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29 February 2004 | Draft-5

Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon

a heartfelt response to systemic negligence

- / -

Systemic role of interlinked pathways
Armageddon, Acharit Hayami, Yawmid Din, Ragnarok and Götterdammerung
"Forces of good" vs "Forces of evil"
Neglect of systemic imbalance
Winds of Change: Time of the "South Wind"
Heartfelt action
Systemic response to systemic imbalance from negligence
Shift from conventional constraints under the "South Wind" of change
Precursors of the "South Wind"
Leadership in chaos
"Thrival" of the "Left-behind"


It might be usefully said that the world has benefited from over 50 years of development according to enlightened values promoted by the United Nations and other organizations. This has been enhanced by rapidly evolving insights into complex systems -- both from a theoretical perspective and in terms of their implications for the governance and management of complex systems of institutions. Despite such development, and in the light of such insights, it might however be said that the situation for the planet, its ecosystems and its peoples continue to deteriorate -- ever more rapidly.

According to Mark Townsend and Paul Harris (Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us, Observer, 22 February 2004) in "A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer...Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. 'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.' ". These events, including rising seas and glacial European weather, are predicted within the next 20 years.

The report was commissioned by Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall and has subsequently been downplayed by the Pentagon [more, more, more]. The Global Business Network (GBN) has subsequently stated that "Contrary to some recent media coverage, the report was not secret, suppressed, or predictive". It was apparently prepared by GBN for the Department of Defense under the title An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, and has since become publicly available. It is a characteristic of contemporary governance and its news management that it is unclear whether this report is in any sense well-researched, and whether it was deliberately leaked as a strategy in order to justify ever more repressive legislative measures, military expenditure and invasive surveillance to "safeguard civilization" (as explored elsewhere Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: Strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). Who could credibly prove the contrary?

Much will continue to be written and envisaged in terms of a hopeful response to this situation. But it can be readily argued that the western social project, as articulated nationally and through the United Nations, is essentially bankrupt (delivery of food, health care, education and essential services; civil rights and justice; long-term commitments as with pensions; ability to constrain human activity to safeguard the environment, etc). The track record however is such that it becomes clear that any significant improvements will only be tokenistic or for the few. However well they are promoted as exemplary and as indicative of appropriate practice, it might be usefully said that although there are insights into what remedial action might be taken, such action will tend to be undertaken under exceptional circumstances only -- and possibly only to mislead the hopeful and to disguise more effectively the absence and the failure of long-term, system-wide remedial response..

Much will continue to be written about who is to blame for the inadequacies of this response by a remarkable worldwide civilization and about how that civilization "lost the plot" and failed to get its act together. The following is an exploration of the systemic consequences -- namely how the social system (notably) is already adapting creatively on its own terms to what might be labelled as systemic negligence and a broken social contract.

The following argument recognizes the importance of exploring systemic failure and its consequences. This follows from an earlier paper that highlighted the action of those who exploit this condition (The "Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring, 2002). It is not based on the increasing social orthodoxy of positive thinking that Karen Armstrong (Look on the dark side of life, Guardian, 21 February 2004), as author of Buddha (2001), sees as a route to spiritual and political disaster. Recognizing the Buddha's isolation from the realities of life in his childhood palace, as an extreme example of denial by his father, she argues that:

It is increasingly unacceptable to voice legitimate distress. If you lose your job, become chronically ill, or fall prey to loneliness or depression, you are likely to be told -- often abrasively -- to look on the bright side. With unseemly haste, people rush to put an optimistic gloss on a disaster or to suggest a solution that is patently unworkable. We seem to be cultivating an intolerance of pain -- even our own....In our global world we can no longer afford to edit out the uncomfortable spectacle of human misery....The pain that we ignored in some parts has hardened to murderous rage..

The argument here is that within psycho-social systems as a whole -- which are the preoccupation of future global governance -- certain functions are inadequately expressed to a degree that is forcing their spontaneous and dangerous emergence under certain circumstances. The three interwoven metaphors through which the consequences of this imbalance are explored are:

These apparently unrelated metaphors develop a common theme given focus by the "secret" Pentagon report on climate change and the extreme worldwide crises it foresees in the near future. As a crisis of crises, it could well trigger "Armageddon" as many hope. But such "climate change" may also be explored metaphorically in terms of the "winds of change" arising from any change in the "climate of opinion". The environmental stress associated with crises, and the destruction of connecting patterns, can be understood both in terms of the "heart" and "lifeblood" of civilization and of the impact on the individual human "heart". The heart plays a central role in both internalizing such stress and in sustaining (through "heartlessness") the psycho-social fragmentation basic to a less than "wholehearted" response to the crises of the world. "Armageddon", as the "heart failure" of civilization, may therefore be spontaneously evoked by the condition of the human "heart" and its vulnerability to "heart attack" under stress.

Systemic role of interlinked pathways

Systems theory has provided many insights of practical significance into the operation of complex systems, whether in the natural or social environments. There is now a well developed understanding of the necessarily complex interdependencies of the elements of such systems -- especially well illustrated in the case of biological, production and electronic information systems.

Practical applications have however been bought at a very high price -- namely a narrow focus on the isolation of (closed) sub-systems that can be readily documented and understood in this way, to the exclusion of any understanding of more comprehensive systems with a broader range of complementary functions vital to sustainability. Typically (and wherever possible) social and environmental factors are excluded from the design of technical systems, and psychological factors are excluded from any understanding of psycho-social systems. In practice applications are designed and "cut" to fit relatively simplistic models reflecting understanding of isolated systems -- usually of the most tangible nature. The resulting challenge is most evident in the often disastrously delayed appreciation of the necessity for additional feedback control loops, notably those relating to environmental processes.

Whilst systems theory has provided remarkably detailed insights into the articulation of some systems, even at their most comprehensive (as with the set of metabolic pathways), the quality of insight available into the most comprehensive systems tends to be either low or constrained by intellectual models lacking grounded relationship to the richness of the real world. This has proven especially problematic in relationship to issues of governance.

Valuable pointers to understandings of such richness are notably to be found in traditional symbol systems with a top-down perspective. These include Celtic knots, the enneagram, the I Ching, rosaries, and other mnemonic holding patterns that have to be decoded in special ways to be rendered meaningful. Some of these were designed to be used in relation to governance. Sacred geometry (as described, for example, by Keith Critchlow. Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach, 1999), even basket work and carpet designs, may also be considered in this light.

The core argument in what follows -- expressed through symbols, such as the mandalas explored by depth psychologists (Jung, Hillman, etc) -- is that the range of functions commonly recognized in systems of governance is essentially only a subset of those represented in a mandala highlighting the necessary balance between the requisie variety of functions. Depth psychologists explore this phenomenon in terms of repressed functions in individuals -- without extending their understanding to groups and other systems (except in terms of the "collective unconscious"). In their terms, the imbalance in integrated psychic function may be expressed through "conflicted" mandalas. Implicit in these is an unexpressed "shadow" or "dark" side whose forced expression is characteristic of problematic psychological behaviour.

Armageddon, Acharit Hayami, Yawmid Din, Ragnarok and Götterdammerung

Much is currently made of Armageddon and the associated Apocalypse [more]-- the final battle between the forces of good and evil -- especially by the Christian fundamentalists that have proven to be so influential in supporting the presidency of George Bush and the policies he advocates [more]. It reportedly underlies American unconditional support for Israel [more]. Bush's degree of concern with Armageddon has been explored by Michael Ortiz Hll (Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Bush's Armageddon Obsession, Revisited, CounterPunch January 4, 2003 ). Tony Blair has also declared, in his most detailed justification of the attack on Iraq (see Guardian, 5 March 2004), that: "From September 11th on, I could see the threat plainly. Here were terrorists prepared to bring about Armageddon." [more]

Armageddon is part of the biblical End Times scenario (Revelations 19), also highly significant to such fundamentalists. Hill quotes S.R. Shearer of Antipas Ministries (responsible for the EndTimes Network) as calling this delusion, "Messianic leadership"-- that is to say usurping the role usually ascribed to the Messiah:

Most of the leaders of the Promise Keepers embrace a doctrine of 'end time' (eschatology), known as 'dominionism.' Dominionism pictures the seizure of earthly (temporal) power by the 'people of God' as the only means through which the world can be rescued.... It is the eschatology that Bush has imbibed; an eschatology through which he has gradually (and easily) come to see himself as an agent of God who has been called by him to 'restore the earth to God's control', a 'chosen vessel', so to speak, to bring in the Restoration of All Things.

Many religions foresee an end of the world in some form or another. It is known to Islam in the Arabic language as Yawmid Din (or day of reckoning), and is described in great detail in the Qur'an. In Judaism it is known as the Acharit Hayami (end of days), when tumultuous events will take place in the world, overturning the old world order and creating a new order where God is recognized by every single individual. Creation myths may also include a corresponding period described as the "war of the gods" as in the Sanskrit account of the War of the Gods and Asuras, which features in the Mahabarata [more]. In Greek mythology this takes the form of the war amongst the gods of Olympus and against the Titans [more]. The complementarity between the creation and end times myths is reminiscent of that between the hypotheses of cosmologists about the "Big Bang" and the "Big Crunch" [more].

In Norse mythology there is a corresponding condition labelled metaphorically as Ragnarok ("doom of the gods", "doom of the powers" or "destruction of the powers") and also called Götterdammerung, signifying the end of the cosmos. Conflicts and feuds will break out, even between families, and all morality will disappear. This is the beginning of the end. The earth will shudder with earthquakes, and every bond and fetter will burst, freeing the terrible wolf Fenrir. The sea will rise up. Like Armageddon, Ragnarok is the ultimate battle between good and evil from which a new order will come. It will however be waged between the "gods" (the Aesir, led by Odin) and the "evils" (the fire giants, the Jotuns and various monsters, led by Loki). Not only will the gods, giants, and monsters perish in this apocalyptic conflagration, but almost everything in the universe will be torn asunder. After all of the devastation, however, the land will return, and the world will be repopulated, and a new set of gods will be worshipped. Some may however view this as a process of regeneration rather than total destruction.

Modern fantasy occasionally describes the condition of relative peace that currently prevails as having been achieved by "sealing off" access to an earlier chaotic condition -- in which "evil" magical powers are active -- by what amounts to "magical gates". The images of sacred patterns (Celtic knots, for example) might then be understood as the design of the seal on such a gate. But of greater significance, these designs may also be understood as system diagrams -- with the interweaving loops of the patterns to be understood as encoding understanding of the "bonds" that are the necessary dynamic interdependencies required to ensure that the gate remains "locked". Such diagrams might also be seen as maps of the interrelationships between the warring factions. A curious feature of Ragnarok, for example, is that the gods already understand the symmetries of who will be killed and by whom, who will survive, and what will happen to those in the other world [more].

"Forces of good" vs "Forces of evil"

Taken together, these perspectives highlight a degree of ambiguity:

Neglect of systemic imbalance

The above prophetic and mythological perspectives provide another way of looking at the systemic imbalance of the current global society. Those focused on Armageddon already see current disasters as its precursors. The imbalance might then be understood as effectively destroying some of the feedback loops that are essential to the construction of the "seal on the magical gate" -- the seal that ensures that it remains locked.

The "war of the gods" may then be understood as already emergent within contemporary civilization. The seal may be otherwise understood as the necessary underlying interdependence of the various societal projects in which humanity has invested to sustain these loops. The features of the seal include the seemingly independent projects such as: civil rights and justice, delivery of health and other essential services, etc -- the bankruptcy of which is effectively the dissolution of the elements of the seal.

The primary feature of the "war of the gods" is effectively the disorder of the feedback loops. They shift from functioning "in sync", or in rhythm with each other, to a dangerous condition of clashing with each other. It is not however necessary to give any metaphysical connotation to the "gods":

There is increasingly no credible constraint on the destructive conflict amongst the (sub)systems which humanity chooses to deify. The gate to Ragnarok is swinging open unchecked. This is a systemic consequence of systemic negligence.

"Winds of Change": Time of the "South Wind"

The notion of the "winds of change" (dating from a speech in South Africa by Harold Macmillan in 1960) has long been widely accepted in the promotion of the development process. Indeed the probable climate change foreseen by the Pentagon report (above) may indeed be matched by a dramatic change in the "climate" of global governance and public opinion -- in ways already indicated by the shift in attitudes in response to the issue of Iraq. Much has also been made metaphorically of the geopolitical significance of certain compass directions. These two metaphors may be usefully combined as a way of pointing simplistically to the different kinds of change commonly recognized in society:

It would be worth examining these types of change in terms of various categorizations of cultural and pre-logical predispositions (see Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993), notably in the work of Magoroh Maruyama on 4 (or 5) mindscapes (Mindscapes, social patterns and future development of scientific theory types. Cybernetica, 1980, 23, 1, pp. 5-25). The crude system based on four compass directions might be usefully expanded -- just as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) expands Jung's original four psychological styles into 16. Much might then be made of the recent dominance of the "North-West wind" as an operating approach to change now challenged again by the "East wind".

The "winds" may be explored in terms of understandings in various cultures:

The suggestion here, within a context of Ragnarok, is that all such "winds" will then blow freely, chaotically and uncontrollably. As the most repressed wind, that of the South will then express itself -- perhaps with most force and effect. The desirable condition in which the winds blow such as to complement and feed into one another -- as suggested by any global map of wind directions -- might be seen as visually isomorphic with the necessary systemic loops (as symbolized by Celtic knots) preventing the emergence of Ragnarok. It is this systemic integration that is in process of collapsing into violently chaotic wind forces appropriate to the emergence of new systemic balance.

The particular association of the South with the least developed and most impoverished has been more clearly recognized in terms of the underprivileged within western societies. They are of course a tiny proportion of the under-resourced in other countries, known as the South. The transformative" wind from the South features significantly in a much-translated novel by Paul Coelho (The Alchemist, 1988). There has long been a recognition of the future internal security risk to western societies from their underprivileged. Many such societies are familiar with social unrest the phenomenon of "revolution" in which people "rise up" -- like the sea. The disruptive nature of the "South Wind" as evoked by the systemic negligence of the cnsequences of change associated with the other winds will not however be constrained by conventional security procedures -- despite the ever-increasing investment of resources, foreseen as necessary by the Pentagon, to this end.. In fact it is precisely such security features that may be simplistically understood as forming part of the breaking "seal" against Ragnarok. They will however be totally inadequate against the fury of the "South Wind".

A foretaste of the global challenge has been articulated as "terrorism" -- and the viability of any response has become evident in the "war against terrorism" and its inherent capacity to contribute perversely to acceleration of the breakdown of the integrity of global society. The apparent unreasonableness of the suicide bomber may then be understood as but one expression of the emergent fury of the previously repressed "South Wind" -- of which others may quickly become evident (eg extensive rioting, as in Liberia in 2003, Haiti in 2004). Indeed efforts by the US-led Coalition of the Willing to hold the "South Wind" in check through the "war against terrorism" may be seen as being as vain as King Canute's arrogant attempt to hold back the tide. The fact that the Coalition has been formed in part by perverse secretive agreements to ignore extreme repressive actions by some of its members (Russia with respect to Chechnya, China with respect to Tibet, etc) is indicative of the increasingly shaky response to the challenge of the "South Wind".

To date the "South Wind" has essentially been held in check by a pattern of promises (another way of viewing the "seal") repeatedly offering new hope to the underprivileged (if only for their grandchildren) for future alleviation of their condition -- accompanied in the short-term by the Roman strategy of "bread and circuses". The mendacious basis for the attack on Iraq has however highlighted the pattern of lies (labelled euphemistically as "spin") that is now fundamental to the approach to modern governance. The implicit social contract has been torn up -- not to be remedied by such Orwellian creations as the USA's new "Ministry of Human Rights" (2004). Trust has been lost, if not destroyed -- as articulated by philosopher Onora O'Neill, in her 2002 BBC Reith Lectures, for whom "we suffer not so much from a crisis of trust, as a culture of suspicion" [more].

Aside from "terrorism" (as extreme dissidence will always be labelled), what form will the unchecked fury of the "South Wind" take? The question might be better framed as what form of action might be expected from those that have nothing to lose given the emptiness of promises made to them? What is to be expected from those without food or water, without shelter, without health care, without employment, without education -- and whose pensions and other benefits, if any, have been mismanaged to the point at which they no longer meet survival needs? Just as the attack on Iraq was labelled as a "whirlwind", the unchecked "South Wind" may be as destructive as any hurricane, and as indiscriminate. It is not to be expected that it will appear purposeful -- as past examples of the action of hordes have shown. Indeed the action individuals may take, as an expression of the "South Wind", will reflect extremely short-term views on their aspirations to remedy their underprivileged condition (whether via pillage, murder, rape, or other classical examples of extreme social disorder), perhaps augmented by high tech use of computer technology and biochemical weaponry as envisaged in many science fiction novels.

Given its repression to date, the action of the "South Wind" could be understood as the "dark side" of the pursuit of alternatives to the systemic negligence of the other winds of change. It is an example of spontaneous global systems healing, of the global system healing itself -- seeking a healthy condition of balance. Its violence might be seen as a purgative of negative by-products that have built up through failure to process the products of the other winds of change;

Heartfelt action

In human physical terms:

A number of religions, including that of Ancient Egypt, Judaism and Islam, relate the metaphor of the "heart" to conscience -- expressing the inner centre of man - capable of moral judgements and self-evaluation as well as of personal communication with God, and in need of purification [more]. Many religions have attached special importance to symbolism associated with the heart, and even to "awakening the heart" as explored by Roger Walsh (Essential Spirituality : The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind, 2000):

It is curious that the symbolism of the heart tends to focus on the heart as a whole (as with the lack of differentiation of the "forces of good", discussed above) and takes no account of its "chambers", "valves" and dynamics -- that are so vital to its functioning and so significant in any form of failure. It is indeed the capacity of the heart to "pump", selectively opening and closing "valves", that is vital to ensuring circulation of blood -- the "lifeblood". The symbolic focus on the heart as a whole can therefore impede understanding of the need for its distinct and differentiated elements, and of the need for a particular dynamic between them to sustain its operation as a whole. This kind of thinking obscures analogous insights with regard to the circulation of information in society -- as its "lifeblood" (see Orrin Klapp, Opening and Closing: Strategies of Information Adaptation in Society, 1978; Valerie Malhotra.Critical Dimensions in Symbolic Interaction Theory: Mead, Duncan, Burke, Habermas and Klapp, 1979) [more]

Metaphor has been described as the "heart of poetic knowing". The heart has a special role in the history of self-image through the self-book metaphor as explored by Eric Jager (Reading the Book of the Heart from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-First Century, 2001; also The Book of the Heart, 2000). Texts are still learnt "by heart," and the word "record" (from the Latin cor) links the heart with both memory (its original meaning) and written documents. The "book of the heart" was a common and influential metaphor from antiquity until early modern times. Especially during the Middle Ages, the "book of the heart", modeled on the manuscript codex, attained its most vivid expressions in literature and art. Medieval saints' legends tell of martyrs whose hearts recorded divine inscriptions; lyrics and romances feature lovers whose hearts are inscribed with their passion; paintings depict hearts as books; and medieval scribes even produced manuscript codices shaped like hearts [more].

The metaphorical use of the heart is also important in modern secular society:

The heart metaphor contibues to be of importance in geopolitical discourse. For example, Andreas Musolff (The heart of the European matter), on the basis of a corpus of British and German press coverage of EU politics (see pilot version), analyses uses of the geo-political heart-metaphor in the context of the EU-related debates in Britain and Germany. In particular, it focuses on the argumentative and ideological functions of texts allocating heart of europe-status to places in East Germany and to Eastern European places and countries. Elsewhere, in discussing the "heart of Europe", Musolff concludes that of the altogether nine body parts in texts of the EUROMETA corpora, only the heart constitutes a significant (as well as the overall most frequent) single source concept for Euro-metaphors; the remaining body parts concepts appear in one-off formulations. He also disucces understanig of "heart failure" in this context. [more].

In these terms the heart clearly provides some useful leads in exploring the consequences of systemic imbalance and negligence. Briefly, the "South Wind" is evoked by a persistent pattern of "heartlessness" in response to vital parts of the system (whether underprivileged people or endangered species), despite token expressions of "wholehearted" support. Any necessary "change of heart" is either too little or too late in safeguarding the circulation of the "lifeblood" of civilization (as suggested by Gregory Bateson's insight into the dangers to all quality of "breaking the pattern that connects") [more | more | more]. Any resulting disaster may then indeed "break one's heart". The spontaneous systemic response for the "heart of civilization", as for the individual heart, may then indeed be "heart failure" or a "heart attack" (as was arguably demonstrated by the Aztec civilization with arrival of the Conquistadors). Armageddon might then be understood as a form civilizational "heart failure" -- a fatal :war between the complementary parts of the "heart of civilization" in the light of what they have come to embody. The current debate about the "clash of civilizations" (also offered as a strategy game) could usefully be seen in this light.

The warring components may then offer insights into the dynamics of the pattern of fragmentation that has been inappropriately embodied by the "heart", namely "taken to heart" -- or else ignored:

Curiously, in the case of the term "heart attack", it is ambiguous as to whether it is the heart which is attacked, or whether the rest of the system is attacked by the heart.

Systemic response to systemic imbalance from negligence

The negligence noted above might be presented summarily in the following terms (see also introduction to the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential) :

A common thread in many of the above is the narrow, asystemic selection of the systems to which attention is accorded -- precluding any consideration to wider systems of which they are part.

Shift from conventional constraints under the "South Wind" of change

Perhaps of most significance, the "South Wind" will not be constrained by approaches to change that have been favoured by the other winds: The above all point to the emergence of a far more disorderly ("organic") approach to change. This may well be perceived as a regrettable failure to integrate valuable insights and approaches to change developed in association with the other "winds". The latter can however be said to have had their opportunity -- and vast resources in support of it -- and to have failed to develop that opportunity appropriately. It is their systemic negligence that is evoking the "incoherent" remedial response of the "South Wind".

Precursors of the "South Wind"

The action of the "South Wind" has already been effectively evoked to some degree in the blindspots left by the other approaches to change. To date however it has primarily been a mild force readily neglected. As noted in the introduction above, the Pentagon report foresees many features of the "South Wind" in the immediate years to come. Some examples illustrate how its precursors may increasingly exert a prime role:

In contrast with the fundamentalist end times scenario, a number of constituencies focus on various predictions of major transformation in association with the year 2012 -- a date consistent with the period covered by the Pentagon report. This focus has notably been articulated by Peter Russell (A White Hole in Time, 1992). From a different perspective it has been promoted by Jose Arguelles in fulfilment of a Mayan prophecy, and specifically in relation to the need for calendar reform [more, more, more]

Be charitable and deliver justice too: Africa lacks the drama of the tsunami, but its needs are greater
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, 7 January 2005
The only word which can capture this strange moment of horror and hope in human history is kairos, the Greek word for time, the closest translation of which is crisis. The Greek understanding of kairos, as opposed to the chronos of ordinary time, is time laden with meaning and choices. It offers a dramatic opportunity for action and for change. What the tsunami and its aftermath has done is crash through the entrenched self-absorption of western nations.

Leadership in chaos

Aside from the isolated "fortresses" reflecting older styles of organization, leadership under the "South Wind" is liable to be chaotic. There will of course be a regression to feudal warlordism (as currently sustained by the USA in Afghanistan). Curiously there have been many management studies anticipating the leadership challenges of chaos (for example: Mark Youngblood, Life at the Edge of Chaos: Creating the Quantum Organization, Strategy and Leadership Magazine, Sept. 1997; Tom Heuerman and Diane Olson,.Leading in Chaos, 1999; Kim Sbarcea, Living leadership: the dance between chaos and stasis: A guide for complexity leaders, 2003; Robert W. Terry and Harlan Cleveland, Seven Zones for Leadership: Acting Authentically in Stability and Chaos, 2001; Daryl Conner, Leading at the Edge of Chaos: How to Create the Nimble Organization, 1998; Emmet C. Murphy, Leadership on the Edge of Chaos: The 10 Critical Elements for Succeeding in Volatile Times; Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science, 1992).

The question is how relevant these are to the conditions foreseen by the Pentagon report. There appears to be an assumption that a degree of order will prevail through which chaos can be "managed" (perhaps from orbit). Given the failure of management in response to many current mildly chaotic situations, it is unclear how such insights are to be adapted to the much more severe conditions of the future.

The conditions envisaged under the "South Wind" are mildly illustrated by the leadership challenges of the World Social Forum (see Jai Sen, et al (Eds). World Social Forum: Challenging Empires, 2004) [more]. Any effort at conventional leadership will be questioned in the light of such perspectives as offered by Naomi Klein (What Happened to the New Left? The Hijacking of the WSF, January 2003):

How on earth did a gathering that was supposed to be a showcase for new grassroots movements become a celebration of men with a penchant for three-hour speeches about smashing the oligarchy?

It may then be useful to explore the subtler "leadership" functions offered by practitioners of "crazy wisdom" and "wise fools" (for example: Nasruddin, Rabbi Wolf, Ivan Andrejevich Krylov, Aesop, la Fontaine, Tibetan tales, Panchatantra, Jataka tales, [more]), notably in the light of Russell L Ackoff's The Art of Problem Solving: Accompanied by Ackoff's Fables,1987. What was the effective "leadership" role of the traditional troubadour in distributing memes appropriate to the challenge of chaotic societies? Even under a high degree of disorder the non-threatening role of a travelling bard or teller of (teaching) stories will be welcome. Carl Jung believed that myths were not merely fanciful, but universally true and applicable. Traditionally, the bard has, with disarming levity and brevity, provided unexpected access to a penetrating understanding of the riddle of existence, thus fulfilling an important social role. Insights into the behaviour of legendary tricksters may provide the kind and degree of "leadership" that is required.

Current preoccupation with leadership training gives little attention to training followers -- which many of the leaders will also have to be in larger institutions. With the rise of the "South Wind", conventional understanding of leadership and followership will be much tested. Indulging in wordplay, there is a case for exploring both the (dyslexic) transformation of "followership" into "flowership" and the (alchemical) transformation of "leadership" into "goldership" (see Promoting Sustainable Followership, 2001). As suggested by the former role of the troubadour, and the increasingly central role of music across cultures (and notably in the South, from which much musical inspiration derives), "leadership" under chaos may be more viably and fruitfully undertaken in terms of insights common to music and gardening (see, for example, Knowledge Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000)

Thrival of the Left-behind

"Thrival" of the "Left-behind". There is a degree of similarity between the Christian understanding of "rapture" [more, more] in the "end-times" scenarios (when the faithful are "taken up" by God to their rightful place in Heaven) and the Islamic understanding of the direct route to Heaven offered to those who sacrifice themselves in holy war (jihad) [more]. The concern here is however with those defined by Christians as the "left behind" (see Post Rapture Checklist), namely those who do not meet the criteria of being part of the "forces of good" according to Christian understanding -- and are consequently considered to be allied with the "forces of evil" over which the "forces of good" will triumph at Armageddon. This reflects the kind of understanding promoted by US foreign policy and defined by George W Bush after September 2001 as "either you are with us, or you are against us" [more]. Once the prophesied 144,000 seats in Heaven have been filled by those "taken up" during the "end-times", the concern here is with the many that may remain -- and not with their survival but with their "thrival".

Those with a survivalist mindset are well-prepared for the kind of chaos predicted in the Pentagon report and would see those conditions as a justification for their preparatory measures in safeguarding their own security and food supplies. Whilst many may survive, it is useful to reflect on the psychology of those who may thrive. The focus is not on those who may successfully "thrive" by exploiting the chaotic situation to improve their personal capacity to survive (as explored in the The "Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring, 2002). The concern here is rather with those who do not meet the particular Christian (or Islamic) criteria for the "good", but do indeed hold to broader understandings that transcend their personal survival. Such understandings would be of the kind that emerged from effective inter-faith dialogue (from which fundamentalist Christians and Muslims exclude themselves), if it could also successfully include humanist perspectives. Abandoned by God, according to Christian understanding, what is the basis for the "thrival" of the "left-behind"?

In determining who will be "left behind", and faced with this challenge, there is of course a problem in reconciling the fundamentalist Christian and Islamic perspectives (for example) on access to Heaven, since each tends to define the other as "evil" -- even "satanic". This raises the issue of the interpretation accorded to Jesus's statement "My father's house has many mansions", John 14:2), and, according to several cultures: "there are many ways to the top of the mountain, but the view from the top is the same". This has been symbolized by the wheel whose spokes metaphorically signify the different "ways" to the common hub.

The constraints of the mountain / wheel metaphor have been put forward by Jacob Needleman (Why philosophy is easy in: The Indestructible Question, 1994) as follows:

Our simile shall be geographical, we locate the center at some" point on the surface of the earth, say at the top of a particular mountain. Instead of spokes, we shall speak of paths or routes proceeding from a number of locations quite distant both from each other and from the mountain, and which therefore exhibit great differences with respect to climate, terrain, social and biological conditions, and so forth. One path proceeds from from the tropics, another from the polar regions, another from the desert, another from a large city. We shall therefore assume that, compared to the conditions on the mountain, the state of wisdom, these other places are bad places: the desert is dry and barren; the jungle dangerous; the arctic cold and isolated; the cities crowded and artificial, and so forth. It is therefore the ultimate task of religion to enable the inhabitants of these regions to find their way to the mountain. To this end, certain sets of directions, handbooks, maps, practical advice, and -- most important -- guides are made available to the various inhabitants.

Thus, the farther away from the mountain, the greater will be the difference in the travel advice. Those starting from the desert, for example, might be told "Thou shalt carry great quantities of water," something that might be unnecessary and even a hindrance to those proceeding from the jungle. And prescription to wear warm clothing would be disastrous to both these groups, whereas it would be vital to those starting in the polar regions.

A crucial element in this interpretation of religion is already apparent -- namely that the primal significance of religious forms (ad imperatives) is their instrumentality, that their root function is to serve as a means toward psychological transformation....So that, for someone who does not wish to leave the region, these instructions could be taken as ways to improve his life in the region. Obviously, much of what would help us travel out of the desert could also serve to make life in the desert easier or more efficient, thus reinforcing our satisfaction with where we are....What is being suggested here as a possibility is that dogmatic theology, as we generally understand it, is an instance of transforming the instrumental into the finalistic

How God makes his final triage selection in the "end-times" therefore remains a mystery -- as with other "Acts of God" (see Is God a Terrorist?: Definitional game-playing by the Coalition of the Willing, 2004). Will it be those from the "jungle", those from the "polar regions", or those from the "desert"? Are some "Chosen People" to be considered "pre-chosen" in this selection, as explored by Johan Galtung? The challenge for God is well illustrated by that of identifying the "Best of Breed", "Best of Group" and "Best of Show" in dog shows. Different breeds are clustered into seven "groups" (Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Hound, Herding). Judges endeavour to identify dogs that best epitomize the published standards for each breed, in the first instance -- then for each group. The final challenge is to select the dog that is "Best of Show" from amongst the seven totally disparate group winners. Will God be obliged to select those who best epitomize the standards articulated by their respective religions ("breeds"), groups of religions, or to select from across all disparate groups of religons..

Given that the wise of other religions will (necessarily, notably from a Christian perspective) be amongst the "left-behind", it is perhaps amongst them that clues to the psychology of post-collapse "thrival" should be sought. Typically, whether from a Buddhist (and notably Zen) perspective, or that articulated in the Upanishads, the prime characteristic is a shift in understanding of self (as the knower) and of the mundane world (as the known) -- and of the nature of their relationship. Clues also emerge from the rapprochement between phenomenology and neuroscience [more] envisaged by Francisco Varela and his enactivist colleagues (The Embodied Mind: cognitive science and human expression, 1991, and encapsulated in his study of Laying Down a Path in Walking: essays on enactive cognition, 1997) as explored elsewhere (En-minding the Extended Body: Enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003; Making (the) Present and Thriving in the Moment, 2001).

Philosopher Isabelle Stengers has urged those interested in the creation of "artificial life" to ensure that any definition of life necessarily implies an interpretive interaction between knower and known, an interaction which must always call into question boundaries between what is intrinsic and what is extrinsic to (the result of concerned interpretation of) organisms. Stengers asserts that this questioning, this flow of interpretation that blurred boundaries between inside and outside, should involve the "heart." She borrowed the figure of the "heart" from artificial life scientist Stuart Kauffman, who used it in defining his own interests in being a theoretical biologist. Stengers takes the metaphor of the heart to be one that demands that we think of how our concepts of "life" are emotional, based on interactions: "It seems to me that 'heart' in its many meanings is related to some kind of an 'inside,' but not to a self-sufficient closed inside. It is related to the way this inside is actually, and not potentially, interacting with the outside" [more]

Citing Varela and his colleagues, Jorge N Ferrer (Participatory spirituality: an introduction, In: Network Review, 83, 2003; author of Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: a participatory vision of human spirituality, 2002), and using a different geographical metaphor from Needleman, has also criticized the "perspectivist" approach to religion that he sees as characteristic of the non-participatry understanding of "perennial philosophy" as advanced by "perennialists" -- and more subtly by Needleman:

It is very reassurring to thnk that all the different relgions and spiritual traditions in the world are aimed at sharing the same basic truths -- and that we are all heading in the same direction....I would like to suggest that human spirituality emerges from our co-creative particpation in an always dynamic and indeterminate spiritual power. This participatory understanding not only makes hierarchical rankings of spiritual traditions appear misconceived, but also re-estabishes our direct connection with the source of our being and expands the range of valid spiritual choices that we as individuals can make

For depth psychologists and others, much of the discussion of systemic imbalance maybe understood in terms of repressed functions. For philosopher Antonio de Nicolas (Habits of Mind, 2000), the condition evoking the "South Wind" is the currently excessive dominance of the "interpreter module" -- as that part of the left neo-cortex attached to the left neocortex with access only to the left neo-cortex, theories, and names -- has taken over contemporary culture. Furthermore this culture is pronouncing on the cultures of the predominant right neocortex by marginalizing, denigrating or suppressing them in various ways.

Basic to the post-collapse era, the "thrival" psychology would then involve a special kind of "streetwise" detachment from the mundane world -- a shift in the psychological centre of gravity -- perhaps most simply expressed by poet Henry David Thoreau: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away" -- a theme developed by M Scott Peck (The Different Drummer: Community-making and Peace, 1987). This would also extend to the understanding of time and the rhythm of life as explored elsewhere (The Isdom of the Wisdom Society: Embodying time as the heartland of humanity, 2004). According to Hindu culture this corresponds to the ideal attitude of the sanyasin. In Western culture it bears a relationship to the ideal attitude of a troubadour, or perhaps to the condition of being "lost in the wilderness" on a "vision quest". It is also reflected in new understandings of authenticity. It has been argued elsewhere (see Authentic Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003) that the pressure of the "end times" will give rise to homo conjugans to supersede homo sapiens. It is the characteristics of homo conjugans that are most appropriate to individual "thrival" amongst the "left-behind". (see also Marcus Anthony. Integrated Intelligence, 2003)

But what of collective "thrival"? Most evident would be an attitude to alternative perspectives beyond that of "tolerance". It is suggested by the best of California-style New Age psychology and is best articulated by the proactive methodology of appreciative inquiry -- of approaches to "group magic" (for example, the doctoral dissertation by Renee A. Levi, Group Magic: An Inquiry into Experiences of Collective Resonance, 2003). The prime characteristic would be the avoidance of the kind of marginalization and "put down" to which alternative perspectives are currently subject by fundamentalists of all persuasions. Collective "thrival" may also be explored in the light of the post-Armageddon challenge of sustainability (see Psychology of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).


The apparently unrelated metaphors (above) interweave to develop a common theme that is given focus by the "secret" Pentagon report on climate change and the extreme worldwide crises it foresees in the near future. Such a crisis of crises was first envisaged by John Platt:

What finally makes all of our crises still more dangerous is that they are now coming on top of each other. Most administrations...are not prepared to deal with...multiple crises, a crisis of crises all at one time...Every problem may escalate because those involved no longer have time to think straight. (John Platt. What we must do. Science, 28 November 1969, p.1115-1121).

Such a crisis could well trigger "Armageddon" -- as many hope in the "hurry up God" lobby [more]. They might be understood to be employing what could become known as the "Aristide maneuver" (practiced in Haiti in 2004) in which sufficient chaos is encouraged to catalyze the intervention of God. But the Pentagon's "climate change" may also be explored metaphorically in terms of the "winds of change" affecting public opinion. The environmental stress associated with such crisis, and the destruction of connecting patterns, can be understood both in terms of the "heart" and "lifeblood" of civilization and of the impact on the individual human "heart". This plays a central role in both internalizing such stress and in sustaining the psycho-social fragmentation basic to a less than "wholehearted" response to the crises of the world. "Armageddon", as the "heart failure" of civilization, is therefore spontaneously evoked by the condition of the human "heart" and its vulnerability to "heart attack" under stress.

What are the prospects for "wholehearted" coherent action as explored elsewhere (Coherent Policy-making Beyond the Information Barrier,1999)? Fundamentalists of every persuasion will have ready answers to the question. The more systemically sensitive prospects may offer some potential in isolated "Renaissance Zones" as discussed elsewhere (Renaissance Zones: experimenting with the intentional significance of the Damanhur community, 2003) notably given the possibility of some form of "rebirth" after Armageddon (Challenges of Renaissance suggestive pattern of concerns in the light of the birth metaphor, 2003). Much may depend on the collective ability to move beyond linear agendas like the UNs Agenda 21 (1992). Again centro-symmetric agendas inspired by certain religious patterns (rose windows, mandalas, lotus flower, etc) may be viable in providing coherence in isolated communities, but it is too late for their global consideration (see Future Generation through Global Conversation, 1997)). The same applies in the case of the potentially more relevant patterns of organization based on insights from quantum and chaos theories, and from the study of complexity.

But it appears it will quickly prove too late for any global coherent response in practice, as illustrated by the limited follow up to Platt's early warning. Typically any analyses (such as those by the Club of Rome), and proposals for collective action, will prove non-viable in the light of the tendencies noted above. Furthermore, as the "South Wind" rises, any analysis taking the form of this paper will be justly rejected as meaningless (see, for example, Terry Eagleton. Why ideas no longer matter: Modern politicians deal only in facts, not philosophical reasoning. The Guardian, 23 March 2004).


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