Friday, 21 August 2015

Agents of chaos

There is a type of person, often a pleasant and likeable person, who sows chaos wherever they go. Not merely major outbreaks of chaos such as we see in banking circles from time to time, but minor outbreaks too, such as plans and schemes which never work and never could work because they exclude that essential element of stability - human adaptability.

At the very lowest end of the scale, agents of chaos are the kind of people who reach the front of a busy supermarket checkout only to find they have no credit card with them. Car drivers who cannot see the need to drive more slowly than usual in very heavy traffic, who cannot see why constantly switching lanes is pointless. You must have come across them, as I have. 

Further up the social scale agents of chaos sit in meetings making suggestions which may sound reasonable for a millisecond or two. Fatal flaws may become obvious to others quickly enough, but by then it is too late, discussion has moved into more dubious channels and isn't easily dragged back to the shores of sanity. Chaos branches out so smoothly and so rapidly into a veritable raft of chaotic possibilities.

So the meeting loses its way. The seeds of chaos are sown, pragmatic action blighted and there is nothing left but retrench and hope for better things in the future. Unfortunately new protocols, regulations and even laws are often the result and winding back has become virtually impossible.

Chaotic behaviour is a natural feature of the natural world, including the human world, its onset and its consequences being forever unpredictable. Here's the rub though - winding things back is usually unpredictable too. Consequences have emerged, vested interests have sprouted, people have adapted and tried to move on under the new regime. There is rarely any way back.

Moving still further up the scale, the pomp and fanfare of the political stage attracts agents of chaos like moths to a candle. Tony Blair was an agent of chaos in his handling of the Iraq war. Not the only one of course, but a significant player. Even without the Chilcot report and whatever else Blair may be, it is not easy to see him as the kind of person who if he could, would not roll back the bloody chaos he was instrumental in creating.

There is no common thread to agents of chaos other than their tendency to spin the next shambles from the most unlikely materials. At all but the lowest levels they seem to put far too high a value on their own minds, their ability to spin possibilities into probabilities. Those who would tread more carefully on more familiar paths are swept aside by a kind of madness, an insane faith that whatever happens things will turn out for the best because all has been foreseen.

In the corridors of power chaos seems to select its agents carefully. When they reach positions of power, that is the time to worry because corruption thrives on chaos and therein lies a powerful incentive to make a mess of things from the sidelines. 

So chaos will always be with us along with its agents - it pays.


James Higham said...


There is a type of person, often a pleasant and likeable person, who sows chaos wherever they go.

For a moment, I thought it was about me.

graham wood said...

such are the architects of the European Union. "By their fruits you shall know them"

Demetrius said...

My view of people who are agents of chaos is that too often their preferred profession is politics.

Michael said...

Politicians are the preferred 'race' for such a concept, but let's look at bankers, and definitely solicitors, who will contribute to so many 'grey' areas that logic, and legal/successful monetry outcomes are near impossible.

I've saved several thousand pounds by walking away from two issues, where these people would have charged huge fees, just to create/solve/charge for, the sort of chaos you describe!

And I'm a much happier man for it all!

A K Haart said...

James - surely not.

Graham - bitter fruit it is too.

Demetrius - it is, because chaos tends to obscure their inability to deliver their promises.

Michael - one could say that lawyers and bankers run the show for their own benefit and complexities are a key part of their business.