Patterns in Politics and Otherwise
Starting out with clear definitions, at leasts clear as common usage allows, is always a useful method with which to talk about the same thing--even though conclusions may be different and often are.
1 a repeated decorative design: a neat blue herringbone pattern.
• an arrangement or sequence regularly found in comparable objects or events: the house had been built on the usual pattern.
• a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations: a complicating factor is the change in working patterns.
2 a model or design used as a guide in needlework and other crafts.
• a set of instructions to be followed in making a sewn or knitted item.
• a wooden or metal model from which a mold is made for a casting.
• an example for others to follow: he set the pattern for subsequent study.
• a sample of cloth or wallpaper.
verb [ with obj. ]
1 (usu. as adj. patterned) decorate with a recurring design: rosebud patterned wallpapers | violet-tinged flowers patterned the grassy banks.
2 give a regular or intelligible form to: the brain not only receives information, but interprets and patterns it.
• (pattern something on/after) give something a form based on that of (something else): the clothing is patterned on athletes' wear.
This is the particular portion of the definition which shall be used to explore the concepts of patterns in politics. This definition also occurs in real life.
a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations: a complicating factor is the change in working patterns.
The genesis of this essay, which I hope you find of some value, comes from an observation I made while standing in the foyer of a friend's hospital room, waiting for an opportune time to enter. Strange how discoveries can seemingly be made at random times in situations which in themselves bear no particular relationship to the situation generating the observation. Perhaps this is due to an internal connecting all the dots, as synapses stealthily reach out and connect with each other, during an unrealized process. That line of exploration however deviates into a separate but related bit of epistemology which is not pertinent to this topic.
The carpet was decorated with lines, dots, figures of various shades. The decorations, although complex, did fulfill the chosen definition of pattern.
First we start of with an elemental notion: one homogenous element can not be a pattern by itself. This element will constitute a single instance, which therefore by definition can constitute a "regular arrangement". Thus patterns must be constructed from at least two members. A single dot is just a single dot. A line, even of infinite length is just a single object. Although patterns occur in many sensory realms, such as vision, or sound, or smell, my preference here is to focus on the visual realm, though other realms of perception are susceptible to this reasoning.
Are two dots sufficient to make a visual pattern? Yes, but conventionally people perceive objects (thoughts, events, images, etc.) as simplistically as possible. This facility has survival value. For instance, trying to figure out of the pattern of black and yellow stripes represents a charging saber tooth tiger will do your gene line no good if your processing is slow. So making a pattern out of two dots is effortful and unlikely to be successful for most who attempt this.
Take a slightly more complex figure: -0-. Can we make a pattern out of this? Of course, there are at least two elements present (3 actually if one disregards the surrounding blank spaces around the item). But should we disregard those blank spaces? From a philosophical, as opposed to a utilitarian view, it is important that we both notice AND give weight to the "blank" space. The only essence about the creation of such blankness is that our perceptive abilities fail to attend to the existence of such nullity.
For ease of comprehension, we shall consider visual two-dimensional patterns. In the political sphere, the similarity is the false but widely perceived right-left political duality. Existence is 4 dimensional, at least. Politics being a part of the existing universe is thus 4 dimensional, thus making a true-life comprehensive assessment of such a subject incapable of simple explanation. Commentators have labored for centuries trying to make 3 dimensional precepts of patterns in politics, let alone the influence of time: "the more things change, the more they remain the same".
Back in the foyer with no obligation but to wait patiently, a decoration of the carpet attracted my attention, probably due to the silence and my stationary posture.
fixing my gave on the floor, I organized the visual stimuli into third order precepts (that part of the occipital cortex which partakes of pattern recognition). There I saw many faces, human faces--all differing from one another--despite construction of the same visual elements. Some faces on the floor were recognizable, others were unique to my experience. After realizing the phenomenon experienced, I lifted my gaze, looking at nothing in particular attempting to clear my head of the visions so produced. The respite from such visual input, although brief, indeed cleared the preceding facial syntheses. Then I looked down again awaiting to see if my brain would replicate the human facial patterning so soon assembled inside. On the second such floor scan, if you will, I did not human faces. In their stead, animal bodies (including a snarling tiger) occupied my thoughts. Although the perceptions, human faces, animal bodies, were quite vivid, I did not mistake them for reality. (Another referent to epistemology).
From this set of observations comes several interesting considerations. First of all, why human faces or animal bodies? The interpretation of perceptions--including patterns--is dependent not on just the moment but the prior life experiences, and not just visual ones. Components of such synthesis, i.e., pattern recognition, is dependent on an incalculable number of conditions and experiences: the state of vision, degree of alertness, ambient lighting, childhood rearing (parenting, school, etc.), employment (or lack thereof), inborn traits of empathy/narcissism/sociopathy. And that list is very incomplete, offered just for starters.
Returning to the misleading left-right paradigm, we may perceive a pattern. In the FDR era, that pattern was one of Democrat concern for the underclasses (disregarding the underlying rational for so doing) as compared to the Republican "I got mine; you work to get yours" Calvinistic ethos. With changing times, these patterns have proven to be transmutable--but the idea is the same: right versus left, a strictly two dimensional construct.
In a perfect world, assuming that elected officials were serving strictly pro bono publica, then we could accept the above duality as representative of a pattern; e.g., Dems empathetic, Reps materially based.
But is there another vantage point, other than this linear spectrum upon which the above pattern has been created? Yes, in fact substitute the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington versus Scrooge McDuck conception, with another equally valid precept. This new axis of reality comprehension I shall the "venality axis". Perhaps this axis is perpendicular to the right-left axis. It matters not. The opposite ends of this particular world view (perceptions of an unclear reality) could extend from Saintly, like the Mahatma, to the Most Corrupt, like the Evil Queen.
Trying to consistently perceive two-dimensional patterns on the rug, no matter how large the rug, will provide viewers with often quite different interpretations. They must be different as our own unique circumstances are different. Even if many on this board, as well as elsewhere, may be of politically similar views, there will not be a uniformity.
Add to this the venality axis and we have a 3-dimensional construct adding to it an infinite number of interpretations.
Why is pattern recognition important? As mentioned above, simplicity in pattern recognition has survival value. But civilization is more than survival, although a particular structure of a civilization often dictates who will survive. Accouterments develop, whether it be decorative beads or property taxes. The complexity of civilization is due to the underlying diversity of experience combined with the supra-added coercions of a society.
If pattern recognition is so important and so unique, how does an individual recognize a safe path with which to move forward, or at least not to self-imperil?
In order to achieve some semblance of uniformity, to make at least certain parts of society manageable, perceptions have to be managed. That means some patterns will be publicly emphasized and others suppressed.
The more complex the society, the more emphasis or suppression respectively must be employed.
In the end, it is the success or lack thereof, in modulating public perception, which determines, at least in the short term, the ability of a civilization to either flourish or decay. One example (a personal favorite of mine) is why people vote Republican, even those dependent upon government grants in aid. It is perhaps of an old established but unrealistic pattern recognition of rugged individualism fostered by the Republicans. Yet like the pattern(s) on the carpet, others might see the Dems as fostering a something-for-nothing mind set.
In a somewhat free society, pattern recognition is essential--but only if the differences are discussed with reason and a unifying resolution be achieved. Furthermore, the complexity of 3 dimensional patterns cannot as readily be understandable as the 2 dimensional exemplar used in this essay.
Selecting the chosen patterns recognized should be as flexible as possible in order to maintain enough social cohesion to facilitate mutual freedom, yet not too much as to enforce authoritarianism.
Dogma is the enemy of unfettered pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the primary organizing principle of living. Language is the most elegant example of pattern recognition. Language is the mold for ideas. Ideas create the vibrancy of culture.