300 words on chaos

Let me make a confession: I enjoy watching systems fall apart. I get a real kick out of chaos. It delights me to no end.

I’m not talking about people dying and suffering. That happens anyway, whether we wish for it or not. No, I’m talking about the failure of our man-made organizations and processes. I’m fascinated by our fruitless attempts to create order where there is none.

Case in point: the 2000 Presidential election. When it ultimately took five men in black robes to declare George W. Bush our 43rd president, I was tickled. “See,” I said to myself, “the electoral system is a joke.” Eventually, it had to happen. It was inevitable that we’d see dueling lawyers examining little pieces of cardboard for something called “hanging chads”. That “W” eventually won the presidency despite fewer people voting for him, was beautiful. I cheer for such events.

Maybe that’s why I’m fascinated by college football. But only for about a week in December, when something they call the BCS determines the two best teams in the country and pairs them in a winner-takes-all contest in January. They use computers and three different polls of three different voting bodies. There are so many convoluted working parts in their ranking system that it’s bound to break down. Nearly every year it does. But it hasn’t been chaotic enough yet. Every year I root for 6-8 teams to be undefeated, or that no team goes undefeated. Maybe every team loses at least two games. So there’s no clear cut favorite. That would break the system down, create a chaotic scramble, and controversy would fill ESPN’s airwaves with experts screeching that their favorite college team got shafted.

I love when people think they got shafted.

Sometimes, the systematic failures are painful. The banking collapse of 2008 is an example. I don’t want people to lose their life savings, but the system failed in monumental fashion, and that fascinates me. It proves my belief that the more we try to control things, the more disastrous the results will be. It’s all the more delicious because the people who caused the banking failure were supposedly geniuses of finance. Fat cats wearing $1,000 business suits with PHD’s in business and economics. They rode the wave for decades, secure that everything always worked out. They were wrong. Unfortunately their miscalculations caused great grief for millions of people. I am one of those people, in a small way. My house was foreclosed in 2010.

Maybe that’s what I get for cheering for chaos?

Submit a comment