Saturday, July 25, 2020

Ding, ding, all change!

By Ray Jones

“Nothing ever changes!” you must have heard people moan sometime or other, but you will have also heard people complain that something (sometimes everything) was better in the “Old Days”. Both these sayings certainly reflect, to a degree, people’s experiences, coloured by their moods, hopes and fears, but neither is fully accurate.
When asked to consider seriously most people will admit that things do change and that not everything was better when they were kids, but this will probably not stop them repeating these sayings in the future. This is because they often see no obvious pattern to the nature of change and apparent stability.
And this is not surprising because although the truth is that, in contradiction to the first saying, whilst everything does change it does not always do so in a straight-forward, simple, way.
We know that some things do change from our day-to-day experiences, but we know that everything changes and how it changes from close study of the world.
It may seem to us, and we might act as if, the Sun will always shine (when the clouds don’t get in the way!), that humans have always been around and that the capitalist system has always been with us, for example, but research will tell us differently. The Sun is a star that has a life cycle and will eventually die; humans have evolved from non-human life forms and before capitalism there was feudalism.
Change is always happening but not always, of course, at the same speed nor in the same way. The change is often gradual, perhaps so gradual that we might not notice it. A kitchen chair becomes more and more worn with use, slowly more shaky and rickety, and at a certain point it will collapse and become unusable as a chair. It will be only bits of a chair and not a chair as such.
The nature of the change has altered. From a relatively slow alteration to a relatively sudden one (just as you were sitting down to a nice dinner probably!). A ‘leap’ has occurred, from a usable chair to a pile of bits. This is the kind of change we can call ‘destruction’ because no new thing has come out of it.
Of course, not everything that made up the chair has been destroyed, it may be that it can be repaired and that in this case the change can be reversed; at least temporarily. It’s important to note that changes are not {always} in one direction.
The life of a star may also end in destruction, at a point when we say the star no longer exists, but during its life it goes through long periods of slow change followed by leaps when it becomes distinctly different, a different kind of star. Eventually it becomes a White Dwarf and then finally goes dark. And although elements may remain, no new thing has developed. This a rather different type of change than the example of the chair.
Yet another type of change can be seen in human society and in nature, which can be considered more constructive, when the problems and differences in a thing eventually cause its break-down in a leap (or leaps) but at the same time produce a new thing. This new thing is essentially different but keeps the best of the old.
In this way slave societies became feudalism, feudalism became capitalism, and capitalism becomes socialism through long periods of struggles between classes and a series of leaps – revolutions – and not without reversals and zig-zags. Not as a number of totally separate systems, but as systems which build on each other by evolution and revolution as human society develops.
The real and universal nature of change has always been disputed by some. It does not suit those that benefit from the status quo to admit that it will end and they come up with various attacks on ideas of change – from arguing that things don’t change at all, they only {seem} to change, to admitting that whilst things do change they only do so in a circular way so in the end everything comes back to how it was.
Opposing this have been those whose interests have been in change and development – the oppressed classes and those that support them. These forces have reality and truth on their side.
Fundamentally things change because the universe is made up of particles in constant motion – quantum physicists might say “loops”, “strings” or “fields” – but in any case, change and flux is the nature of the universe, how it came into being and how it has developed.

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