole of Europe? Perhaps, but the "uproar" over his remarks more than anything indicates what people think but don't want to say. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warns, Europe is facing an "existential crisis", a dangerous breeding ground for violent nationalism - just like the 1930s. Let's not forget NATO's overtures towards the former Soviet states, the nurturing of alliances which just might create certain anchor points for destabilising relationships within the European-Russian sphere should the EU indeed break into conflicting parts. General Nikolai Makarov, Russia's chief of staff, last month talked about the increasing danger for local armed conflict along those borders. How ironic that Europe's expansion into a monetary zone was based on the myth that societies are essentially the same, for to say otherwise would create tension. A large-scale example of human nature being more powerful than political trends; or words taking second place to thoughts; or the subconscious holding sway over the conscious. (Sources: CBS Money Watch, 1 Dec 11, "Polish minister's comments on Germany cause uproar", Courier Mail, 2 Dec 11, "France warns of war risk", RT, 17 Nov 11, "Border Alert: Nuke war risk rising, Russia warns")

The financial crisis in the European Union is not only about money, even acknowledging that monetary matters impact on living standards in any case. The scenario already displays what happens when incongruent members of a system are forced to share the same functional space, but so far the main focus was on the weak. What about the strong, the other part of the wobbly equation? Here are three items which point in a certain direction. (1) The Courier Mail's Paul Syvret uses the words "failed European experiment" when writing about the rising yields of previously safe foreign debt such as France's, Netherlands's and Belgium's. His phrase is now justified because the markets no longer believe the EU can escape the ramifications of mismanaged economies and thoughts are not about if but when the crunch comes. (2) How much the situation is influenced by Germany can be seen from the remark by Volker Kauder, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, that "Europe is speaking German. Not as a language, but in its acceptance of the instruments for which Angela Merkel has fought so hard." Mr Kauder used the words urging Britain to contribute to the funds needed for the bailouts, even if it should mean extra pressure on the UK's own institutions. (3) Shawn Tully from CNN Money addresses the problems ahead for Germany, either if it manages to get the EU in line for further assistances for its failing states, or if the EU breaks up because its resources and the will to use them prove inadequate. Germany is the strongest economy in the EU, due to its productivity and discipline. It also benefited most from the euro zone because just as more expensive exports proved too much for a Greece and Spain etc, for Germany they became cheaper and so boosted its economy. Should the Union fall apart the weaker economies will suffer in the wake of now absent injections from the European Central Bank, but a strong economy like Germany would suffer from its suddenly expensive currency. It is here that human activity systems need to be analysed not merely on the basis of one or the other aspect (such as debt levels or tax structures), but factors such as the psychology of the weak vs the strong come into play as well, especially if both are locked together. Loosing because of one's mistakes creates frustration, even despair. But suffering because of good behaviour can lead to cold-blooded anger. The sheer scale of the crisis already produces global effects, and when the system implodes altogether the reverberations - waves of negativity washing backwards and forwards among the nations - can only exacerbate the perception held the various societies. The scepticism towards a European unity, already in existence in Germany, will do nothing to calm the fires. (Sources: Courier Mail, 17 Nov 11, "No escape from the troubles of the failed European experiment", "Berlin calls on Brits to do their bit"; CNN Money, 23 Aug 11, "Germany's historic dilemma and its global consequences")

What barely could be mentioned before, what was in fact a taboo, has become the thought of many: entertaining the possibility of getting rid of problematic members of the EU. The obsession with size, the blindness towards the existence of demographics and societies that actually do not perform according to the polite politically correct assumptions held by the cloistered elites, and hence the pretence we all are wonderfully equal and achievers, have led to the financial and now political crises erupting in Europe. Another factor plays its part, identified under Otoom: progression lock, the inexorable path towards dysfunction because the pre-established format does no longer allow a way out. Just as a city reflects the historical layers of past planners, just as a company contains frameworks from earlier times that define its potential in the here and now, so has the EU created a system for itself which now prevents it from taking certain measures. In cities the past is overcome when something like a fire obliterates swathes of old buildings and crooked lanes; companies collapse and perhaps grow again. What would a similar scenario for the EU look like, given its Maastricht treaty? Some have suggested (the old guard, living by the premise of throwing good money after bad) the rescue mission should involve the IMF because the problem is too big for Europe alone. Not surprisingly, IMF contributors that would be asked to pay want similar rescues to be available for them too. And where to next - is there some galactic empire that takes care of planet Earth as it becomes mired in its own phantasies? (Sources: news.com.au, 10 Nov 11, "IMF chief calls for 'political clarity'", The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Nov 11, "Europe's growing crisis could force global economy into 'lost decade'")

Greece's debt crisis lurches from one high-level conference to another and while the measures decided upon may bring temporary relief to the delegates there is no sign the fundamental source of the problem is recognised, let alone addressed. Except perhaps for a comment by IMF chief Christine Lagarde who said, "However, with many important structural reforms still to be implemented, significant policy challenges remain" (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Jul 11). One of the structures from Otoom's point of view are the dynamics underpinning social activity systems at any scale, which demonstrate the problematic nature of combining disparate frameworks on a manner that is destructive to their host. In the case of the EU those dynamics have been outlined in the paper "The social Europe: a formal view". Although written in 2006 the potential problems were identified there and now, five years later, they have come to pass.

Conceptual intersections occur when two or more cognitive frameworks overlap and the resulting intersection is used by one or the other owner of a framework to form their perception; the rest is often discarded. One example is the view generated by such essays as "A referendum on the unknown Turk? Anatomy of an Austrian debate" which considers the attitudes in Austria towards Turkey's attempt to join the European Union. Right in the abstract the text claims, "we examine the history of Austrian attitudes towards Turkey's EU candidacy", but in the next sentence makes it clear that whatever deductions are to follow are based on statistics covering the last decade only. To understand the content of cognitive dynamics (and not merely the nature of their various types) it is necessary to consider their history, and here, on that large scale, the history of Austria. The article mentions Austria's relatively low opposition to Turkey's entry during the 90's and compares it with public opinion on other potential member states. During the later years towards 2008 (the year the article is dated) however their attitude hardened towards Turkey. By 2005 only 10% favoured Turkey's inclusion and 80% opposed it and agreement is now (ie, 2008) at 5%. The article concludes by suggesting a referendum would be a mistake because it would make that level of opposition official. It would bring "international notoriety" to Austria. There is nothing wrong with the cited references; poll statistics are presented, together with extensive quotes by Austrian politicians across the political spectrum. The problem is the narrow basis on which the conclusions are constructed. Austria, in particular Graz and Vienna, can point to a history of protecting Europe from the Ottoman Turks, (1529, 1532, and 1529, 1683 respectively). In Graz alone one can walk through historic streets built around the remnants of the old ramparts, or visit the Landeszeughaus, the largest medieval armoury of its kind in the world. It is an environment that cultivates layers of cultural memory through sight, sound, touch and smell. Add the global developments regarding Islam during the last decade, mix it with personal experiences as a consequence of controversial immigration policies across Europe and nobody tells an Austrian about the potential dangers from having a country like Turkey sharing their wider cultural space. The dismissive comments by so many politicians of the major parties only contribute to a growing feeling of disenfranchisement, manifest in the rise of minor parties labeled as "right-wing" and worse by most commentators. The growth of Jobbik witnessed in April 2010 is only the latest example. It is churlish to denounce the underlying fears as simply a primitive reaction by uneducated peasants. Quite on the contrary, they represent a richness of historical common good that has been shunted aside by contemporary leaderships.

At the end of the European Summit the call for a "Two Speed Europe" was raised once again. Against the background of varying commitments to a unified Europe it has become clear that the move towards that goal is not equally shared amongst member states. To proceed at different speeds therefore seems to be the best compromise, as voiced by Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi and supported by others, such as Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. Given the diversity of demographics within the EU such an idea was already outlined under Otoom in 2003, going by that model's focus on - in this case - large-scale affinity relationships between societal domains. There it was termed a multi-tiered, or terraced, approach. (Source: Deutsche Welle, 28 Jun 07, "Calls Increase For a Two-Speed Europe")

At the current European Union summit in Brussels the general consensus is in toughening the EU's expansion policy without preventing those who want to join from doing so. The new attitude is directed towards states which tend to fall short of the required standards. In this context see the paper "The social Europe" in the downloads section. Equally in line with Otoom is the general idea of the Neighbourhood Policy, a scheme in which a closer relationship is built with countries surrounding the EU. The process begins with Country Reports and moves on to ENP Action Plans for each country. The plans cover "political dialogue and reform, economic and social cooperation and development, trade-related issues and market and regulatory reform, cooperation in justice and home affairs, sectors (such as transport, energy, information society, environment, research and development) and a human dimension (people-to-people contacts, civil society, education, public health ...)." Since any of those details are not synchronous with each other the initiative is similar to the tiered domain concept outlined in Otoom. Conceptual domains (ie, domains that are representative of a certain concept) are ordered in terms of their degree of affinity with each other. Such an arrangement prevents discrepancies due to mismatching interpretations from endangering a coexistence. The countries covered by that policy are Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. (Source: EuroNews, "EU summit set to toughen enlargement policy", 15 Dec 06; http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/, European Neighbourhood Policy, 4 Dec 06)

anchor arrow Global politics:
Turkey has asked NATO for missiles to protect her borders against any attacks by Syria, as was reported yesterday (8 Nov 12). NATO is a pact comprising 28 nations and its Article 5 refers to an attack on one member as an attack on all. Under Otoom's perspective the validity of systems within larger systems depends on the quality of the former, their degree of mutual affinity and how cohesive or otherwise their combined total therefore turns out to be. If a system experiences an influence from the outside the result will be a function of that entity's nature; if a subsystem is subject to a similar dynamic the results widens to include the status of the host system as well. Not only will the outcome be more complicated (which is to be expected), but it will be a composite of what each of those other subsystems is able to contribute in terms of their specific status. Hence the ultimate outcome can quite easily become unpredictable and for that reason alone the consequences can be disastrous. World War I is such an example. After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo the European alliances formed during the years before came into play like an array of automated trip switches. In terms of a system's perspective a disparate subsystem caused the rest to become unstable as well, even though the rest had been largely stable as such. Functionally speaking the current situation involving Turkey and Syria is the same. Should NATO accede to Turkey's request and should Syria cause Article 5 to be evoked the outcome will be major disturbance of the system (ie, NATO) as a whole; then all the respective subsystems of its members (involving their politics, economies, societies, and any separate relationships with the outside world) experience an activation on their own particular terms. From a system's perspective therefore one of the major considerations regarding the creation of a wider system is the thought given to the essential congruence each of the proposed members is able to provide with the rest. In the case of NATO Turkey is the problematic member due to its history, its religion, and its own affinity with other demographics of a similar status. If such discriminatory considerations pose a problem for the participants the potential exists for a kind of disturbance that goes far beyond the moral unease experienced by those idealists.

Closed mental doors have reality pounding against them over and over again. The killing of the American Ambassador and three of his staff at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, generated comments in the US and overseas that perhaps the so-called 'Arab Spring' may not be the flowering of democracy heralding the coming of a benign age in Islamic countries as romantically envisaged by the West. On DW News the comment was made that we should have a second take on this phenomenon. On PBS Newshour Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian official, Trudy Rubin, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Hisham Melhelm, from al-Arabiya News, talked about certain parties stirring up their political environment in the absence of any strong local authority, said a change will only happen in decades given the entrenched religious and political sentiments, and mentioned the extremists in general playing their own power games. Under the Otoom model the recent developments come as no surprise. It is what happens when an intransigent populace, steeped in religious dogma, and being feted by power-hungry personages who need critical mass to achieve their own aims, has suddenly been given the opportunity to agitate in favour of its visions. Western politicians, who have no real idea what such demographics actually represent, were only able to see the removal of existing regimes and believed they must be followed by something akin to their understanding of governance. What was said in the previous post (see directly below) has played itself out once again. In addition the official insistence that Muslim immigrants to countries like the UK or Australia will embrace Western values is wishful thinking as the violent demonstrations in the wake of the Benghazi attack have shown. Full-blown versions of the same in regions which are wholly Islamic were in view right across the region from Asia to North Africa. Since Australia also has Muslims even we were not immune. What many Western politicians also do not understand is the psychological nature of a pervasive religion coupled with encompassing societal attitudes which the European mindset has left behind centuries ago. An individual making some video is interpreted there as indicative of an entire nation; a belief in one's god is considered immutable; one's own highly pitched emotions are used as a standard to judge the rest of the world. Living in a Western country hardly mitigates such a mindset that was forged over countless generations. As a consequence virtual apologies by our leaders are seen as weakness, our individualism and freedom of speech do not appear on their radar at all, and despite surrounded by a different host population the internet and social media enable the newcomers to exist in their own world as if they had never left their home country. The pounding against the mental doors of Western governments is sending shock waves across all of us, and as usual it is the general population which has to suffer the results. (Sources: Deutsche Welle, SBS-TV, 16:00 AEST 14 Aug 12; PBS Newshour, SBS-TV, 16:30 AEST 14 Aug; Courier Mail, 15 Aug, "US rocked by wave of protests"; SBS-TV World News Australia, 18:30 AEST 15 Aug)

One emerging aspect of the deteriorating situation in Syria is the opportunity for Islamic sections to jostle for a dominant position amidst the general breakdown. Iraq's UN Ambassador speaks of the "cancer" al-Qaeda being active there and on the 10 August Deutsche Welle reported on the attempts by Saudi Arabia to gain influence as a defence against Iran. In principle all this is nothing new. Over a year ago this very page dealt with the effects of conceptual intersections where a relatively complex idea such as democracy becomes simplified in the hands of demographics who see it as nothing more than a means to achieve power under a new guise [1]. Western leaders however take those exclamations literally and really believe the unrests are the harbinger of what they called the "Arab spring"; it is nothing of that sort. The same happens again in Syria. This time the US provides humanitarian relief to the tune of $82 million since the crisis began and Britain just announced it offered 5 million pounds to rebel forces. Given the sheer amounts of money on offer and the interconnected relationships amongst the local demographics (none of which has any significant ties with the West to begin with) it is not a question of whether any money finds its way to extremists but how much. Making policy in the elegant salons of ambassadors does not expose one to the life on the street, but it does make one captive to the bland assertions coming from those present with their own hidden networks. In this context consider the efforts by the European Union six years ago under the auspices of what it called the "Neighbourhood Policy", mentioned on this page at the time [2]. Designed to establish binding relationships with EU neighbours, the following countries were under focus: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. Libya? Syria? - what were they thinking?? I wonder what the average soldier (you know, those people who get their limbs ripped off and who get killed on the battlefield) make of their masters who send them out to risk their lives for them with one hand and with the other effectively aid the very enemy they are supposed to fight.

1. http://www.otoom.net/parallels1a.htm#Conceptual > Sparked by a suicide in Tunisia
2. http://www.otoom.net/parallels1a.htm#European > At the current European Union summit in Brussels

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC) just released its assessment of the world's top economies in the years ahead. China already replaced Japan as the second-largest economy last year. In 2009 the "Emerging Seven" (China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey) had a GDP equivalent to 35% of the G-7 (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and Canada), but by 2020 that will have increased to about 70%. Similar predictions have been made before, as the projected rankings [2] of the top ten economies by Euromonitor International show. There the top ten in 2010 are, US (1), China (2), Japan (3), India (4), Germany (5), Russia (6), UK (7), France (8), Brazil (9) and Italy (10); ten years later they will be China (1), US (2), India (3), Japan (4), Russia (5), Germany (6), Brazil (7), UK (8), France (9), Mexico (10). PWC's economists John Hawksworth and Anmol Tiwari wrote, "This renewed dominance of China and India, with their much larger populations, is a return to the historical norm prior to the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th Centuries. That caused a shift in global economic power to Western Europe and the U.S. -- this temporary shift in power is now going into reverse". While reports such as these focus on the economic figures taken from balance sheets, they nevertheless are reflective of societal dynamics which are brought into existence by the behaviour of people. Behaviour is the culmination of a diverse range of factors where the environment and the individuals acting within the environment influence each other. No factor is innately dominant, therefore one can be more influential than another within the entire spectrum, and vice versa. Under Otoom individuals and society are seen as systems, which allows for an assessment that stays clear of such filters as politics, ideologies, gender views, or morals. Rather, a system's efficacy is identified in terms of the aggregate effect of actions that in turn are derived from their owners' perceptions. In this context see "What kills a culture", "Aiding the catastrophe: Africa", and "2050: Age of the Silverback". (Sources: Bloomberg, 28 Dec 11, "G-7 Will Be Overtaken by Emerging Economies in 2032, PriceWaterhouse Says"; Euromonitor International, 7 Jul 10, "Top 10 largest economies in 2020")

US economist Irwin Stelzer mentions some aspects of a growing China and Australia's dependency on it. While China's purchase of raw materials around the world means more cash for Australia's economy, that scenario spells trouble in the years ahead. Stelzer mentions the huge amount of American IOUs held by China, allowing that country to influence US foreign policy; the development of technological and industrial expertise gleaned from the West where a re-valuation the renminbi hardly matters; China's growing presence in Africa, South America and the Middle East to lock up supplies of minerals, oil and food; that country's already existing hegemony over rare-earth minerals important for the so many products, which they already control to the tune of 95 per cent and still buying up undeveloped resources in Africa; when US President Obama clinched trade deals with India worth $US10 billion, China's Premier Jiabao was also there and walked away with $US16 billion in deals; the shift towards the renminbi as the currency of choice, replacing the US dollar, with predictions by HSBC economists that within three to five years half of China's trade with developing countries will be in its currency; and finally its rising military presence making increasingly aggressive claims over disputed territories possible. This month three years ago, a future based on cognitive dynamics derived from the Otoom model was presented under the title, "2050: Age of the Silverback". The underpinning message was that pragmatism will rule more than ever, from the individual to society at large, and misguided idealistic visions come at a cost too much for their owners to bear. Stelzer's article is yet another confirmation of the waypoints reached already towards such a future. As far as Australia is concerned, a number of attitudes and/or policies contribute to its degeneration relative to any competitors: we are happy to export our raw materials without any commensurate investment in value-added products, placing the question of tariffs under the spell of a taboo when at the same time no emerging economy does without them; much of the foreign interests, including those in agriculture, are not even properly registered and hence cannot be readily identified; rather than making trade deals even with problematic countries under Islam, we are engaged in a futile exercise in Iraq and Afghanistan costing us billions and open ourselves to attacks on a global scale, with no end in sight despite the obvious signs; on the other hand, our decision-making elite turns over backwards to accommodate the increasing influence of Islam in our society with no thought given to its identifiable negative influence in their home societies (see "Demographic orientations"); despite the glaring differences in demographic standards around the world even our academics push for opening our borders to those who are among the very least productive anywhere; our national plan on education has finally recognised the importance of history yet at the same time finds it of value to include the teaching of indigenous languages, a mode of communication practised by demographics which over tens of thousands of years haven't even managed to invent the wheel nor abstractions nor numeracy; and then there is Tibet - in the eyes of the West a product of its romantic phantasies with the Dalai Lama representative of a political system completely opposite to what we are supposed to follow in our own parliamentary democracy. Much of the foregoing can be related to the West in general. While countries like China place one solid brick after another we chase dreams floating inside our heads. (Sources: Courier Mail, 18 Dec 10, "Hell to pay for feeding Sino supremacy"; 20 Nov, "Who's keeping tabs on investors?"; 18 Dec, "Obama pares back Afghan war goals"; 6 Dec, "Archaic rules on refugees deny our help to those who are most in need"; 6 Dec, "Indigenous trials start")

A few days ago the Australian Government released a White Paper on defence, Force 2030. Based on current conditions likely global scenarios over the next two decades are assessed with reference to the country's military needs. From a system's point of view under the Otoom model several valid points are being made but there are also a couple of contradictions. To recognise the growing power of China and India as major players is overdue, already heralded in the recent past by - broadly speaking - the two nations' development programs and their significant intellectual achievements throughout history. At the same time the possibility is entertained that the United States will not continue to be able to project the power to the same degree we have become used to. For Australia this would require a heightened capacity to project its influence across the region. The first contradiction consists of affirming the growing need to represent one's interests within the neighbourhood, but at the same time aspiring to enter any other theatre somewhere else to somehow further our aims. Although a balance between the two is mentioned, as the case of Iraq and Afghanistan shows (the latter even specifically referred to) such initiatives can very quickly escalate towards unsustainable levels and would ultimately depend on similar commitments by other nations, something which even over a short period of time remains questionable. As the Paper mentions elsewhere, strategies spanning decades require major mobilisations and therefore possess an innate inertia which mitigate against alterations on the fly. Another contradictory perspective consists in acknowledging the reasons for regional instability here or there particularly in the face of threats such as climate change and the diminishing of resources, but then proposing to counter that instability by increasing levels of investment in those very areas. If sizable populations, against the background of their history to the present day, prove to be ill-prepared for those challenges what would the most likely effect of considerable outside involvement be? Not the golden dawn of an ideal world but rather a measure of perceived interference by outsiders coupled with the very real chance of supplying the infrastructural means for the local powers to continue their cultural customs as usual. Pakistan is a case in point, so much so that at this moment two extreme manifestations of disparate cultures have the opportunity of merging together; the Islamic Taliban on one side and Western nuclear technology on the other. Decades of political blindness have brought us to this point. This seems to continue: as further channeling of our resources towards that nation are deemed necessary, an involvement with its neighbour India appears to be less focused on (moreover, India does not require our 'help'). Another example referred to is Papua New Guinea; despite its vast resources its "basic social and economic indicators are declining". The question has to be asked sooner or later, what are the costs of ongoing assistance programs compared to the costs of protecting oneself against the fall-out of a dysfunctional state? Not only does assistance cost money anyway, the more critical a situation becomes the greater the need to protect such investments - a spiraling escalation with potentially dire consequences. The Paper's acceptance of continuing financial involvement against the acknowledged lack of results in such cases represents another contradiction. All in all the White Paper represents a system that experiences growing awareness of the emerging manifestation of altered conditions that need to be responded to, but also a system that still exhibits the traditional aspects of moralistic maxims so peculiar to Christian cultures - from the Crusades to the White Man's Burden to evangelism. They have dictated our political selectivity ever since.

"What is 'Plan B' if Pyongyang is not willing to abandon its nuclear goals", asks Ted Galen Carpenter, vice-president for defence and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, in his article, A Bold Plan B for North Korea. The traditional support given to North Korea by China does come at a cost, and Carpenter's Plan B involves getting China to change the former's regime by making it worthwhile for the latter. For this to be attractive to China certain readjustments of global politics would have to be made, notably the US commitment to South Korea and concessions regarding Taiwan. Whatever the exact nuclear ambitions of North Korea may turn out to be, the general line of thinking that brings in major powers to, between themselves, resolve a thorn in the side of just about everyone through modifications of the status quo regarding relatively minor players is an interesting one. It may herald the shape of things to come, given the growing significance of lesser disturbances against the background of greater issues affecting the planet. A similarly wider view is presented in the blog "East and West" using the societal dynamics as identified under the Otoom model and through them forming an assessment on that broad basis. To what extent the US would be a deciding factor in any one of those realignments in the future, as suggested in the current article for example, becomes a matter of that nation's ongoing progress along its own route. Nevertheless, the time has come when, in the interest of overall stability, the ultimate significance and cost of minor ambitions have to be questioned. (Source: Courier Mail, 22 Apr 09, "Hope alone a flawed option")

As Israel takes action in Gaza against the Palestinian attacks on its people opinions around the world tend to become polarised. Robert Marquand, in his article "Terror in the crosshairs" from the Christian Science Monitor, reviews the perspectives and mentions the hardening stance in Europe against Islam. Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations has gained greater currency over the years as Islam becomes more widely known to Westerners in general and Europeans in particular. Events around the globe and the increasing presence of Muslims within the European Union familiarise its societies with the day-by-day implications of not only a particular religion but also a culture. Under Otoom's view the reasoning behind "The Clash..." has been valid all along, the only difference being that Huntington derives his assertions from a focus on societal content, whereas in Otoom the basis is a functional one although obviously referenced to instantiations on the ground and therefore content. Analysing the functional properties of a demographic justifies the label 'civilisation' attached to the identified set once the sheer scale and consistency across its range has become apparent. Therefore the manifestations of such properties, be they in the Western or the Islamic realm, can certainly be related to the results of a civilisation with all its contingencies and weight. Understanding and indeed responding to Islam requires that added dimension. The gradual shift in opinion over many years also highlights the respective efficiencies of using content only vs functionality and content together. The former needs considerable time to gather information in order to build a picture, whereas the latter allows a quicker analysis as well as a more thorough one. When it comes to civilisational threats time is a major factor. (Source: Courier Mail, 10 Jan 09, "Terror in the crosshairs")

anchor arrow Indigenous culture:
Pacific, comments by New Zealand's PM Helen Clark, Pacific nations identified as dysfunctional societies spiraling out of control, already identified in Otoom. (Source: Courier Mail, 16 Mar 04, "Pacific risks becoming ghetto")

anchor arrow Infrastructure:
Queensland, article re the privatisation of hitherto government projects and/or activities, the question is asked whether such a change will not diminish the sense of civic responsibility and belonging which comes with public infrastructure of so many kinds, somewhat in line with Otoom, although there not specific of this kind of changeover, but such a development can be seen as another symptom of decomposition of society. (Source: Courier Mail, 1 Apr 05, "Splinters cause pain")

anchor arrow Iraq war - and now Afghanistan:
The other day Australian troops suffered another "green on blue" attack, where Allied soldiers are killed by someone wearing an Afghan National Army uniform. To create a situation in which a local is given the opportunity to suddenly emerge as an enemy is first and foremost due to the naivete on our side that remains blind to the inherent characteristics of the population we are dealing with. Professor Clive Williams from Macquarie University is quoted as saying there was no question the people of Afghanistan are "side swappers". That insight can be gained from specific knowledge about the country, it can also be gained from an analysis of the demographic using a perspective based on the functionalities that can be observed. The latter are far more precise than sentiments such as "cultural insensitivity issues" (the words of Acting Defence Force chief Air Marshal Mark Binskin). For two examples see "Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report" and "Notes on Where is Iraq heading?"; in principle they apply here as well. Under Australia's parliamentary democracy it is the government that gives the order to the military who then has to deal with a situation under circumstances people in offices will never understand. The ignorance displayed once again costs lives and billions of dollars. Military officers are not gung-ho about how many of their soldiers get killed - I can speak from experience. Yet such cavalier attitudes on behalf of paper shufflers leave the door open to the possibility that one day the military does take the reins into their own hands. Are politicians that ambivalent about the very system they are meant to protect? (Sources: Courier Mail, 1 Sep 12, "Absence of will likened to Vietnam", 31 Aug 12, "Blue Murder")

Professor Hugh White (Strategic Studies Institute, Australian National University) questions the credibility of Australia's mission in Afghanistan. He is quoted, "For a long time now the Government's been saying that we're going to pull out of Afghanistan when the job is done. I think it's now clear that the job's not going to be done, that the United States, for example, is talking about pulling its forces out, not just in 2014, which seems very soon, but in 2013." He said further that Australia would leave Afghanistan "very much the way it looks at the moment". The situation is a replay of what happened in Iraq, where the political and military ideals of the West had been stymied by the innate nature of the local culture, from Otoom's point of view a composite of cognitive dynamics with its own hierarchy of priorities created over centuries. In addition, if a culture's core identity contains religion (ie, a phantasy-laden interpretation of reality) and a small social horizon (ie, a narrow scope of tribal interactions through which to settle into a common standard) the resistance to change will be that much higher, simply because a change means so much more to loose with regards to one's identity. In such an environment the initiative of an outsider will dissipate after the initial shock and from then on will become trapped in the cloying swamp of local intransigents. The only way to escape a swamp is to somehow pull yourself out altogether. The search for that 'somehow' is once again on for the US and its allies with the situation on the ground being left as it is. The Otoom model predicted all this because, firstly, the local characteristics could be analysed on the basis of their occurrence rather than from some political view somewhere else; and secondly, because in chaos-type, complex and dynamic systems the existence of some functionality means it can and does manifest - the only question is under what circumstances. Chaos requires a somewhat different approach from what we have become used to in the 'exact' sciences of physics and mathematics, where the proof of something rests essentially on its observation and nothing else. Yet even here we know about the aspect of chaos in the definition of an aerofoil for example, or the dynamics of fluids through a valve, or what happens to the seemingly rigid structure of a building when buffeted by wind. It seems scientists paid no more than lip service to chaos and huddled back to the perceived certainties of precise formulae. Just as an engineer or an architect can intuitively perceive the force vectors when looking at a structure through being intimately involved with their constituent nature, we need scientists who have made chaos and its nature their intimate arsenal through which to look at the world around them. Had they done so society would appear as much more to them than the mere aggregate of its visibly performing parts. As the experience in Afghanistan shows, this kind of ignorance translates into much loss of life, billions of dollars wasted, international upheavals - and with us remaining the losers on so many fronts. (Source: Courier Mail, 5 Mar 12, "Afghan mission no longer credible")

To-date the total cost of the war in Afghanistan is set at over $7.4 billion. And that's only Australia's contribution. The breakdown provided is as follows: 1999 - 2006: $805m
2007-08: $400m
2008-09: $702m
2009-10: $1.125b
2010-11: $1.4b
2011-12: $1.6b 2012-13 (est): 1.4b
By 2004 "On the origin of Mind" was available to explain the futility of that enterprise. Cost: $10.00. (Sources: Courier Mail, 18 Jan 12, "Afghan bill to hit taxpayers", "Each soldier in Afghanistan costs taxpayers a million dollars")

391,832 reports on the war and occupation in Iraq have been released on WikiLeaks, covering the time between early 2004 and 1 Jan 2010. They "paint a picture of an Iraq burdened by persistent sectarian tension and meddling neighbours, suggesting the country could drift into chaos once US forces leave". Signs of torture have been found in an Iraqi police station in Husaybah; plots to assassinate officials have been discovered; a group of judges was abducted and beaten; etc etc. "Documents give shocking accounts of prisoner brutality by the Iraqi police and soldiers, including rape, torture using electric drills, shackling and electric shocks to genitals. Some executions are also logged. Some victims are as young as six". Despite the stated aim of training and counselling Iraqi personnel there is little to show that those exercises had any effect. The continuing official line that the presence of US forces and its allies would somehow change the character of local demographics demonstrates the naive assumption by outsiders that fundamentals such as tribalism, intense religiosity and obsession with honour can be ameliorated by mere education. Even nine years of those efforts had no success. This type of blindness stems from a general attitude which sees all of humanity through the same lens and blithely disregards the often crass differences between its sections. An assessment under the Otoom framework could have revealed the local circumstances from the very beginning. Not only are a people's daily affairs influenced by those characteristics, any adopted mindset (for example religion, or governance) is adjusted accordingly in terms of its eventual execution. It is a two-way process: religious and political tenets become brutalised while at the same time those versions are adopted which allow the greatest opportunity to realise one's disposition. There is a reason therefore why a particular religion - ie, Islam - finds purchase among certain demographics and not others. It happens on the larger scale of societies as well as on the smaller one of individuals. The leaked reports on Iraq prove once again that as soon as the West's engagement with that society ceases the country will revert to its original state, with the added problem that the process of reversal will have to take care of readjusting the power balances once again; under the circumstances a brutal exercise that most Westerners can hardly visualise. (Source: Courier Mail, 25 Oct 10, "War records show Iraqis remain dangerously divided", 26 Oct 10, "Deputy PM breaks ranks over British abuse claim")

In Australia the new Labor Government under Julia Gillard deigned to hold a parliamentary debate on the nation's involvement in Afghanistan. Based on promises made after the elections to the Greens in order to secure a minute majority, the theatre has achieved what it set out to do: making headlines and filling news bulletins but not much else (one sign how seriously or otherwise this is taken comes from a camera shot taken in the House as Independent Rob Oakeshott took his turn - there were literally a handful of politicians in attendance, including the Speaker, and two members were engaged in an animated conversation with each other while Mr Oakeshott was speaking). An initiative, a cognitive cluster under Otoom's nomenclature, which is on the rocks because its framework is out of synch with the target system, becomes itself fractured and is subject to re-interpretation because its members need to come up with reasons to justify the ongoing need for resources; so much so that those modifications themselves can be taken as proof of a plan's failure. The US Administration's meanderings among the field of potentially marketable reasons for its war in Afghanistan have been around for some time. Australia, a follower rather than the leader in this case, produces not so much new visions but questions about what this is supposed to be all about. With the questions comes the fear of weakening the resolve to stay, possibly for another decade as Prime Minister Gillard would have it. Imagine what people in the past who knew something about warfare would have thought if their generals had approached them with a plan to continue for another ten years; Sun Tzu comes to mind, or Napoleon, or Clausewitz. Right now they must turn in their graves. General Peter Gration, former chief of the defence force, is quoted as saying, "We can't expect the Australian people to keep supporting this war forever as casualties mount. We've got to have an exit strategy based on a series of measurable outcomes". Julia Gillard's claim that there were "direct links between the security of Afghanistan and terrorist threats to Australians" he called "overblown"; "There are other countries in the world which are a haven for terrorists and we don't intend to clean them out". Quite apart from the political convenience to simply repeat a mantra handed down to us by the US, the fixation with Afghanistan comes from a profound ignorance about the pervasiveness of Islam as it determines the perceptions of its followers coupled with a naïve view of Afghan demographics. Both are a result of the current general view of the world that refuses to acknowledge the sometimes glaring differences amongst the world's population and the lack of will to stand by one's own culture. And the soldier, always the soldier, is sent away to chase his masters' dreams. (Source: Courier Mail, 21 Oct 10, "Emotional address calls for troops to be brought home"; SBS News, 21 Oct 10)

Over the past few days two events have occurred that demonstrate the role of affinity relationships as described under Otoom. On the scale of wider society ideations are represented by clusters of individual citizens that create links between themselves and other clusters if the degree of affinity is sufficient (on the lower scale of an individual mind ideations are described as thought structures). Although the events occurred in different contexts, they share a common ground based on affinity and together they affect their host system. In the first, three Australian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan have been charged by "top military prosecutor Brigadier Lyn McDade" for causing the deaths of six civilians (including five children) when they were attacked by an insurgent within a compound. Having had ample time to study the laws governing Allied soldiers Afghani insurgents use women and children as human shields for their moral value with reference to the West. This is the kind of enemy Australia is dealing with there and comes as a result of Islamic antagonism coupled with that religion's control over its subjects. Neither is fully understood in the West, particularly since the advent of feminism a range of values have been adopted quite contrary to Middle Eastern culture, let alone Afghanistan's. There, women and children are used as bargaining tools by the men - here, women and children do the bargaining. To proceed with the soldiers' trial sends yet another message to the enemy that our troops are subject to considerable constraints and therefore a weakness. Ignoring such consequences feeds into the general morass the region has been turned into by the insistence of Western politicians and other distanced players to pursue their own dreams on the backs of the soldier. The other event relates to the demand by sex abuse victims at the hands of Jesuits in Germany for 54,000 euros as compensation; the Jesuits have offered 5000 euros and there are 205 allegations of sexual abuse. Throughout their thousands-year history Middle Eastern religions have not been noted for sexual tolerance and the Catholic Church is no exception. Hence its current troubles could be seen as natural justice having caught up. For the analyst of human activity systems it is remarkable however that throughout all this time no Catholic order ever had the need to bother with the victims of live-burnings, molten lead poured into the rectum, or the incarceration of gays. Only now they are being held to task, and for the relatively minor transgression against the hitherto weakest members of society at that. It could not have been possible without the influence of feminism which projects the female mindset into wider society with its elevation of the status of the Child. Whatever the role of the Jesuits had been over generations, these demands must have a considerable impact on their sustainability as a societal element. In terms of affinity relationships affecting relevant clusters and in turn their subsequent dependencies onwards the system as a whole becomes weakened if a set of cognitive dynamics acts destructively along its path. Whether it is the ultimate efficacy of Allied soldiers in Afghanistan and its impact on the global Western-Islamic arena, or the future of Western culture that compromises its own pillars, in the end the outcome for either now lies with a conceptualisation that includes the priorities of motherhood superimposed on the fight for survival. (Source: Courier Mail, 29 Sep 10, "Charged soldiers' mates rush to their defence")

One major reason why one should tread carefully when engaging with different cultures at a deeper level is the need to be familiar with the manner in which social networks form and are maintained. That goes for any scale. Afghanistan is an example par excellence. Familial, tribal and religious affiliations have a history that can go back centuries, and paired with emotionalism and religious intensity they play a significant role, whether visible at any time or not. In recent days Afghan President Hamid Karzai 'suddenly' turned on the West, that contingent of forces supporting him to the tune of billions of dollars and 126,000 troops. When he accused foreigners of fraud during the elections he caused some consternation in the West, and his latest announcement that he would have to join the insurgents himself if the parliament did not back him did not help. Yet such behaviour is nothing else but the quite common endeavour by someone who plays his cards as promisingly as possible to safeguard his future. The Taliban in the evening news and the fighters the foreign soldiers encounter are but a small part of a wider segment in society, defined by bonds that need no official stamp nor formal description. Even the word 'segment' is not really apt; demographics in which social and/or political connections are forever fluid and pressed into the service of religiosity and honour do not feature the relatively distinct boundaries we are used to in the West. To engage in a war with such a region while at the same time hoping to rebuild it along one's own lines is simply naïve. A comprehensive analysis under the Otoom model would have disclosed the problem from the very beginning. (Source: Courier Mail, 3 Apr 10, "Karzai roasted for poll fraud claims", 6 Apr 10, "US allies again flayed by Karzai")

The British ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is quoted as describing the situation there "getting worse". The strategy of the coalition was flawed and hence "destined to fail". Especially interesting are his comments regarding the future of the country, in line with a similar assessment made about Iraq under the light of Otoom (see Notes on the Iraq Study Group Report and Notes on Where is Iraq Heading?). Sir Cowper-Coles suggests the coalition should prepare public opinion to understand that the only realistic solution is for an "acceptable dictator" to rule Afghanistan. Given the nature of the demographics there and in Iraq the need is indeed for a strongman to hold such a region together as a nation; local history only confirms it. Whether that authority will be "acceptable" is another matter. (Source: Courier Mail, 3 Oct 08, "Coalition 'problem'")

Recent reports indicate the situation in Afghanistan is not any better than what unfolded in Iraq. The same reasons apply in principle, except there is no overriding authority as has been the case in Iraq. Tribalism and cultural intensity flourish, displaying the typical outcomes of insular human activity systems that are largely isolated from each other. Therefore we have diminished input from the outside, low creativity because existing cultural norms exist in a straightjacket, and as a result social rules are harsh and unforgiving. These features can be ascertained, analysed and processed because they are visible to even outside observers. For all its resources, a society like the US is unwilling or unable to accommodate reality as it presents itself. Never mind a sophisticated analysis tool such as Otoom - basic history lessons served with a rudimentary understanding of the local geography would teach invaluable lessons. On that note, by now there are generations of Queensland school children who never had history or geography taught in their class rooms. Australian soldiers know their stuff, it is the politicians above them who should know better. For example, the cultural depth of our previous prime minister, John Howard, can be gauged by his tendency to use available free time on foreign visits to watch a game of cricket. Our current counterpart, Kevin Rudd, is a "committed Christian". It showed and it shows. In terms of the military intervention in Afghanistan there is indeed a historical precedent of sorts. In the 19th century British Governor-General Lord Bentinck embarked on a mission to rid India of the Thugis, a Kali sect practising ritual murder. He was successful, but the British maintained a military and administrative presence for a considerable time afterwards. Characteristically, he had less impact on another local trait, sati, the burning of widows. And, not insignificant either, the British presence was sustained through an economic viability the subcontinent was able to provide. This hardly applies to Afghanistan. At best, success is defined by the absence of terrorism and nothing else; but even that remains questionable. (Source: Courier Mail, 26 Sep 08, "US review of Afghan strategy")

The new head of Britain's army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, called for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq because their presence "exacerbates the security problems" there. The attempt to forge a "liberal democracy" was a "naive" failure. After all these years there is finally an admission at the highest level that the entire exercise may have been based on wishful thinking without taking into account reality. The situation in Iraq has been described within the context of functional dynamics under Otoom all along (beginning in 2003), and based on such an analysis it was clear that the composition of the local demographic would make it impossible to reconstruct that society under Western democratic auspices. The West's own ideology, an amalgam of political correctness, Christian idealism, and geo-political short-sightedness, prevents the players from recognising the cognitive characteristics of the region they have chosen to deal with. On many websites some idea of the sheer costs incurred so far can be gained, although this does not include the human lives lost and damaged, nor does it cover the general damage done to the political landscape around the world. (Source: Courier Mail, 14 Oct 06, "Iraq 'a lost cause'")

anchor arrow Religion:
The London think tank Policy Exchange releases the report, "Living apart together - British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism". Based on extensive surveys within the Muslim communities in Britain it makes two main points: across the UK Muslims come in many varieties, from extremist to largely integrated with Western customs; and extremism is more prevalent among younger age groups than among older people. The policy of multiculturalism, through its emphasis on differences, has actually contributed to the alienation. The report also extends its reference to wider society and notes the absence of distinct positive Western and/or British values. The decades-long denigration of European culture and the Enlightenment by leftist elements and post-modern intellectuals has led to a vacuum which even non-Westerners have occasion to observe. If even the British find it embarrassing to embrace their own culture, then why should others do it? These findings concur with Otoom, where the sources for emerging affinity relationships within the spectrum of European and/or Western culture have been analysed. These affinities span the context of self-loathing and essentially hating achievement, the negative perspective Westerners have adopted about their own intellectual home, the celebration of the primitive, and the notion that humans are a plague upon earth. Although those ideas are not necessarily restricted to leftist ideologies, the latter's collectivist nature turns them into particularly suitable platforms for attacking the exceptions to the lowest common denominator. (Source: M. Mirza, A. Senthilkumaran, Z. Ja'far, "Living apart together", Policy Exchange, London, 2007)

During a sermon Australia's leading Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali preached that women are responsible for rape because they dress immodestly. He compared their bodies to uncovered meat: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?", "The uncovered meat is the problem". The comments, translated in The Australian newspaper, caused a nation-wide uproar with even the Prime Minister condemning the remarks. Feminists weighed in as well, reiterating their idea that women should be able to dress any way they want without inviting advances from men. The cleric is reported to have suffered depression and is confined to bed because of the critical backlash. Under Otoom such attitudes are to be expected given the inherent phobia against the human eros within Middle Eastern religions in general and Islam in particular. What has been forgotten in the present furore is the similar perception of the Christian church, and only due to the efforts by humanists and the Enlightenment have Western church officials been put on notice. Within the mindset of Islamic officials living in the West the message hasn't set in yet. But even today the nexus of modesty and dress still reverberates through the Christian world. The existence of conceptual intersections is identifiable, where a religious moralism gains support from affinitive elements within feminist ideology heightening the tension. If eros was not the delicate matter is has been made into, the essential biological and cognitive frameworks can be seen as respective progression locks, setting the stage for any further developments. Both, males and females, are sexual beings with females exercising their capacity to lure, the males to seek (billion-dollar global fashion and cosmetics industries attest to that, and age hardly features). Without the conceptual clusters of religion and feminism affecting the original setup, sexuality would not be the problem but the possible aspect of violence would be. Those clusters however merge them into one. An analysis of demographics around the world would have made the moralism of Islamic cultures visible to Western eyes, with consequences for their immigration policies. As it is, the self-induced blindness is causing one problem after another. (Source: SBS-TV news, 26 Oct 06, Courier Mail, 27 Oct 06, "Voice of unreason", "Sheik regrets claim", plus just about any media nation-wide)

anchor arrow Role of governments in society:
It is May and therefore budget time again. The Australian federal government and its Queensland counterpart grapple with a considerable shortfall of funds. In the case of the former revenue was down by A$12 billion, and the state is said to need fifty years of surpluses to get back into the black. There is enough finer detail for both sides of politics to argue about the conclusions which can be reached, but any margins would dim into insignificance when compared with the total sums involved. Shortage of money has become a feature of the contemporary Western nation, and it is in line with the predictions made in "Age of the Silverback". Government budgets are coming under increasing pressure to continue funding the commitments that were made in the past as part of a series of instigations by interest groups. Although the tone of governments has changed over the decades (in Australia from socialist to conservative and back again, similar to most Western nations), no incumbent party risked a radical disengagement from indulgences flagged through by their predecessors. The result: an ever growing pool of money drawn from the public's purse but returned in piecemeal fashion. Not all distributions are of the direct kind, in fact the majority constitute tax concessions which favoured one part of the economy over another. For example, Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics said industry subsidies alone amount to $18 billion a year, a sum of money that does not participate in the feedback cycle from the public to the government and back to the public. The long-term problem with such allocations is the socio-economic environment they tend to create after their own image, a particular assortment of subsets of wider society that function aside the general aggregate of societal dynamics. It is akin to a confined eco-system in which some groups of animals are favoured by the zoo keepers while the rest is left to the common standard. Should the special supply dry up the entire system is forced to rebalance itself with consequences for all. The scenario forecast in "2050:.." is based on just such an accumulating series of events - whether caused by the artificiality of some financial vehicles, by unsustainable government subsidies, by extra funds needed to address anti-social behaviour in schools (many arguments surrounding the present Gonski reforms link to such funds), or by the short-sighted extravagance of individuals. All this against the background of heightening global pressures of population increases and diminishing resources. The principle effects are the same in all cases: a shackled potential of systems to find their own balance among their mutual interdependencies and a skewed distribution of respective inputs in terms of their own efficacies. Once again, the predictions made in "2050:.." are on track. (Sources: Courier Mail, 25 Apr 13, "Schools plead for Gonski plan"; 30 Apr, "Medicare the next target"; 1 May, "Hard Road", "Gonski ads cost $50m", "Asset sales urged but not accepted")

On the 19 February 2013 Mandiant released a report on one of China's cyber espionage groups. The findings are based on investigations that began in 2004 and focused on "Advanced Persistent Threats" (APT) to hundreds of organisations around the world. The report concentrates on one of the groups involved in espionage, labeled APT1. For IT technicians the pages make fascinating reading, but here particular contexts are highlighted in line with the Otoom model which deals with cognitive dynamics. China's Peoples Liberation Army strategic cyber command is situated within the PLA's General Staff Department, specifically its 3rd Department, and it is estimated to have 130,000 personnel divided between 12 bureaus (report, p. 8). Such a massive presence does not come into being overnight; it requires the formulation of planning, of policy, of implementation, all of which demand the application of high intelligence and organisational ability, especially during training. Students not only train in specific fields but also in English language proficiency which allows them to understand English texts more deeply (p. 11), although sometimes errors can creep in (p. 38). This works both ways: an attacker is better equipped to interpret an English text, and a poorly-written statement on the target's side will be less likely to shield against adversarial interpretation. The means employed are also important: 'In 1,849 of the 1,905 (97%) of the Remote Desktop sessions APT1 conducted under our observation, the APT1 operator's keyboard layout setting was "Chinese (Simplified) - US Keyboard". Microsoft's Remote Desktop client configures this setting automatically based on the selected language on the client system. Therefore, the APT1 attackers likely have their Microsoft operating system configured to display Simplified Chinese fonts.' (p. 4). Note the attackers' synchronisation between their own and their targets' technology. This is reminiscent of my own experience in 1999 at Griffith University where one of the signs of an attack had been the use of the keyboard setting changed over to Chinese (see "Griffithgate: mirror of decay" > 1. Spies). The time frame is significant: during 1999 Chinese students were already involved in gathering information and by 2004 we have a functional department under the PLA coming to the attention of cyber investigators. APT1's mission seems to be extremely broad since the report findings represent only a fraction of APT1's activities. By 2012 William T Hagestad is able to quote then President Hu Jintao, "...our army is strengthening its capacity and is developing potential military officers to tackle information-based warfare...". Eventually, in January 2013 Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces a cyber security centre will be established by the end of the year. Since most of the incidents listed in Mandiant's report go back half a decade, it can be assumed the development of more sophisticated means has not stood still. The question should be asked why this kind of enterprise could have evolved under the West's radar for so long. In Australia's case one reason would be the reluctance of governments to engage with academic infrastructure as has become clear when considering the events listed under "Griffithgate". Another would be a superficial view towards other cultures that prevents the West from understanding their characteristics more deeply. A study of a Confucius, a Laozi, or a Sun Tzu for example reveals much more than the average Chinatown would suggest. It should also be kept in mind that the activities referred to rely on highly developed science and maths skills, never mind the capacity to think logically. In this context consider the remarks by James Cook University Physics Professor Peter Ridd who laments the ever decreasing standards in maths, so much so that university courses have to be dumbed down to accommodate that new generation of students. (Sources: William T Hagestad II, "21st Century Chinese Cyberwarfare", UK 2012; Courier Mail, 7 Mar 13, "Professor slams maths at school")

Brisbane has a number of toll roads (including freeways, bridges and tunnels) which were financed by consortiums made up of public and private entities. The idea has been for the private sector to recoup the initial costs by charging a toll. However, it appears that this kind of business model is not delivering what it promised. Motorists do not use those roads often enough, many who do are not paying the toll, and to chase the money brings a separate government agency into the picture tasked with enforcing the rules (which costs once more). In the year 2010-2011 the hard core cases were 59,674, in the year 2011-2012 that number grew to 156,915. In the meantime the companies who built the roads are incurring substantial losses. For example, the Clem7 tunnel cost $3 billion and it went into receivership one year after completion with just 23,217 users on average in December 2012 for example against a forecast of 60,000 vehicles per day. Leaving aside the sheer traffic logistics, essentially we have a scenario where an overall public utility (ie, public roads) has been subsumed under the auspices of private enterprise (with its relatively more concentrated financial framework), yet all of which is meant to function synchronously within the wider system of the Brisbane metropolitan area (a composite of multi-faceted human activity systems and subsystems). In other words, the characteristics of public utility have been bolted to the more individualistic character of private processes such that any variance in one has been left with no room to adjust to the contingencies of the other. The result is a loss of resources which translates into deficits on both sides. Yet in the end the debt is borne by the wider community, the very sector this nexus was supposed to enhance. In terms of the Otoom model the scenario represents a classic case of disparate systems forced to exist interdependently although their respective functionalities are not affinitive at all. It is one reason why systems degenerate. (Source: Courier Mail, 21 Jan 13, "Tolls Drive Fines Snub")

The leader of a nation is as much a reflection of that nation's overall character as the nation will reflect the standards of its leader. A complex, dynamic system, being the composite of its interdependent subsystem, sees to it. Societies which are volatile, feature an obsessive involvement with their religion, contain tribal and familial factions and have their cognitive processes influenced by emotion rather than logic and reason, need a strongman to govern, and only someone with such attributes will make it to the top to begin with. After the revolution in Egypt that saw the previous regime of Hosni Mubarak toppled in 2011, the country's new leader, Mohamed Morsi, has just produced a decree that makes him immune from judicial review. It is now November, a mere five months after he came to power. Despite the various expectations of all those factions in the country itself and their passionate wishes for the future, despite the romantic view in the West under the label 'Arab Spring' which automatically sees any removal of one dictatorship as a sign of democracy, systems of a certain nature behave as they do because that's what their functional elements allow for.

Every society constitutes a system in its own right. It features subsystems which interact with each other according to their scope and impact. Such systems are complex and dynamic, which means their elements are highly interdependent and re-adjust to contemporary influences. Afghan society is tribal, infused with religion, and functions under harsh conditions - all aspects which significantly differ from the West. The current interference by the Allied with that demographic has produced effects that neither enhance the position of the West nor do they make things better for the Afghans. The latest example is the determination to rid the country of its opium production. Given the interdependent nature of human activity systems, the effects are opposite to the intent. Not only has opium production increased, its integration with that society has led to farmers being at the mercy of the Taliban and drug lords to the point where they are forced to sell their children as a substitute for the traditional crop. The tribal nature of human relationships, the secretive atmosphere of intense religion, and strict morals allow this to happen. This is not the first time the West's obsession with Middle Eastern religion produced devastating results. From the Crusades to the Inquisition to our current entanglement with the Middle East, the European mindset has suffered for centuries. Consider for a moment had this not been so. Given the current exponential explosion of science and technology after its first tentative beginnings during the Age of Reason, imagine if our modern-day advances would have happened around 900 CE. Instead of a thousand years of the Dark Ages and their stultifying, strangulating and stagnating influence we would have continued from where ancient Greece and Rome had left off. Where would we be now?

Back in 2010 concerns were raised about the Australian federal government's plan to store the internet activity of all users within its jurisdiction. What exactly the policy would entail was not clear and the government was criticised for its lack of transparency. Two years later (this is July 2012) and the issue is in the news again. While the debate at least may seem more open (for example, Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury offering some comments) what is being said leads to more questions still. Considering society and its governance from Otoom's systems point of view, the arguments regarding what will and what will not be stored in the interests of national security point to problems with redundancy and sustainability overall. In order to ascertain whether the data set belonging to a particular individual constitutes a threat the data will have to be retained in the first place regardless of the official definition. The claim therefore that only terrorists will be analysed is virtually meaningless. Furthermore, to detect any suspicious activity or even intent a cross-matching of data needs to be employed where certain words in isolation may be useless but their ongoing patterns are not - keeping in mind that the label 'suspicious activity' is open to modification once the system is in place. We already have security agencies which search for possible threats, so in principle the plan is nothing new. How else can ASIO for example keep abreast of anti-government or anti-Western sentiments unless it follows the potential links. 'Potential' being the salient word. Which leads to sustainability. A country like Australia can afford to run large-scale computer systems dedicated to that purpose (so far at least, although consider the points raised in "2050: Age of the Silverback"), but even now the annual budget relates to many competing interests. The question therefore is not whether internet surveillance will or will not happen - it already does. Rather, what aspects of security will be deemed to have priority over others, and what are either, the winners and the losers. The problem extends way beyond the figures in some ledger; to concentrate on one aspect but not another will have effects specific to the nature of that aspect. For example, our current obsession with child safety (induced by transferring the female mindset away from the home into wider society) has led to measures which created a cocoon around the infant persona within which the previous checks and balances are no longer effective. The results are obesity at alarming levels because hardly any parent dares to control their child's diet; violence in the classroom because disciplining one's child has become a legal mine field; even concerns about age-related sexuality skews the perception of what is acceptable and what is not towards the weaker. Whatever one's personal opinion about such matters may be, the priority given to that mindset over the past two generations or so would surely have produced a society so much better than before (after all, aren't children our future?). Yet quite the opposite is true. During that same time the West has experienced a substantial economic decline, driven largely by its own indulgencies. The present example is only one of many, but the inability to call a halt to ego-centric pressure groups has become a hallmark of Western society. It starts with the child who finds it quite normal to be protected from any threat anyone could ever come up with, then continues into adulthood with the same degenerative attitude in place. Naturally, this includes our current crop of politicians who abet the decline.

In an article about current procedures necessary for getting a mining approval from the federal and state governments, Barry Carbon, the man who set up the Environmental Protection Agency in Queensland, says mining companies have to submit to blackmail from the regulators because they have no choice. In addition, the sheer volume of environmental impact statements (a 12,000-page report was cited as one example) makes it impossible for anyone to read, comprehend and act on that kind of information. The framework of offsets requiring miners and developers to make a financial contribution or to buy land is another opportunity for corruption to emerge. The conditions described here are a typical result of complex systems having the resource space to become even more complex. From the perspective of Otoom extra functional domains are formed during this process which are not necessarily connected to the environment as directly as their origins. The effect is subsystems which are acquiring a contingent of feedback loops of their own and therefore becoming more remote from the rest. In the case above the relationship between the mining industry and the regulatory bodies of governments experienced the addition of environmentally-related activity systems that allowed their neighbours to respond in terms of their affinities (ie, land holdings, defined values dependent of carbon-focused calculations, the impact statement industry itself, and so on). Since the added subsystems have become an obstacle to rather than an improvement for the entire process, stake holders seek to circumvent the bottlenecks - the conditions for blackmail and corruption are in place; as they always are in such situations. (Source: Courier Mail, 5 Nov 11, "Governments accused of mine approval blackmail")

The High Court of Australia has just handed down its decision to block a deal involving refugees. The plan was to send 800 asylum seekers landing on Australia's shores to Malaysia where they would be processed, and in return Australia would accept 4,000 refugees from that country. Since Malaysia is not a signatory to the U.N. convention on refugees the plan was deemed illegal. Policies that are shot down in such a dramatic fashion create a mess for any government, but for Labor this is not the only major problem (the proposed carbon tax is another), and since the deal covered international relations to boot it made matters worse. Big issues tend to be an aggregate of many factors, and this is no exception. Asylum seekers coming by boat are contentious because they do not arrive through the formal channels, by and large they represent demographics which are relatively incompatible with a Western society, and since many come from Afghanistan it raises the additional question of Australia's involvement in that war. In local terms there is the conviction on both sides of politics that only off-shore processing will do, which for a psychologist points to a deep-seated subliminal rejection of politically inconvenient aspects on a societal scale. Yet the facts of the here and now cannot be thought away. Australia is part of a globalised world where the population numbers are forever rising, dislocation caused by war, climate change and diminishing resources cause upheavals that spill into every other region including ours, yet at the same time the standards and competitiveness of a rich nation such as Australia need to be maintained, and last but not least, not everybody is created equal. Standards come in many forms. Whether in terms of education, infrastructure, or every-day politics, they all derive from mindsets that contain ideology to some degree; realism comes later and what ultimately matters is the degree. If Australia had a basic charter (keeping in mind it has no such thing) that kind of document could define the essence of our societal and/or political disposition. The Basic Charter derived from the Otoom model contains a particularly pertinent paragraph, namely, "4. No endeavour which seeks to influence and define people's lives may be enacted that has as its basis and justification the dogma of any religion, culture, or tradition. Similarly, no activity pursued by any individual or individuals may be prohibited through justifications derived from the realms of religion, culture, or tradition" (note the sequence of those two sentences - individual acts are subsumed under the wider scope). Paragraph (1) is also relevant. Given the sheer diversity of humanity migration cannot be left unchecked, but it matters whether it abides by formal and equally administered perspectives or whether it is subject to ad-hoc policies that are bound to be haphazard and open to varying criticisms by whatever party happens to be in opposition; in any case, the days when cultural uniqueness defined a nation are just about gone. Furthermore, the world does not wait for us to get it right. (Source: The West Australian, 31 Sep 11, "Australia's High Court rejects Malaysian asylum-seeker deal")

In December 2007 the blog "2050: Age of the Silverback" described a world where profligate spending has been reduced to the absolutely necessary defined by lack of resources on one hand and the few remaining pressure groups on the other. The winners are the silverbacks, just like in the wild we thought we had left behind. Like everything else on these pages the validity of such predictions depends on the functional trends staying the same, but if they do - and so far they have - the Otoom model from 2003 has proven itself to be an accurate analytical tool. So here we are in August 2011 and a few days ago the US Treasury escaped default when its government managed to increase the nation's debt ceiling - with one day to spare before time ran out. It doesn't need Otoom to teach us that you can't spend fifteen dollars when you have only have ten. But it helps to have an understanding of how clustering due to affinity relationships lets domains emerge that sooner or later attain a self-serving purpose ever more removed from reality, so that the dynamics within those domains get out of sync with the rest of the system. The last-minute decision by the US to prevent a major global crisis hardly addresses the underlying issue, that is how to reign-in spending that no-one dares to criticise because its promoters view their world from a perspective of indulgent largesse. Just as a weak husband can't stand up to his wife going on a shopping spree, or a spineless politician will give in to advocates of pouring money into other countries, or a vote-chasing government wanting so desperately being 'friends' with all types of constituents and their demands. Essentially this is the reason why the US debt crisis has not been averted (nor the European one for that matter), because that would require an authority being largely inured to so many of our current idols - from women's issues to sexual moralisms to illegal drugs to playing the sugar daddy for dysfunctional societies. Yet reality cannot be shut out forever. The larger the misguided subsystem the bigger its buffer zones and hence the longer the time frame within which the decay will play itself out, but in the end the costs will have to be repaid one way or another.

People living in the here and now often forget how dramatic the influence of governmental initiatives can be when it comes to shifting public perception. In Otoom's terms one can say that a continuous input will change the affinity relationships among the overall system in favour of the former. Representative clusters form that allow cognitive subsystems to emerge which did not exist before. About a week ago Brisbane's Lord Mayor Campbell Newman decided he will ban smoking in Queen Street Mall, a pedestrian-only area in the centre of the CBD. While he himself would not choose a complete ban he would listen to the 78% of residents surveyed who did support such a measure. Brisbane already has one of the harshest anti-smoking laws in the nation (it's that kind of demographic). It is illegal to light a cigarette within four meters of a public entrance and there is a complete ban in outside eating areas. Over the ensuing years this has led to many people becoming convinced that walking past a smoker constitutes a great deal of suffering. On the other hand, Brisbane does feature cars and trucks and buses, and while the good burghers get in a knot when exposed to a whiff of tobacco smoke in the street they are seemingly immune from the exhaust fumes emitted by vehicles surging past them. There is one sure-fire way to spot the existence of an ideological source when it comes to measures that are deemed to make life safer: if a particular measure is enacted on that basis while at the same time other, much more significant factors exist that impact negatively yet are disregarded, you can be sure that the policy includes the irrational. So, how do the pollutants from smoking compare with those from cars? To find out, three references have been used: The Cigarette is a Major Source of Pollution, Emission Facts: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle, and the Fuel Consumption Guide Database 1986-2003. It turns out that a cigarette emits between 7 and 23 milligrams of pollutants depending on the brand, and when compared with the pollutants coming from car exhausts the latter are more significant by a factor of about 65,000 to 20,000. For the calculations see "Cigarette vs vehicle exhaust comparison" in Downloads. What has not been taken into consideration there are bigger vehicles such as buses and trucks and the overall time periods involved as a person walks through the street or eats at an outdoor restaurant. Including those factors (and a couple of others - see the spreadsheet) would only increase the difference further. This is not to suggest cigarettes should be part of the major food groups, but it does make you wonder how someone can claim to suffer from a few smokers puffing on their cigarettes while at the same time being surrounded by cars pumping out carcinogens at a rate tens of thousands of times higher.

Another example that takes us closer to the scenario described in the blog "2050: Age of the Silverback" can be found in remarks made by the CEO of Origin Energy at a recent conference in Sydney. Grant King predicted that the price of energy would rise to two or three times the present levels by the year 2020. One factor is the cost of coal approaching a "more internationally consistent pricing". The article's author, Terry McCrann, then suggests the current government's plan of a carbon tax would exacerbate the situation while countries such as India and China enjoy the benefits of the relatively cheap fuel. How the perspective on carbon emissions will fare in ten years' time is another topic, but a rising world population, a general pressure on resources and political initiatives do make for an interesting mix. Furthermore, at the moment our prime minister is fighting a major battle for health reform, again underpinned by ever rising costs across the nation. One suggestion being mooted by the government is to substantially raise the cost of cigarettes to wean smokers off their habit and hence lowering the pressure on health care. However, as Adam Smith has already pointed out, over-taxing a product brings its own problems which ultimately result in greater costs to the government. It all points to a manifold pincer movement with the overall costs of living in the middle and mounting demands from all sides. There comes a point when a radical shift is forced upon a system that has run itself into the ground; a typical bifurcation in technical terms. So here is a possible outcome, unthinkable now but far more feasible in 30-40 years' time: life-style induced diseases (think of circulatory failures, depression, obesity, etc) have increased to the extent where essentially terminal cases are no longer treated in hospitals but instead shunted to palliative care using presently illegal drugs such as cannabis and heroin. Not only will hundreds of millions of dollars be saved through that measure alone but militant groups around the world will be deprived of their income and therefore rendered inconsequential while at the same time the money remains in the country and becomes available for more productive purposes - another few billions saved. Sounds far-fetched? 40 years ago America and the Soviet Union had nuclear missiles pointed at each other (remember 'MAD'?), today the US and Russia sign on a nuclear arms reduction deal; 40 years ago homosexuals were sent to prison, today Sydney celebrates the biggest gay festival in the southern hemisphere. (Source: Courier Mail, 15 Apr 10, "Future's looking dim")

As the introduction of the Australian government internet filter continues to attract criticism, Luke Pullar, in a letter to the Courier Mail's editor, quotes Adolf Hitler. The filter is supposed to prevent child pornography from being accessed on the net but the list of banned sites is kept secret and there is no guarantee mistakes have not been made nor whether this censorship restricts itself to under-age sex. As pointed out elsewhere on these pages this latest initiative has its roots in the age-old Christian antagonism towards the human eros in general and the relatively recent fury engendered by feminism when it comes to male sexuality. In addition the feminist propensity to elevate the status of the Child out of all proportion has resulted in several policies and public attitudes that already proved disruptive to society in general (examples are increased violence among youth, teachers being attacked even by primary school children, a more unstable home life causing developmental problems in children). As for the internet filter, not only is the technology questionable, censorship generates its own problems regarding antisocial behaviour that is now pushed underground while at the same time establishing a government vehicle for controlling the people. The quote from Hitler: "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the Government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation". It is worth noting how Wilhelm Reich connected fascism to sexual oppression by the state (W. Reich, "The Mass Psychology of Fascism", Doubleday Canada Ltd, Toronto, 1985). Under the Otoom model cognitive functionalities are identified according to their impact on the individual and/or society, the degree of such impact in turn being linked to how fundamental the functionalities are along the evolutionary timeline. Since the propagation of the species is common to any organism on this planet, the associated cognitive elements are as basic as can be. Hence a controlling mechanism that makes use of them is very effective. In this context one advantage of the Otoom model is its ability to allow the analysis of societal maturity be derived from the identified sexual oppression in that society. The less sexual oppression the greater the maturity and therefore a better human rights record, a higher standard of living, a heightened intellectual sophistication - just from that aspect alone. By the way, all this is not to claim Australia is on the verge of becoming a fascist state. Nevertheless, it always helps to find out what bedfellows an ideology has; in this case feminism. (Source: Courier Mail, 7 Jan 10, "Talking Point - Filter will help hide evil")

A law works best only if it deals with exceptional cases of negative behaviour. The associated costs spread across the police force, the courts, and the prison system, as well as society in general, can only be borne within the context of the system if the nature of the system itself is not brought under constraint. Once the behaviour goes beyond what can be circumscribed as exceptional no law or police will be able to control that society. Hence the law is always powerless against uprisings or revolutions. Over the past few decades religious sentiments and feminist ideology have combined to create once more a public hysteria regarding sexual behaviour, this time in the context of the child. The results are making themselves felt when consistent pressure causes the legal entities to respond. In Queensland 6500 child-sex charges were laid between July 2005 and June 2007 alone. The costs are not inconsiderable, not to mention the problems for all the other types of cases. Ideology-based control is always questionable, but this time the coming burden already heralded by climate change, peak oil and tumultuous global politics make such fanaticism a very real enemy of the state. When individuals were identified in those terms in the past under similarly high-pressure circumstances they were often killed by the mob. (Source: Courier Mail, 7 Jul 08, "Abuse cases choke courts")

The most recent vehicle for collecting information on citizens comes from the Queensland state government. Its OneSchool system is designed to hold information on every student in the state on a central database. Naturally such items as name, photo, address, school etc, are kept, but also ongoing progress reports which of course reflect the opinions of the teacher first and foremost. No matter how professionally this is done, such information is context-situated and does not necessarily translate well into a wider shared environment in which various demographics and cultures intermingle. This is a problem common to any collective that crosses demographic boundaries. Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope says such a database could also contain information on what students "like and dislike; which bars people go to; where and how often you drive; and when and why you use a public hospital". The OneSchool system is in line with Otoom's prediction of the near future where governments make increasingly use of technology in order to inform themselves about their subjects. Although the reasons given are usually benign, the potential for escalating beyond the envisaged parameters exists all the time and will be further driven by the desire of people themselves for their governments to become ever more targeted in their service delivery. (Source: Courier Mail, 17 Jun 08, "State's 'wall of secrecy'")

Another sign we are moving towards the scenario predicted in "2050: Age of the Silverback" comes from the United Kingdom. Gary Pugh, the forensic science director for the Metropolitan Police, wants badly behaved children as young as five to be registered with a national DNA database. According to the report his idea has attracted high-level political support but, not surprisingly, less so from civil libertarians. There are two features, both of which addressable through the Otoom model. Early definition of anti-social behaviour contributes to the efficiency of the legal system and therefore becomes a cost factor; and the availability of DNA databases provides a source of information that sooner or later will be made use of, the major determinant being the degree of affinity between the DNA activity system and some other (in this case behavioural assessment). In society as well as in the thoughts of an individual such affinity relationships play a role in the cognitive dynamics. (Source: Courier Mail, 18 Mar 08, "Fury over naughty kids DNA database")

anchor arrow Science in general:
Professor Peter Brooks, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Queensland, announces a broad health sciences degree. He said an evaluation of the employment market and consultation with industry has shown there was a need for graduates with a broad-based knowledge in the health sciences. It would be the first time such a degree had been offered in Queensland. Contrast this with the attitude towards my honours thesis, where the interdisciplinary aspect had been particularly emphasised as a negative for the thesis. (Source: Courier Mail, 9 Sep 05, "Degree to tackle health issues")

anchor arrow Terrorism:
More evidence emerges that Muslims who decide to travel to Syria and join the IS do not automatically come from a deprived background and are not insufficient in the English language. Under the Otoom model it is largely the functionalities pertaining to certain manifestations within demographics and societies that lead to their identification, not their content. Using content the experience gained in previously more homogenous Western societies would have indeed pointed to poverty, poor parenting and dysfunctional environments which rendered young people unable to participate in wider society and hence led them to crime. To use such context for social analysis was valid because it had been those factors and not others causing the results. Employing functionality however rather than content makes the observer realise that disengagement from the mainstream is a matter of the existence of particular clusters that are able to form disparate mindsets, regardless what they are in terms of content - it is the nature of those factors leading to clustering, not what they are composed of (see What exactly is meant by functionality? on the FAQs page). Further corroborative evidence comes from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) in Adelaide which studied the influence a student's home environment has on their performance in school compared to the facilities at the school itself. The most significant influence comes from the home, the school plays only a minor part. Some comments from that report are worth noting: "Important individual predictors of higher engagement levels include having the intention to complete Year 12, performing strong academically, having a high self-concept of ability, being foreign-born, coming from a high socioeconomic status background, speaking a language other than English at home, working only relatively few hours outside school, and coming from a traditional nuclear family", and "Once individual background factors are controlled for, school attributes have very little impact on the engagement levels of 15-year-olds. By school attributes we mean school sector and demographics, resourcing, competition and academic orientation, school leadership and teacher quality, and the overall school climate. These school characteristics account for 4.3% of students' emotional engagement and 7.5% of their cognitive engagement" (see "Key messages" in the NCVER report). Hence cluster-building of any kind is made possible provided the functional aspects of one's environment are strong enough to override others which exist at a greater societal distance (eg, home vs school). The generally stronger bonds within families, a contextualising influence coming from a non-local culture, and the ability to perform overall coming from the push by parents to succeed lead to the forming of, in the case of extremism, demographics that flock to Syria while at the same time being antagonistic to their host society. To ameliorate such influences takes much more than targeting the youths themselves; they are the product of their particular environment comprising parents, siblings, and their associates they have contact with in daily life, including the internet. Therefore the $64 million initiative by Prime Minister Tony Abbott which includes $13 million for "community management programs" may not yield the expected results. The $11 million allocated for "Australian Federal Police investigation teams" promise to be more useful. (Sources: "Suburbs To Syria", The Courier Mail, 26 Aug 14; R. Viellaris, "'I Will Be First Female Killer'", The Courier Mail, 22 Aug 14; Gemici, S & Lu, T 2014, "Do schools influence student engagement in the high school years?", National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Adelaide; "Counter terrorism measures to receive $64m in funding: Tony Abbott", news.com.au, 26 Aug 14)

The expansion of ISIS, a group directly referencing itself to the dream of a global caliphate under Islam going back centuries, has dislocated tens of thousands of people across Syria and Iraq. Such is the seriousness of the threat that US President Obama has once again initiated air strikes in Iraq despite the administration's policy of disengagement from Middle Eastern turmoil. The evolution of ISIS has been described already under the perspective of complex dynamic systems (see next entry below), but it is only now that commentators - and hopefully decision makers - begin to recognise how the West's engagement with Islamic medievalism does not lead to some Middle Eastern version of the European Enlightenment but actually hardens attitudes in the face of threats to their identity while at the same time curtailing the resources needed to keep one's own territory secure. Articles such as Michael Ware's in the Courier Mail pointing to the history of recent extremism across Iraq and its neighbours are becoming more frequent since the developments in the real world start to influence perceptions. The phenomenon of outside pressure in the form of reality intruding into people's minds where they confront current beliefs and phantasies is in itself a significant aspect of cognitive dynamics. (Sources: Foreign Policy Group, "The Beginning of a Caliphate: The Spread of ISIS, in Five Maps", 11 June 2014; M. Ware, "Vicious, evil reality of Iraq jihad", Courier Mail, 9 August 2014)

"Nature abhors a vacuum". This saying, attributed to Aristotle and debated ever since, does make metaphorical sense in complex dynamic systems because there less competitive elements are overshadowed by more assertive ones in the context of their particular environments. Available resources fuel the interactions rather than lying dormant. The more volatile, the more 'dynamic' such systems are, the more acute the competition; the only real constraint being the limits imposed by the quality and quantity of resources. The destabilisation of Iraq due to the removal of Saddam Hussein and the upheavals in Syria, together with their pervasiveness across the world only globalisation could make possible, has currently resulted in a group calling itself The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) moving into Iraq from Syria and now virtually knocking on the doors of Baghdad. Under a systems' perspective the phenomenon can be described as a clustering of affinitive entities drawing from a world-wide pool of potential members, making use of political vacuums in Syria as well as Iraq, accentuating their competitiveness through intensification of their status, and using the innate discrepancy between Islam and the West to cast their identity. Their resources therefore are three-fold: the lack of political counterweights, ideological sustenance derived from amplifying their heritage, and the financial and military support from like-minded Muslims together with a steady supply of arms the West has handed to what it considers to be 'good' Muslims and fallen into their hands. The principle dynamics involved can be identified throughout history, but more particularly in the modern-day Middle East where the US and its allies deposited their supports in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, only to watch uninvited others helping themselves for their own purposes (which is why the comments made in "On the origin of Mind" back in 2003 are as valid as ever). Furthermore, groups such as ISIS represent relatively ad-hoc associations quite unlike Western examples with their more formal structure. It took Britain's MI5 and the CIA in the US several years to recognise the fundamental difference (see further down this section -> The head of Britain's MI5, -> USA, "News Hour with Jim Lehrer"), a consequence of disregarding the functional aspect of human activity systems. ISIS has now changed its name to the Islamic State, declaring the occupied territories as the new caliphate to which all Muslims must pledge allegiance. This should raise concerns about Muslim residents of Western nations joining radicals even further. The clashes among Middle Eastern demographics is also fuelled by the age-old division between Sunnis and Shia. ISIS comes from the Sunni camp, the current government in Iraq is Shia. Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are Sunni, while Iran, Syria and Lebanon contain sizeable Shia populations. Such nation-wide demarcations pose in themselves a danger to the West. This latest crisis in the Middle East stems once again from an inherent local culture exacerbated by Western naiveté, too open-ended immigration policies, and a credo which automatically assumes everyone in the world is the same and only waiting to receive our culture for which they must be grateful because, so it is assumed, they are just like us. How wrong such assumptions are can be seen over and over again. These sentiments are aided by certain sections of our society and academia, whose members are oblivious to the threats manifesting beyond our borders as well as increasingly within them (on the other hand, they might only be too aware of the consequences of their attitudes - such as Griffith University's vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor in Brisbane who once tried to invite Saudi Arabia to his Nathan campus, see the social experiment). Our leaders could do worse than acquainting themselves with Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilisations. (Sources: Bob Dreyfuss, "The Iraq-Syria Civil War Challenges Both the US and Iran", The Nation, 11 Jun 14; "Arms Windfall for Insurgents as Iraq City Falls", The New York Times, 10 Jun 14; Griff Witte, "Europeans are flocking to the war in Syria. What happens when they come home?", The Washington Post, 29 Jan 14; "Blood flows in a house divided", The Courier Mail, 14 Jun 14; "Al-Qa'ida in trouble as ISIS rules", The Courier Mail, 1 Jul 14; Samuel P Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order", Touchstone Books, London, 1996)

With the war in Syria continuing, a phenomenon has emerged that seems to be greeted with some surprise by commentators around the world: Muslim radicals are flocking there to fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Considering societal dynamics however this should not be seen as unusual. There are three essential features giving rise to such a development. Firstly, authoritarian regimes situate themselves within an environment of unstable demographics which require a strongman to sustain themselves. Should the regime weaken (or even perceived to be weakening) a variety of contenders make themselves felt, threatening the stability of the regime. Secondly, by now Western countries can point to many years of Islamic immigration, forming considerable contingents there. Thirdly, demographics which are relatively isolated from the rest of society tend to establish their own particular culture away from any ameliorating influence a wider society can provide. This leads to more extreme forms of interpretation, centred around such demographic clusters (it happens in eco-systems as well: compare the specificity of species on islands to similar biological families in larger, more inter-connected regions). In the case of Syria those three strands have come together. An existing regime is under threat, Islam is volatile to begin with, and Muslim communities in the West are a fertile ground for appropriate ideologues to search for and find worthwhile causes. Political scientist Thomas Hegghammer from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment collected data about fighters in Syria who came from European countries so far overlooked, such as Austria, Denmark, Belgium and Norway. Shiraz Maher, senior research fellow and head of the outreach at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at Kings College London, says, "These countries have produced a high number of foreign fighters". To quote from the article, "Germany showed 200 Muslims departing for Syria. The UK number was between 200 and 300 fighters. Belgium, which has a significantly smaller population than France, Germany and the UK, showed between 100 and 300 combatants in Syria. Denmark's number was 65 and Austria 57, both of which have considerably small populations. As many as 40 Norwegian Muslims traveled to Syria". Both Hegghammer and Maher warn that those figures represent the largest European Muslim foreign fighter contingent to any conflict in modern history, and by the time they return will be profoundly psychologically disturbed (only then??). We are beginning to see the same in Australia, keeping in mind that the very nature of clusters makes them difficult to observe from the outside. (Sources: Benjamin Weinthal, " Historically unprecedented number of European Muslim fighters in Syria", Jerusalem Post, 29 Nov 13; Rachel Olding, "Sydney men arrested over bid to help fighters in Syria", Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Dec 13)

In his book "See No Evil" Robert Baer writes about his experiences as a CIA officer on various overseas postings during the 80s and 90s. His work did not involve sitting behind a desk. He was out there on city streets, in Middle Eastern trouble spots, making contact with locals, agents, and terrorists. He experienced the shift at the highest levels of bureaucracy from a hands-on approach to one where isolated thinking and political correctness had taken over. Written just after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 he makes the point that lack of information from the ground up and unfamiliarity with the Middle Eastern mindset made it impossible to guard against that disaster. The destruction of the World Trade Centre was an act of war waiting to happen. Under Otoom a similar conclusion has been reached. Although not concerned with a content-related analysis - specific individuals, names, events at a certain time and place - the model's focus on functionality makes it possible to ascertain particular mannerisms for their principle nature and transpose them across wider society once a pattern - again in the functional sense - starts to reveal itself. As can be seen going through two major reports on Iraq, one done by the Americans and the other by the British, their conclusions match exactly those reached under Otoom written years before. An understanding of Middle Eastern culture within its own environment does not need trying out some war plan to see what will happen; in terms of the potential an intrusive aggression carries within itself the target's culture reveals a significant range of possibilities. Exactly who will do what and where needs the information at the source once the event is taking place. Given the applicability of functional patterns in society, the influence of bureaucratic theorising and its priority over realism could be ascertained in many other areas as well. Too often it has become the standard, and its followers, lured and sustained by the comfort of far-away offices and the ease with which ideas can be typed out at a whim, have presented us with the results. They include skewed perspectives on ourselves and on others, and they cost us dearly. A case in point is wide-spread public perception leaning towards the Palestinians during the current conflict in Gaza where news reports invite criticism towards Israel but Hamas' role is hardly touched upon. Most people have never been to the Middle East let alone to any Palestinian areas. They could do worse than view a video (Part 1, Part 2) throwing some light on the nature of Hamas. (Source: Robert Baer, "See No Evil", Crown Publishers, New York, 2002)

The British think tank Policy Exchange has just released a report, "The highjacking of British Islam", which details some of the Islamic values propagated through texts available at certain British mosques. Those values are extreme compared to their Western counterparts, such as the stoning of adulteresses, the killing of homosexuals, and the prohibition of Muslims to integrate with their host society or mixing with any "infidels" whatsoever. A significant source of the material comes from Saudi Arabia, a nation capable of disseminating its values throughout the world due to the wealth accumulated on the back of Western technology and its demand for oil. What is particularly interesting from Otoom's point of view is the widening of reference employed in the report. The original perception in the West of Islamic extremists was one of deprived individuals in developing countries; with more evidence becoming available it changed to discontented youth in the West until it became clear that some of the terrorists came from the ranks of well-off professionals; next it was assumed that the language barrier caused the segregation. And now the report makes it clear that the majority of the extremist literature is actually written in English, clearly not designed to appeal to a group kept apart by language. Along with the previous misguided perceptions ran the measures instituted by Western authorities. What those notions did not take into account was the element of identity, a feature made particularly significant against the backdrop of religion and sectarian and tribal cultures. In addition the influence of identity-driven domain-building has led to a considerable power shift over the last century, notably the strengthening of demographics on the back of Western-generated and -exported wealth, groups that did not join their source in terms of cultural alignment. Rather, it reinforced their antagonistic disposition and allowed them to emerge as critical players on the world scene. Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations are now able to play the energy card in a manner not foreseen at the time of the first oil fields. The underlying principles can be observed and analysed for what they are although whether the lessons are being learned is rather questionable. For example, what are the prospects that in another generation or so such demographics as indigenous people in Australia, intensively self-promoting as they are in terms of a specific, separate identity, will equally become an antagonistic player, this time powered by the means derived from the mineral wealth bestowed upon them by their high-tech host society? A scenario that will prove to be remarkably similar to the situation in today's world as it concerns oil, Islam, and the West. Although the geo-political scene is somewhat more complex than this, these features play a significant role and certainly don't make the resultant issues less intractable. (Source: D. MacEoin, "The highjacking of British Islam", Policy Exchange, London, 2007)

To demonstrate what a progression lock can do (which under Otoom means the constraint of choices from a particular point onwards and defined by the nature of pre-established conditions) one only has to consider the current request to Congress by the US military for US$190 billion to continue the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Senator Byrd the war has cost US$450 billion already. A series of decisions and acted-out perceptions by the US government and the Pentagon has led to a take on reality in which the spending of US$640,000,000,000 (to remain with the US way of defining a billion) is entirely reasonable in order to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks on home soil. In this picture the huge sum is necessary when it comes to stalling single-figure groups of fanatics who seek to infiltrate the US border, organise some explosives, and look for a place to blow up. Such a mindset suggests two possibilities: either the defender is so incompetent that 640 billion must be spent in order to defeat groups effectively half the size of a football team, or the enemy is of so gigantic proportions that only this incredible effort will defeat him. Either way it's off the planet. The really insidious nature of progression locks however is not their visible form; it is the blind acceptance of the status quo because, no matter how lunatic, it now is reality and hence accepted as such. (Source: Courier Mail, 28 Sep 07, "$200b war bill bid")

A report by the New York Police Department, "Radicalisation in the West: The Homegrown Threat", sees the internet as the "new Afghanistan" because it represents a useful arena for the radicalisation of Muslims. The report notes that many of the attacks and identified plots against Western cities were planned by residents in those countries. Terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda are therefore not somewhere distant but their effective influence is local. Under the Otoom model the phenomenon is recognised as a form of clustering, where affinitive characteristics within a population contribute to the forming of groups along particular features. The propensity to cluster needs to be seen within the context of its constituents, whether that be a fad of fashion, an emerging habit, or perspectives taken from religion and culture in general. The role of identity-seeking has been highlighted in the report for good reason: it always forms a major part of the clustering process. Analysing society under such objective auspices away from one's own disposition makes the potential sources for emergent trends clearer. It needs to be realised by society's decision makers that within a nation demographics answer to their own dynamics and individuals may not adhere to what is the commonly perceived standard. (Source: Courier Mail, 17 Aug 07, "Homegrown terror a keystroke away")

Michael Scheuer, former head of the Bin Laden Unit in the CIA, spoke at the 2007 Security Conference in Sydney about Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the West will never win as long as it doesn't understand its enemies and it must let go of dreams of Middle East democracy; there is no doubt the incursion is about oil (already hinted at in the Iraq Study Group Report). Yet another example of someone in the field coming to a more realistic conclusion than certain politicians driven by their religion. A formal analysis of Middle Eastern demographics - let alone a detailed profiling under Otoom - would have revealed their unsuitability for democratic governance from the very start, and the notion that an attacker needs to understand the enemy can already be found in the writings of Sun Tzu over 2000 years ago. Compare his statements about oil with the insistence by Australia's Prime Minister John Howard that Australia is in Iraq and Afghanistan to "help restore democracy". Apart from the erroneous representation of global politics, even the semantics are flawed. The dictionary defines 'restore' as "to bring back into existence" - but there never had been democracy to begin with. Furthermore, as a study of the demographic layout of this region reveals - including the tribal areas spanning Afghanistan and Pakistan - any interference in the affairs of local residents only ever provokes responses that have their basis in the local conditions and not those of the West. (Source: SBS-TV News, 10 Jul 07)

In the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in the UK the evidence points to foreign doctors who have used their professional and residential status as cover, in the UK as well as Australia. While it raises more direct questions about governmental procedures not designed to deal with religious fanatics, there is also the wider perspective of the increasing need to import professionals from other countries, especially those not of a standard commensurate with a Western society in general. Under Otoom's perspective a system functions in a sustainable manner if its internal dynamics are able to draw on resources generated from within. Energy as such has to come from somewhere of course, but the intellectual and cultural sustenance needs to be affinitive with the demands of the host system. In chemistry the phenomenon is termed 'autocatalytic closure', and its principles can be identified in cognitive dynamics as well. A system - be that a demographic, a nation, or society - that has run down its own resource base to such an extent is on a path towards degeneration. If the imported entities are comparable to its own there is no problem; indeed, the system can well be described in wider terms including those entities. If they are not however, discrepancies occur that create an overall precarious situation. In this case they manifested in the form of health professionals acting as a 'Trojan horse'. (Source: Courier Mail, 4 Jul 07, "Terror link on our doorstep", "Blame game erupts on visa")

In a public speech ASIO's chief Paul O'Sullivan warns that terrorism remains a destabilising force for the next generation. Comparing the present to the days of the Cold War he said Al-Qaeda's "ideological vehemence" defied the culture of caution created during those earlier days, then represented by the US and the Soviet Union's "mutual possession of weapons of mass destruction". Quite true, but Otoom permits to extend the analysis to cultural parallelisms, which means that despite political diversities there nevertheless existed civilisational bonds between the US and the Soviet Union that worked behind the scenes. No such bridges exist between the West in general and Islam, and one can only hope that Western decision makers come to realise how profound the difference is before much more damage has been done. (Source: Courier Mail, 21 Jun 07, "Warning of terror to come")

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The news isn't all bad. A dramatic example of how a particular sentiment can grow out of literally nothing provided the conditions are right is the change in water consumption in Brisbane. The latest Queensland Water Commission figures show we are averaging 123 litres a day per person, 17 litres below the 140 target. When it comes to water this makes us the most frugal city in the world, ahead of cities in Germany. Compare that to an average rate of 380 litres/person/day in the US and 150 litres in the UK. In Otoom-speak we have an artificially triggered ideational domain that was nursed along to grow making use of a variety of available affinities. It is quite possible therefore for an entire custom to change literally within months. So a culture is not as immovable as it is sometimes made out to be. (Source: Courier Mail, 29 Aug 07, "Water world-beaters")

Correction: Regarding John Howard's decision to stop irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin, the article referenced had that region as accounting for 40% of Australia's agricultural production. In an article today on the same topic that figure is now 34%. (Source: Courier Mail, 21 Apr 07, "Nation could run out of food")

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