“Lunatics”, “Terrorists”, And The Three Noble Truths Of Systems

Lunacy is not isolated within individuals.

Lunacy is a river that flows through all of society. How society is structured affects the flow.

This means we cannot get rid of lunatics by getting rid of lunatics. Others will simply replace them.

Lunatics are the output of the systems that govern a society. Therefore, if you feel surrounded or oppressed by lunatics, it is of little consequence to direct your actions at the lunatics themselves. Doing so is to merely engage with the product of a system that systematically produces lunatics, and when you’re finished with one you will find yourself battling another, or worse, you’ll wake up one day to discover that you too are a lunatic.

Lunacy And Power

Power exists in the control of a system that is widely adopted. Power misused, misapplied or neglected results in lunatics. Conversely, lunatics will misuse, misapply, and/or neglect whatever power they acquire.

This can result in a chain-reaction of lunatics begetting more lunatics and can be seen in various conflicts throughout the world and at home.

When power concentrates (or centralizes), it can negatively affect a progressively larger set of individuals and groups.

Natural physiological limitations within homo sapiens suggest an optimal limit to the influence and extent of any central source of power, beyond which conflict begins to occur.

In designing new systems by which society is structured, we must recognize and respect the fact that people and groups have different preferences for how they wish to live their lives. Combined with Dunbar’s number, this implies we must limit the influence that any system has on society as a whole (including so-called “decentralized systems”!) or otherwise risk increasing conflict, and yes, lunatics.

“Crazy People”

A “crazy person” is simply someone whose world-view and belief-system does not overlap with yours.

The label “crazy homeless person” refers to someone who has lived a very different life than the person wielding that label. Even “clinically diagnosed” schizophrenics are simply individuals who live and experience a very different sort of reality than those who diagnose them as schizophrenics. To simply label them “crazy” and not respect their experience of reality is to exacerbate conflict and suffering. Other cultures do not consider it a disorder and behave according to rules that result in less harm to individuals who in our western society become ostracized, chemically lobotomized and confined.

How do we minimize conflict between individuals and groups that label each other crazy?

First, we recognize that craziness/lunacy does not exist as an isolated phenomenon within individuals, but is a byproduct of how a society conducts itself and how its members choose to interact with each other.

Second, we must respect differences not only of opinions, but of beliefs. With those whom we label insane or our worst enemies, we must first acknowledge their right as sentient-beings to live and exist, and then recognize the systems that have molded their lives in addition to the systems that have molded our outlook.


“Terrorists” and “terrorism” is what happens when two or more groups:

  • Fail to acknowledge each other’s humanity and right to autonomy.
  • Refuse to cooperate non-violently in resolving their differences.
  • Refuse to acknowledge the role that their system has played in perpetuating the conflict.
  • Refuse to acknowledge the other group’s perspective.
  • Refuse to take meaningful action to address their own wrongdoing and fix the faults that exist within their system of choice.1

The Three Noble Truths Of Systems

The word system in this post refers to a set of artificially created behaviors or rules that govern the behavior of matter (animate or inanimate).

Examples of systems include: governments, cultures, religions or philosophies that prescribe specific behavior, and technology.

Three truths apply to all systems in use by any group:

  1. All systems have finite lifespans within a group.
  2. No system is ideal for everyone.
  3. Conflict is the inevitable result of any system that is “too widely adopted” (whether it is pushed onto those who do not want it, or as a result of declining popularity).

Implications For Systems Of Any Sort

Whether you are creating a new voting system, a new currency, a new social network, or are managing or promoting an existing system, you must acknowledge your own role in fostering conflict within a society that contains groups who do not want your system interfering with their lives, and per the Second Noble Truth of Systems you can expect such people to exist.

You must also acknowledge that in creating or promoting any system, you naturally create the potential for conflict not only with groups that do not favor your system, but also for groups that adopt your system only to later discover that it no longer serves their needs.

The more popular your system becomes, the more power it will have over a society, and the more negatively it will affect those who do not wish to use it but are nevertheless forced to use it or are negatively affected by one of its externalities. Naturally, those groups and individuals will become increasingly socially distant from you. If you are not paying attention, you might not even notice they exist. That is, until suddenly “terrorists” or “crazy people” start to appear and begin to “harass” you. While it may not be evident for those whom the system has taken care of, the “sudden” appearance of “lunatics” and “terrorists” is the result of years of harassment and abuse that they’ve had to endure at the hands of a system that did not work for them.

Will you be wise enough to allow them to exist without you and your system? Or will you continue to carry your flag into lands where it is not wanted?

Conflict Resolution When Systems Fall Out Of Favor

Sometimes it is not possible to avoid conflict.

This happens when a system’s influence has spread far and wide. Initially, the users of a system (whether it is a political system like democracy, a service like Facebook, a technology like the internal combustion engine, or even a culture or religion) may embrace it and consider themselves members or believers.

The constantly changing nature of reality, however, means that no system can survive forever. Inevitably, all systems fall out of favor with groups that previously considered themselves members as systems fail to adapt to their members’ ever-changing and ever-varying needs.

Conflict can be prevented by anticipating this inevitability and avoiding attachment to any system, even those that we created ourselves, and choosing to not impose our favorite system on those who do not want it.

Failure to do so is to summon conflict. Conflict resolution, therefore, involves recognizing that a group previously in favor of a system has now evolved, in whole or in part, to prefer another.

Groups that wish to avoid escalating conflict must seek resolution through the least harmful means possible. Negotiate, involve neutral third-parties if necessary, and respect each other’s fundamental humanity and right to live. The alternative is war, and war is fertile ground for lunatics.

Conclusion: How To Avoid Lunacy

Systems manufacture lunatics and terrorists in two ways:

  1. By (mis)design. For example, a group or an entire society can adopt a poor healthcare system or culture that results in the systematic production of “crazy people”.
  2. Through imposition. Often a group will use force to impose a system onto others. National currencies are often an example of this, as their usage is often forced upon a population and the use of competing currencies is either outlawed or regulated into oblivion. Imperialism, such as the “spread of democracy”, is another example.

Therefore, if we wish to experience a more conflict-free world, we should observe the following principles:

  • Use voluntary systems. Through awareness of the mortality of all systems (including our own), we should ensure a means by which any group is able to abandon our system in a conflict-free manner if its members want to adopt something else—even if we might disagree with their choice. Systems that explicitly allow such secession are called voluntary systems. One way or another, people will eventually abandon your system in favor of something else. To force them to stay is to invite conflict upon yourself, and in the end you only delay the inevitable.
  • Be open to modifications. When our system begins to negatively affect a group using a different system, we must show respect for their system and resolve the conflict through fair negotiation and be open to making concessions, up to and including the modification of our own system. That does not mean we have to cave into the demands of an aggressor, but it does mean that we should refrain from being so attached to our ways that we are blind to our own wrongdoing or opportunity for growth.
  • Respect the Prime Directive. We should respect the Prime Directive, not just on a galactic level but on a global level.2 Unprovoked and uninvited interference in the established systems of other groups is an imposition on those groups. The outcome is rarely positive for either side.
  1. This refers to the system that actually governs your behavior and not the system that you wish or publicly declare governs your behavior.
  2. The Star Trek franchise dedicates many episodes to exploring the circumstances and consequences of violating the Prime Directive.

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