-- / --
Bullfighting (or 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 bull" is 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.
As a concept "bull", as "bullshit", acquired academic respectability through a study in 1986 by Yale philosopher Harry Frankfurt (On Bullshit, 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. Reisch, Bullshit 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 survive.
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 Marketing (Sharon Williams, A No-Bull Approach to Visionary Marketing, Australian Businesswomens Network, 2008). Several UK-based initiatives are associated with this trend: Nobull Communications; the blog of Rod Sloane entitled No Bull Business.
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" (145).
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 Hitchens (Orwell's Victory, 2002) goes a step further (Stefan Collini, ‘No 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 Hoax.
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, Bullshit 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 Hearts, 2004).
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 on: "diplomatic 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 bullshit" (1,000); "international bullshit" (900); "world order bullshit" (300).
The arguments which follow may be understood as partially addressing this challenge.
Of particular interest is the relationship between:
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 even "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" and "bullshit".
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.
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 or steer).
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 "global castrati". 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 two (And When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians, 2000).
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 cybernetician, Stafford 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 adaptive systems:
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).
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 Quarterly, 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, 1997).
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 to the 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:
Bullfighting has inspired many Spanish 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).
Apart from the animal itself, modern usage attributes both tangible and intangible connotations to "bull":
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:
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...
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.
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:
Curiously there would appear to be a sense in which the many much-regretted forms of polarization (two cultures, clashing 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 Kliko (The 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 laurel leaves.
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 Corinthians 15:55)
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.
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 modern terminology 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:
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:
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 as liminal 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".
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, 2005).
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:
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).
Duende: The 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 Lorca, The Duende Theory and Divertissement, 1930; Play 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 bullfighter (Pandemonium, 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 art.
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.Vital distinction: Rivas makes the distinction between:
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 and making us whole, in harmony with ourselves and others. Rivas stresses that:
These 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, 2005).
The fact that the separate laurel branches in the conventional wreath are "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 society, 1972).
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 Poly-sensual Engagement, 2006).
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, 2008; Self-reflective Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration; the universal criterion of species maturity? 2008).
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 by Martin 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.
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 that:
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 to "profit" 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 -- however transitory.
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,, Media Veronica, Navarra, Larga, Chicuelina, Veronica, Crinolina (José Luis Ramón, 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 catastrophe [applet]. The latter figures with the six other "elementary catastrophes" in Sven Erik Jørgensen and Felix Müller (Handbook of Ecosystem Theories and Management, 2000).
Disidentification: But, at the "moment of truth" (hora de verdad), 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 the bullshit":
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 Musashi, The 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 arts" in 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 the hand".
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:
"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).
Clearly 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 cognitive challenge.
Complementary epistemological frameworks: As implied by the succession of bulls (of Zen or Picasso), other epistemological frameworks are required to truly "see the bull". 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 Veda, 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).
Typically 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.
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:
"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 (Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008; Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors, 2008).
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 Arenas):
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.
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 in Annex 2: Transformation of Global Governance through Bullfighting: visual symbols and geometric metaphors
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:
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):
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 "bullfighter".
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 Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999). Such a project might enrich the discussion about any "clash of civilizations".
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 Calf" (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 a United 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 juxtaposed images.
|Contrasting caricatures of "harmonization" in governance?|
|Top-down "static" vision?
|Bottom-up "non-static" vision?
Treaty (in process of
ratification under questionable conditions of "democratic deficit") suppressing reference to the
EU anthem (Beethoven's Ode to Joy)
Song Contest Winner (Athens, 2006)
Elected overwhelmingly through a record Europe-wide popular "democratic process"
(Lordi's song Hard Rock Hallelujah)
|If aesthetic harmony
(notably musical lyrics) offers a way forward, possibilities might include:
A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic?
All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony?
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 be much "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 protectionism, 2009).
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 of governance.
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 2.
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:
Schizoid governance: The fundamental argument here is that global governance has effectively bifurcated into:
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.
Andres Amoros. Lenguaje Taurino y Sociedad. Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, 1990
John Andrews. Seeing Red. Dissident Voice, 12 June 2009 [text]
Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson. Angels Fear: towards an epistemology of the sacred. University of Chicago Press, 1988
Mary Catherine Bateson. Angels Fear Revisited: Gregory Bateson's cybernetic theory of mind applied to religion-science debates. In: Jesper Hoffmeyer (Ed.), A Legacy for Living Systems: Gregory Bateson as Precursor to BioSemiotics, Biosemiotics 2, 2008 [abstract]
Lois Beckwith. The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit: An A to Z Lexicon of Empty, Enraging, and Just Plain Stupid Office Talk. Broadway, 2006 [extracts]
Jaime Bravo. Bullfighting Glossary. Mundo-Taurino.org, 2007 [text]
Matthew Calarco and Peter Atterton. Animal Philosophy: essential readings in continental thought. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004 [extracts]
Mario Carrión. Belmonte and Manolete: the Herculean Pillars of modern bullfighting. [text]
Maria M. Colavito. The Heresy of Oedipus and the Mind/Mind Split: a study of the biocultural origins of civilization. Edwin Mellen Press, 1995
Victoria Combalía. Toros y toreros: metáforas de la humanidad. El País, 20/12/1993 [text]
Carrie B. Douglass. Bulls, Bullfighting, and Spanish Identities. Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 1997
Juan de Dios Luque Durán, Francisco José Manjón Pozas. Fraseología, Metáfora y Lenguaje Taurino. Universidad de Granada, 1998 [text]
Susie Essman. What Would Susie Say?: An Incomplete Guide to a No Bullshit Life. Simon & Schuster, 2009
Javier Echevarría. El porvenir de la tauromaquia. El País, 20/05/1984 [text]
Harry G. Frankfurt. On Bullshit. Princeton UP, 2005.
Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky. Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide. Free Press, 2005 [extracts]
Susantha Goonatilake. Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1999
Martin Grotjahn. On Bullfighting and the Future of Tragedy. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XL, 1959, pp. 238-239 [abstract].
Enrique Guarner. Some Thoughts on the Symbolism of Bullfights. Psychoanalytic Review, 57, 1970, pp 18-28 [abstract]
Gary Hardcastle and George A. Reisch (Eds.). Bullshit and Philosophy: guaranteed to get perfect results every time. Open Court Publishing, 2006 [review]
Stephen Holmes. The Matador's Cape: America's reckless response to terror. Cambridge University Press, 2007 [extracts]
Sven Erik Jørgensen and Felix Müller. Handbook of Ecosystem Theories and Management. CRC Press, 2000 [extracts]
Allen Josephs. Ritual and Sacrifice in the Corrida; the Saga of Cesar Rincon. Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 2002
Ujamlal C. Kothari. On the Bullfight. Psychoanalytic Review, 1962, 49A:123-128. [abstract]
Federico Garcia Lorca. In Search of Duende. A New Directions Bibelot, 1998 [review]
Laura Penny. Your Call Is Important to Us: the truth about bullshit. New York, Crown, 2005.
Clive Marsh. Muletas, Bandanas, and the Bull: an analysis of Bull Fighting, Bull Riding, and Masculinity. University of Calgary, 2008 - [text]
John McCormick and John Deleon. Bullfighting: art, technique & Spanish society. Transaction Publishers, 2000 [extracts]
Timothy Mitchell. Blood Sport: A Social History of Spanish Bull fighting. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999
C. Paniagua. Bullfight: the afición. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 1994, 63(1), pp. 84-100. [abstract]
Sarah Pink. Women and Bullfighting: gender, sex and the consumption of tradition. Berg Publishers, 1997 [extracts]
Thoroughly researched and compelling to read, Women and Bullfighting addresses these issues and argues that existing traditionalist approaches to gender, bullfighting and ritual in Spain need to be revised in order to locate women bullfighters in the context of a richly varied culture which is increasingly affected by the media and contemporary patterns of consumption.
José Luis Ramón. Las Suertes del Toreo por sus Maestros (Bullfighting Passes Interpreted by their Masters). Madrid, Espasa Calpe S. A, 1998 [review]
Michael Rice. The Power of the Bull. Routledge, 1998 [extracts]
Ricardo Fernández Romero. El Planeta de los Toros. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2000 [text]
Manuel Delgado Ruiz. De la Muerte de un Dios: la fiesta de los toros en el universo simbólico de la cultura popular. Barcelona, Ediciones Península, 1986
David Slack. Bullshit, Backlash & Bleeding Hearts:: a confused person’s guide to the great race row. Penguin, 2004
Thomas Milton Stewart. Symbolism of the Gods of the Egyptians and the Light They Throw on Freemasonry. Kessinger Publishing, 2003 [extracts]
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable. Random House, 2007 [contents]
Nick Webb. The Dictionary of Bullshit. Robson Books, 2007
Randall Young. Dictionary of Legal Bullshit. Sphinx Pub, 2007
For further updates on this site, subscribe here