The Butterfly Effect and Black on Black violence

By Lennox Farrell Wednesday April 10 2013 in Opinion
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Can the changes as small as those caused in the air by a nearby butterfly flapping its wings, eventually become so significant, it results in the creation of a hurricane?


This appears to be idle speculation. The idea, however, is considered to be significant by scholars and others interested in “Chaos Theory”. In this theory, small initial differences occurring along a linear sequence – or a line which in appearance might be indirect, winding, etc. – can have a domino effect; a chain of events leading over time to large, unforeseen consequences.


Specifically, this theory has had its own significant development. One cornerstone occurrence was in 1961. It was not a butterfly creating a hurricane, but a meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, using a numerical computer model to re-run a weather prediction, the results of which amazed him.


It began with one number in a sequence. The sequence was the decimal, 0.506127. Lorenz’ shortcut was his entering the numbers 0.506 instead of the full 0.506127. The result was a completely different weather scenario, one that both startled him and also started him on a greater investigation of this phenomenon: that is, seemingly insignificant changes creating over time, significant results.


For example, like that of an illiterate, Black single mother insisting and encouraging her son to read every day. That boy, grown in yet another impoverished American ghetto and destined to be yet another statistic headed for prison and early death, becoming instead, the first neurosurgeon in history to separate the brains of twins conjoined at the head.


Rejoice, ye pure in heart; ye, original children of the Most High!


Generally, in this Chaos Theory, “the Butterfly Effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions”. Here, a small change – or one seemingly insignificant – at one point in reality can result in large differences at a later date; a date almost unlinked to the initial action. It is this theory and the circumstances which result from some initial small act that in Chaos Theory is “The Butterfly Effect”.


Several examples and statements from implications of this theory lend credence to what can lead either to wholesome communities or to violent ones. For is it not true that violence depends more on creating chaos than anything else? And from chaos, poverty? Is not chaos a metaphor for poverty and poverty for violence?


Getting back to the theory, there are examples of it already familiar to us. Hypothetically, among these are two small decisions taken by two different students. One chooses to attend class and complete assignments. The other chooses instead to stay in the school cafeteria or the mall and “hang out”.


Which of these is more likely to graduate? Which will more likely have a life that is stable in income possibilities? The challenge here is not what will definitely occur but what is more likely than not to occur.


Or, take an individual, today an editor of a newspaper who, coming several decades ago to Canada as a young man, chose to go to school. On graduating as a journalist, he also chose to risk his means by starting a community newspaper, the first to be distributed free of charge and today the major voice in and for Toronto’s Black community. How did his decision later effect the significant growth in prosperity of Black business owners in Toronto?


The Butterfly Effect sounds so esoteric and unlikely, we might dismiss it as nonsense, thereby not realizing the fact of how our people as individuals affect us collectively for good or ill. For example, one White man drunk on Yonge Street is one man, inebriated. However, one Black youth causing havoc on the subway is “these people”.


We might also miss how simple, insignificant acts either of kindness or of discourtesy, of effort or laziness, affect large swaths of people for generations.


One last example of how a small change can later effect great ones. Who we are today are the results of these seemingly insignificant changes and decisions we made: who we marry, what we studied, or didn’t marry or study.


Recently, much of the Christian world commemorated the annual Passover, or Easter. It was about an individual, Yeshua Hamashia, who chose some other insignificant individuals who, themselves chose others to spread a seemingly insignificant message; one not of chaos, but of grace: our being given what we didn’t deserve; and of mercy: our not being given what we deserve.


What began in Jerusalem two millenia ago is an example of the Butterfly Effect: a seemingly insignificant peasant from an obscure village preaching a message of redemption and eventually creating a hurricane of hope.


So, too, in our Black communities wracked with the chaos of violence, poverty and hopelessness all that any of us needs do to eventually create a vast change in our communities is to first effect a small change in the life of one Black youth, only one…and then see how a Dr. Ben Carson, the world’s leading neurosurgeon today, was created.


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