Resilience of the smug bureaucrat

Now and then, its good to go to our nation’s capitol and see how the cognoscenti are doing.  Though it’s hard to be halfway across the country when you know vicious storms are hitting the home place.  Meadowcreek and Almyra, the two outposts of the Resilience Project, will both be fine because fine folk are minding the stores.

Capitol_Building_(Earth-90210)Meanwhile, I get to deal with the exact opposite of a thunderstorm.  The folks who live here in DC are smug and sure their little bastion of bureaucracy will continue as it always has.  They are convinced they are sitting in the catbird’s seat, at the nexus of all power and might.  And that nothing is really going to change.

The bureaucrats of Byzantium thought the same thing.  For a thousand years after the fall of Rome to the Goths, the denizens of Constantinople carried on as if they would last forever.  Then the Moslems swept in.

One of these days, a tsunami will sweep the bureaucrats of DC away.  Then they’ll gather in various expatriate bars and commiserate about the good old days.  Most don’t look like they are the least bit worried right now.   .

Some do seem a little nonplussed about the rise of the Donald and Bernie.  Some of them are sensing that the system they know so well and work hard to maintain and exploit may be in for some tumult.  But none of the in-crowd really think things will change much.  They’ve see bombastic politicians come and go.

DC is a Venus fly-trap.  The most colorful and strongest political insects are attracted to the place and land there knowing they can fix what’s wrong.  Only to be swallowed, absorbed and dissolved.  The Venus fly trap knows what do to with the typical insects.

But the fly trap only survives as long as its surroundings are warm, humid and stable.  An ignorant campesino swinging a machete makes short work of the splendid fly trap. Sliced from its roots, it falls to the ground and is devoured by the very insects it once blithely obliterated.

Such machete-wielding campesinos will sweep through DC one day.  Till then the smug bureaucrats rule the roost, make the rules and predict a future of more of the same.

They are perfectly happy with their stable little world.  They need a good dose of the adaptive cycle.

Ecological resilience researchers have identified four phases which all living systems go through: a rapidly growing r phase, a stable and mature K phase, a release or omega phase and a reorganization or alpha phase.  The K phase is the mature forest where the fly trap lives.  The campesino releases the nutrients in the fly-trap with his machete.  At a larger scale a forest fire represents the omega phase.

Omega always comes.  Some fly traps are ready for it.  They have been producing hard-coated seed which hibernate in the forest soil, impervious to rot.  When the fire comes, they are stimulated to germinate and create a new generation of fly traps, better than the old fly traps.

Other fly traps have lost the ability to produce seed.  They are so smug in their seemingly infinitely stable ecosystem that they see no need to produce seed and instead put all their energy into growing bigger and bigger.

The Washington fly trap is growing bigger and bigger and neglecting to produce seed.  It won’t be able to come back after the forest fire.  Maybe that’s all for the best.  Time will tell.



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