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3/16/2015

Interview:CharlesCameron|TheCenterforaNewAmericanSecurity

TheCenterforaNewAmericanSecurity
AbuMuqawama:Post
AbuMuqawamaretainsitsautonomyandtheviewsandbeliefsexpressedwithintheblogdonotreflectthoseofCNAS.Abu
Muqawamaretainstherighttodeletecommentsthatincludewordsthatinciteviolencearepredatory,hateful,orintendedto
intimidateorharassordegradepeopleonthebasisofgender,race,class,ethnicity,nationalorigin,religion,sexualorientation,or
disability.Insummary,don'tbeajerk.
Interview:CharlesCameron
July31,2013|Postedbyaelkus3:15pm|0Comments
Periodically,I'dliketogiveAbuMreaderssomeexposuretointerestingthinkerstheymaynototherwiseread.I'mleadingoffthe
firstinterviewwithCharlesCameron.It'shardtoexactlysummarizehisinterestingcareer.Thoughhisworkonreligiousthoughtand
apocalypticismhasthemostrelevanceforAbuMreaders,healsoisagamedesignerandHermanHesseaficianado.Hespecializes
inrapidfirebloggedjuxtapositionsofinterestingconnectionsinthenews,whichyoucanreadoverattheZenpunditarchive.Iwas
mostinterestedinCameron'suniquestyleofanalysis,whichmayhaveutilitytopeopleinterestedinthingslikeDesignandapplied
creativethinkingforsecuritysubjects.
AdamElkus:Yourbloggingisveryreliantonpictorialjuxtapositionsandconnectionsbetweendisparatethings.Howdidyoucometo
thismethod,andwhatisitusefulfor?
CharlesCameron:Ithinkwe'removingprettyrapidlyfromaneraoftextualtoatimeofgraphicalthinkingandI'dtiethatinto
someextentwiththearrivalofcybernetics.Causeandeffectcanberepresentedbyastraightline,causeeffectandfeedbackneeds
tobealoop.Sothere'sareturntothevisualandthediagrammatic,visibleallovertheplacefromsidebarsinmajornewsmediato
Forrester'ssystemsdiagrams,theOODAloop,SocialNetworkAnalysisandPERTchartstoMarkLombardi'spaintingsthat'shigh
sciencetomassmediatomuseumgradeart.Moregenerally,weseethatthenetworkratherthanthelineistheunderlyingformfor
everythingfromtheinternettoBigData....Andifyoulookback,you'llseethatallthispicksuponthemeswehaven'tseensincethe
Renaissance.
AnotherwayIseeitisintermsofpolyphony.Ifyouwanttomodelallthevoicesinaconflict,allthevariousstakeholdersina
problematicsituation,youneedanotation,awayofrepresentingtheirvarioustensionsandinteractionsawaytoscoretheir
polyphony.Andpolyphonic&contrapuntalmusicistheclosestanalogwehaveJSBachisgoingtobethemasterhere.
Creativeinsight,andindeedallthought,dependsonanalogy(HofstadterFauconnier&TurnerKoestler)somyHipbone/Sembl
GamesandDoubleQuotesaredesignedtoprocure&explorecreative/associativeleaps&thefreshinsightstheybring,andnothing
else.Thisismoreapoet'smodeofthoughtthananengineer'smode,&underusedinheavilytechorientedanalysis.Thenecessitiesof
visualthinkingalsopointmetowardahumanlyreadablegraphwith"themagicalnumbersevenplusorminustwo"nodes,withthe
nodesthemselvesnotsingledatapointsbutrich&complexideasincompactform(nasheed,flag,logo,anecdote,videoclip,quote),
withmultiplestrand,disciplineandsilojumpingjuxtapositionsbetweenthem.
AlmostalloftheaboveisprefiguredinHermannHesse'sNobelwinningnovel,TheGlassBeadGame,whichhasbeenmycentral
intellectualinspirationforatleastthelasttwodecades.
AE:Youstudyapocalyptictropesinreligiousmovements.Whichvisionofapocalypsedoyoufindmostdisturbing?
CC:Well,firstIshouldsaythatI'mnottalkingaboutthecurrentpopculturetropeofnucleardevastatedlandscapesandzombie
invasions.I'mtalkingreligious"endtimes"beliefs,akaeschatology,crossculturally,andwithspecificattentiontothosewithviolent
potential.Religionisoftenpigeonholedunderpolitics,asthoughitsjustaveneerandeverythingcanbesatisfactorilyexplained
withoutconsidering,eg,thatittreatslifeafterdeathas,ifanything,amorepowerfulmotivatorthanlifebeforeitsowemissthe
turningpointthat"endtimes"thinkingrepresents,withitsimplicationthatthecurrentwaristhefinaltestonwhichyouwillbejudged
pass/failbytheOnewhocreatedlife,deathandyouyourself
Broadly,Ipayparticularlynotetounforeseenapocalypses,clashingapocalypses,andfictitiousapocalypses.Muslim(Mahdist)
apocalypticismwaswidelyignoredbecauseweknewsolittleaboutit,untilwellafter9/11yetthehadithsayingtheMahdi's
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3/16/2015

Interview:CharlesCameron|TheCenterforaNewAmericanSecurity

victoriousendtimesarmywithblackbannerswillsweepfromKhorasan(plausibly:Afghanistan)toJerusalemhaslongbeenamajor
lureinAQpropagandawhileitscorrelate,theGhazwaeHind,isstilllargelydismissed.ByclashingapocalypsesImeanwhat
happenswhenrivalapocalypsesmutuallyantagonizeoneanother,aswhentheMahdiisequatedwithAntichristinJoelRichardson's
writings,orwhenJudaic,ChristianandIslamicapocalypsesclashoverIsraelandtheTempleMountprobablythedriesttinderin
theworldrightnow,Andbyfictitiousapocalypses,Imeantheonesinfluentiallybutmistakenlyportrayedinworksofbestselling
fictionsuchastheLeftBehindseries,orJoelRosenberg'sfarmoreengagingpoliticoreligiousnovels.
AE:Howhasthestudyofapocalyptictropesandculturechanged(ifithasatall)since9/11focusedattentiononradicalIslamist
movements?
CC:USC'sStephenO'Learywasthefirsttostudyapocalypticasrhetoricinhis1994ArguingtheApocalypse,andjoinedBU's
RichardLandesinformingthe(late,lamented)CenterforMillennialStudies,whichgavemillennialscholarsaplatformtoengage
withoneanother.DavidCookopenedmyeyestoIslamistmessianismatCMSaround1998,andthepublicationofhistwobooks
(StudiesinMuslimApocalyptic,ContemporaryMuslimApocalypticLiterature),TimFurnish'sHoliestWarsandJPFiliu'sApocalypse
inIslambroughtittowiderscholarlyattentionwhileLandes'ownencyclopedicHeavenonEarth:TheVarietiesoftheMillennial
Experiencegivesawideangleviewofthefieldinextraordinarydetail.
I'dsaywe'vegonefrombrushingoffapocalypticasasuperstitiousirrelevancetoanawarenessthatapocalypticfeaturesstronglyin
Islamistnarratives,bothShiaandSunni,overthepastdecade,butstilltendtounderestimateitssignificancewithincontemporary
movementswithinAmericanChristianity.WhenHaroldCampingproclaimedtheendoftheworldin2011,hespentcirca$100million
worldwideonwarningads,andreportssuggestthathundredsofHmongtribespeopleinVietnamlosttheirlivesinclasheswiththe
policeaftermovingenmassetoamountaintoawaittherapture.Apocalypticmovementscanhavesignificantimpactcf.the
TaipingRebellioninChina,whichleft20millionorsodeadinitswake.
AE:Whatadvicedoyouhaveforpeoplelookingtounderstandesotericsecularandreligiousmovementsrelevanttonationalsecurity
andforeignpolicy?
CC:Since"feelingisfirst",aseecummingssaid,to"knowyourenemy"(SunTze)requiresanactofempathy,theabilitytofeelhow
theenemy'sfeelingsmustfeel.That'snotaneasytaskfortherationalsecularmind,buttogetasenseoftheapocalypticfeelingsof
thejihadists,I'drecommendreadingAbdullahAzzam'sSignsoftheMercifulinAfghanistan,withitstalesofmiracleuponmiracle,
consideringtheimpactofthosenarrativesonpiousbutunletteredreaderssympathetictotheideaofjihad
Paynoattentiontopundits.Forrealexpertise,followtwitterandblogosphere,notFoxorCNN.Readwidely.Readaboveyourpay
grade,seewhattheexpertsthinkaremostsignificantdistinctions.Lookforsimilaritiesinowntraditionandexplorethedifferences
readRushdoonyonChristianDominionismandCPeterWagnerontheNewApostolicReformationtocomparewiththeIslamist
narrative.
Lookforblindspots,andfocusonthemthey'reasimportantastherearviewmirroriswhendriving.Watchforundertows,
movementsinthemaking.Readcommentssections,whichwillcontainmoreunvarnishedtruththanisentirelycomfortable.Notice
wheredisciplines(orsilos)intersectlearningwhichappliesintwodisciplinesisatleasttwiceasvaluableaslearningthatonly
occursinone.Readwhereworldviewscollide.Lastly,I'daskyoutoexploreanytradition,whetheryouthinkit'sidioticornot,until
youknowwhat'smostbeautifulinitsothat,again,youseeitwithempathy&nuance,notjustinblackandwhite
analysis,apocalyptism,CharlesCameron,interviews
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CNASretainstherighttodeletecommentsthatincludewordsthatinciteviolencearepredatory,hateful,orintendedtointimidateor
harassordegradepeopleonthebasisofgender,race,class,ethnicity,nationalorigin,religion,sexualorientation,ordisability.In
summary,don'tbeajerk.
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