Despite having seen a lot of people get the wrong end of the stick about the title Secular Jinnah (and though I admit I let that happen on purpose), I had never thought that the title of the novel might be similarly open to misinterpretation.
Imran S Bhinder is a young Pakistani philosopher who gained notoriety after he exposed a major literary scholar for plagiarism through translation. When he heard that my novel was titled Systems, he emailed me with the comment that my choice of title was interesting, given that it has become fashionable to be anti system – or, more specifically, that philosophers tend to dismiss any concept of a system based on ‘metaphysical categories’. And that got me, because in the first place it hadn’t occurred to me that the title might appear to be advocating a particular type of system, when in fact it’s just a title on the themes of the story, and of course the Systems Experiment.
In fact he’d raised a good point and I felt it was worth mentioning here. In the Systems Experiment, five social systems are put to the test in a supercomputer simulation. Two of them, theocracy (or religious state) and monarchy (kingdoms) are the control, since they are accepted as historical failures. The next two are modern capitalist democracy and communism, which are down in the novel as the systems ‘still being tried in history’ (never mind that in real life there is a debate as to whether communism has already failed or not). The fifth is based on the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. In the novel the theorem is described as follows:
“Omar believed that justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source. He called this universal relationship cohesive ethics.”
The social system based on the theorem is described as:
“The fifth represented Omar’s theorem in action, and it was the only one without a name. Omar wasn’t keen on giving the model a formal designation. To his mind it created the false impression that his model was offering a fixed system, when in fact dynamism was its driving force. Nevertheless for the sake of the experiment he gave his model a descriptive name: Libredux.”
So in short, the title ‘Systems’ is a reference to the experiment itself. The ‘libredux’ system is based on a metaphysical theory, but it’s not a fixed ideology. And whereas metaphysics is generally treated as something that cannot be tested in a lab, in this story the Systems Experiment is an empirical test for the theorem.
By the way, any resemblance to the idea that Pakistan was a ‘laboratory’ is completely coincidental. (What do you mean, you don’t believe me?)
Note: There is a page coming (not too difficult, I promise) to explain the idea behind the theorem. I’ll update this post when it’s ready.