Critical mass is the amount of fissile material needed to sustain nuclear fission. More generally, "critical mass" is similar to the tipping point concept. In sociology, a tipping point is a point in time when a group -- or a large number of group members -- rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice. Implosion is a process in which objects are destroyed by collapsing (or being squeezed in) on themselves. The opposite of explosion, implosion concentrates matter and energy. True implosion usually involves a difference between internal (lower) and external (higher) pressure, or inward and outward forces that is so large that the structure collapses inward into itself.
So what? These definitions help me articulate the aftermath of the no bill of indictment decision by the Grand Jury considering charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, in the shooting death of Michael Brown. For many, the phrase no bill translated to no justice. And no justice then translates to mean no peace. And no peace translates to an explosion or implosion. I recognize this fusion and fission in many social, political, economic and racial dynamics, contentions and complexities in this country.
Watching smoldering fires and seeing the demolished buildings jolted me out of the numbing grief that consumes me as I ingest story after story of young black men killed, women assaulted and transgender people being beaten. The fires stoked my fidelity and oath to give voice to the voiceless. So for me, my fusion is in truth-observing and re-telling the story, both to my kin and to the Other.
The Ferguson protests represent that point of critical mass. It's that "suddenly" which occurred and things are now forever changed and transformed. When people come together united in thought, purpose, and steadfast agreement toward a particular outcome, fusion is put into motion. And when that moment of critical mass is achieved, "suddenly" everything will indeed change.
Some changes are simply individual and internal. I can't imagine that anyone who witnessed these events isn't changed in some way. Other changes are visible, but not impactful. And then there are changes that shift the ethos and then shape the values and mores of society. These changes historically have rarely happened without massive chain reactions that challenge systems and force power to compromise and often concede.
Chain reactions started after the Boston Teas Party on December 16, 1773. Nat Turner's Rebellion, 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia caused fusion. The Watts riots on August 11 through August 17, 1965 were fire within. And the 1992 Los Angeles riots post the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King were a massive implosion.
Relate these occurrences back to physics. In nuclear physics, nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction in which two or more atoms collide at a very high-speed and join to form a new type of atomic nucleus. During this process, matter is not conserved because some of the matter is converted to energy. Things are destroyed in the process, sometimes things that had use and value.
I am upset that people don't have the capacity to better handle rage. I also know that opportunist and general thugs will jump on any bandwagon to "turn up" as the young people will say. No matter, it's still a tipping point. The tipping point is the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development. Without offering judgment or focusing on the very complicated good versus bad, right versus wrong, I can acknowledge and accept that reactions reached a point beyond any local ability to control it from spreading more widely. A tipping point is often considered to be a turning point.
Finally, one more theory. Chaos theory. This is the study of nonlinear dynamics, in which seemingly random events are actually predictable based on certain equations. In a scientific context, the word chaos has a slightly different meaning than it does in its general usage as a state of confusion, lacking any order. Chaos, with reference to chaos theory, refers to an apparent lack of order in a system that nevertheless obeys particular laws or rules. Systems -- no matter how complex they may be -- rely upon an underlying order, and very simple or small systems and events can cause very complex behaviors or events.
So let me bottom line it. Let me -- in my best Black preacher vernacular, make it plain. Or as some would say -- lean in closer so you can hear what I'm trying to tell you.
People are angry. They are angry about a lot of things. The killing of Michael Brown was another element in the critical mass, and the no bill decision was the tipping point. And having little evidence of previous justice (refer to Trayvon Martin and undocumented, untelevised revolutionary deaths of others) and no faith in a flawed and in some places broken system, the implosion happened. And like the elements destroyed scientifically, hurting people hurt people -- even themselves.
As for me, I will continue to pray for and work for justice and a change in the system. And I will hope for peace. True peace -- not just calm. The calm that simply exists between the next brewing, deadly storm.