My last year in Amsterdam I had a beautiful spring, a spring like no other. The solidified time started to flow. Never before I saw more beautiful flowers and blossoms. Nature smelled like life.
Life beamed and I beamed back. Everything around me still was as intense as in the three years as three centuries, but the icy chill thawed and stiffness disappeared in the warmth of the spring sunshine. I floated in a golden glow. “Life is a continual death of the now” – the sentence during the solidified time – changed in:
For our Self is
making and destroying one
and the same act
In the following summer and autumn I resumed my normal life. I still miss the intensity and the endlessness of the here and now.
The thesis for my study Humanities was “Preventing excesses during change and conflict”. The first part dealt with the circumstances in which excesses preferably manifest itself; the second part described the factors that have a damping effect on the occurrence of excesses.
Almost all changes pass silently. These silent changes are like breathing, blinking of the eyes or turning the head. The reason for the change can be reading the newspaper, seeing a picture or hearing a story. Afterwards our world is never the same. This kind of change is as natural as life itself.
The subject of my thesis focused on changes that cause tensions. In this post a few aspects of my thesis.
As starting point for the research I chose seven different perspectives for studying changes.
The first angle covered the scope of the change. The scope of the (directly attributable) impacts of the change – and the tensions it can cause – can vary from one individual, one family, one community, one city, one country, one continent, the world or the universe.
The second angle covered the intensity, strength and intensity of change. The severity and intensity can vary from a small ripple in existence to a tremendous event changing a whole life.
The third angle was the period in which the change took place. The duration can vary from a shock of impact of a large meteor or the explosion of the volcano on the island of Krakatoa in 1883 . The effects of these explosions and impacts are still felt many years later, and can erase societies. Other changes have a long lead time: e.g. the onset of World War II or the introduction of literacy in Western society.
The fourth angle include tensions caused by changes of human needs. Here I used the hierarchy of needs by Maslow  where I divided the fifth hierarchy into three separate hierarchies: the need for knowledge, the need for religion and the need for self-realization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a model for human needs ranging from Self-preservation to Self-realization. Our Odyssey to “Who are you” is a quest for the Self in all its immensity and finiteness – we encounter Maslow’s model at a number of stage during our Odyssey. Tensions can manifest themselves in transitions from one hierarchy to another hierarchy – human growth is often accompanied by shocks. Tensions also occur in regression of needs by changing circumstances such as famine, insecurity, hardened conditions, attacks on the honour and/or obstruction of freedom of speech, of expression, creativity, religion and/or self-actualization.
The fifth angle included the stage of development of society. Generally a hunter-gatherer society has less resources for extreme violence then a highly developed agricultural/industrial society with a huge reservoir of surplus in people, food, resources and knowledge.
The sixth angle related to the degree of social stratification within a society . With an extremely stratified society, the role of absolute ruler – for example, a pharaoh or emperor – is all decisive. In an oligarchy group, a dynamic process within the small ruling class is decisive. A non-stratified society has its own – for people seemingly chaotic – dynamics. Further analysis shows that this kind dynamics can often be displayed in a few parameters, but around bifurcation-points the outcome is very dependent on tiny trivial coincidences. Many people feel insecure in chaotic processes: quickly a demand for leadership arises.
The seventh angle was the manner in which changes and tensions are handled. This seventh angle represents the response of individuals, groups and/or society to changes/tensions. The reaction can range from ignorance, acceptance, compassion, objection, anger and/or resistance. This seventh angle was mainly covered in the second part of my thesis, where I discussed the factors that had a damping effect on the occurrence of excesses.
A full description and study of these seven angles was not possible within the framework of my thesis. These seven points of view were used in a case study covering the changes and tensions caused by men who only defended their habitat, via an initial growth of mankind – caused by better food – resulting in a surplus of men who temporarily moved around as brethren looking for self-affirmation by conquests, via a second growth of mankind – by further specialization in society – with men living in wandering armies who made fighting their profession, via a third growth – by increasing prosperity – with permanent armed forces endemic embedded in society. Here I examined the consequences for the organization of public order: the armed forces are a power factor in public policy which needs direct access to people (soldiers) and resources (horses, arms, food and feed, housing and room) for its existence. More than 10 years after my thesis, John Keegan has made a very readable study on this subject .
A year ago I read a nice observation on the attenuation of the “Word” in “An Iliad – A Story of War” by Alessandro Baricco . As a footnote to his story of the Iliad, Alessandro noted that under the skin there is always the desire to stop fighting. He noticed this desire in the Iliad in dialogues, discussions and meetings – he calls it the feminine side of the Iliad. The debates and meetings – instead of fighting – go on endless ad nauseam. According to Alessandro, these discussions are a way to delay the fight as long as possible – it is like a dialogue by Scheherazade who survives by telling stories. The word is the weapon that solidifies the time during war. Even if the heroes discuss the way of fighting, they do not fight – thus they stretch their lives. The heroes are doomed to death, but they make the “smoking of their last cigarette, smoking it with the words” as long as possible. If they start fighting, they change into blind fanatics with full dedication to their honour and duty. But first: first there is the solidified time, female, a time of conscious delay and backward looks at the past. A solidification of time, that had similarities with my three years as three centuries.
Through this observation by Alessandro Baricco, we arrive at the consistency of public affairs – with the use of the word, dialogue, legislation, treaties and case law – and war – with its blind fanaticism, anger, hatred, revenge and unfathomable grief. According to Von Clausewitz , war is a continuation of politics by other means. John Keegan has noted that war is much older than politics and government.
With this thesis I finished my student’s life in Amsterdam. In autumn I entered everyday life.
 Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lente
 Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zonlicht
 See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatoa
 Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
 See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stratification
 See also: Keegan, John, A History of Warfare. London: Pimlico – Random House, 2004 and an earlier study on Admiralty: Keegan, John, The Price of Admiralty. London: Penguin Books, 1988
 Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_organization
 Source: Baricco Alessandro, An Iliad. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007 p. 153 – 154
 See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Clausewitz