Going By The Rules : Living in the Syston Mix [MT108]
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.
Conscience is the guardian in the individual of the rules which the community has
evolved for its own preservation
The Conflicts of Life
Life, it might be said, is a series of progressions from one conflict to another. Let us now
look at some particular aspects of Life in Society from the point of view of Matrix Thinking.
We have already, this early on in the suite of articles, developed all the theory we need -- all we need
to do now is develop some of the concepts a bit.
First we look at the topic of conflicts. They are always with us. But can we apply a bit of
analysis to the situation, and at least classify them a bit, to get a better handle to think about
Billy Black and Wendy White
A little story. Billy Black falls in love with Wendy White, and she with him. The World
looks on, smiles, and applauds. They marry and live happily ever after.
Another little story. Peter Pink falls in love with Gail Green, and she with him. The World
looks on, frowns, and mutters. It is only after a long struggle that they marry, and they are
forever dogged with difficulties even then.
What's the difference between these two situations? Well, the fact is, Peter Pink was
already married to Betty Pink when he fell in love with Gail, and there were already two little
Pinks on the scene at the time. Maintenance, custody, division of goods, visiting rights -- the Full Catastrophe, as Zorba would say. A classic conflict.
Now this situation would conventionally be viewed as one involving only people. But is
it? Look again at the situation from the MT viewpoint. The first example, true, only involves
people. But the second involves another syston -- the existing Pink Family syston.
I have already suggested that the Family syston is one of the strongest and most important
of those in which humans are involved. And in this situation, it seems to me that it is the Pink
Family syston which is fighting back, struggling to maintain its existence. Of course this battle
can be analysed into actions of its component systels, just as a military battle can be analysed
into the movement of individual troops.
But from my viewpoint here, Peter and Betty Pink and their two children already formed
an established syston, and that syston would always act in its own interests, sometimes to the
point where attempts to break up descriptions of the behaviour of the syston, into a list of how
the individual systels behave, leads to bafflement -- the systels seem to be acting senselessly
I suggest that the reason for this confusion is that it is not people who are active here, but
rather people and systons, or systons and systons, and the behaviour of a syston may be quite
different from the sum of the behaviour of the people involved. To make sense of the situation,
it is first necessary to identify the systons which are active.
You Can't Fight City Hall
When the scale of conflict is larger, the systons involved appear more strongly. At the local
community level, there are often conflicts between individual ratepayers and the local
Council. I have myself been involved in a bitter conflict with a local authority, one in which
the authority appeared to be conducting a senseless vendetta against one of its ratepayers.
From the individual point of view, their actions appeared purposeless and unjustified -- they
were just trying to show that "they were the boss".
In retrospect, it appears to me that I was fighting the Council-syston rather than the
individual local councillors involved. A Council spokesman might say that the authority of
the body was under threat, or, at a milder level, that the Council must be seen to be in control
of the municipality. Here we have a legally-defined syston, acting according to its own rules,
the local by-laws, but also according to unwritten and even unrealized rules inherent in the
makeup of the syston.
The War of the Roses
With really major conflicts on the scale classed as wars, the fact that systons are involved
rather than individual people is usually obvious. It is nearly always countries or states which
officially or unofficially 'declare war' between themselves.
Of course, even though these systons have names, the names do not always clearly define
the systels involved. The War of the Roses was fought between the 'House of York' and the
'House of Lancaster' in England from around 1455 to 1499, and this was a civil war, in which
the actual participants varied from day to day and had no clearcut territorial basis. At the time this
was first being written, a civil war raged in Yugoslavia, in which a so-called 'Yugoslav Army' was attacking what was supposed to be part of Yugoslavia itself.
Nevertheless, even if the make-up of the systons involved is not entirely clear, it seems that
the view that systons are involved in major conflicts, rather than individuals, is not particularly
outrageous. Many other types of conflict could be looked at across the whole spectrum of
human interactions, but perhaps we can generalize the situation with a Proposition:
Proposition 108A*. Most of the problems of human existence are due to conflicts
between syston and syston, or syston and individual, rather than between individuals
Searching for Peace -- What to Do?
One of the great desires of people generally is for peace. People do not want wars. So why
do wars continue to occur?
This matter may be looked at in more detail later. But for the moment, I will just put forward the last proposition again, for
the special case of wars:
Proposition 108B*. Wars occur as a consequence of the dynamics of interaction of
country- and state-systons
Now that is not a very profound Proposition, but it is a start. The first step in improving
a situation is to understand it. When we have understanding, we may see how to act to change
the situation -- and perhaps also, whether the result of the achieved change will really lead
to the aim desired.
Let us now look again at systons generally, using a new model to give a visual feel for how
The Matrix Cocoon
People often see things in fairly linear terms. In political systems, for example, a useful
convention is to describe things as being, say, "leftish" or "to the right of Genghis Khan".
Political diversity may be represented as positions on a range or spectrum, as in figure 108.1.
Fig. 108.1. Political systems on a linear spectrum
Now of course this is just a convenient representation, the communists are only 'to the left'
by convention. Other scales have been used, it is interesting that the visible light spectrum has
also been used, with the communists 'red' and the liberals 'blue'. But the point is that these ranges are all linear.
With Matrix Thinking we will try to get away from the linear approach, and represent
things more generally. A representation we can use is that of the Matrix Cocoon (figure 108.2).
Fig. 108.2. A Matrix Cocoon representation
With this model, the whole Matrix of human affairs is thought of as like an egg-shaped
cocoon (with fuzzy edges). In looking at any situation we can notionally allocate parts of the
cocoon to different, often competing, aspects which interest us, as in figure 108.2.
Of course this representation is actually a cross-section across a three-dimensional cocoon.
The allocation of aspects within the cocoon is purely arbitrary, to try and build up a picture
which can be instinctively grasped.
We can then attempt to represent the underlying beliefs and assumptions of particular
systons by mapping them on the matrix allocation, as in figure 108.3.
Fig. 108.3. Political systems mapped on a matrix cocoon representation
In theory, an aspect could be allocated a volume within the cocoon rather than an area in
a cross-section, allowing representation of more complex interrelationships, but this makes
the model harder to grasp. There is also a theoretical reason not to extend these models from
two dimensions to three, which we will come to later.
This may be interesting, but what is its point here? What we are again approaching
is the need, in MT, to clearly distinguish between different systons. After this, we can suggest
rules by which the systons may interact.
In figure 108.3, the labels applied such as 'Communist' or 'Liberal' are just that, only
labels. In any actual scenario, for an actual country, the labels may well be applicable to
particular political party-systons, the 'Liberal Party', or whatever. The aim of mapping the
systons on a matrix aspect cocoon is to clarify the relationships of the systons.
There is a danger in this sort of mapping. All systons change with time, and a mapping
which was valid for a political party 20 years ago may have shifted dramatically since then.
So a mapping cannot be regarded as fixed. And a mapping for a particular label in one country,
say the 'Social Democrats', may have no similarity at all with the party of the same label in
Going by the Rules
We now arrive at one of the most basic points in the use of Matrix Thinking to change
human society, hopefully for the better. It is based on a Proposition which is not contentious,
but rather is a working assumption which is seldom clearly stated as such. It concerns rules
for the interaction of the segments and parts of society which we have here called systons.
Proposition 108C**. Voluntary rules can be set up for the operation of systons which
in themselves define the class to which the systons belong
Perhaps an example will help make the meaning of this Proposition clearer. Some states,
like Western Australia, have rules for setting up a class of limited company called a Co-operative Company.
These rules set up a company structure and method of operation rather different to that for an
ordinary limited company. For example, each shareholder in a 'co-operative company' has
one vote, irrespective of how many shares they hold, and company profits are distributed by
rebates on shareholder financial activity, rather than as dividends.
The point here is this. A group of people wishing to start up a company to run under the
rules of the 'Companies (Co-operative) Act' will normally have the desire to operate under
rather different principles to those of a normal limited company. Their action in incorporating
their new company under a particular act is voluntary -- they could choose from a range of
Acts allowing the incorporation of many different types of body.
The role of the Western Australian Government has been to set up a number of allowable
company structures, each of which has an associated set of rules. The rules are voluntary in
the sense that if you don't like them, you can choose a different set, and incorporate your
company under those. Once you have chosen your company structure, the set of rules for that
structure are compulsory.
By choosing a particular Act under which to incorporate your company, you automatically
define the company-syston class to which your company belongs. It may be a Public Limited
Company, a Co-operative Company, a No-Liability Company, or whatever; it cannot be more
than one at the same time.
Setting up Rule Structures
Now there is nothing exceptional in all this. The company example has been chosen here
because it is quite well-defined and familiar. The importance of the matter from the MT
viewpoint is the proposition that this situation is applicable to all systons.
As we progress it will be appropriate to suggest particular sets of rules, particular Rule
Structures, for particular syston scenarios. The point that these rules are voluntary, in the sense
that a choice can be made on which set of rules is to be followed, has already been made. A
further point is that any given set of rules is not immutable, but can be expected to undergo
evolution and amendment as circumstances change.
Even so, it is convenient to have labels for particular Rule Structures, as is done in the case
of setting up different types of company. To change these particular 'company' Rule
Structures, amendment to an Act of legislation is usually required, and the change is relatively
clearly flagged to the community. Other Rule Structures may be much less formally defined,
and changes in these can take place continuously and imperceptibly.
Setting up a Rule Structure involves a considerable amount of infocap input, so the setting-up
process can be viewed as one which increases infocap. In the final Proposition of this
article, this point will be formalized as a particular example of the perceived benefits of
Proposition 108D***. A syston is advantaged by the availability of a large set of
competing voluntary Rule Structures which can operate within it
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Go to the "Matrix Thinking: How Society Works" Home Page
Versions 1.0-1.2, printed editions (Matrix Thinking Book I, BFC Press, Australia, 1992-1997)
Version 2.0, 2004, PDFs etc on World Wide Web (http://www.aoi.com.au/matrix/MT.htm)
Version 3.0, 2014 Jul 6-23, Reworked from chapter 108 of "Matrix Thinking" as one article in a suite on the World Wide Web.