3 June 2009 | Draft
Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting
Challenge of transcendence
- / -
Concerned recognition of collective "bull"
Token targeting of inhumanity through scapegoats
Complementary metaphors of governance
Comparison of metaphors
Cultural symbolism of the bull and bullfighting
Dilemma intrinsic to modern usage of "bull"
-- Tangible use of "bull"
| Intangible use of bull(shit)
| Complex cases
Dynamic collective illusion: partially sustained (between the
horns of a dilemma)
Symbolism and the realm of the bull
Man-bull dynamic: engendering duende
Dynamic interplay of reality and illusion: matador's passes
Moment of truth: sacrificing the bull
Symbolic associations and clues
Transformation depicted by metaphorical geometry
Strategic implications for future global governance
Produced on the occasion of Europe-wide elections to the European Parliament,
an intensification of the campaign against bullfighting in Spain, an
economic crisis endangering the bullfighting
, the fatal goring of a matador, and a major policy address
by Barack Obama on Middle East policy.
tauromachy) is considered by many to be a flagrant example of glorified indulgence
in abhorrent human cruelty to animals and a highly problematic reflection
on those who appreciate it. It is also considered by some to exemplify some
of the highest values of humanity, notably courage, skill and elegance in
the face of the immediate possibility of personal fatality. A bull is seen
as the epitome of animal strength and courage, and much to be admired.
What follows is an exploration of how the challenges of global governance
might be fruitfully understood through the lens of bullfighting -- through
two complementary metaphors. In one, global governance is like the matador's
manipulation and domination of the bull, accompanied by a degree of torture
and slaughter (starvation, inhumane weapons, etc). In the other, it is change
agents who are like the matador, faced with the irritable, dangerous animal
of global governance. In the first, goverance is glorified through spin --
with its problematic consequences either reframed as honourable or carefully
kept from public awareness. In the other, it is change agents who are glorified,
but with little effective attention to sustaining the processes of governance
that are jeopardized as a consequence of their action.
A valuable context for any such exploration is to be found in the cultural,
even archetypal, significance of the bull over millennia. Bull
mythology was widespread in the ancient world where it had been the subject
of various cultural and religious incarnations -- now partly reflected in
some neopagan cultures. Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric
bull worship and sacrifice.
In the following metaphorical comparison, the significance of the "sacred
seen as variously confused and semantically conflated through the appropriation
and expression of the highest human values through "bull". The
challenge is to understand how such values should be appropriately celebrated
and under what conditions the "bull" should be "sacrificed".
The current implications of the underlying archetypes are discussed thereafter,
notably with regard to bullying, bullshit, bull-markets, financial bubbles,
and to the dilemmas associated with globalization.
The deceptive illusion at the orgin of the financial crisis might be appropriately
described in terms of the marketing "bull", as "marketing bullshit", through
which toxic assets were repackaged and sold on. This in turn reinforced
the inflated expectations of the bull market which sustained what has proven
to be a financial bubble of catastrophic potential. Any such "bull", and
the skills of "bullfighting" therefore merit attention.
These concerns are subsequently set within a mytho-poetic framework
of potentially more fundamental significance for global strategies at this
time. The preceding comparison (summarized in Annex
1) may however be considered in its own right, without that context.
Concerned recognition of collective "bull"
As a concept "bull", as "bullshit", acquired academic
respectability through a study in 1986 by Yale philosopher Harry
2005) which aroused much commentary (accessible on the web), notably as reviewed
by Timothy Noah (Defining
Bullshit: a philosophy professor says it's a process, not a product, Slate,
2 March 2005). It became a best seller and has been set to music. The theme
has been followed by a collective study (Gary L. Hardcastle and George A.
and Philosophy: guaranteed to get perfect results every time, 2006).
In an interview with Frankfurt (Gary Younge, The
Bullshit Guy, The Guardian,
12 May 2005), he explained its success as follows:
People are starved of a more straightforward approach to reality. They
are sick of bullshit. They are people who don't try to avoid a straight
confrontation with the truth.... Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances
require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about... Thus
the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations
or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the
facts that are relevant to that topic.
But Frankfurt argues that:
Any phenomena that is as persistent and pervasive as bullshit must have
some purpose. There must be something about it that makes it
He concludes his study with:
Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial -- notoriously less stable
and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this
is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.
The ubiquity of bullshit, as indicated in the folowing domains of a knowledge-based
society, suggests that it offers fertile ground for further investigation.
Of particular interest is its temporary semblance of coherence for those
who generate it, if not for those exposed to it.
Corporate world: It is appropriate
to note a degree of concern at the level of "bullshit" in the world
of business and the necessity for "bullfighters" (Lois Beckwith, The
Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit: An A to Z Lexicon of Empty, Enraging, and
Just Plain Stupid Office Talk, 2006; Brian
Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky, Why
Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide,
2005). Google offers 30,500 entries on "corporate bullshit".
One website offers an online facility for the generation of corporate bullshit
as an inspiration in meeting dialogue (Corporate
Bullshit Generator). A number of such interactive web-based "bullshit
generators" are available, in addition to "bullshit detectors".
Hardaway and Warshawsky also market a software application called Bullfighter:
"the epoch-defining software that works with Microsoft Word
and PowerPoint to help you find and eliminate jargon in your documents".
Google offers 49,400 entries on "marketing bullshit". As
might be expected, various Australian corporate marketing consultants explicitly
promote a "No Bull" approach,
notably through Taurus
No-Bull Approach to Visionary Marketing, Australian Businesswomens
2008). Several UK-based initiatives are associated with this trend: Nobull
Communications; the blog of Rod
Sloane entitled No
Voluntary associations: Curiously the world of voluntary
associations and NGOs does not appear to indulge in such a degree of self-criticism,
whether or not concerns are expressed with regard to "bull" in
other domains. Google does however offer entries on "charity bullshit"
(207); "bullshit charities" (380); "voluntary bullshit" (140); "NGO bullshit"
Academia: Google offers 1,800 entries on "academic
bullshit". Discussion of the issue was stimulated by the work of Harry
Frankfurt (2005), notably as reviewed by Scott McLemee (A
Critique of Pure BS, Inside
Higher ED, 15 February 2005). In one exploration of the phenomenon of
bullshit in academia, Philip Eubanks and John D. Schaeffer (A
Kind Word for Bullshit: the problem of academic writing, CCC 59,
3, 2008, pp 372-388) argue:
Frequently academic publication aims to create an ethos that will result
in tangible rewards for the academic: tenure, promotion, grants, et. The
academic knows that such rewards are distributed on the basis of reputation.
Such a reputation is gained by publishing books and articles that have been
peer reviewed before publication and positively reviewed afterward. Hence
professional rewards come from academic reputation, and academic reputation
comes from publication. This system seems to make academic publication a
particularly rich field for bullshit.
For many non-academics, academic writing is not just bullshit but
bullshit of the worst kind. When non-academics
call academic writing bullshit, they mean that it uses jargon, words whose
meanings are so abstract and vague as to seem unrelated to anyone’s
experience. Such jargon seems to contribute nothing to the reader except
confusion and serves only to enhance the ethos of the speaker, a strategy
that the general public dislikes precisely because they suspect that academics
are taken in by it.
As a focus for subsequent commentary, it was the preoccupation of a meeting
on the need for academics to pay more attention to how
their writing is received outside the faculty lounge (Scott Jaschik, Critiquing,
Defending Academic BS, Inside Higher ED, 17 March 2009).
Concern with the topic has evolved to the point that one extensive review
of a work by historian Christopher
Victory, 2002) goes a step further (Stefan
Bullshit’ Bullshit, London
Review of Books, 23 January 2003). The book is dedicated to Robert
Conquest as founder of “the
united front against bullshit".
Science: Google offers entries on: "bullshit
science" (14,500); "scientific bullshit" (2,410); "bullshit research" (600); "research
bullshit" (350). Abusive political interference
in science detailed from 2001-2008 in the USA by the Union
of Concerned Scientists (The
A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science) has been reported
elsewhere as resulting in "bullshit science". The web-based Copernicus
Journal for Young Scientists has a special section devoted to Scientific
Bullshit. A variety of pseudosciences are
readily framed from some scientific perspectives as "bullshit
science". The situation is confused by the fact that some mainstream academic
disciplines are so framed by other disciplines, as in the critique of Alan
Sokal and Jean Bricmont (Fashionable
Nonsense: postmodern intellectuals' abuse of science, 1999) --
dramatized by the so-called Sokal
Religion: Organized religions do not appear to give attention
to this phenomenon within their own discourse, even though this might facilitate
more insightful interfaith dialogue. Of course the phenomenon is a recognized
feature of the criticism of religion from other domains. Google offers
entries on: "religious bullshit" (14,900) , "spiritual
bullshit" (850); and "New
Age bullshit" (4,700).
Finance: Following the collapse of the financial bubble
of 2008, held to have been sustained by a form of "bullshit", Google offers
entries on: "financial bullshit" (750); "bullshit
finance" (280); "bullshit economics" (390).
Unexpectedly in the light of that crisis, foreign exchange traders make use
of a Nobullshit Forex Blog Community.
Perhaps more surprisingly in the light of events, billionaire investors Warren
Buffet and Charlie Munger had told reporters in 2003 that American companies
were befuddling the markets with "bullshit earnings" (Editorial, Swear
it is not true, The Guardian, 6 May 2003).
Law: Google offers
6,500 entries on "legal bullshit". As with "corporate bullshit" a
dictionary has been produced (Randall
Young, The Dictionary of
Legal Bullshit, 2007). One study draws on the work of Frankfurt to
point out a disturbing trend in contract law: the use of bullshit promises.
These are promises that are in a certain sense insincere even though
they are not lying promises, at least not in a sense that would be actionable
under the tort of promissory fraud (Curtis Bridgeman and Karen Sandrik,
Promises, FSU College of Law, Public Law
Research Paper No. 314, September 2008). Also drawing on Frankfurt, in a workshop
presentation, Heidi Li Feldman (Taking
Bullshit Seriously, Georgetown University Law Center,
2007) argues that the legal safeguards against lying are ill suited to protect
potential victims of bullshit.
Government, Bureaucracy and Politics: Google offers
entries on: "political bullshit" (30,000); "bureaucratic
bullshit" (5,900); "government bullshit" (4,500); "parliamentary
bullshit" (500). In the UK, the Local
Government Association has compiled a list of 200 terms that it recommends
should not be used by local councils (LGA
banned words - full list, BBC News, 18 March 2009). Using
this list, one website offers an online Bullshit
Detector through which documents on (government) websites can be
checked by submitting the URL. As "bureaucratic jargon" (6,900 entries),
the phenomenon has long been recognized, whether or not labelled as bullshit.
One commentator points to the irony of
the declaration of the US Federal Communications Commission that "shit"
and all its variants, including "bullshit", are not merely indecent but
are now profane if broadcast (Jeff Jarvis, The
Big Chill of the Censor, The
Guardian, 3 April
2006). As Jarvis indicates: Americans have been robbed of
the single most essential word in political protest. Clearly it then remains
legal in the USA for the content of the broadcast to be "bullshit" but legally
it can no longer be named as such: "bullshit" is illegal but not bullshit.
The extensive entry of the humorous Uncyclopedia on bullshit defines
it as a type of monetary unit commonly used throughout the world -- not
the currency of any one nation, but rather as the de facto medium
of exchange for bureaucratic organizations worldwide.
Irrespective of whether the content of political discourse is characterized
by a high proportion of bullshit (as argued by Harry Frankfurt),
the term itself has acquired increasing respectability -- even among political
leaders, whether or not it is considered to be unparliamentary language (Editorial, Swear
it is not true, The Guardian, 6 May 2003). Use of the term
is common in Australia and New Zealand (David Slack, Bullshit,
Backlash & Bleeding
Global issues: A very cursory (completely unfiltered) search
with Google indicates
that consideration of a number of prominent global issues is associated (in
the minds of some at least) with a form of "bull": "overpopulation
bullshit" (250 entries); "terrorism
bullshit" (660); "global warming bullshit" (2,200); "nuclear
bullshit" (290); "shortage bullshit"
(740); "energy bullshit" (370); "peak oil
bullshit" (110). "rights bullshit" (1,950); "racism
bullshit" (830); "economic bullshit" (470); "economic
bullshit" (950); "feminist
bullshit" (2,150); "sexist bullshit" (3,950); "media
bullshit" (13,300); "cultural bullshit" (750). One commentator
proposed an award for the single article, statement, lecture, film or interview
that incorporated the most misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods
about "climate change" (George Monbiot, The
Christopher Booker Prize for Climate Change Bullshit, The Guardian,
6 February 2009).
Global governance: Such concern is barely evident within
the world of global governance. However Google offers entries
bullshit" (510); "bullshit diplomacy" (150). The matter
is indeed the subject of external comment, as noted by Etienne
Klein (Conversations with the Sphinx, 1996)
citing François-Bernard Huyghe (La Langue de Coton, 1991)
to the effect that:
...diplomats and other politicians are increasingly using a watered-down
language whose few and hence inflated words no longer have any true meaning;
a consummate consensual language that panders to the taste for tautology
and disables contradiction; a discourse which has an answer to everything
because it says practically nothing; a language unanswerable because it
churns out propositions that leave so much room for interpretation that
listeners are free to hear what they hope for. In other words, a language
so all-inclusive that it gives no chance to paradox -- and here there are
grounds for unease, we must confess. (p. 85)
The conditions in which this language in
governance might be appropriately described as "bull" remain to
be clarified. The urgency of doing so emerges from a previous exploration
in which that language is fundamental to the faith others are expected
to have in governance as currently promoted (Abuse
of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009).
The point was sharply made by G8 activist Bob
Geldof, in a BBC News
24 interview following
the G8 Summit in 2007, to the effect that he now believed that "this
global governance stuff is bullshit". Google offers entries on:
"G8 bullshit" (80); "UN bullshit" (2,500), "EU bullshit" (310); "global
"international bullshit" (900); "world order bullshit" (300).
The arguments which follow may be understood as partially addressing this
Token targeting of inhumanity through scapegoats
Of particular interest is the relationship between:
- bullfighting in terms of the enthusiasm it arouses, and the indifference
to suffering with which it is associated
- breeding and slaughter of cattle for meat in terms of the enthusiasm
it arouses, and the indifference to any associated animal suffering (typically
- poverty and the quest for wealth, and the indifference to the poverty
of others, whether "down the road", "across the tracks",
or across the oceans
- inhumane weaponry, in the form of thermobaric
phosphorous, etc (at use at the time of writing in the valley of
Swat) and indifference to the suffering induced
At the time of writing, some 250,000 bulls are estimated to die each
year in the nine countries that allow the sport.
It is blatantly obvious, through the casual
negligence of the living conditions of a large proportion of the world's
population over decades, that global governance (as practiced) is appropriately
to be considered as exemplifying extreme inhumanity -- a model of sustainable
cruelty many orders greater than that of bullfighting. In 2009 it is expected
that over one billion people will go chronically hungry -- those so suffering
increased by 115 million in 2008. This cruelty is irrespective of a decorative
panoply of principles, pleas, arguments, promises, initiatives and tokens
to the contrary -- frequently to be caricatured as "bull" (or
"bullshit") by those exposed to it.
Whilst bullfighting itself may be deplored, its surrogates are now
effectively tolerated and cultivated worldwide in ever more bloody forms
-- with the sacrifice of humans, whether in reality or as a feature of
a daily diet of entertainment. Indeed, without seeking to excuse the cruelty
of bullfighting itself, it is a fact that the awareness of what is involved
by its spectators is far greater (and more honest) than that of consumers
of beef products who have no experience of the inhumanity of abattoir conditions
giving rise to what is so tastefully prepared on the plate before them. The
treatment of animals in abattoirs is framed as "humane", with little
awareness of what is involved and few videos to indicate the degree of inhumanity
of that treatment -- in contrast to the flood of such materials in relation
to bullfighting. Who knows what happens to the blood of animals so slaughtered?
In a sense the following exploration is about how an issue like "bullfighting"
may be used like a matador's cape to incite, attract (and distract) a movement
of opinion -- exerting dominance until it "dies" of exhaustion
or otherwise. Rather than focusing on the narrow target of bullfighting as
a scapegoat to be eliminated (to the glory of the matador), the focus
here is on the wider and more insidious conditions of inhumanity -- using
bullfighting itself as a vehicle through which to explore a transformative
response to those ills in the light of the skills of the matador.
It is these skills which are seen to be necessary in responding to "bull"
Following the argument of Gregory
Bateson that "we are our own metaphor" (as cited by Mary Catherine Bateson, Our
Own Metaphor; a personal account of a conference on the effects of conscious
purpose on human adaptation, 1972), bullfighting
is used here as its own metaphor -- but of the larger, subtler challenge.
Complementary metaphors of governance
Global governance, for those who practice and
appreciate it, may indeed be seen as the matador's art of dealing courageously
with the masses of the world and with the potential danger they represent
through social unrest -- as with the strategic management of the bull's incarnation
of animalistic propensities and dangerous strengths. However
any such attitude towards the masses with such tendencies may also be seen
through the metaphor of their castration --
to achieve relatively docile draft
animals in the form
of oxen (bullocks
A valuable complementary
perspective is however to see global governance itself -- through its massive
strength, cunning and limited collective brain power -- as incarnated by
the bull. As such it manifests bullish tendencies, and expresses itself
through "bull" (fore
and aft). The metaphor has been used by Stephen Holmes (The
Matador's Cape: America's reckless response to terror, 2007). The
consequences of the bull's metaphoric castration are noted in what follows
as enabling sustainable expression of the highest values through
Its challenged collective brainpower is however tragically
evident in the difficulty it has for counting beyond two in the Middle East
-- and the challenge of even considering the possibilities with regard to
When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians,
In the latter case, the extreme art
for any change agent -- as matador -- is then the capacity to engage with
this bull, especially given the mortal danger it represents, to life and
livelihood, in endeavouring to do so. Of course, the bull may metamorphose
into other forms as implied by the perceptive insight of the premier management
Beer in his adaptation of Le
Chatelier's Principle (even prior to his drramatic
experience in the Chile
of Allende) -- relevant to any discussion of complex
Reformers, critics of institutions, consultants in innovation, people
in short who "want to get something done", often fail to see this point.
They cannot understand why their strictures, advice or demands do not result
in effective change. They expect either to achieve a measure of success
in their own terms or to be flung off the premises. But an ultra-stable
system (like a social institution)... has no need to react in either of
these ways. It specializes in equilibrial readjustment, which is to the
observer a secret form of change requiring no actual alteration in the
macro-systemic characteristics that he is trying to do something about.
(Stafford Beer on Le Chatelier's Principle as applied to social
systems: The Cybernetic Cytoblast - management itself. Chairman's
Address to the International Cybernetic Congress, September 1969)
The complementarity of the metaphors is neatly framed in the first case
by the World
Economic Forum as a focus for the so-called "masters of the
universe" of globalization. In the second case, it is its counterpart the
World Social Forum that is acclaimed as a focus for the expression of the
masses. Each of course sees the other as characterized by "bull" that has
to be appropriately fought -- with skills that might here be associated metaphorically
with those of a matador. A previous exercise explored their potential relationship
through a different metaphor (All Blacks of Davos vs
All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony? 2007).
Comparison of metaphors
Presented as Annex 1: Complementary Bullfighting Metaphors of Global Governance:
challenge of asymmetric engagement
Cultural symbolism of the bull and bullfighting
It would appear humans have a natural proclivity for the violence so visibly
portrayed and experienced in the games of classical Rome. Any criticism of
bullfighting, as one legacy of such games, needs to be set against the
ever-increasing cultural proclivity for the vicarious experience of every
form of violently questionable experience through the media. It is in this
sense that the following criticism of bullfighting should be understood,
as articulated from a psychoanalytical perspective by C. Paniagua (Bullfight:
the afición. Psychoanalytic
1994, 63(1), pp. 84-100):
Bullfighting, as a spectacle, provides a special frame for projections,
externalizations, and identifications. The central appeal of bullfighting
is sadistic gratification, which seems to be of a mostly parricidal nature.
The public experiences intense ambivalence toward the protagonists of the
fight, who exert attraction for the id as well as for the superego. The
existence of intrasystemic conflicts is pointed out. The history of bullfighting
reflects the evolution of collective compromise formations between the
fulfillment of sadistic drives and superego sensitivities, as influenced
by changing social tolerance.
The powerful criticism of feminist scholars also merits careful consideration
(cf Sarah Pink, Women
and Bullfighting: gender, sex and the consumption of tradition,
Within such a context, the question is why so many major
artists have been so deeply impressed by bullfighting. Are they
only to be considered as misguided, sexist apologists -- perhaps analogous
tricoteuses (the old
women who sat around the guillotine knitting
during the Reign
of Terror in France, admiring the performance of executioner and victim)?
Such artists include:
- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) "was
obsessed by bullfights because he saw in them at work a force far beyond
that reflected by other artistic expressions." He notably incorporated
a bullfighting image into the famed painting Guernica (1937)
- Jean Cocteau (1899-1963), as painter and filmmaker saw the corrida as a ballet and
sought in it "a poetic form"
- Salvador Dali (1904-1988) saw in the bullfight "the mythological
image of the Minotaur (half man, half bull)"
- Luis Bunuel (1900-1983),
discovered in bullfighting a pleasure "as mystical
as it was erotic."
- Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) indicated that: "Bullfighting is the
only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree
of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour."
García Lorca (1898-1936), poet and dramatist, speaks of bullfighting
not as a sport, but as an art form: a way of meditating. Following
the death of a bullfighter friend, he wrote Lament for the Death of
a Bullfighter (1935), considered by many his
greatest poem. In Poem of the Bull he writes: "They
say that the torero goes to the ring to earn money, prestige, glory, applause … but
this is not true. He goes to the ring to be alone with the bull, an animal
he both fears and adores, and to whom he has much to say."
- Francisco José de
Goya (1746-1828), painted a series of bullfighting scenes
- Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
made bullfighting a central theme at the heart of the famed opera Carmen (1875).
Blasco Ibáñez (1867-1928) wrote Sangre
et arena (1909),
filmed as Blood
and Sand (1916, 1922), focused on a matador.
Bullfighting has inspired
and foreign artists. It is
understood as a central symbol of Spanish
culture and the associated metaphors reflect this (Juan de
Dios Luque Durán, et al. Fraseología,
Metáfora y Lenguaje Taurino). A
question in what follows is why such cultural icons saw such significance in
the bullfight and sought to incorporate that understanding into their works.
As more of a ritual than a competitive sport, the bullfight is now judged by aficionados (bullfighting
fans) based on artistic impression and command.
However it is important to recognize the extent to which bullfighting is
a multivocal symbol with many contested meanings of which Michael Rice (The
Power of the Bull, 1998) offers one comprehensive overview. It is
perhaps the controversy that bullfighting arouses which is an indication of
its cultural significance -- especially in cultures holding honour in unusual
esteem, in contrast with those in which it has become conflated with bullshit
(Honour Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge
of dishonourable leadership to the nameless, 2005).
The following exercise can therefore only focus on some threads in
a complex cultural tapestry as yet to be adequately portrayed. Its partially
mytho-poetic style deliberately explores correspondences in domains where
angels may indeed fear to tread (Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson, Angels
Fear: towards an epistemology of the sacred, 1988).
Dilemma intrinsic to modern usage of "bull"
Apart from the animal itself, modern usage attributes both tangible and
intangible connotations to "bull":
Tangible use of "bull" :
- Bull market (or bull run) : With reference to anything
that is traded, but notably stocks, a bull
market tends to be associated
with increasing investor confidence, motivating investors to buy in expectation
of future price increases and future capital
gains. They are characterized by optimism, investor confidence
and expectations that strong results will continue. In describing
financial market behavior, the largest group of market participants is
often referred to, metaphorically, as a herd. This is especially relevant
to participants in bull markets since bulls are herding animals. A bull
market is also sometimes described as a bull run. It's difficult
to predict consistently when the trends in the market will change.
Part of the difficulty is that psychological effects and speculation may
sometimes play a large role in the markets.
Associated concepts in options trading, include a bull
a bullish, vertical spread options strategy that is designed to profit from
a moderate rise in the price of the underlying security.
- Bull-of-a-man: Typically descriptive of a person of
strength and drive, as well as stubbornness. Associations include
"having balls" (cojones)
and being "hung like a bull" (as
indicative of courage and sexual potency).
The etymology is confused and does not appear to be directly linked to "bull" or
to bull-like behaviour, although the association is readily assumed and
comprehensible. In addition to the widespread phenomenon of individual
bullying, many forms of collective bullying are known, notably between
nations and power blocs. (Neil Crawford, Conundrums
and confusion in organisations: the etymology of the word “bully”).
A "bulldozer" was first used with reference to a person who intimidates
by violence, then extended to ground-clearing caterpillar tractors. Various
references to "bulldozer" policies and initiatives, "riding
may be seen in this light.
Intangible use of bull(shit) as adapted
from very extensive entries in Wikipedia: It would seem that there
is no etymological relationship between "bull" as above and the
forms below, except through the manner in which a bull-market (implying the
qualities of a bull) built and sustained a financial
bubble (as of 2008). This interpretation would have been reinforced if
"bull market" translated into French as marché à bulle (rather
than as marché haussier) -- although "financial
bubble" does translate as bulle financière. The bubble
was of course subsequently seen to have been based on deceit,
illusion and "bull".
This even implies that the animal itself makes considerable use of deceptive "puff
and bluff" in
responding to challenges:
- Irish bull is a
ludicrous, incongruent or logically absurd statement, generally unrecognized
as such by its author."Irish bull" originated in this use because such
expressions often fall between two different statements, as between the
horns of a bull. The Irish were supposedly peculiarly prone to such expressions
due to their volubility, their taste for colourful metaphors, and their
ignorance (or conversely excessive command) of the English language. Although,
strictly speaking, Irish bulls are so structured grammatically as to be
logically meaningless, their actual effect upon listeners is usually to
give vivid illustrations to obvious truths. "Cock and Bull" stories are
of a similar nature.
- Bull(shit): As nonsense,
"bull" dates from the 17th century, whereas
"bullshit" only became popular during
World War II. The word "bull" itself
may have derived from the Old French boul meaning "fraud, deceit".
Earlier meanings include: trivial,
insincere, nonsense, untruthful talk (or writing). Although, as the above
makes clear, there is no confirmed etymological connection, it might be noted
that these older meanings are synonymous with the modern expression. "Bull" is
generally considered (and intentionally used as) a contraction
A distinction may be made between:
- Assertions of fact: Bullshit is commonly
used to describe statements made by people more concerned with the response
of the audience than in truth and accuracy, such as goal-oriented statements
made in the field of politics or advertising (puffery and "talking
- Distinguished from lying: Bullshit does not
necessarily have to be a complete fabrication; with only basic knowledge
about a topic, bullshit is often used to make the audience believe that
one knows far more about the topic by feigning total certainty or making
probable predictions. It may also merely be "filler" or nonsense
that, by virtue of its style or wording, gives the impression that it
actually means something. Philosopher Harry
Bullshit, 1986) argues that the liar knows
and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead
of telling the truth. The "bullshitter",
on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking
to impress. [see also Review, 2005; Bullshit
as Metaphor: Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, 28 September
Although bullshit is synonymous with terms such as horseshit and crap,
it is curious in this context that no fecal connection is implied. It might
however be concluded that what is "excreted" as the result of
any rational (digestive) processing of information is "nonsense" --
a form of cognitive
"fecal remainder". Such nonsense, characteristic of "bull
was a focus of criticism by Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The term might readily
be used to caricature fallacious
arguments (spurious arguments, special
pleading, etc), notably
those to which advocates of critical
thinking draw attention (cf list
It might also be considered identical with doublethink and doublespeak,
especially as noted in corporate environments.
These underpin double
standards. A website is devoted to identifying their
nature and considering how to fight it (Michele Damron, Doublespeak).
This stage in the emergence of a knowledge-based society would then appear
to be witness to the environmental challenge of the accumulation of fewmets deposited
on its information highways and byways -- namely prior to the development
of a cognitive analogue to the combustion engine and the automobile. Or
is it rather the "carbon emissions" of these cognitive vehicles with which
bullshit is most closely associated and that the need is for their empowerment
by more efficient critical thinking? The argument below does not explore
the recycling implication of bullshit as such an environmental challenge
but instead focuses on engagement with the source of the bullshit -- the
Complex cases: The following represent less evident variants:
- "Bull baiting": Whereas there is an obsolete
form of blood sport called bull-baiting,
the term is used by Scientology to
describe a process of learning how to respond to verbal
and physical abuse (insults, taunts, etc) without
reaction, and to initiate such with detachment as part of the learning
process of others. Controversially, it has also been described as being
used as a confrontational response to critics in order to unbalance them
so as to ensure that the criticism is suppressed. Bull-baiting uses nonsense
(bullshit) to destabilize, effectively treating the other as the bull to
be enraged, but involving a degree of bullying by the initiator as a means
of educating how to deal with bullies -- learning "how to take it". Bull
baiting in this sense is indeed a form of bullfighting (as explored here),
just as it is in the blood sports from which the metaphors are derived.
In both cases "blood
- Bull run (or Running
of the Bulls): Termed encierro (in
Spanish), this is a practice on some festive occasions of running
in front of bulls that have been let loose on a course of a sectioned-off
subset of a town's streets. There is an interesting potential association
between the "corridor" (corredor in Spanish) of streets
along which the bulls run and Spanish use of corrida for
bullfight. This process might then be compared with the challenge for
decision-makers "running the gauntlet" of lobbyists in the
"corridors of power".
- "Bullfighting": From one Gnostic perspective
Characteristics and Detection, Way Gnosticism, 19 May
2009), unusually it has been argued that:
Bullfighting seems milder than bullshit, but is far more
prevalent. Whereas bullshit is intended as such, perpetrators of bullfighting
may not set out to deceive or harm. Bullshit is always false, whereas
bullfighting can occasionally contain a kernel of truth, or is at least
earnestly believed to be true by those engaging in it. In many ways,
this makes bullfighting more insidious, and more dangerous, as it's
more difficult to detect. Instead of entering into a complicated discussion
of logical fallacy, we can be trained to determine whether an idea
is bullfighting by asking ourselves some basic questions about the
following areas of analysis...
- Papal Bull:
Originally used to describe many kinds of communication of a public nature
issued by the Pope, typically on formal or solemn occasions (named after
the appended authenticating seal, a bulla).
Martin Luther was
warned of his imminent excommunication by
the Papal Bull of 15 June 1520 (Exsurge Domine) that he risked excommunication
unless he recanted 41 sentences drawn from his writings, including the
95 Theses. As a consequence, Luther was excommunicated in
the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem. In that sense Luther might be
understood as a "bullfighter" (who was gored by the bull?).
an ancient ritual musical instrument and means of communicating over extended
distances, used in the Dionysian
Mysteries in ancient Greece, and still used in rituals worldwide -- notably
in the male initiation ceremonies of the Aboriginal cultures of Australia.
It produces an eerie base sound (which, in this argument, appropriately
contrasts with that of the castrati, discussed below).
There is a possible etymological link between "bull" and "ball",
notably through the French boule, and boule as
an advisory council in ancient Greece. As noted, the inflation of a global
financial bubble is sustained via bull-markets through puffery and "talking
things up". For investors, it might also be associated with both "having
a ball" and "having balls" (cojones) as a risk-taker.
Dynamic collective illusion: partially sustained between the horns of a dilemma
Interplay of incommensurables: From a global governance perspective, the
financial system on which understandings of globalization have
been based can be usefully seen as having been sustained by the interplay
of the tangible and intangible forms of "bull" noted above, namely:
- a degree of bull-market optimism (reinforced
by mainstream bullying of alternative perspectives)
- sustaining power of "bull" in
the form of puffery and deceit of various kinds (whether conscious or unconscious).
Curiously there would appear to be a sense in which the many much-regretted
forms of polarization (two
civilizations, etc) effectively
"hold" a sense of the "global". This is most evident
in the use of the laurel
wreath symbol in logos, such as those of the UN bodies, to frame an image
of the globe. In some variants the two branches may indeed be replaced by
two hands holding, framing or supporting the globe.
Dynamics of dilemma: Unfortunately this framing of a seemingly worthy rational
ideal is essentially static. It conceals the extent to which the two (laurel)
branches, whatever they signify, do indeed "clash" and have an
essentially dynamic, unresolved, irrational relationship -- as with that
between the tangible and intangible forms above.
The integrative understanding of globalization, "held" in this
way, is then effectively framed by dilemma -- on the "horns of a dilemma".
This is evident in global governance in the form of a set of strategic dilemmas,
noted on the occasion of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Inter-sectoral
Strategic Dilemmas of Sustainable Development, 1992).
Global governance as currently framed is then best understood as a kind
of "pseudo" global governance that is:
In the static representation, enshrined in an enwreathed globe, it
necessarily disguises the ongoing structural
violence implicit in the invisible sustaining dynamic -- or the
cultural violence obscuring recognition of any such violence.
In this sense the sustainability is partial at best, as so aptly demonstrated
by the financial crisis of 2008 -- collapsing the financial bubble in terms
of which globalization had been promoted in a global process of puffery.
Laurel wreath symbolism: Given the symbolic importance of the laurel wreath
worldwide and down the centuries -- whether in relation to victory (Olympic
Games), recognition (Noble Laureates, heroes, poets), culmination of
achievement in learning (bacca-laureate), or death -- its origins should
be noted, as documented by Liza
History of the Laurel Wreath, 2007):
The Myth about the origin of Laurel Wreath: Thus, Apollo was doomed to
pursue Daphne, and Daphne was doomed to flee from his advances. However,
Daphne was not a goddess and had little chance against Apollo’s might.
Eventually, when it looked as though Apollo would have his hateful way
with her, she begged to Gaia save her, which he did by turning her into
a laurel tree just as Apollo reached for her with his hand. Disappointed,
and with eyes full of tears, Apollo wove a wreath from the branches of
the tree and wore the wreath made from the leaves of his beloved. Therefore,
in honour of Apollo, the victor of his Pythian Games received a crown of
The argument which follows challenges the static implication
of the wreath as a mark of historical achievement and contrasts this with
a dynamic intrinsic to sustainability in the present. This is variously recognized
in claims that ensuring human rights is a "continuing struggle",
one that is never-ending and must always be renewed, as argued, for example,
from a Christian perspective by Ray C. Stedman (The
Continuing Struggle, 1976).
The necessary conflation of significance
is evident in the distinct uses of the wreath, notably in relation to death
and what survives and transcends it. The challenge to comprehension recalls
the Biblical question:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1
Necessary sacrifice: In relation to global governance, as symbolized
by the various laurel wreathed logos of the UN, the question is the sustaining
dynamic of dilemmas, what must necessarily "die", and what "lives" as
a result of any necessary "sacrifice"?
Arguably global governance, as currently understood, fails precisely because
it is "sacrifice free" -- despite vain appeals by its leadership
for sacrifice of some form in response to urgencies, humanitarian and otherwise.
Such calls are empty of significance precisely because they are calls upon
others to make sacrifices (possibly even of others). What was the honourable "sacrifice" that
might well have prevented the Rwandan
genocide (1994) or the Srebrenica
massacre (1995)? Such calls contrast with the
insight of Ernest Hemingway that:
Bullfighting is the only
art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of
brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour.
Symbolism and the realm of the bull
Terminology: It is impossible to summarize here the complex symbolic connotations
of the "bull", however they may include or be distinguished from
those of the
"ox", the "steer", the "cow", the "heifer" or
the "calf". The entry in Wikipedia on cattle
in religion offers one such summary across cultures, in which "cow"
is the generic term, including "bull", rather than being distinguished
as the female form. Similarly "ox",
although adult, may be male or female -- and not necessarily castrated, if
male. Consumers of flesh do not distinguish the gender of the animal. Whilst
of cattle may claim to be unambiguous, the
connotations may vary in different symbolic contexts.
Religious significance: Cattle are considered sacred in various world religions,
most notably Hinduism, but also Zoroastrianism and the religions of ancient
Egypt and Greece. In an impressive overview, Michael Rice (The
Power of the Bull, 1998) notes that the bull is an almost universal
symbol throughout Indo-European cultures with cults proliferating in the
Middle East and Northern Africa. He maps the "realm of the bull" geographically.
For Rice, from earliest
prehistory it has been a symbol of political authority, sexual
potency, economic wealth and vast subterranean powers. The essential and
distinctive elements in the bull's status in antiquity are the recognition
of his nobility as a lordly beast, when judged by the eyes of humans, and
his concentrated, highly coordinated power. Throughout antiquity the bull
was one of the most potent symbols in what might be called the development
of the psyche of the modern world.
The ancient Egyptians sacrificed animals, but not the cow because it was
sacred to the goddess Hathor, and also due to the contemporary Greek myth
of Io, who had the form of a cow. The symbolism of Hinduism treats the "cow"
as androgynous, although the deity Siva rides
a bull (Nandi).
A number of deities are variously represented by the cow, or associated
with parts of the cow.
In her role as cosmic mother and source of human nourishment, the deity Aditi is
sometimes associated with or identified as a cow.
Contrasting socio-cultural signifiance:
Despite commonalities of appreciation, there is a fundamental contrast between
cultural engagement with the "cow" in
many Eastern cultures and in those of the West (originating in the Mediterranean
basin where the bull has tended to be a focus of some form of sacrifice).
This contrast is exemplified by:
- "East": the treatment of cows in Hindu cultures where their slaughter
is prohibited and the cow is an active symbol of wealth, strength, abundance,
selfless giving and a full Earthly life. As symbols, cows are notably to
be seen peacefully wandering Indian streets, irrespective of modern traffic
conditions. They may well be wreathed and garlanded on occasion. Following
their death, their consumption is prohibited. The collective psychic engagement
with the cow is founded on respect and mutuality
- "West": exploitation of their primary function
in the human food chain, where modern symbolic connotations are limited
to the bullring and rodeos (to a lesser degree). Although not "sacred",
the engagement with them may have a degree of symbolic connotation. Bulls
are cultivated as a source of danger and terror, to be encountered with
courage under very particular conditions. Any decoration of the bull is
typically "implanted" in it, as part of the process of enraging and tiring
it, leading to its death in a bullfight. After a bull is killed, the carcass
is dragged from the arena, quartered, and dressed. Sometimes the bull's
meat is given to the poor, but usually it is sold right at the plaza
de toros. The flesh
is consumed. The collective psychic engagement with the cow is founded
on exploitation and consumption. Rather than deities being associated
with its parts, cuts
of beef are distinguished. Humane treatment may only be considered
significant when avoidance of stress to the animals improves the taste
of the meat after slaughter.
This highly uncomfortable contrast might itself be seen as symbolized
by the two branches of the laurel wreath "holding" the globality
of civilization. This unresolved contrast again calls for recognition of
what might be caricatured by opposing:
- "Sacred cows": the existence of "sacred
objects or practices considered to be immune from criticism, especially
unreasonably so and irrespective of any inconvenience. The unresolved issues
of reform of international institutions -- the subject of minimalist, token
action over decades in the case of the United Nations -- offer a prime
example. In this sense UN Agencies, with their wreathed logos, evoke only
too appropriately huge respect equivalent to that in which similarly garlanded
cows are held in Hindu cultures. Whilst the continuing renewal of "sacred
may be sustained by "bull", it is noteworthy that they are assumed
to be free of "shit".
- "Cattle": the framing of people, the masses,
as "cattle" to
be systematically exploited as producers of consumable products, and subject
to barbaric inhumanity through use of ever more sophisticated weaponry
-- actions framed and excused through rationalizations, unactionable resolutions,
vague promises, and token gestures (appropriately described as "bullshit")
Singular underlying significance: Underlying such cognitive distinctions
is however what the bull best symbolizes, namely through its strength, as
a source of human nourishment, and its embodiment of a sense of property.
This has been fundamental to human need for ploughing and transportation
-- as the motive power of economies for millennia and a source of energy
-- notably in the event of social collapse (Reframing
Sustainable Sources of Energy for the Future, 2006).
As a symbol of the unconscious animal passions of
humans, it is intriguing to note recent attention to the
less well-known references by John
Maynard Keynes (The
General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936) to the challenge
of "animal spirits".
For example Robert Shiller (Animal
Spirits Depend on Trust, Wall Street Journal, 27 January
2009; George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller, Animal Spirits: how human
psychology drives the economy, and why it matters for global capitalism,
2008) refer to the manner in which investment demand -- notably in a bull
market -- is driven by the whims or “animal spirits” of investors.
Also underlying the above distinctions is the sense in which, through their
combination, the bull offers a symbol of the singular "other",
whether as a potential source of challenge or nourishment. This sense of
the other is also the challenge of the governor with respect to the governed
(the masses), and for the governed with respect to the governor (cf "Human
Intercourse": "Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse
with the Other", 2007).
Dweller in the labyrinth: Such considerations are indicative of the significance
of the symbolism of the bull-man, whether Centaur or
Minotaur -- the hidden
threat in the labyrinth of
challenging possibilities faced by humans individually or collectively. As
half-human and half-animal composites they have been appropriately considered
beings, caught between the two natures, expressed through contrasted
myths as the embodiment of untamed nature.
The challenge for any governance
is that of navigating this threatening labyrinth of uncertainties -- only
too evident in the unmapped dynamics of global society. Curiously the challenge
is heightened by the manner in which the bull is embodied in it as the "iron
hand in the velvet glove", namely the mix of terrifying "bullying" unpredictably
wrapped and glorified in optimistic "bull".
Man-bull dynamic: engendering duende
Significance of sacrifice: Again this is not the place
to summarize the millennia of significance attached to bull worship and its
sacrifice -- as so well explored by Michael Rice (The
Power of the Bull, 1998). The taurobolium, bull
sacrifice or killing
of the sacred bull, was the essential central iconic act of the cult of Mithras and
the Great Mother Cybele.
Over time the ritual associated with the bull sacrifice in Mithraism changed.
The taurobolium became a type of purification ritual for the devotee who
stood in a pit into which the blood from a freshly slaughtered bull dripped
all over him.
At the present time, these seemingly irrelevant references may be rendered
of immediate import to the extent that the "blood" is understood
as the essence of the "bull" in which people, and their groups
and institutions, are variously immersed on a daily basis and from which
they derive their energy. As a source of energy, it seems to be irrelevant
whether the bullshit is "positive" or "negative" (Being
Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative,
However, with respect to the argument regarding governance, it is
the complex and intimate relationship between bullfighting and any sacrifice
of the bull that needs to be understood. To be clear, the concern here is
with the cognitive implications for governance of the symbolism -- not
with the slaughter of bulls (as deplored by anti-bullfighting campaigners).
Perhaps even more pertinent to the argument is why there is any need for
such slaughter through the process of bullfighting.
As Rice notes with respect to the sacrifice of the bull:
Because the wild bull so overwhelmingly manifested the power and vigour
of life the spilling of his blood in the sacrifice became not only the
offering up of a superb and valuable victim but also the act of releasing
the life-force which his blood signified. In societies in which the bull
sacrifice was practised, though all had their particular rituals, this
spilling of the victims blood was a sacred act. The release of the life-blood
accomplished regeneration, and by transference such regeneration could
pass from the individual to the group by participation in the sacrifice.
As one contemporary trace of such sacrifice, missing from any simplistic
appreciation or condemnation of bullfighting is the nature of the ritual
through which the killing is sacralized. It is appropriate to note that such
animal sacrifice continues to be practiced to honour occasions -- as in the
Southern Sudan, to the embarrassment of a visiting UN Secretary-General faced
with a succession of such sacrifices along his route.
More pertinent at the time of writing -- on the occasion of the historical
speech of President Barack Obama in Cairo (4 June 2009) -- is the question
of the extent to which "bull" is appropriately sacrificed in the articulation
of a new USA-Middle East policy.
Risk-taking and death: The readily available clues to the requisite cognitive
dimensions to this ritual are offered in the writings of some of artists
named above, especially those stressing the poetry of the dance between man
and bull in which both risk imminent death at the "moment of truth",
as for example:
- Lorca: He goes to the ring to be alone with the bull, an animal he
both fears and adores, and to whom he has much to say
- Hemingway: ... the degree
of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour.
But as a dance to the death, the brilliance of the performance (which makes
it memorable and takes it out of the mundane) lies in the extreme risk-taking
in which the matador engages moment by moment through various passes in the
final act of the bullfight, the faena (as
well-described in the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry).
transformation achieved by the process has notably been explored by Lorca
with respect to a fundamental experience potentially emerging from flamenco --
whose dances echo aesthetically many of the movements of the matador.
That experience, well-known as a focus of Spanish culture, is duende (Daimon,
Djinn, Muse and Duende: variations on a timeless experience, 2007).
In this connection Lorca argued that great art depends upon a vivid awareness
of death, connection with a nation's soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations
of reason (Federico García
Duende Theory and Divertissement,
and Theory of the Duende, 1933; In
Search of Duende, 1998):
These dark sounds are the mystery, the roots thrusting into
the fertile loam known to all of us, ignored by all of us, but from which
we get what is real in art. . . . Thus duende is a power and not a behavior,
it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist
say: Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of
the feet. Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live
form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action.
As described by an articulate blogger in the light of experience of a female
Conchita Cintrón and Duende – What female bullfighters can
tell us today, 2009):
Lorca describes the duende as an earth spirit, somewhat diabolical, in
that this spirit helps an artist recognize the limitations of intelligence,
often bringing on an illness or challenge. A battle ensues, the artist
must fight for her life and in the process creates memorable, transformative
Unlike the muse or creative angels, the duende’s transformative
spirit impacts the audience as well, leaving the impression of being deeply
moved by a work of art, a performance, creating a moment of intuitive connection
that goes beyond philosophical explanation or theory, rather, its spontaneous
creation by the artist and spontaneous receiving from the audience: the
true wish of the communicator.
However, in his condemnation of bullfighting from an animal rights perspective,
Titus Rivas (Duende,
flamenco and bullfights) provides an excellent summary of an
understanding of the relationship between flamenco and bullfighting
in terms of duende. He points our that according to the flamenco
tradition, good flamenco singers, guitarists or dancers are seized
by the "supernatural inspiration" of duende.
It manifests in the focused performance of a song or dance
in which expression and expressiveness are so great that the artists, with
their listeners, reach a form of rapture. It would be intriguing to explore
the degree to which such rapture is assumed to emerge in the most
popular forms of music -- especially in the light of the distinction Rivas makes
regarding the demonic dimension of bullfighting.
Pointing out that many a flamenco singer was a bullfighter first, or vice
versa, Rivas argues:
Unfortunately, the term duende does not only play an important part in
flamenco, but in bullfights as well, especially among real connoisseurs
that approach bullfighting as an artistic event. They look beyond the beautiful
colors of the torero's cape or his movements that may seem like dance steps.
Like in flamenco this form of duende is about utmost concentration by which
people generate certain effects at the exact right moment to move the public.
: Rivas makes the distinction between:
- duende in flamenco as having a cathartic function
that in a moving way brings the listener into contact with himself,
with his own deeper drives and feelings, associated with cleansing
or purification of the soul
- duende in bullfighting as being the ecstasy aroused by the perverse,
sadistic spectacle of domination and extreme
suffering -- a violent step-by-step taking away
of the bull's life force -- framed in an "esthetically" responsible
way, ending in the apotheosis of its death.
For Rivas, the duende of bullfighting is Dionysian
in origin, dampening
the suffering of the participant through some form of intoxication. That
of flamenco he sees as
of Apollonian origin, clearly revealing all that lives inside us
and making it manageable through our tears, integrating it into our personality
us whole, in harmony with ourselves and others. Rivas stresses that:
are really opposed forces that should not be confused in any way. We
really hope that all flamenco lovers will one day see this. And that
they will ignore bullfights in future.
Ironically this describes the essence of the challenge for governance, ethics,
religion and aesthetics. Vain efforts have been made down the centuries to "ignore"
any opposing force that does not appear to embody the enlightened values
which collectivities purportedly uphold and promote -- as a means of distinguishing
and distancing themselves from "others". To the extent that the
laurel wreath embodies the triumph of such successful "ignorance",
it is then to be seen as the emasculation of whatever is implied by any transcendent
integration of the Apollonian
and the Dionysian dichotomy. In effect, as
commonly used, the laurel wreath is then a funerary wreath for what has been
excluded (and forgotten) from a superficial, purportedly Apollonian, form
of integration. Simplistically, it eschews the transformative significance
of the "dark" (Enlightening
Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension,
The fact that the separate laurel branches in the conventional
"cut" at the bottom is a visual indication of this issue. With
respect to the generative power of the bull, this is a visual indication
of its having been "castrated" and neutered. The laurel wreath
is then better understood as a celebration of "castrated values" --
in effect of the individual and institutional castrati that
articulate them vocally in all their purity in the soprano, mezzo-soprano,
or contralto ranges, as "higher" values indeed. The more "grounded" ranges
of tenor and bass are then effectively excluded.
There is of course great validity to the argument of Rivas. The challenge
is how to distinguish both valid Dionysian learnings and valid Appolonian
learnings from their unfortunate trappings, which are indeed a "trap".
As noted by an early policy scientist: A trap is a function
of the nature of the trapped (Geoffrey
Vickers, Freedom in a rocking boat: changing values in an unstable
Embodiment: The "flaw" in the conclusion of such
as Rivas lies in the word "spectacle"
which firmly establishes the observer as a form of voyeur -- whether to be
"uplifted" by an Apollonian (desirable) experience or "downlifted" by
a Dionysian (undesirable) form (Cyclopean Vision vs
However any clue to their integration and transcendence lies in the
manner in which the relationship between man and bull is cognitively embodied
by the observer -- with the matador as an officiant catalyst deeply engaged
in the process, at risk of death. In this sense the "spectacle" becomes
a "mirror" -- into which the observer may step, as may indeed be
appropriate with respect to current challenges of governance (Stepping
into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns,
Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration; the universal criterion of species
The dance between man and bull is transformed into a dance of the man-bull
-- giving presence to the Minotaur, as remarked by Salvador Dali -- in a
timeless transformative moment of duende, of another qualitative
order distinct from that condemned by Rivas. Cognitively, as a dance
between self and other, the matador "has
much to say" to
the other, as noted by Lorca. This intimacy recalls that famously explored
Buber (I and Thou,
1923). From the perspective of governance, it might be described as a form
of wrestling between the two branches of the laurel wreath (Strategic
Jousting through Poetic Wrestling: aesthetic reframing of the clash of civilizations,
2009) -- perhaps to be described by each participant as wrestling with the
bullshit of the other.
Dynamic interplay of reality and illusion: matador's passes
Reality vs Illusion: The engagement of the matador with
the bull through a succession of cape "passes" offers an admirable
metaphor of the interplay of reality and illusion -- as experienced by the
bull. The matador offers the reality of an agitated cape on which the bull's
aggression, irritation and anger can be focused. However, through appropriate
movements, that reality "magically" turns
into illusion -- the bull's charge and use of horns is rendered meaningless.
The bull is then offered another target -- and another. It is trapped in
the pattern which the matador articulates. An explicit use of
this metaphor has been made by Stephen Holmes (The
Matador's Cape: America's reckless response to terror, 2007), arguing
The 9/11 attack was an act of mass murder than can be analogized to a
matador's cape in the hands of a malevolent and crazed provocateur (p.
2)... Even a relatively weak group can throw a superpower off balance by
a shocking and murderous gesture -- flashed beforte the eyes like a matador's
cape. (p. 50) .... If they were playing matador, then the 9/11 masterminds
got badly gored (p. 66)
The dynamic is not one-sided however. The matador cannot simply repeat the
same moves. The audience would be completely alienated and would not be
attracted to that matador in future. For both matador and audience to continue
from the experience, the matador has to take unusual risks -- the more the
better. There is also the danger that the bull may actually learn from anything
too repetitive and develop dangerous countermeasures.
As with the audience for any form of "magic", the set of passes
potentially evokes a four-fold cognitive challenge (a quadrilemma) for the
bull -- as to whether the experience is: Real, Illusion, Real-and-Illusion,
Neither-Real-nor-Illusion. This is of course the current (potentially fatal)
challenge for those exposed to governance and the manner in which any assumed
reality may in fact be illusory, due to "spin" for example (Abuse
of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009).
Essential dynamic: For the matador, taking
risks means taking the relationship with the bull to the edge -- to the possibility
of mortal danger -- namely bringing it as physically close as possible. This
cannot be done without making much use of movement. Even those matadors of
the highest art, who do not move around the arena, any strategy of standing
in one place (as with Juan
Belmonte) involves ensuring that the bull is drawn around that
focal point through attraction to the cape appropriately moved.
There is of course much to be learnt from this from a governance perspective.
The cape is then a priority "issue" to which the masses can be
attracted through focused movements of opinion. It offers a real "target" to
be achieved. However, once the charge acquires momentum (through "mobilization"),
the art is to twirl it away -- "spin" is an appropriate term. The
cape is then reconfigured to present another priority "issue" to
keep the bull in motion -- and to avoid it comprehending the possibility
of attacking the matador manipulating the cape.
Appropriately agitating the cape to draw the bull on can be seen as acquiring
a form of hypnotic control over the bull. Governance, as with the matador,
needs to demonstrate this capacity to the audience. The energy of the masses
(the bull) needs to be exhausted by this means -- having previously been
weakened in the warm up phases (using the picadors and banderilleros) to
give a painful focus to "problems".
In some forms of governance
these actions might even be understood as the kind of covert and false
flag operations through which bombs are planted and people hurt --
so that the anger of the masses is aroused, suitably accompanied by a sense
of threat and fear calling for response. "Mobilization" is sought
and achieved through incitement, as with "terrorism" and "climate
change". Given its dichromatic limitation,
the bull is of course caught in a stop/start mode. The "issue" is either
a problem or it is not. The situation is not variegated -- the red colour
of the cape is only for the audience and for tradition.
Requisite complexity: But for any illusion to appear real
to the bull, the dynamics of the cape need to be appropriately complex. Even
for the bull, reality is not linear and static. The question is then how
many patterns of movement the matador has at his command and how they can
be integrated into a seemingly coherent pattern. This is the essence of his
art, his livelihood -- and of his survival in the ring.
From a mathematical perspective, the matador is moving a two-dimensional
surface through three dimensions, achieving curvature of that surface
in the process. The forms so created dynamically have inherent elegance to
the eye. As such they invite mathematical description. This does not appear
to have been done. In a sense the matador is placing himself at the focus
of a strange
attractor (Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution
of classes of governance principles, 1993).
It might be said that bull markets are in some way created by engendering
an analogous degree of illusory reality amongst investors. Financial risk
management might then be fruitfully explored by analogy with the skills
of the matador -- especially to the extent that the risk manager is preparing
the bull "for the kill". It is "making a killing" that
is the focus of such markets.
For the risk manager, the "cape" is of course the two-dimensional
balance sheet (or related spreadsheets and reports). This is effectively
"flashed around" and talked up and down, notably through rumour -- an interplay
of reality and illusion. Corporate, national and global governance uses analogous
reports -- appropriately "massaging" statistics. In such cases
the skills of the matador are to be seen in the form of news management,
namely how the truth is "spun" to sustain the bull's confidence
in the reality of what is being displayed -- as threat or opportunity --
There is of course the possibility, in the light of a generic mathematical
description, that the different forms of spin might be distinguished by the
labels for the different passes used by matadors, including: Taffalera,,
Crinolina (José Luis
Las Suertes del Toreo
por sus Maestros (Bullfighting Passes Interpreted
by their Masters), 1998).
Some would of
course argue that the financial crisis could be seen as a consequence of
investors having been prepared "for the kill" by matadors of a higher order
of skill and repute (and as such readily named).
Questions: Also of relevance is the role of questioning, whether for the
matador or the bull -- each endeavouring to understand the dynamics of the
death dance in which they are together engaged. The strategic decisions for
each might be reviewed in the light of their capacity to address the set
of WH-questions (who, where, when, what, which, how and why), especially
to the extent that these may be associated with strategic catastrophes. It
would be interesting to know the degree to which the cape movements map out
mathematically the classic catastrophes (Conformality
of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential
psychosocial implications, 2006; Interrelating
Cognitive Catastrophes in a Grail-chalice Proto-model: implications of WH-questions
for self-reflexivity and dialogue, 2006).
Given their dynamics,
the passes may necessarily map onto the fundamental forms of catastrophe.
For example, there is a butterfly pass (mariposa) and a butterfly
The latter figures with the six other "elementary catastrophes" in Sven Erik
Jørgensen and Felix Müller (Handbook
of Ecosystem Theories and Management, 2000).
As a dance between illusion and reality, it is appropriate to mention thinking
on this dance in the light of the Hindu concept of Maya (as
Moment of truth: sacrificing the bull
Disidentification: But, at the "moment of truth" (hora de
the matador has to transcend his identification with the dance as the man-bull.
While it may not be too difficult to kill a bull at that stage, to
do it appropriately takes great skill and courage -- to which
audiences are extremely sensitive. In
effect he has to "cut
the crap" or "cut
- In the physical reality of the bull ring, this
is made evident as the killing of the bull -- echoing the ancient sacrifice
practiced in bull worship, often simply described as sacrificing the animal
nature of man. The matador is awarded ears and/or tail according to the
cleanliness of the kill and its minimization of suffering.
- Cognitively this implies a form of transcendence
through an identification beyond the ring -- partially acknowledged by
what is publicly celebrated and glorified through that process.
Curiously the transcendence is exemplified by the fact
that the bull is dichromatic,
usefully implying the need for global governance to transcend its colour
blindness and acquire an ability to deal dynamically with a spectrum of
colours rather than be locked into binary logic. The bull is not challenged
by the colour "red" but by the movement of the cape -- perhaps
a vital clue when announcing the imminenence of a new global ldisaster.
This limited binary logic is effectively
implicit in the form of the laurel wreath -- lacking any implicit dynamic.
This stands as a conventional celebration of "black"
and "white" (or "positive" and "negative")
as sole alternatives -- interpreted in a context of faith-based governance
as "soul alternatives"!
Discovering the attitude appropriate to such transcendence
is intrinsic to many martial arts and the philosophical quest that underlies
them ( Miyamoto
Book of Five Rings, 1645) . It is evident to a degree in
the understanding associated with the matador's passes (suertes).
The attitude has various implications for governance (Ensuring
Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns: reframing the scope of the "martial
response to strategic threats, 2006).
Intrinsic to this argument, and to the central cognitive reality of the
bullfight, is the degree of engagement of the matador. This is quite distinct
from any form of killing with other weapons -- especially the least honourable
developed for purposes of "defence". There is a tradition that
the gods abhor -- as cowards’ weapons -- those weapons that "leave
Reframing: The extraordinary attitude and ability to "make the cut" has
perhaps been best described through a much-cited
classic taoist tale by Chuang
All I care about is the Way. If find it in my craft, that’s all.
When I first butchered an ox, I saw nothing but ox meat. It took three
years for me to see the whole ox. Now I go out to meet it with my whole
spirit and don’t think only about what meets the eye. Sensing and
knowing stop. The spirit goes where it will, following the natural contours,
revealing large cavities, leading the blade through openings, moving onward
according to actual form — yet not touching the central arteries
or tendons and ligaments, much less touching bone.
Through the dance, effectively a "cognitive dance", the bull is progressively
seen anew through a succession of phases -- if only by the matador. This
is perhaps usefully to be seen in a juxtaposition of:
- the traditional sequence of Ten
Bulls, or 10 Ox-herding pictures,
depicted in Zen Buddhism,
each with a brief poetic commentary (cf D T Suzuki; Kubota Ji'un, Ten
Ox-herding Pictures with the Verses Composed by Kakuan Zenji,
1996). As argued elsewhere (Enlightening
Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension,
2005), these are of special interest because of their indication of a person's
progressive discovery and interplay with a shadowy element denoted by an
- a set by Pablo Picasso of
eleven lithograph prints of progressive abstraction, showing a bull going
from a “plump” and detailed
bull to a linear, schematic, graceful outline of a bullish figure
"Seeing the bull": Cognitively the question is
the meaning to be associated with "seeing
the bull", namely discerning that from which it is appropriate to dissociate
-- whatever meaning can be associated with such transcendence. In a Commentary
on the Integration of perceived Problems in the Human Development
section of the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential, an attempt was made to suggest
how that classical Zen sequence might be interpreted for clues to an unfolding
relationship between humanity and its shadow, in the shape of the complex
of world problems (see Progressive
integration of the shadow of non-self-reflexivity, 2007).
there is every opportunity for myriad illusory understandings of this --
which lend themselves to appropriate condemnation in the terms of Rivas --
especially to the extent that the focus is on the bull that is killed rather
than on the psychodynamic process it models in that transformation.
The point to
be clearly repeated is that governance today -- through
its current indifference to suffering and death, bloody or otherwise (except
as articulated through
"bull") -- effectively engages continuously in cruel bull-slaughtering
of the masses. It fails in the challenge of "seeing the bull" in
subtler and more appropriate ways of which traces are to be found in other
cultures and traditions (as noted above). Although, again, such alternatives,
as in the case of "sacred cows", may also obscure the essential
Complementary epistemological frameworks: As implied by
the succession of bulls (of Zen or Picasso), other epistemological frameworks
are required to truly "see
An appropriate example is offered by Antonio de Nicolas (Meditations
through the Rg Veda,
1978) in distinguishing four complementary "languages" in the Rg
Veda by their intentionality: images and sacrifice, existence, embodied
vision, and non-existence. This could constitute a cognitive bridge between
the song-dance of flamenco and the passes of the matador -- effectively a
common "epistemological centre of gravity".
For de Nicolas: "The embodiment of Rg Vedic man
was understood... as an effort at integrating the languages of Asat, Sat and Yajna to
reach the dhih, the effective viewpoint, which would make these
worlds continue in their efficient embodiment" (p. 136). Consistent with
the earlier arguments with respect to play, the unique feature of the
approach is that it is grounded in tone and the shifting relationships between
tone -- also reflected in the dynamics of flamenco and matador. In the case
of the Rg
it is through the engendered pattern of musical tones that its significance
is to be found.
Therefore, from a linguistic and cultural perspective, we have to be aware
that we are dealing with a language where tonal and arithmetical relations
establish the epistemological invariances... Language grounded in music
is grounded thereby on context dependency; any tone can have any possible
relation to other tones, and the shift from one tone to another, which
alone makes melody possible, is a shift in perspective which the singer
himself embodies. Any perspective (tone) must be "sacrificed" for a new
one to come into being; the song is a radical activity which requires innovation
while maintaining continuity, and the "world" is the creation of the singer,
who shares its dimensions with the song. (p. 57)
Such efforts to show the functional significance of sacrifice in relation
to social integration need attention in a period when "nobody is willing
to sacrifice" advantages acquired under the present systems in crisis --
and when the sacrifice of "suicide bombers" is a major challenge to social
stability, considered to be completely "incomprehensible". However
the cognitive challenge would appear to be one of engaging with the incomprehensible
and its risks, rather than seeking to eliminate it (Unknown
Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008).
it is vainly hoped that such elimination would render the world totally comprehensible
and safe. This has been the pattern with the domestication of animals and
the containment or destruction of wildlife -- whose danger to civilization
is now reincarnated in extremism, gangs, criminality, insurgency and perversion
in every society.
Symbolic associations and clues
Symbolism and management: The relevance of symbolic considerations
has been well argued by E. Sharon Mason (Symbolism
in Managerial Decision Making: manipulation or inspiration? Journal
of Managerial Psychology, 1994, 9, 6, pp. 27-34):
Symbolic activity in managerial decision making may be a tool for manipulation
or a means for inspiration and empowerment. In each case there are assumptions,
values, goals, creation of meaning, and a purpose for symbolic activity
that differ. Explores the symbolic dimensions of three perspectives on
decision making; the political, foolishness and autocommunication. Suggests
that the perspectives differ in the “rational” or “arational” use
made of symbolic activity. The absence of unity of symbol and substance
is seen to characterize the more manipulative uses of symbolic activity
while a holistic integration of the two is consistent with a concern for
the welfare and empowerment of others. The process of this integration
is linked to the spiritual qualities personified in the symbol of the child.
"Cow": In endeavouring to derive insights of relevance
to the challenges of governance, it is appropriate to note the extent to which
Western civilization at least has been framed by symbolism relating to the
cow, with strong feminine associations, but possibly understood generically
to include the bull:
A goddess who personified the principles of feminine
love, motherhood and joy, being one of the most important
and deities throughout the history of ancient Egypt. Hathor is
commonly depicted as a cow goddess with head horns in which is set a sun
disk -- effectively housing or enclosing Horus as
a sun god. The animals sacrificed to Hathor did not include
the cow -- being sacred to her.
A goddess in ancient
Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman
world. After her assimilation of many of the roles of Hathor, Isis's
headdress is replaced with that of Hathor: the horns of a cow on her head,
with the solar disk between them. She also was represented as a cow, or
a cow's head.
In Greek mythology, Io was a priestess seduced
by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection.
As the origin of "Europe" and "European", in ancient
Greek mythology Europa was
a Phoenician princess whom Zeus abducted
after assuming the form of a dazzling, tame, white bull -- to which she
was attracted, eventually getting "onto his back".
"Pillars": Given the recognized role of Freemasonry in
governance, it is appropriate to note that Masonic historians consider that
it is based on the principles and values of ancient Egypt. Their continuing
relevance to that worldview is indicated by the extent to which their temples
and symbolism emulate those of that tradition (Thomas Milton Stewart, Symbolism
of the Gods of the Egyptians and the Light They Throw on Freemasonry,
2003). Presumably it will only
be future historians who will be able to clarify the degree of complicity
of freemasons in the globalization agenda and the financial crisis of 2008
-- beyond the current arguments of conspiracy theorists.
Fundamental to the symbolic architecture of Freemasonry are the two pillars
(Boaz and Jachin)
framing a gateway (William M Larson, Those
Mysterious Pillars: Boaz and Jachin). Other sets of pillars are
also of significance as representative of sets of values. It is interesting
that major institutions, such as the European Community make fundamental
use of pillar terminology in articulating their strategies of governance
Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference,
Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors,
Gender: A major criticism of bullfighting by feminist scholars is that it
constitutes an exemplification of the reprehensible sexist attitude of males
and their perverse need to dominate and destroy violently. Such arguments have
notably contributed to its condemnation, irrespective of the increasing numbers
of female matadors.
But as a primarily male tradition, like bullfighting, it is interesting that
freemasonry is "framed" by the feminine through the symbolism of
maternal deities represented by the cow. Stewart (2003) notes that Hathor is "the
Mother of Light" whose symbol is the cow -- "it gives the milker
that which he desires". In man, for Freemasonry, Hathor is an enlightened
and flexible mind, and the mind gives us that which we desire. With respect
to the arena of the bullring, Stewart notes that:
Mind is the arena in which Consciousness displays itself...There are two
(twin) aspects of it, perceptive power and receptive power"... Horus...is
a symbol of the Soul, or "that which is above"...the third person
in the Egyptian trinity.
Arenas: From a governance perspective it is interesting to
see conferences and summits as constituting "arenas" in which a play
is engendered -- whether or not it leads to the death of one perspective or
another. The arena then represents life and the choices to be made. Ritual
therein serves the symbolic elaboration of culture. Insights of relevant to
such dynamics, notably in virtual environments, are offered by Ken Sanes (Symbolic
Like all stories, they create the appearance of people,
places and situations or, if the fiction is complete enough, they can be
said to create what are commonly referred to as virtual or invented "worlds".
Audiences, players and participants then use these fictions to act out their
fantasies, and their deepest fears and desires, usually in disguised form....
Symbolic arenas come with a number of dangers and make a number
of contributions to our lives. Among these, they can addict us to fantasy
and simulation; they can be used as a form of substitute satisfaction that
makes it easier for us to avoid the difficult tasks of life; and they can
impart to us a philosophy in which we see life itself as a symbolic
arena for the acting out of fantasy. Perhaps they can also distract us from
paying attention to what is really happening in the world or the way power
is exercised. But they also vastly enrich our stock of experience by allowing
us to participate in invented but lifelike situations; they provide pleasure,
and they let us experience our deepest desires for wholeness. Through interpretation,
they can also reveal what is on our minds.
Illusion: It is in the arena that Hindu
fundamental insights regarding illusion (Maya)
are played out, notably in governing the manifestation and perpetuation of
duality as a false dichotomy. The man-bull interaction exemplifies this --
offering an understanding of its potential transcendence. It is the dynamics
of this interaction which are to be "seen through" in order to transcend
the repetitive cycles in which governance of any kind is repeatedly trapped.
The battlefield of Kurukshetra
fundamental to the the Hindu
might be understood as an arena indicative of these insights.
Transformation depicted by metaphorical geometry
Given the role of geometric forms in indicating a number of the above processes
and distinctions, there is a case for the elaboration of a sequence of phases
illustrated by bullfighting in an effort to relate this more succinctly to
the challenge of global governance. In the light of the focus
of cybernetics on generic understanding of control systems, there is the possibility
that such a geometric articulation may interrelate a number of threads.
Presented as three storyboard exercises
of Global Governance through Bullfighting: visual symbols and geometric
Strategic implications for future global governance
Impotent "bull": Global governance is in
various ways driven and conducted through an array of disparate models inspired,
or not by symbol systems of different cultures. Typically there is little
integration between these cognitive frames and little desire to seek it --
constituencies using each naturally frame their own as the most appropriate
and the most comprehensive. Considerable use is made of "bull" of
various qualities to provide a degree of connectivity and coherence. As succinctly
phrased in the following at the time of writing:
- Warm words, rhetoric and consideration
are not enough; indeed they are a guarantee that little will happen (Nick
Clegg, UK Liberal Democrat, during the current constitutional crisis in
the UK, 28 May 2009)
- But all this noise and fury signifies little more
than a collective venting of wind in the absence of concrete measures
to squeeze the regime, pro-democracy campaigners say (quoted by the International
Institute for Strategic Studies with regard to responses by the international community
to the policies of the Burman junta, 2 June 2009)
In the argument above the seductive beauty of such efforts is
usefully to be compared to the refined voices of castrati -- an unfortunate
transmogrification of the values associated and admired in the bull and celebrated
in bullfighting. Perhaps the ultimate test case is associated with the historic
speech on a new US Middle East policy by President Barack Obama in Cairo
(4 June 2009). Commentators are divided as to whether it is merely an instance
of Obama the Charmer or whether there were policies and implementation to
follow (as quoted by The Guardian, 5 June 2009):
- He touched our emotions...His words were good, but up to now we haven't
seen any policies on the ground...we know that there are always red lines
- Any American gesture in the right direction is welcome... We don't want
to live in hipe until we die in despair
- It has created a lot of hope...But saying is one thing. New he has to
- It is part of American policy just to give us words and not actions...They
are bomboing madrasas.
Despite his appreciated frankness, the key question for many is whether
his speech is a form of "bull" or whether Obama truly is an extraordinary
Metaphoric enrichment: Elsewhere the merit of interrelating such metaphors,
to the extent possible, has been suggested as a means of offering a richer
and more appropriate set of metaphors through which to sustain, cognitively,
global governance (Enhancing
the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors,
2000). Notably cited were the arguments of Susantha
a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999). Such a project
might enrich the discussion about any "clash
The risk-taking, brutality and cruelty of the bullfighting metaphor offers
a metaphorical context through which to revisit the challenge of executive
decision-making that the emerging the emerging crisis of crises is already
highlighting. Tough decisions will be taken, as intimated with regard to
the limited effective strategic options apparently available in response
to climate change. Both executive and decision have close associations with
execution in its various senses -- including the execution of the bull. Dubious
geo-engineering options are liable to be implemented globally as a consequence
of such executive orders -- for the security of a particular nation if not
of global civilization, as the "bull" will claim (Geo-engineering
Oversight Agency for Thermal Stabilization (GOATS), 2008).
Underlying significance of the bull: The mythology of the
bull is fundamental to a range of Western and Eastern cultures -- intimately
related to their roots. There are many fundamental influences deriving from
this, as indicated above. These include the origins of "Europe",
the sacred status of the cow in Hindu cultures, the bull as a fundamental
cognitive metaphor for (Zen) Buddhism, active symbolism dating from ancient
Egypt held to be of importance by Freemasonry, values celebrated through
bullfighting by famed Western artists.
Of particular interest with regard to the traumatic conflict
of the Middle East is the importance to Judaism of the "Golden
(in the past) or the "Red
Heifer" (as essential to the future rebuilding
of the Temple in Jerusalem, and to related end-times scenarios of importance
to some Christians). Such interpretations are fundamental to faith-based
global strategies (Future
Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003).
Governance through democracy: With regard
to the future
of governance through parliamentary democracy, proposals have been made for
Nations Parliamentary Assembly -- with an adaptation of the castrati
logo noted above. Curiously it embodies a schematic hemicycle,
most emblematic of the European
Parliament, whether meeting in Strasbourg or Brussels. The European Commission
has expressed considerable concern at public apathy and disaffection regarding
the election of Members of the European Parliament -- expected to be below
35% of the electorate. This is despite considerable effort to enhance engagement,
and dubious exercises in "bulldozer democracy" in failing to consult
the electorate on major issues (such as the extension of the Community),
or requiring people to vote again "until they get it right" (as
in the case of Ireland).
In relation to the argument above, the European Commission might be said
to have failed to address the issue symbolically expressed by the following
In considering these images, it is significant that with 375
million eligible voters in the elections to the European Parliament
of 2009 (with approximately a third expected to vote, at the time of writing)
the number engaged in the process is of the same order as the 122 million
viewers of the Eurovision
Song Contest in 2009. The strategic engagement by the latter (primarily
the younger generation) is considered irrelevant to that of the former (primarily
the older generation). Hence the argument regarding cognitive
castration and its strategic implications. Each naturally frames the preoccupations
of the other as "bullshit".
Ironically the Members of Parliament, once elected, engage with one another
in the parliamentary "arena" offered by the hemicycle -- a form of bullring
for the dynamics of their subsequent encounters.
Implication of cattle for future food supplies: The contrasting relationship
between the sacred status of the cow in the world's largest democracy, and
its central role as a source of meat for many other cultures, might well
be considered as emblematic of the challenging decisions to be made with
regard to future food and water supplies -- and the key to survival of many.
The breeding, grazing/water needs and slaughter of cattle are of course the
subject of various controversies, whether ethical, environmental or in relation
to the efficiency of food production. Meat eating itself has been presented
as a symbolic challenge for human survival on a resource constrained globe.
It is this sense that bullfighting offers insights into more insightful
framing of future strategic "sacrifice" -- whoever the victim and
however the sacrifice is determined and executed. The challenge of such sacrifice
is currently prefigured by the "incomprehensible" cognitive framing
of suicide bombing -- whether by its instigators and opponents. There will
"collateral damage" as a result of such incomprehensibility --
whether as a result of its execution or in efforts to curtail it. The question
is whether bloody physical sacrifice can be appropriately transcended cognitively.
Incompetent governance: This argument addresses the challenge
that global governance appears, notably in the light of the financial crisis
of 2008, to be operating in a "Mickey Mouse" mode, as discussed
separately (Beyond "Mickey-Mouse" governance
of crises?, 2009). It would appear that conventional wisdom from
the expected sources has little insight to offer, despite the continuing
"bullshit" offered to the contrary (Emergence
of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance of the
future? 2007). The abuse of faith has been widely discussed (Abuse
of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009),
exemplified by decision-making subsequent to that crisis (Considering
All the Strategic Options: whilst ignoring alternatives and disclaiming cognitive
Of particular interest, despite the worldwide
livelihood crisis of unemployment, is the unwillingness to even consider
"sacrificing" conceptual "sacred cows" such as "job" and "growth" (Framing
the Global Future by Ignoring Alternatives: unfreezing categories as a vital
necessity, 2009; Remedies
to Global Crisis: "Allopathic" or "Homeopathic"? Metaphorical complementarity
of "conventional" and "alternative" models, 2009).
Strategic displacement: The current focus on "climate
change" and "terrorism" would
appear to suggest a degree of capacity of global governance to "get
its act together" -- were
it not for the manner in which this is used as an illusory surrogate for
getting to grips with more inconvenient truths (Terror
as Distractant from More Deadly Global Threats: bewitching world of definitional
game-playing, 2009; Climate
Change and the Elephant in the Living Room, 2008; Climate
of Change Misrepresented as Climate Change, 2008). These are
skillfully manipulated "red flags" in the bullfighting style
Constraints of binary thinking: A central difficulty is
the framing of what strategies are "right" and
what are "wrong", echoing every polarization by which any transcendental
strategic coherence is bedevilled (positive/negative, female/male, etc) --
particularly exemplified by clashing belief systems. This implies a strategic
challenge regarding the nature of the sacrifice of those that are "wrong"
and are to be "cut off" -- symbolically incarcerated or "left behind". Within
what pattern of coherence are they to be integrated?
The associated dynamics are most
inappropriately assumed to lend themselves to conventional linear thinking.
The extensive understandings of dynamic complex systems need to be brought
to bear on the challenge of such framing. Unfortunately their very complexity,
and that of the associated disciplines, precludes comprehension by those
who might otherwise take such perspectives into account. Hence the need for
mnemonic aids (In
Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial
dynamics, 2007) -- and the storyboard exercise in Annex
It is through such aids, of which metaphor and symbolism are the most succinct
and accessible, that a subtler and more adequate framing of polarization
can be achieved, as previously clarified in a diagram (Imagining
the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation,
2007). That diagram:
- addresses the complex relationship between the
system of problems (the problematique) faced by governance, the advocated
system of strategies to address them (the resolutique), the game-playing
in which actors typically engage undermining any resolution (the irresolutique),
and the imaginative reframing of associated hopes and fears (the imaginatique).
- positions these dynamics on the complex
plane fundamental to eliciting
insight from complex system dynamics.
- recognizes, as axes, the fundamental interplay of
the real and the imaginary -- exemplified in the account above by the dynamics of bullfighter in relation
to the bull.
Schizoid governance: The fundamental argument here is that global governance
has effectively bifurcated into:
- the "voice" of the castrati extolling with the greatest elegance the
highest values to which humanity aspires, and which it claims are represented
in the strategies implemented
- the "voice" of the bull in all its animal savagery, faced with imaginable
and unimaginable threats, poorly understood -- exemplified by the widespread
use of inhumane weaponry to maintain a semblance of control
Vigilance in the face of honourable uncertainty: The argument
suggests that uncertainty and the unknown are usefully incarnated or modelled
by the bull in a strategic situation -- where the skills of the
matador are expected to govern the process of responding creatively to that
uncertainty. The matador is then very much in the situation provocatively
outlined by Donald
Rumsfeld in his notorious poem regarding the unknown,
as discussed elsewhere (Unknown
Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008).
The matador requires the vigilance envisaged by Nassim
Nicholas Taleb (The
Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007). But it
would seem that the appropriate strategic vigilance needs also to be enriched
by a deep respect for the unknown -- reflected in the honour accorded the
bull. Curiously, whatever its inadequacies, the bull (as with bullshit) offers
a ncessary semblance of coherence with which it is possible to
engage -- whatever the risks may be.
Subtler forms of coherence: The approach taken here has
been to engage in a form of mytho-poetic storytelling to draw a set of disparate
threads into a coherent pattern. The argument is not that the story is "true" but
that it honours a wide range of stories with which people variously identify.
Rather than the "medium
is the message",
it is a case of the "method is the message".
It is significant that dialogue on strategic issues
now takes place in web fora organized into many topic "threads". There
is almost no effort to interweave the threads. To that extent, the strategic
"carpet" thereby "woven" for governance is essentially "thread bare". The
exercise in interrelating symbolic threads here, suggests that another
approach is worth exploring -- with all the
challenge of ensuring an interesting design using many multi-coloured threads.
The fundamental implications of symbolism have been addressed as they relate
to global governance. Again, such symbolism is not introduced as being "true"
but rather as a succinct and powerful mnemonic aid. Such cultural artifacts
are in themselves forms of cognitive "otherness" with which cultures
must necessarily dance. Whether such a pattern offers useful connectivity
between the requisite disparate perspectives necessary for appropriate
coherence calls for careful consideration of the "validity" of
such connections and their reliance on "correspondences",
as explored elsewhere (Theories
of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative
thinking, 2007). Of relevance is the nature of the cognitive contribution
necessary to give significance to such connectivity and the value of what
then emerges (Governance
through Patterning Language: creative cognitive engagement contrasted with
abdication of responsibility, 2006).
It is appropriate that the use in this argument of bullfighting as
a metaphor should be seen as more than regrettable. However it is even more
regrettable to believe that eliminating its physical manifestation will
eliminate the violent consequences with which that mindset is associated.
The physical variant then becomes a scapegoat (to be sacrificed) thereby
eliminating or minimizing any concern for the unresolved, complex, underlying
problems thereby ignored. It is in this sense that this reprehensible metaphor
offers insights for the exploration of viable and appropriate global governance.
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