19 December 2002
Warp and Weft: Governance through Alternation
- world governance as a Gandhian challenge for the individual
- / -
Prospects for world governance: the good news
Clarifying the challenge of world governance
Decolonization of the mind: the process and symbolic template
Weaving together the threads: warp and weft
Weaving: the female dimension
Designing and weaving a governable world
Dynamics of governance
Reinterpreting Gandhi's satyagraha
This paper was written as the counterpart to another on Spin
and Counter-spin: Governance through terrorism
that provides the context for
the development of the Gandhian arguments here.
The focus on terrorism as a strategy employed by 'terrorists', and
the response to it by the saviours of 'civilization', has created
a strange environment for the evolution of governance in the 21st century. The
introductory paper on Spin
and Counter-spin explores the implications for the individual faced with
the challenge of interpreting new kinds of messages from 'terrorists'
and from government -- and the implications for world governance.
The question raised in what follows is the nature of the learnings to be gained
from the metaphor in bridging between the activities of 'spin doctors'
and how future governance is to be spun and enabled by the individual. The ability
of individuals to 'spin their own yarn' has been severely eroded to
the point of non-existence -- because of the apparent quality of the imported
product. Consequently the individual is forced to import truths and memes that
have been 'spun' elsewhere and has become totally dependent on them
to provide threads of discourse with contemporaries. At issue here is the process
whereby individuals construct their own sustaining realities as a way of relating
to realities spun elsewhere. The issue is the process whereby individuals can
develop viable 'homespun' realities as the most sustainable basis
for healthy and meaningful world governance.
The modern spinners of exported realities derive much of their viability, if
not all, from the manner in which their truths can be made to persuade and seduce
individuals to buy into them. The paper explores insights from Gandhi's thinking,
arguing that the focus on nonviolence also tends to obscure consideration of
some of the more personal implications of his initiative that are relevant to
the issue of world governance in a society dominated by spinning. His phrase
'self-rule' tends to be understood by many as relating to political
independence whereas to others it can more fruitfully be applied to one's own
self. As normally translated as 'home rule', it obscures this sense
of personal governance of one's own domain. Gandhi endeavoured to combine both
senses, although less attention has been paid to his thinking in relation to
the second or the process of their combination.
The exploration here of Gandhi's spinning-wheel raises the question of what
might be an equivalent symbol, appropriate to the many cultures of the world,
that would weave together the threads of insight appropriate to world governance?
Modern governance is seen here as essentially conceived in terms of 'warp'
-- the threads of a single directionality -- and every effort is made to avoid
designing in 'weft' -- namely threads of a contrasting directionality
(such as those of 'anti-globalists' or 'terrorists'). The
argument points to a kind of reality-spinning radical philosophy that could
represent an individual reframing of Gandhi's swaraj. Part of the challenge
is that, through inability to respond to such cross-cutting issues in the governance
of one's personal world, they are projected onto the challenges of world governance.
The argument raises the possibility of a reinterpretation of Gandhi's satyagraha
to transcend its implicit polarization -- as a way to engender a different quality
of world governance.
Prospects for world governance: the good news
What kind of new environment do the many forms of spin in relation to terrorism
create for effective world governance in a highly turbulent and confusing situation?
The situation itself provides an interesting 'thread' that can be
pursued through the metaphor of 'spinning' -- now so widely used to
describe the manner in which information relevant to governance is managed and
presented. This usage derives from the folk tradition of 'spinning a tale',
more dubiously associated with 'spinning a web of lies'.
The metaphor has long had a more profound cultural significance in legends,
notably the mythic weaving of the three Fates of Greek myth, spinning, weaving
and cutting the fragile threads of human life. Lives are lived as the stories
are told - sensibility and destiny are a feature of the telling, of the creative
activity of both teller and listener. The telling itself thus becomes part of
what is told, what is lived [more].
Athena, daughter of Zeus, was goddess of wisdom, warcraft, and handicraft. At
handicraft, what the goddess did best was weave. And this makes sense, since
wisdom and cunning seem naturally tied to the idea of weaving.
There are many comments on the web about 'how the web is spun'. Spinning
the Web (1994) by Andrew Ford was the first book in print to deal with publishing
information on the web [more;
more]. This perspective has notably
been important to the expression of women on the web as articulated by Hope
A. Olson and Anna E. Altmann (Metaphor and Women's Voices on the World Wide)
who argue that: 'Web, weaving, spinning seemed to us to form a network
of related metaphors, across a wide variety of contexts, over a long period
of time' [more].
To pagans, for example, because the symbolism of the wheel was so important
to Yule, it became a day sacred to Goddesses of the spinning wheel, it being
a metaphor for the great Wheel of The Year. The idea of spinning to create things,
has become a part of modern paganism in the form of casting spells: 'When
we make magick, we often say we are spinning a spell, or spinning a charm'.
Notable use has consequently been made of spinning as a metaphor in the poetry
of East and West. In the poetry of Punjabi Sufi saints, the act of turning the
spinning wheel is analogous to meditation. A 17th century American poet, Edward
Taylor, is best known for his poem Huswifery:
It illustrated his willingness to be refined by God by way of a spinning wheel.
Throughout the poem, Taylor compares himself to its various parts and their
These different threads come together in Mahatma Gandhi's spinning philosophy
and the manner in which he made it a central theme of the Indian independence
movement that has been described as Spinning
a Nation. The spinning wheel became the central image in the Indian flag.
Making a largely abandoned village technology central to the uniting of a highly
rural country may well represent the kind of improbable creative initiative
for which parallels could usefully be sought in relation to world governance.
The question raised in what follows is the nature of the learnings to be
gained from the metaphor in bridging between the activities of 'spin doctors'
and how future governance is to be spun and enabled by the individual.
In exploring this line of reasoning it is important to move beyond the judgement
of Gandhi so ignorantly propagated by Winston Churchill (1930): "It is alarming
and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now
posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the
steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a
defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative
of the king-emperor." [more]
Given his admiration for Churchill, would George Bush have said otherwise? It
is also necessary to move beyond the focus on the spinning wheel as a technology
in order to understand how it 'worked' in creating and sustaining
a new mindset -- whether or not a person engaged in its daily use as advocated
For George Woodcock:
Many of Gandhi's proposals, which to outsiders seem absurd and faddish, and
which contributed to the alien view of him as a special kind of inspired clown,
were completely sensible in the setting of the India he was attempting to
elevate into self-respect and freedom. To revive the craft of spinning, which
Indian peasants had ceased practicing before the turn of the century, was
much more than an act of antiquarian sentiment. It was an effective way of
drawing attention to a whole group of conditions that needed changing: the
virtual extinction of Indian village crafts; the fact that because there were
no crafts the peasants were unemployed four months of the year; the final
appalling fact that their cash income was so minute that even a few rupees
earned spinning yarn in the idle season would increase it notably. Practicality
(which helped him to forge original techniques of revolutionary action) and
lack of prejudice (which brought him a following and a breadth of acceptance
unprecedented in India with its divisions of caste, language and religion)
combined in Gandhi with an exceptional insight into the power of symbolic
actions to move people's minds, and also with, as Nehru remarked, "a curious
knack of doing the right thing at the psychological moment." To tramp a couple
of hundred miles in 1930 through the summer dust of Indian country roads,
with a lonely beach as his destination, and there to pick up a fleck of forbidden
salt and defy an unreasonable law; it was a simple, poetic act, but it united
the Indian people more than any act by any person before, and it hastened
the end of the British Empire. [more]
At the beginning of the 19th century, Indian cotton spinners and weavers were
supplying finished cloth to markets in Asia, Africa, Europe, and even the Americas.
It was difficult for foreigners to compete with the Indian workers. Indians
produced goods cheaply, and the technology of spinning and weaving cotton by
traditional craft methods was difficult for competitors to master. However,
once British factory-owners had learnt the techniques of machine spinning and
weaving, they imported cheap raw cotton from the American plantations. Finished
cloth from British mills became much cheaper than the Indian handloom products.
Cotton mills in Lancashire, England, exported more and more cloth to India,
and by the mid-1800's much of India's basic needs in cotton clothing was being
met by British factories. Indian spinners and weavers lost their jobs, and had
to turn to agriculture to make a living. [more]
Is the impoverished individual of the modern world to be usefully likened to
the Indian villager of Gandhi's time, forced to wear imported clothing 'from
the mills of Lancashire' owned by their oppressors? Although now of course
the individual is faced with a huge amount of 'spinning' -- stories,
yarns and theories distributed from the West through the multinational-controlled
media and their proxies. The impoverishment may well be primarily cultural.
The ability of individuals to 'spin their own yarn' has been severely
eroded to the point of non-existence -- because of the apparent quality of the
imported product. Consequently the individual is forced to import truths
and memes that have been 'spun' elsewhere and has become totally dependent
on them to provide threads of discourse with contemporaries. As in the case
of the villager, it is such imported 'fabric' that individuals have
become obliged to wear as their interface (protective or decorative) with their
environment. It is through such imported cultural products -- whether scholarly
or edutainment -- that the individual now tends to articulate his or her identity
and worldview. It is in terms of the distant frameworks of Dallas, Dynasty
and other media creations, that individuals find role models for their daily
lives. The ability to 'spin one's own yarn' (whether as a story or
a philosophy) is considered as totally quaint -- as was the spinning wheel of
Gandhi was able to demonstrate to millions that this quaintness was a major
threat to the British Empire's governance and its economic exploitation of India.
In this light the key questions would seem to be:
- how individuals can re-learn the art of 'spinning their own yarn',
and how this can sustain them more effectively than imports
- how this may be perceived as a major threat to those from whom pre-spun
memes are currently imported.
At issue here is the process whereby individuals construct their own sustaining
realities as a way of relating to realities spun elsewhere from which a
kind of ersatz nourishment is currently to be derived. It is the distinction
currently played out with respect to foodstuffs -- between the 'naturally-grown'
and the 'artificially-grown'. The imposition on the population of
genetically-modified and hormone-loaded foodstuffs is indicative of the subtler
memetic challenge debated under the terms 'cultural imperialism' and
'spiritual pollution'. For Gandhi the distinction was highlighted
in 'homespun' (khadi) versus imported clothing. To repeat,
the argument made here is not focused on the material product but on the meanings
which any such product might carry in practice. Indeed Gandhi's khadi
revolution has long been endangered in India itself by the kinds of economic
forces inimical to more appropriate forms of world governance [more].
The issue is the process whereby individuals can develop viable 'homespun'
realities as the most sustainable basis for healthy and meaningful world governance.
Clarifying the challenge of world governance
The memetic challenge of future world governance for the individual can be
clarified by a re-reading of Gandhi's original articulation (in Young India)
of the challenge for India in 1921 ::
To a people famishing and idle, the only acceptable forms in which God can
dare appear is work and promise of food as wages. God created man to work
for his good, and said that those who ate without work were thieves. Eighty
per cent of India are compulsorily thieves half the year. Is it any wonder
if India has become one vast prison?
Hunger is the argument that is driving India to the spinning wheel. The call
of the spinning wheel is the noblest of all. Because it is the call of love.
And love is swaraj. Swaraj has no meaning for the millions,
if they do not know how to employ their enforced idleness. The attainment
of this swaraj is possible within a short time, and it is so possible only
by the revival of the spinning wheel.
I do want growth, I do want self-determination, I do want freedom, but I want
all these for the soul. I doubt if the steel age is an advance upon the flint
age. I am indifferent. It is the evolution of the soul to which the intellect
and all our faculties have to be devoted. I have no difficulty in imagining
the possibility of a man armoured after the modern style making some lasting
and new discovery for mankind, but I have less difficulty in imagining the
possibility of a man having nothing but a bit of flint and a nail for lighting
his path or his matchlock ever singing new hymns of praise and delivering
to an aching world a message of peace and goodwill upon earth.
A plea for the spinning wheel is a plea for recognizing the dignity of labour.
I claim that in losing the spinning wheel we lost our left lung. We are, therefore,
suffering from galloping consumption. The restoration of the wheel arrests
the progress of the fell disease. There are certain things which all must
do in all climes. There are certain things which all must do in certain climes.
The spinning wheel is the thing which all must turn in the Indian clime for
the transition stage at any rate and the vast majority must for all time.
It was over love of foreign cloth that ousted the wheel from its position
of dignity. Therefore, I consider it a sin to wear foreign cloth.
I must confess that I do not draw a sharp or any distinction between economics
and ethics. Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a
nation are immoral and, therefore, sinful. Thus the economics that permit
one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use
articles made by sweated labour. It is sinful to eat the American wheat and
let my neighbour the grain dealer starve for want of custom.
My modesty has prevented me from declaring from the house top that the message
of non-cooperation, non-violence and swadeshi is a message to the world.
It must fall flat, if it does not bear fruit in the soil where it has been
delivered. We must refuse to be lifted off our feet. A drowning man cannot
save others, we must try to save ourselves. Indian nationalism is not exclusive,
nor aggressive, nor destructive. India must learn to live before she can aspire
to die for humanity. The mice which helplessly find themselves between the
cat's teeth, acquire no merit from their enforced sacrifice.
As with British manufacturers of the time, the modern spinners of exported
realities derive much of their viability, if not all, from the manner in which
their truths can be made to persuade and seduce individuals to buy into them.
Whether it is the edutainment products of bodies like Time-Warner, the ethical
and related frameworks of religious bodies, the scientific worldviews of the
many disciplines, the fashion products of design houses, or the strategies and
resolutions of intergovernmental authorities, they all derive their credibility
and funding primarily from the authority they acquire over the consenting individual.
If the individual is drained of any sustaining personal sense of meaning by
this process, then Gandhi's analysis is relevant. Is the importance of drugs
to sustain meaning in modern life an indication of the degree to which external
purveyors of reality have effectively become 'meme-sucking vampires'.
From this perspective, it is understandable why the pro-globalization 'free
traders' are currently so extremely threatened by the 'anti-globalizers'
that are labelled as 'rejectionists' (nicely recalling Gandhi's rejection
of imported cloth). The socio-economic arguments empowering the pro-globalizers
are as suspect as were those of the British economists and politicians of Gandhi's
India. Gandhi was indeed declared by the British at the time to be a terrorist
and arrested as such -- deliberately distorting his nonviolent role. Most ironically
one website now points to the fact that recent anti-terrorist legislation confirms
In the wake of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center,
the British government has declared Mahatma Gandhi a terrorist. A bill recently
passed by Parliament and ratified by the House of Lords re-defines the legal
concept of "terrorist" to include anyone who uses non-violent means, or who
advocates non-violent means, to disagree with the government or to attempt to
alter government policies. Previous legislation already criminalized non-cooperation
with police authorities. Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent non-cooperation
with unjust government policies would therefore constitute terrorism; under
the new legislation, Gandhi could have been imprisoned indefinitely without
charge, until he starved to death. [more]
The challenge for leadership in world governance is perhaps best illustrated
by a 'rogues gallery' website on 'terrorists through the ages'
-- that challenges understanding of the distinction between leaders, socio-political
innovators and terrorists. It includes Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the
Dalai Lama [more].
Curiously the shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938 included both Gandhi
and Hitler -- between whom it proved impossible to choose [more].
That for 2002 included a joint award to Blair and Bush -- although the award
was finally made to former President Jimmy Carter despite his responsibility
(from 1977-1981), as highlighted by Tariq Ali, for what many define as state-supported
- ordering the CIA to organize the killers running the death squads in Argentina
to train Nicaraguan Contras in Honduras, notably to fight against the Sandinista
- authorising the covert CIA operation in Afghanistan that led to the creation
of the mojahedin and giving the green light for Saudi religious, ideological
and financial intervention, begun under the leadership of Osama bin Laden.
- re-arming Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Thailand after they were defeated
by the Vietnamese.
- leading a campaign in favour of the release of Lieutenant William Calley,
found guilty of mass murder in the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam.
- providing support and weaponry supplied to the Indonesian military dictatorship
after the brutal occupation of East Timor. [more;
Given the surreal absurdities of the process, may we expect a future Peace
Prize to be jointly shared by George Bush and Osama bin Laden? Or will the Nobel
Committee find it difficult to choose between them? There is the intriguing
possibility that the years spent 'behind bars' by 'terrorists'
such as Mandela and Gandhi are a precise measure of the dimensions of the historical
time warp into which their societies are locked -- the number of years that
those societies are 'behind the times'.
There is a striking similarity between the legislative steps taken against
Indian independence and the current spate of legislation restricting civil liberties
in the fight against terrorism. This resulted in the Rowlatt Bills or 'Black'
Bills. The first became the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act (1919).
Under the new law, in the name of maintenance of peace, the Government could
arrest any person without a warrant and detain him for any length of time without
any trial or right to appeal. The law was considered by Gandhi to be a direct
attack on the ordinary civil liberties of the people and a clear indication
of the autocratic and barbarous tendencies of the British rule in India. [more]
The protests he then organized resulted in the notorious Amritsar Massacre (1919)
in which unarmed civilians were systematically slaughtered by the British army
during a peaceful demonstration. The investigating committee judged it to be:
'a calculated piece of inhumanity towards utterly innocent and unarmed
men, including children, and unparalleled for its ferocity in the history of
modem British administration'. No compensation was paid to the victims.
Modern echoes of this mentality are to be found in the treatment of the Mau-Mau
in Kenya [more**], the repression of the Genoa G8 demonstrations in 2001 [more]
and in the aftermath of the UN-sponsored intervention in Afghanistan.
The challenge of modern 'rejectionists', to those who put all their
faith in globalization (at others expense), is echoed in Gandhi's early question:
'Why must India become industrial in the western sense?' Contrary
to the wisdom of the World Bank and IMF, he asserted that 'what is good
for one nation situated in one condition is not necessarily good for another
differently situated. One man's food is often another man's poison'. Curiously
it was not the World Bank economists that invented or demonstrated the viability
of the Grameem Bank they eventually chose to support. In a critique of the UNDP's
understanding of technology and its efforts to impose GM seeds, Vandana Shiva
(The Seed and the Spinning
Wheel: The UNDP as Biotech Salesman: Reflections on the Human Development Report
- 2001) argues:
Gandhi had said that 'anything that millions can do together, becomes
charged with unique power'. The spinning wheel had become a symbol of
such power. `The wheel as such is lifeless, but when I invest it with symbolism,
it becomes a living thing for me"
India got her freedom through the symbol of the spinning wheel and policies
that recognised that technology is a political and social-cultural construct.
It must adapt to people and diverse socio-economic and environmental contexts
if it has to serve human development. People cannot be forced and coerced
to adapt to technology as an end. With a totally one sided view of the history
of technology, the UNDP Technology report refers only to Britain's experience
of mechanisation of textiles and describes defense of alternatives as "inertia".
Had Gandhi not resurrected the spinning wheel and handlooms, India would
have been trapped in colonised inertia. We would have destroyed our rich and
diverse textiles. We would have failed to protect the livelihoods and welfare
of our weavers which is once again threatened by globalisation.
The imposition of GM-seed and GM-food through American monopolies could well
become the symbolic issue worldwide that is equivalent to that early British
policy with regard to prohibiting Indians from manufacturing their own salt
The policy gave rise to the famous Salt March to the remote sea-side village
of Dandi in 1930 and to the the Dharasana Salt Factory where demonstrators were
viciously beaten before journalists -- completely discrediting any moral authority
claimed by the British. Are the pro-globalizers setting their cause up for a
Dharasana-type disaster? The civil disobedience campaign it launched was the
greatest nonviolent battle by possibly history's greatest nonviolent campaigner.
And Gandhi himself saw this as the quintessence of his philosophy in action.
The Salt March lesson was heard by many and it changed many -- and continues
to be a prime inspiration for demonstrators at pro-globalization conferences
It was also an early lesson to authorities in the need to control the media
coverage of demonstrations and of security counter-measures, now so systematically
imposed in relation to American military intervention (Gulf War, Afghanistan,
The UNDP's approach to technology is to be contrasted with that articulated
by Yoav Ben-Dov (Non-European
traditions and 21st century education: Towards the computerized spinning wheel?):
Gandhi's home industry model was motivated by social and human values. However,
in the context of market economy based on material technology, it has its
price, as it involved a technological step backwards, from modern technology
to pre-modern technology. Thus, although the spinning wheel small-scale industry
was more harmonious with the ways of life of traditional Indian society, it
found itself in a disadvantageous position when having to compete with the
more advanced mechanistic and centralized system of production.
The advent of information technology radically changes this situation. Already
today one can see the emergence of a new way of production - the decentralized
software home industry, which can successfully compete from remote places
and on low budgets. Indeed, like the spinning wheel, a computer with an internet
link can function effectively in a village house, but at the same time, it
can also be part of an innovative software project. Moreover, in this way,
production based on advanced technology can reach the rural areas without
necessitating major environmental damage and violent disruption of traditional
ways of life. Thus, information technology makes it possible to implement
Gandhi's home industry vision without having to compromise the competitional
edge of up-to-date technology.
The question here is whether this approach, and the much-hyped knowledge-society
notion of a 'global village', encourage people to 'spin their
own yarn' and sustain themselves in 'homespun' realities. Or
is it a more sophisticated weapon of mass distraction and memetic vampirism
to be manipulated by those seeking to exploit world governance for elitist ends?
Decolonization of the mind: the process and symbolic template
The concrete results of Gandhi's campaigning are most simply expressed in the
independence of India in 1947. The thinking behind the strategy he used is primarily
of interest to those advocating nonviolence -- and is widely neglected as unrealistic
for that reason. But the focus on nonviolence also tends to obscure consideration
of some of the more personal implications of his initiative that are relevant
to the issue of world governance in a society dominated by spinning.
According to the Swaraj Foundation, in
his book Hind Swaraj (1908; translated as Indian Home Rule; online
version), Gandhi sought to clarify the meaning behind swaraj, or
self-rule, as being much more than simply "wanting [systems of] English rule
without the Englishman; the tiger's nature but not the tiger." The crux of his
argument centered on the belief that the socio-spiritual underpinnings of British
political, economic, bureaucratic, legal, military, and educational institutions
were inherently unjust, exploitative and alienating. As Pinto explicates, "The
principal theme of Hind Swaraj is the moral inadequacy of western civilization,
especially its industrialism, as the model for free India." Gandhi was particularly
critical of the deeply embedded principles of 'might is right' and
'survival of the fittest'. But on another level, the call for swaraj
represents a genuine attempt to regain control of the 'self' -- our
self-respect, self-responsibility, and capacities for self-realization -- from
institutions of dehumanization. As Gandhi states, "It is swaraj when
we learn to rule ourselves." The real goal of the freedom struggle was not only
to secure political azadi (independence) from Britain, but rather to
gain true swaraj (liberation and self-rule). [more]
The phrase 'self-rule' can be understood by some as relating to
political independence whereas to others it can more fruitfully be applied to
one' own self. As normally translated as 'home rule', it obscures
this sense of personal governance of one's own domain. Gandhi endeavoured
to combine both senses, although less attention has been paid to his thinking
in relation to the second or the process of their combination. It is in
communicating the multi-dimensional nature of his insight that lies the true
merit of the spinning wheel. Mohit Chakrabarti's study (The Gandhian Philosophy
Of Spinning-Wheel), as reviewed by S.
Narayanswami, clarifies some of the dimensions. But a more complete range
might perhaps be presented as follows:
- Technology: The simplicity of the spinning wheel as a device, its
construction, and the cost of materials, makes it an early and archetypal
example of what has today come to be valued as 'appropriate technology'
:for the most impoverished and isolated.
- Demonstration: The process of spinning, and the products it made
possible, provided a very visible and concrete example of how people could
help themselves under difficult circumstances.
- Tradition: The spinning wheel was not an imported foreign gadget
but a well understood technology that formed part of the Indian cultural tradition.
As such its use reinforced the bonds with that tradition and the sense of
historical continuity basic to community.
- Myth: The spinning wheel also featured in culture and legend -- and
therefore in village entertainment. It has been a theme in poetry. It not
only featured in story telling but could be used as a 'conversation piece'
to sustain a significant discourse.
- Education: The spinning wheel was positioned as an ideal, hands-on
educational tool and discipline, notably in impoverished villages, whether
as a productive handicraft or through making education self-reliant and self-supporting.
Even maths could be taught with it
- Community: The spinning-wheel was understood as binding the heart
of everyone in society with a common cord of social oneness; the seeds of
national and social cohesion were seen to be sown through the music of the
- Mobility: As a device the spinning wheel was both eminently portable
rather than being difficult to transport. As a wheel it could also be associated
with movement and transportation.
- Economics: It could be argued that swaraj and the prosperity
of society could be presented and undertaken only through the spinning-wheel
as a key handicraft. It was successfully linked to the economics of homespun
(khadi) and to salt.
- Politics: The spinning wheel was most effectively used in a political
campaign to overthrow exploitative governance in the interests of distant
foreigners using competing, and less appropriate, technology.
- Nonviolence: The concept of sacrifice, well-nurtured in the concept
of nonviolence, is also at the root of the concept of the spinning-wheel.
Through this association worship and work were intertwined.
- Religion: This could be instilled by means of the spinning-wheel
through what was termed Sarvadharma Samanatva. The value of religion
is enhanced because of how its helps to safeguard and enrich the self-respect
and self-development of each individual in order to safeguard and enrich national
honour and national development.
- Symbol: As noted above, anything that millions can do together, becomes
charged with unique power. The spinning wheel became a symbol of such power.
For Gandhi, 'The wheel as such is lifeless, but when I invest it with
symbolism, it becomes a living thing for me'. It could be presented as
a symbol of humanism and as an an effective vehicle to catalyst both inward
and outward development, whether directly or indirectly, through self-help,
self-service, self-contentment, and austerity.
- Marketing: In these terms, the spinning wheel became an early examplar
of image building -- both politically and with respect to an alternative response
to the challenges of ordinary people. As such it also disarmed competitive
opponents by its innocence and quaintness.
- Divinity: In the cultures of South-East Asia, great importance is
attached to circular mandalas and spoked wheels as symbolic of divinity. In
this way the spinning wheel, epitomizes man as a divine being consistent with
traditional Indian views of self-development. The symbol of Buddhism is the
Dharma Wheel, with its 8 spokes representing the Eightfold Path.
- Chakra: in the cultures of South-East Asia traditional importance
in healing, meditation and philosophy is attached to energy centres within
the human being known as chakras -- meaning 'spinning energy wheel'
in Sanskrit (charkha in Hindi). The term was therefore used both for
the physical device and the subtle energy centre -- thus constituting a very
powerful association in Indian culture. The subsequent use of a 1,000 spoked
wheel at the centre of the Indian flag recalls the Sahashrara or Crown Chakra,
located at the top of the head, and meaning "thousand petal lotus". In
South-East Asia this is understood to accumulate all the energies and emotions
from the lower chakra points and transmutes them by "fire", burning
off residual fears, doubts, and apprehensions opening the energetic body to
universal and divine insight.
- Meditation: Both use of the spinning wheel and its shape were successfully
associated with meditation. It gave physical form to understanding of the
Wheel of Life, so important to reconciliation of millions to the difficulties
of their daily life. As such it also suggested ultimate emancipation as an
individual and social being
Taken singly, any of these dimensions is of significance to some constituency
in the governance of a country -- or the world. But many would be considered
mutually incompatible or irrelevant -- especially since some relate to the collective
challenges of the external, material world and some to the subtleties of each
person's inner world. Gandhi's genius lay in his capacity to ensure their interrelationship
in a coherent whole, both in practice and in doctrine, that was meaningful not
only to the individual but to India as a whole. Here also the spoked spinning
wheel could be seen as a way of understanding these many relationships -- effectively
as a symbol for governance in which he ensured that significance was invested.
A key to his success was that he was also prepared to 'be the solution'.
Very challenging for Indian culture, he made central to his initiative a technology
typically associated with women. Literally and metaphorically he 'spun
his own yarn' -- and introduced a new story to the world. It is interesting
to explore how many of these dimensions are reflected in UNDP's understanding
of nation building and development -- and how integrated any such initiatives
are understood to be.
That Gandhi's undertaking was far from obvious -- or 'serious' from
any conventional nation-building perspective -- is clear when the question is
asked what might be an equivalent symbol, appropriate to the many cultures
of the world, that would draw together the threads of insight appropriate to
world governance? It is interesting therefore to contrast the spinning wheel
with the unspoked circle of 12-stars that is the symbol of the European Union
-- and features on its flag in a similar way. In the light of the checklist
above, to what degree does the latter symbol 'work' to counteract
the acknowledged apathy of European citizens for what many experience as soulless?
Again, according to the Swaraj Foundation:
Deeply inspired by principled and radical critiques of the modern urban-industrial-military
paradigm and the consequent alienation of human beings raised by thinkers
and activists such as, Leo Tolstoy, John Ruskin, David Thoreau, and Ralph
Waldo Emerson, Gandhi firmly believed that only when Indians dispelled their
illusions about the 'progress' of modern Western civilization and
the superiority of its role models could they move towards real liberation.
Thus, on one level, Hind Swaraj can be seen to represent a post-modern
critique of development. It calls for profoundly questioning and challenging
the legitimacy of modern science/technology, the nation-state, the global
economy, and factory-schooling - oppressive systems and structures of power
which serve to define our existence. Ashis Nandy describes the starting point
for a generative (rather than nihilistic) process of decolonization, "Criticism
is the main thing [to building another kind of world]. It forces us to admit
that no worldview, no ideology, no transformative principle automatically
becomes morally acceptable just because, at this point of time, no one has
produced a viable or convincing alternative to it. That keeps intact our moral
sensitivities and forces us to search harder for new alternatives." We must
regain our faith that there are other options for living.
However, this criticism must go beyond simply an institutional analysis if
it wishes to be truly generative. Makarand Paranjape argues that decolonization
must be "more centered on the Self than on the Other. By decolonizing myself,
I mean developing myself and my society fully, realizing our potential, enlarging
our capacities - rather than displacing, overthrowing or defeating the Other."
Swaraj means engaging in processes of self-understanding and self-reflection
to rebuild a self-confidence that is free from arrogance, hatred or egoism.
We must acknowledge that we are both 'oppressed' and 'oppressors'
and seek to understand what roles we play as oppressors and in supporting
institutions of oppression. We must also re-evaluate our own wants and needs
and seek to understand how these are manipulated and controlled by others.
Gandhi wanted all those who believed in swaraj: (1) to reject and
wholly uproot the British raj (rule) from within themselves and their communities;
and, (2) to regenerate new reference points, systems, and structures that
enable individual and collective self-development. This regeneration was to
grow from the strengths, perspectives, wisdom and experiences of people living
in village India, rather than from cities in Britain, America, and even in
India for that matter. Understanding the real 'Self', and its relation to
communities and society, is critical to the project of attaining swaraj.
'British rule' is here to be seen as equivalent to the kind of
colonization of the mind imposed by the spin doctors of governments exporting
their realities and priorities through the media to subservient consumers thereof.
From this perspective, the Swaraj Foundation points to the current relevance
of Gandhi's perspective:
How is this relevant for us today? We feel that South Asia (along with the
rest of the world) is experiencing a tremendous crisis, one overwhelming in
its scale and pace of growth. While it is easy to get caught up in the symptoms
of this crisis (the brutal violence, the enormous inequities, the extinction
of cultures and languages, the degradation of the environment), it is equally,
if not more, important to understand its roots. We must creatively analyze
the content and the consequences of our current economic, political, social,
and educational systems, without reverting to a romanticized past of so-called
untouched or pristine traditions.
From these critical reflections, we must generate new spaces, systems, and
processes - based on moral and holistic visions of human potential and human
progress - which can lead us out of the global self-destruction which engulfs
us. Throughout it all, we must consider and negotiate our own roles, while
asking ourselves how we are either working for solutions or contributing to
making the crisis worse. Thus, today, we recognize Gandhi's concept of swaraj
integral to three parallel action-reflection agendas for the 21st century
Weaving together the threads: warp and weft
In 1921, Gandhi expressed reservations
about his 1908 articulation of swaraj that provide a helpful distinction
between his initiative towards appropriate governance and what might be termed
'terrorism' by authorities:
But I would warn the reader against thinking that I am today aiming at the
Swaraj described therein. I know that India is not ripe for it. It
may seem an impertinence to say so. But such is my conviction. I am individually
working for the self-rule pictured therein. But today my corporate activity
is undoubtedly devoted to the attainment of Parliamentary Swaraj in
accordance with the wishes of the people of India. I am not aiming at destroying
railways or hospitals, though I would certainly welcome their natural destruction.
Neither railways nor hospitals are a test of a high and pure civilization.
At best they are a necessary evil. Neither adds one inch to the moral stature
of a nation. Nor am I aiming at a permanent destruction of law courts, much
as I regard it as a 'consummation devoutly to be wished'. Still
less am I trying to destroy all machinery and mills. It requires a higher
simplicity and renunciation than the people are today prepared for.
The theme of this paper calls for another way of framing the individual/collective
polarity highlighted regretfully above by Gandhi. It has indeed been the case
that the nation-building and development agendas of the past decades have focused
on the collective -- to which Gandhi became resigned. But the degree of spin
associated with such externalities (explored separately)
raises the question as to whether governance, as currently conceived, is now
impossible without a very high percentage of lying to the electorate -- and
by the electorate. Striking examples include: the manner in which the European
Commission was forced to resign en bloc in 1999 because of corruption [more];
the recognition in 2002 by the European Court of Auditors that only 5% of the
European Commission budget could be guaranteed free from financial fraud; the
financial fraud associated with the German elections in 2002, etc
There is therefore a case for exploring a different way of thinking about world
governance -- partially inspired by neglected dimensions of Gandhi's initiative.
The paradigm shift required may perhaps best be illustrated by the classical
challenge faced by in the development of the insect -- explaining why insects
are not viable beyond a certain size [more;
There is a fundamental physiological constraint that prevents oxygen diffusing
to the cells of an insect's body if it is greater than a certain size. Evolution
had to produce animals with a different distribution system before larger sizes
became viable. This may be the challenge for world governance in ensuring that
'oxygen' reaches the 'cells' of society. The systems currently
envisaged are all sub-viable -- failing to pass through a 'viability barrier',
the democratic equivalent of the 'sound barrier'.
As suggested earlier, the internet may be one key to such a paradigm shift.
But another insect metaphor illustrates a constraint. If individuals are encouraged
to 'spin their own yarn', this could lead to behaviours analogous
to the spinning of a pupal cocoon by a caterpillar. Indeed the term 'cocooning'
is already used to describe a certain lifestyle preference in withdrawing into
the home [more;
This may well obscure any understanding of the kind of reality-spinning radical
philosophy that could represent an individual reframing of Gandhi's swaraj.
Cocooning, as presently understood, could constitute the beginning of a degradation
into a condition in which myriad cocoon-realties are effectively enabled, managed
and exploited -- as imagined in the science fiction movie Matrix. Admiral
Poindexter's Total Information Awareness programme might be a significant step
towards this. It is the proactive insights of enactivism,
as articulated by Francisco Varela (1992) and others, that might best represent
the contemporary articulation of the individual (psychic) variant of Gandhi's
'home rule' -- through which 'homespun' realities are woven
and worn in engaging with external elements and the world.
The development of this argument can be clarified by stressing the metaphorical
distinction between 'spinning' and 'weaving'. Gandhi focussed
primarily on spinning -- to enable weaving, but only secondarily or by implication.
He thus emphasized the most fundamental part of the process -- namely the production
of threads at home. It is interesting that 'thread' has become a highly
significant metaphoric term on the internet. It refers to the 'subject
thread' held in common by a succession of messages. A thread is defined
as a sequence of responses to an initial message posting. This enables the user
to follow or join an individual discussion in a newsgroup from among the many
that may be there. A thread is usually shown graphically as an initial message
-- successive messages "hung off" the original message. A newsgroup participant
can contribute to a thread by specifying a "reference" topic as part of the
message. In a computer program, a thread is placeholder information associated
with a single use of a program that can handle multiple concurrent users who
are maintained on other threads. Most of today's operating systems provide support
for multithreading whereby many tasks can effectively be handled simultanously
through appropriate management of individual threads [more].
The term 'thread' may also be used more generally in dialogue and
conversation, but again there is little attention to the question of how a dialogue
or conference might 'weave' threads together (other than through a
'conference programme' or the binding of the proceedings -- Buchbindersynthese).
Society is made up of myriad spinners, but there are few weavers to produce
whole cloth from their activity. Indeed, to a significant degree, there is a
sense in which the temporal dimension of spinning stressed in mythic spinning
(by the Fates) comes to the fore in internet and other discussions. Threads
slide easily through conceptual fingers as time goes by -- with threads gone
by readily to be forgotten -- suggesting a kind of Alzheimer society in which
collective memory is systematically eroded [more].
Whether on or off the internet, people contribute to a thread over time, but
it is only new threads and the newer contributions which remain of primary interest.
A thread reflects a progression -- in a way that recalls Gandhi's critique of
western understanding of progress through linear time. The thread as an atemporal
product is now of far less significance. In this sense the meanings the thread
represents are not stable over time. Old threads are of little interest as with
older messages on a thread.
What is most surprising is that there is very little attention given on the
internet to what might be done with any set of 'threads'. They are
sufficient unto themselves as an organizing principal and very little consideration
is given to how they might be 'woven' together -- other than listing
them in a newsgroup menu. Cross-links between threads are relatively rare despite
emerging interest in the 'semantic web'. The theme 'organization
of threads' tends to refer to the programmatic challenge of managing threads,
irrespective of their content [more].
More interesting insights come from the traditions in which weaving was used
to embody insights, as with African kente cloth [more;
The possibility of weaving together threads integral to governance as a time-binding
exercise to form a 'cloth' is not considered. And yet it is by the
cloth and not by the thread that people clothe themselves. In these terms, contemporary
governance might even be caricatured as 'threadbare' -- recalling
the children's tale of the Emperor's
New Clothes that now inspires a website critical of modern spin in governance
It is intriguing that every culture is familiar -- especially through women
-- with the process whereby threads can be woven together. Basic to that process
is a recognition of the distinction between warp and weft. The interaction between
these ensures that the threads of different directionality bind together to
create some form of stable fabric -- transforming the one-dimensionality of
threads into a two-dimensional form in the case of cloth, and into a three-dimensional
form in the base of basket-weaving (reflected in nature by nest weaving birds).
Warp is the lengthwise or vertical structural elements upon which a fabric is
woven by the addition of weft. Weft is the widthwise or horizontal structural
elements of a cloth, passed over and under the warp.
Typically discussions give rise to many threads -- especially in democracy.
Efforts at their organization usually involve their 'alignment' --
straightening them in some way. In academic terms, a thread can be considered
identical with a 'line of reasoning' or argument defined by the 'points'
that are made. By contrast, story telling can be considered to be of two kinds.
Like the spinning wheel, it is a tool for creating relationships (the threads
of community) and like the shuttle, it is a tool for interweaving those relationships
to form community.
Governance, through party politics, is above all interested in ensuring that
the threads follow a party line. In the Westminster system of parliamentary
democracy, it is 'whips' that impose the necessary discipline -- communism
used political commissars. In this sense modern governance is essentially
conceived in terms of 'warp' -- the threads of a single directionality
-- and every effort is made to avoid designing in 'weft' -- namely
threads of a contrasting directionality. For a ruling party in a democracy,
the ideal case is one in which the opposition has been marginalized and can
be ignored. Ironically, however, it is when the threads of primary directionality
endeavour to 'avoid' those crossing them that the primary direction
indeed gets 'warped'. Dissent is a form of weft that is a radical
challenge for governance in designing and weaving the social fabric -- it crosses
the line of warp in a most disruptive manner. The 'war against terror'
is a concerted effort to design it out. A separate paper discusses Warping
the Judgement of Dissenting Opinion. Any form of parliamentary debate can
be viewed as an exercise in warping the perspective of opposing views that are
consequently obliged to weave their weave through these threads. In principle
it is this interaction of warp and weft that is the essence of the parliamentary
democratic process through which the social fabric is engendered. Indeed
a search on the web for 'warp weft democracy' points to various ways
in which this is recognized.
In the USA, for example, the poet Walt Whitman offers this insight in Democratic
Vistas (1871) in which he struggles with the central tensions and paradoxes
of American, New World experience in a post-Civil War period as the unleashed
force of market capitalism and the dynamic of modem civilization appear to spin
out of control, forcing him to ask a very relevant question for today, 'Who
In saner hours far different are the amounts of these things from what, at
first sight, they appear. Though it is no doubt important who is elected governor,
mayor, or legislator (and full of dismay when incompetent or vile ones get
elected, as they sometimes do), there are other, quieter contingencies, infinitely
more important. Shams, etc., will always be the show, like ocean's scum; enough,
if waters deep and clear make up the rest. Enough, that while the piled embroidered
shoddy gaud and fraud spreads to the superficial eye, the hidden warp and
weft are genuine, and will wear forever. Enough, in short, that the race,
the land which could raise such as the late rebellion, could also put it down.
In the USA, the metaphor is used extensively in a widely cited comment by Charles
First Amendment tradition relies upon those willing to fight, 2000):
The First Amendment is a fabric that weaves through all our liberties. The
warp and weft of this fabric protects our right and ability to govern ourselves.
And those who would pull out a thread here or cut one out there do not realize
they risk unraveling the entire cloth of our freedoms.
As tensions build up between the pro- and anti-war factions in response to
Iraq, the British poet Laureate encapsulated the warp and weft of the opposing
views in a 30-word poem [more]
-- the cloth in which governance of the moment is clothed:
They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn.
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad:
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad. (Causa Belli by Andrew Motion,
But whilst such metaphoric usage is a most valuable pointer, the challenge
of how actually to weave contrasting threads together is of quite a different
order to the imaginative appreciation of the woven fabric. There is the
great danger that the imagined cloth may indeed be taken up enthusiastically
as yet newer clothes for the Emperor -- offered by spinners who have neither
any practical idea of how to weave, nor any understanding of the cloth that
might be produced, nor of the purposes for which it needs to be designed.
This is exemplified by the original potential of 'networking' in designing
new social structures -- which has been totally obscured by its glib metaphoric
use in practice. It might be said that the ultimate tragedy for Gandhi, and
for India, was the inability to successfully weave together the Hindu and Muslim
threads, as warp and weft to each other.
Weaving: the female dimension
It is intriguing that 'terrorism' and responses to it are matters
with which men are primarily concerned. Spinning and weaving are traditionally
the affair of women. Have women of opposing views and cultural backgrounds on
terrorism engaged in dialogue to the degree to which Gandhi engaged with spinning?
How, for example, has the uniquely positioned Women
In International Security (WIIS) -- with members in academia, think tanks,
the diplomatic corps, the intelligence community, the military, government,
non-governmental organizations, international organizations, the media, and
the private sector -- exemplified its collective insights in this respect? Has
it been able to articulate insights distinct from those of its well-known members,
Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright -- perhaps less well-recognized for
their representation of the perspectives of women?
The traditional polarization between preoccupations of men and women echoes
perceptions that men deal with the affairs of the 'world' and women
deal with those of the 'home'. Throughout history men are those first
offered education and women are those long deprived of it. It is women who have
to play weft to the warp of men as well-documented by Elise Boulding (The
Underside of History: a view of women through time, 1992). As warp, men
arrogantly impose their form of 'global' governance whilst women,
as weft, are obliged to weave their way 'locally' through the opportunities
offered by the male framework. It is the resulting weave that constitutes the
fabric of family and community life through the interaction between male and
female -- as more subtly understood by women.
As the obstacle to the will of man -- and on whom the will is often savagely
'worked' -- women are indeed likely to have unique insights into more
creative relationships between the dominance of male governance and hegemony
and the cross-cutting disruptiveness of 'terrorists'. Of course such
insights are honed by centuries of being defined by men as 'evil'
-- like 'terrorists' -- and especially given their 'responsibility'
for evoking rape. Indeed women continue to have an experience of being systematically
terrorized by men as documented by Dee L. R. Graham (Loving
to Survive: sexual terror men's violence, and women's lives, 1994).
This relationship is most symbolically played out with respect to dress code.
Support from American women was obtained for the attack on Muslim Afghanistan
because of the imposition of the burkha on Taliban women -- who failed
to remove it once 'freed' of the constraint. Muslim men are correspondingly
incensed by the amount of flesh displayed by American women -- in response to
their own menfolk. And yet it has perhaps been American missionaries that have
contributed so significantly to ensuring that naked indigenous women in many
countries covered themselves -- whilst at the same time belonging to a culture
that has exploited the nakedness of women to an unprecedented degree in all
areas of male entertainment and recreation. The 'distraction' of men
by women in western countries has become a characteristic woven into everyday
life -- with women skillfully navigating their perception that men have 'warped'
Cloth is woven through the interweaving of weft threads through the aligned
warp. The linearity of the result gives rise to challenges at the ends or borders
which have to be appropriately protected (such as by hemming) to prevent fraying.
These challenges are to some degree also reflected in the insensitivity of men
to outcomes of their initiatives -- the consequences of the 'threads'
or 'lines of reasoning' that they promote, however well aligned. Women
may well be called upon to 'turn the edges' to safeguard community
harmony -- dramatically contrasting with male efforts to 'turn dissenters'.
In this sense it could be argued that it is women that are more sensitive to
systemic feedback loops than men -- having learnt to deal with consequences
unforeseen or ignored by men. It is women that are typically relied upon to
ensure the integrity of family life and home -- through caring for the many
feedback loops that ensure its sustainability, 'making ends meet'.
Curiously it is men that tend to work with ropes and nets. But it is the capacity
of women to deal with loops, rather than lines, that is presumably reflected
in their degree of involvement in basket-weaving where the 'threads'
tend to circle a sphere rather than being aligned as in cloth. In a basket,
the ends of each threaded reed have to be integrated in a way that ensures the
unboundedness of the basket as 3-D finite object -- a major conceptual shift
beyond 2-D woven cloth. In this sense women carry a special understanding of
'container', whereas men are more focused on 2-D boundaries. The former
relates to the sense of the home, promoted as the traditional focus of the woman's
life, whereas the latter relates to the sense of extended territorial domain
with which men identify so aggressively. It is the cultivation of the quality
of hearth and home by women that provides a 'sense of place' that
is a point of reference for men engaged in their various pursuits.
It has been argued that the tables and matrices -- through which are the basic
form through which strategic arguments are developed for governance -- are severely
constrained by their 2-dimensionality. How the edges of such displays can be
'turned' to integrate the feedback loops characteristic of the systems
to be governed requires, minimally, a shift to 3-D thinking [more;
The challenge for governance of any world is to integrate the 'male'
and 'female' dimensions caricatured above. At present the 'local'
sense of place that is so important to quality of life and well-being is related
in quite problematic ways to a sense of 'global' through which sundry,
unrelated initiatives are pursued. The 'globalizers', travelling the
surface of the globe with a 2-D mindset, aspire to reflect their particular
local sense of 'home' onto the globe, but do so with total insensitivity
to the destruction of localities. As might be expected, such globalization reflects
the strengths and weaknesses of the kinds of thinking described as 2-D and linear.
It is as yet unable to integrate the functional 'roundness' respectful
of the feedback loops required to make the globe a home for all.
Designing and weaving a governable world
In contrasting 'governance' with 'terrorism', is there
a case for distinguishing the degrees to which governance actually integrates
contrary views? Simplistically, for example:
- Single party governance: This might be understood as a condition in which
the warp was dominant and of single colour. Contrasting views would be absent
and the integrity of the social fabric was ensured by the tense alignment
of the warp threads.
- Dominant party with minor opposition: Here the fabric might be understood
as very slightly decorated with contrasting weft threads
- Majority party with rich opposition: Here the dominant warp threads would
be woven together with a rich mixture of contrasting minority weft threads.
The opposition remains however essentially well-domesticated and 'tame'.
The issues raised do not challenge fundamental assumptions in any way.
- Majority warp with 'dangerous' weft: This condition is best reflected
in the extremes of avant-garde design which the weft is totally unconventional
-- challenging design principles and the received wisdom of governance.
The question is the extent to which the 'wildness' associated with
the final category might reflect the wildness represented by 'terrorism'.
The British were unable to integrate Gandhi into the warp of their policy for
the governance of imperial India. Is the hegemony of the American Way of
Life to be considered as a warp faced with a similar challenge by a Muslim world
with other design criteria -- in the 'clash of civilizations'?
It might be argued that America is already a multicultural, multicoloured society
-- a pattern echoed in many multicoloured weaves. The thread that cannot be
incorporated into the weave must then excluded as 'uncivilized' and
'terrorist' -- as with the Catholic Church in proscribing (centuries
ago) certain musical scales and intervals, castigating the flattened fifth as
diabolus in musica and the Ionian mode as the modus lascivus.
Parallel modern examples are easy to find, whether the banning of jazz in Nazi
Germany or the Soviet Union's attitude to the music of Shostakovich [more].
These points highlight alternative interpretations of 'through' in
the title phrase of the introductory
paper: governance through terrorism:
- Governance by terrorism: This might be understood as the cowboy approach,
using terrorism to manage the population. In its most savage form it is Stalin's
Great Terror. In its subtlest form it is the use of threats by government
agents concerning the real or fabricated dangers of actions by 'bogey
men', backed up by the judicious placement of bombs attributed to their
intervention. Here 'through' means the use of terrorism to achieve
governance and as an instrument of governance..
- Governance despite terrorism: This is the best practice of democratic
governance inherited from the 20th century, despite the threats of terrorism,
and without shredding civil liberties in the defence against terrorist acts.
Here 'through' means surviving the challenges of terrorism and without
sacrificing civilization to its threats.
- Governance in the light of terrorism: This is governance adapted
to respond to the issues breeding terrorism. Here 'through' indicates
the use of terrorism as an indicator of failure of dialogue that calls for
more creative kinds of dialogue to communicate and work with excluded 'others'
to remedy their condition.
- Governance beyond terrorism: This points to the existence of forms
of governance once the immediate conceptual challenges of terrorism have been
integrated into a new style of policy-making. In musical terms, this is the
nature of music once diabolus in musica is no longer perceived as an
abomination. Here 'through' means after, or through the terrorism
barrier of dealing with the alien modes of behaviour, namely post-integration.
But in the personal relevance of Gandhi's swaraj, discussed above, each
of these forms is reflected in a personal attitude and behaviour fundamental
to personal self-governance and to the management of an individual's personal
world. It is these attitudes that engender -- or enact -- the more fruitful
collective forms of governance above. The corresponding individual aspects might
be tentatively described as:
- Personal governance by terrorism: This is the typical approach of
using terror to manipulate one's immediate contacts. It may take the macho
form (bullying in the workplace, schools, military, etc), but can also be
achieved more insidiously through vicious comment. It typically informs ethnic
and domestic violence. With children, real or fabricated dangers of actions
by 'bogey men', may be judiciously used. It reflects emotional and
mental processes that thrive on dominance and subservience. Here 'through'
means the use of terrorism to govern one's environment.
- Personal governance despite terrorism: This is best practice in the
use of interpersonal skills, despite threats of violence, and without sacrificing
principles in the defence against such violence. Here 'through'
means survival of the challenges of terrorism and without sacrificing civilized
behaviour to its threats. It reflects emotional and mental processes that
thrive on the (streetwise) art of navigating risky environments.
- Personal governance in the light of terrorism: This is a proactive
response to the issues breeding violence. Here 'through' indicates
the recognition of terrorism as an indicator of failure of dialogue that calls
for more creative kinds of dialogue to communicate and work with excluded
'others' to remedy their condition. It reflects emotional and mental
processes that thrive on the art of intervening in risky situations and 'turning
- Personal governance beyond terrorism: This points to the existence
of forms of interaction once the immediate conceptual challenges of violence
have been integrated into a new paradigm. As before, in musical terms, this
is the nature of music once diabolus in musica is no longer perceived
as an abomination. Here 'through' means after, or through the barrier
of being terrorized by alien modes of behaviour, namely post-integration.
It reflects emergent emotional and mental processes nourished by the pattern-that-connects
rather than dependent on polarities.
Part of the challenge is that, through inability to respond to such issues
in the governance of one's personal world, they are projected onto the challenges
of world governance. The challenges of world governance appear complex and
multi-dimensional because the challenges in the governance of a personal world
are not as simple as might be assumed -- hence their projection elsewhere.
It would be presumptuous to expect closure on the challenges to be explored.
The contrasting threads that could usefully be woven together might include
- Personality typing, such as Myers-Briggs (based on Jung) or other
more traditional typologies. Myers-Briggs (MBTI) is interesting because of
the way in which the types can be considered as individual coloured threads
that may or may not be successfully woven together as a result of a Jungian
individuation process [more].
- Weaving, especially interactive weave design tools. These are interesting
because the software support tools [Arahne;
more] offer hands-on
opportunity to explore a variety of woven designs based on selections of warp
and weft threads. This is suggestive of variations in the way that personality
characteristics (warp threads?) may be combined in response to cross-cutting
challenges (weft threads?).
- DNA as potential providing a template for the structure of a memetic
code in the light of arguments that the understanding of memes is of similar
importance and consequence as the understanding of processes involving DNA
and RNA in molecular biology [more].
DNA is especially interesting as a template because of how it illustrates
the limitations of genetic code as linear 'text'. It raises the
question about the limitations of meaning articulated linearly as text in
contrast with the necessary operacy of memes, possibly arising from some equivalent
coiling. The recent surprise of geneticists at the need to shift focus beyond
the genetic code to protein dynamics may have its equivalent in relation to
the operational value of textual meaning.
- Coiling (as with DNA or rope), namely the relation between spin and
counter-spin in providing structure, robustness and locking. Spin provides
stability as explored elsewhere (Psychology
of Sustainability). This is related to 'goodness of fit'
and the "Eureka experience" when a set of mental relationships is felt to
'click into place'.
constructivism in relation to enactivism.
Social constructivists embrace a distributed view of knowledge such that knowledge
is located neither in the mind nor in any representation of the mind. Understandings
are situated in complex webs of experience, action, and interaction. Knowledge
is then a dynamic, evolving phenomenon, a fabric of relations in which one
individual is fundamentally entwined with all others in a community. A page
of web resources then serves, not as a hub, presuming some privileged position
within the discourse, but as a conductive thread, one of many fibers which
transforms a collection of unique sites into a 'common woven text'.
- Experiential encounter with 'cross-cutting' reality, namely
challenges that do not conform to an established line of thought or action:
warp crossed by weft. The challenge is how the cross-cutting modality is incorporated
experientially into a larger design than that deriving from the established
modality -- or the latter's defensive response to that which crosses it. The
larger design may indeed be a dynamic pattern rather than a static one.
- Forming garments from woven cloth from within which the external
world is encountered. Perceptions of how the garments 'maketh' the
person, both for the wearer and for others.
in contrast to textile weaving, namely the incorporation of a degree of closure
to create a container requiring a 3-dimensional design rather than a 2-dimensional
one. Threads then tend to run around a sphere and are 'cut' by threads
that no longer run orthogonally but at a lesser angle. Warp and weft effectively
have a less conflictual relationship.
- Building of nests and traps by animals: Nest building, especially
by weaver birds that have their particular dynamics in constructing their
homes. The kinds of traps spun by spiders are of particular interest to the
weaving metaphor explored here, especially since the 'warp' threads
are not aligned but radially distributed in a classical spider web. Metaphorically
such a web has long been used to describe the operations of 'spy masters'
in governance. Many myths relate spiders, some associating them with wisdom
use of 'spiders'
on the world wide web is also of concern to the governance of an emerging
information society [more].
- World-building and worldmaking literature, notably that relating
to construction of virtual worlds, and their interface with real worlds.
- Basket or textile weaves as carriers of integrative insights in many
traditional cultures. This exploration relates to the whole relationship between
'handicraft' and 'world-making' -- creating and sustaining
a 'homespun' reality.
A number of these dimensions may perhaps be usefully brought together through
the resonance between three symbolic artefacts, each associated with a different
part of the human anatomy:
- Omphalos: A hemispherical stone [images],
once considered the holiest object at various oracle centers in all the lands
bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the most well known being at Delphi in the
centre of the Temple of Apollo (the god of light, music, geometry, and harmony,
whose nature most closely reflects the highest realizations of the Greek spirit).
Zeus was believed to have sent out two eagles to fly across the world and
they met at its center, the "navel" of the world, represented by the omphalos.
It's main characteristic was its ability to allow direct communication with
the gods. The omphalos stone is often shown covered by an unusual net-like
pattern -- perhaps the 'flight-path' of the 'eagles'.
Paul Ciholas (2002) has explored how two powerful symbols dominated the world
of classical antiquity: the omphalos and the cross: one symbolized Apollonian
religion; the other stood for the emerging force of Christianity. They clashed,
influenced each other, and became entwined.
- Lingam: The omphalos, garlanded with entwined flowers, strikingly
resembles the lingam, common to Hinduism and Buddhism, and also typically
garlanded with flowers. The lingam symbolizes the axis mundi or cosmic
pillar which unites heaven, earth and the underworld and allows one to experience
the unity of the world through its fundamental emptiness. Superficially at
least, the garlands 'cross' each other at many points around the
surface of the omphalos or the lingam. It is the crossing point that provides
the tension that is the focus of the Christian mysteries. The garland loops
echo understanding of systemic feedback loops discussed earlier. Both omphalos
and lingam have been associated with geodetic marker stones and the Philosopher's
Stone of medieval alchemy.
- Geodesic dome: This invention of the 20th century [images],
much celebrated by the early alternative movement, constitutes a structural
breakthrough in encompassing emptiness independently of the normal constraints
of gravity. Its structure derives from the manner in which the garland-like
structural elements circle around the sphere -- interacting at many points,
but without touching (a so-called kiss-touch).
Its overall structure derives from very fundamental principles of spherical
geometry articulated as tensegrity by R Buckminster Fuller [more;
but evident in cell biology [more],
possibly in social and community organization [more],
and notably explored by cybernetician Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute: the
invention of team syntegrity, 1994). Distinctive use is made of it in
radar dome and aerospace design. Curiously 'tensegity' also features
significantly in the thinking of Carlos Castaneda [more].
Dynamics of governance
The artefacts above are too easily explored as static symbols. This corresponds
to tendencies to respond to the challenge of world government in terms of structures
like world parliaments and a panoply of councils that fit comfortably with inherently
flawed designs already implemented nationally worldwide [more].
As permutations of the structures of the League of Nations and the United Nations,
this demonstrates the absence of any new thinking commensurate with the challenge
-- to be exemplified from 2004 by the challenges of decision-making in a 25-nation
European Union. Symbolically such proposals readily lend themselves to articulation
on a 2-dimensional surface, essentially reflecting what amounts to a 'flat-earth'
approach to a 'global' challenge.
The geodesic dome disguises the extent to which its coherence is dependent
on dynamics to sustain its integrity. It could be argued that even with the
omphalos, it is the 'eternal' flying of the 'eagles' that
defines dynamically the integrity of what the symbol represents. In a tensegrity,
such pathways might also be explored in terms of the spin and counter-spin currently
fundamental to global governance.
It is necessary to look elsewhere to find efforts to articulate the complex
nature of the requisite dynamic -- whether in relation to governance of a collective
or to that of a person. It is the interlocking pattern of that dynamic which
is reified structurally in the static symbols above. The dynamic can be explored
in the light of insights from the I Ching (or Book of Changes)
-- classical Chinese tool for governance. It is not its oracular (mis)use which
is of interest here but rather the effort to code and understand the variety
of changes that are possible in any psycho-social system -- and above all to
understand how they interlock to form a coherent whole.
The nature of such dynamics, and their implications for governance, has been
explored in a series of studies:
Reinterpreting Gandhi's satyagraha
Central to Gandhi's strategy in engendering swaraj (self-rule) was satyagraha
-- commonly understood through its derivatives of non-cooperation, non-violence
and civil resistance. Satyagraha was experienced by the British through
with workers strikes, and this continues to be the case. It is fundamental to
nonviolent civil resistance.
His interpretation is clarified in his own comments as follows :
- Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under
any circumstance whatever; and it ever insists upon truth
- Satyagraha in its essence is nothing but the introduction of truth
and gentleness in the political, i.e., the national life.
- Satyagraha is utter self-effacement, greatest humiliation, greatest
patience and brightest faith. It is its own reward.
- Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to
- Satyagraha literally means insistence on truth. This insistence arms
the votary with matchless power. This power or force is connoted by the word
satyagraha. Satyagraha, to be genuine, may be offered against
parents, against one's wife or one's children, against rulers, against fellow-citizens,
even against the whole world. The only force of universal application can,
therefore, be that of ahimsa or love. In other words, it is soul-force.
A question to be raised is whether there are ways of interpreting satyagraha
that do not rely on a mindset in which his understanding of 'weapon',
'force', 'insistence', 'against', 'reward'
or 'reaching' are appropriate. Clearly his prime focus was achievement
of self-rule in Indian national terms. Strategically it was necessary for Gandhi
and his followers to polarize their initiative in relation to the British as
opponents, however non-violently he insisted they were to be treated (as discussed
in his rules for the civil
resister). The question is what is the nature of the mindset that would
transcend this polarization and would it engender a different quality of world
The argument of this paper has explored ways in which the phenomena of society
might be considered as dynamically engendered by the mind -- as partially explored
by enactivism. It is for the individual to cultivate ownership of this process
and its momentary products -- by weaving together the threads produced in the
light of ever more significant designs. As a product in its own right -- duly
imported into my world -- much of Gandhi's insight into satyagraha may
indeed be relevant, but the 'opponent' is less usefully identified
with 'British imperialism' or 'American hegemony'. Any such
reification might be better understood as a phase in that process to which it
would be unnecessarily constraining to be attached.
Ironically it is in the best of the philosophy of eastern martial arts that
the less fruitful polarizations 'against' an 'opponent'
are subtly transcended. It is to such understandings that the world could usefully
look in reconciling 'governance' with 'terrorism' [see Transforming
the Encounter with Terrorism]. The paradoxical quality of the mindset adapted
to the dynamic dance with the projections of the mind has perhaps been best
articulated by Chuang Tzu [more;
Robert Cummings Neville says of him: 'Chuang Tzu is among the very few
philosophers to admit the world to be as weird as it really is'.
Given the point made earlier about the transition beyond the cocoon-building
of the spinning caterpillar, it is appropriate that Chuang Tzu is also known
as the 'butterfly philosopher' [more;
due to his formulation of the following challenge:
There was in ancient China a Taoist called Chuang Tzu who dreamed of being
a butterfly. he suddenly awoke and realized that he was not a butterfly: but
then, upon reflection, he was not sure. Was he he who had dreamed of being
a butterfly? Or was he a buttefly now dreaming of being he? Thus it was that
the butterfly because his companion, in dreaming and in waking, to his life
reflections, to his zestful, jestful living. [Kuang-ming Wu. The Butterfly
as Companion, 1990]
Categorizing him as a skeptical perspectivalist, Chad Hansen comments [more]:
Chuang Tzu had a unique philosophical style that contributes to the tendency
to treat him as an irrationalist. He wrote philosophical fantasy rather than
direct argument. Western readers interpret this style as signaling a romantic
rejecting reason and analysis. The dichotomy, however, is hard to motivate
in the Chinese philosophical context. We find no counterpart of the human
faculty of reason (or its logical correlate) still less of the contrast of
reason and emotion. Chuang Tzu highlighted the term, ch'ing which Buddhist's
eventually co-opted to translate 'passion' or 'emotion'. However, it makes
most sense in the Chuang Tzu as 'reality', or 'the facts'.
A more plausible hypothesis is that he presents his positions in fantasy
dialogues to illustrate and conform to his perspectivalism. He puts positions
up for consideration as if endorsing them, then reflectively abandons them.
He does this either in the form of a fanciful conversation carried on among
fantastic creatures (rebellious thieves, distorted freaks, or converted Confucians)
or as an internal monologue. In his fantasy dialogues, Chuang Tzu seems to
challenge us to guess which voice is really his. Even his monologues typically
end with a double rhetorical question in place of a conclusion."Then is there
really any X? Or is there no X?"
Such questions accord precisely with the position in which individuals are
now placed in relation to 'terrorism' by the degree of spin practiced
in the process of modern governance, as explored in the introductory
These pointers suggest that the way forward with respect to 'world governance',
for the individual at least, calls for a radical embodiment of such intercourse
with reality. The challenge is how to frame that interface -- as explored by
such as Francisco Varela. This challenges the western tendency in favour of
binary logic (which has so dramatically framed the 'with us, or against
us' response to 'terrorism') through eastern insights into four-fold
logics -- as explored by Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic
Dialogue: essays on multipolar politics, 1988: review).
The challenge can also be expressed metaphorically in terms of moving beyond
what might be termed a tendency to 'harass' reality [more].
Rather than positioning themselves as victims of ambiguity imposed by spin-doctors,
individuals can reclaim their independence as 'worldmakers' by embodying
that ambiguity as the requisite complexification of the challenges of governance.
This calls for a more aesthetic approach to the language of governance, beyond
the constraints of the sterile prose of treaties and constitutions [more;
Of Chuang Tzu's poetic prose, Kuang-Ming Wu states, in what might be a description
of a memetic version of DNA:
Many say that the Chuang Tzu is poetic; few look into its meaning.
The Chuang Tzu is poetic in that its thoughts cluster in a web -- one
thought points to another which explains it, then the pair point to another,
and the movement goes on -- and back. Clusters of thoughts co-mirror, co-imply
into layer after layer of meaning. a spiral of thought loops in loops, twisting
back to itself only to start over again in a new direction, from a fresh perspective.
'Loop' sounds linear. It is rather a co-deepening co-resonance;
to enter its pulsing rhythm is to enjoy life....The 'actuality'
that Chunag Tzu describes, however, is an imagined one. He does not describe
what has hapened but what had better happen, had better be lived. The reader
must himself reconstruct it as he lives it. (The Butterfy as Companion,
Such experiencing of unknown landscapes is that journey where we walk forward,
not following a path, but "laying down the path in walking" (Varela, Thompson,
and Rosch. The Embodied Mind, 1991) [more].
It is the process, described elsewhere, as Presenting
the Future [Judge, 2001]. The dynamically intertwined complex of being
and nothing is expressed by Chuang Tzu through the musical metaphor of 'piping'
(lai) -- the sound engendered by a hollow pipe in response to an invisible
wind. The world is understood as made up of human pipings of the selves freely
taking part in the real endless interchanges of identities and responding spontaneously
to the pipings of the world.
Chuang Tzu's significance for world governance lies perhaps in his reframing
of dependence on method in caring for life. In the west this is perhaps echoed
in the work of philosopher Paul
Feyerabend (Against Method, 1975; Farewell to Reason, 1987)
In a period when leaders of countries, purporting to defend the values of western
civilization, are frequently indicted for fraud or other dubious activities
-- or are closely implicated in the activities of associates so indicted --
the authenticity characteristic of people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela
or Chuang Tzu provides a striking contrast. They demonstrate coherent ways of
being in a world dominated by spin and hypocrisy -- and by leaders who have
lost any meaningful sense of honour and invite no respect [more].
Gandhi's non-cooperation with authority and its realities may then be understood
as analogous to Chuang Tzu's non-identification with the experienced realities
of the world. In both cases there is an art to engaging with such realities
but this does not condition the authenticity that informs this art. There can
indeed be accomodation and participation in the differences and divisions of
what is experienced. But the integrity of the 'world' so experienced
is engendered out of the authenticity of the art through which it is governed.
It is through mutual recognition of such integrity and authenticity that a more
appropriate form of 'world governance' will emerge.
It is in this spirit that the threads woven loosely together in this paper
might be understood. The design is most valuable in terms of richer designs
that it suggests. But, in terms of the arguments of this paper, it is itself
indeed just another exported product -- part of the ongoing dynamic through
which a homespun reality is engendered.
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