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3 June 2009 | Draft

Complementary Bullfighting Metaphors of Global Governance

Challenge of asymmetric engagement

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Complementary metaphors of governance
Comparison of metaphors
Bullfighting styles
References (in main paper)

Annex 1 of Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting: challenge of transcendence (2009)


Bullfighting (or tauromachy) is considered by many to be a flagrant example of glorified indulgence in abhorent 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 millenia. 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. 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). Unfortunately such concern is barely evident within the world of global governance, although 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 in which others are expected to hold governance (Abuse of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009). The arguments which follow may be understood as partially addressing this challenge.

Complementary metaphors of governance

Global governance, for those who practice and appreciate it, may indeed be seen as the art of dealing courageously with the masses of the world and the potential danger they represent through social unrest -- as with the bull's incarnation of animalistic propensities and dangerous strengths.

A valuable complementary perspective is however to see global governance -- through its massive strength, cunning and limited effective brain power -- as incarnated by the bull, manifesting bullish tendencies, and expressing itself through "bull" (fore and aft). The extreme art for any change agent 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. One such use of metaphor is by Stephen Holmes (The Matador's Cape: America's reckless response to terror, 2007).

Comparison of metaphors

Metaphorical comparison of governance as matador and governance as bull
. Governance as matador
Masses as bull
Governance as bull
Change agent as matador
Bull . .
Strength Power of the masses, especially when aroused to collective anger Over-powering strength of agencies of governance and their propaganda
Animalistic tendencies and irrational impulses Fickleness of public opinion; animal-like behaviour of crowds (lynch-mobs, etc) Fickleness of government, its arbitary initiatives and barbaric savagery
Limited intelligence, compensated by animal cunning Limited comprehension and oversimplification, compensated by "common sense" Limited government comprehension of issues, compensated by political cunning
Insensitivity and clumsiness -- "bull in a china shop" Arbitary, ill-considered enthusiasms Clumsy legislative measures and general insensitivity
Savage and damaging charges Destruction of the commons and non-renewable resources to sustain livelihoods Destruction of non-renewable resources by authority to ensure its own self-preservation -- "bulldozer democracy" (as practiced by the European Commission) or "bulldozing" settlements and houses
Courageous persistence and endurance -- to the death Courageous endurance of the masses, despite every deprivation and indignity Efforts of governing authority at endurance past any "sell-by date" -- at any cost
Distractability and gullibility -- leading the bull "by a ring through its nose" Gullibility of the masses as manipulated by the media and "spin" Gullibility of governance (cf Emperor's New Clothes)
Setting / Context . .

Bullring (plaza de toros):
-- inherited from the pre-Colisseum era
-- context for game-playing and sacrifice
-- integrative coherence (in contrast to the "square" and spreadsheet)

-- overriding enthusiasm for games, drama, "circuses" (of panem et circenses)
-- unique sense of collectivity and significance offered by arena
-- game-playing predilections of governing factions
-- excitement offered by risk
-- sense of coherence offered by the game setting
-- summit conferences and parliaments as bullrings (or trading "pits")
Spectators (aficionados) the masses observing the game (and its cruelty) but not engaged in it, other than by identification with either bull or matador -- and judging their interaction the masses observing the game (and its cruelty) but not engaged in it, other than by identification with either bull or matador ****
Sponsoring authority those in power, behind the scenes, who only take risks through their surrogates "in the ring" -- but to whom the latter are beholden those with moral authority, behind the scenes, who only take risks through their surrogates "in the ring" -- but to whom the latter are beholden
Bull breeding and training, in preparation for the ring "preparation" of mass factions through appropriate propaganda ("spin"), radicalization and stimuli (false flag operations) "preparation" of government factions through appropriate propaganda, radicalization and stimuli
Schools of matadors (Escuelas de Toromaquia) schools of government, business and leadership (School of the Americas, United Nations System Staff College, College of Europe, NATO Defense College, etc) alternative colleges and courses for potential change agents (Transcend Peace University; Schumacher College, International Solidarity MovementNonviolent Peaceforce, etc) and critical thinkers
Bullfighters (Toreros) . .
Picadors: a pair of horsemen using a lance to "test" the bull's strength (and to tire it), providing clues to the matador as to which side the bull is favoring. Causes major loss of blood and ensures that the bull lowers its head (in preparation for the kill). The vigour of the bull's response to this provocation is appreciated as a measure of its courage. . .
Banderilleros: running as close to the bull as possible, they are charged with placing beflagged pointed sticks in the top of the bull's shoulder (to correct "faults" in the manner in which the bull charges). They are judged by the crowd on their form and bravery. . .
Matador: charged with appropriately killing the bull in the final phase of the bullfight. In the early phase of the fight, the matador uses a cape (capote de brega); in the final phase he uses a stick (a muleta) from which a red cloth hangs, obscuring a sword. In both cases the bull is attracted (and distracted) by a series of passes to demonstrate his control of it. supreme authority faced with controlling turbulent masses, notably presidents, dictators, governing councils, juntas (but including secretive bodies: Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission, etc); responsibility for policies implying or ensuring their termination ("iron fist in velvet glove") individual or collective change agents faced with challenging unpredictable, all-powerful governance (as recognized by the Right Livelihood Awards, etc); responsibility for ensuring the termination of irresponsible policies of governance and their agencies
Red flag -- cape dynamic . .
cloak of invisibility/ agitation . .
Values exemplified (irrespective of whether or not the bull is actually killed) .. .

Artistry, elegance and grace of style

. .
Athletic coordination and agility . .
Courage, daring, and risk-taking in the face of mortal hazard (central to the nature and appeal of bullfighting) . .
Skill / Discipline . .
whistleblowers . .
Honour / Shame . .
Technique and skills . .

Toreo antiguo: the bull and the bullfighter are undersrtood as occupying different planes -- "terrenos" -- seemingly on different tracks. The art was to ensure that the trajectory of the animal would run parallel to the matador, but when this was impossible he would try to ensure that the intersection of the two planes be as brief as possible (like a good boxer who hits stronger opponent and gets out of his reach with an in-and-out fast motion). [more]

. .

Innovation of Juan Belmonte: The torero and bull are brought into the same plane, almost eliminating the track where the matador used to run, since the torero's goal is then to remain static. The bull is forced to gravitate close to his master in a tangential relationship to a point. [more]

. .
Innovation of Manuel Rodríguez ("Manolete"): The encounter of man and animal takes place an instant before the bull is in front of the torero, thus delaying the act of bringing the animal toward his body (parar). The passes flow more easily, forcing the bull to follow the muleta, in an almost circular trajectory, where the end of one pass becomes the beginning of the next (ligar). [more] . .
Passes . .
Media Veronica
. Le Chatelier
Martial arts
5 Ring
Styles of bullfighting
Spanish style . .
Recortes . .
Portuguese . .
French . .
Freestyle . .
Comic . .
Togyu (Japan) . .

Bullfighting styles

Notes adapted from Mario Carrión (Belmonte and Manolete: the Herculean Pillars of modern bullfighting):

  1. Toreo antiguo: At that time the art of bullfighting was governed by the picturesque axiom of lagartijo which said, 'you stand there, and either you move yourself or the bull moves you'. At that time a complicated system of 'territories' was held to govern the relationship between the bull and 'territories' of the torero.

  2. Innovation of Juan Belmonte: His theory is 'you stand there, and the bull does not move you... if you know how to fight'. The territorial assumption is considered superfluous. Not being a reasoning creature, the bull is held not to have any territory, especially since there is no surveyor to lay down the boundaries. All the ground belongs to the torero, the only intelligent being in the game, who should therefore keep it. He forced the bull to go around him, whereas others had until then jumped all over the place like circus performers. Belmonte reduced the distance between man and beast to a minimum, to the point that they seem to be integrated into a man-bull entity.
    In Belmonte's technique, the man faces the bull with the muleta like a fence in front of him protecting his body. Then, before the charge of the bull, the torero slowly pushes the cloth toward the horns, engaging the bull to bring the animal toward his body (parar); at the same time the leg farthest removed from the bull is moved in the direction in which the bull moves (cargar la suerte); then standing still, the matador will lead the bull away, making the length of the path of the bull as long as possible (mandar). All this should be done as slowly as possible with the nostrils of the bull only inches away from the muleta (templar). The result is a very long pass with a long trajectory, that bulls with short choppy charges, cannot follow. With those bulls the bullfighter had to revert to the lidia technique of old times administering effective, dominating passes which lack the plasticity that the public had come to admire.

  3. Innovation of Manuel Rodríguez ("Manolete"): Instead of placing the muleta in front of his body and pushing it toward the beast, "Manolete" would keep it closer to his hip on the side where the bull would exit, with his body in profile to the bull. Since the body of the man was already placed sideways in the direction of the exit of the bull, there was no need to cargar la suerte to send the bull away. This was accomplished by lightly twisting his body at the waist and stretching his arm while maintaining a statuesque position with his feet and legs a few inches apart from each other, comfortably resting in the ground. This position allows for fast defensive movements when the need arises, and makes the placement of the body easier for the next pass. This tricks the eye of the spectator into creating the illusion that each individual pass is longer.

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