-- / --
Confidence is essentially intangible and it is therefore somewhat extraordinary that it should be so fundamental to what might otherwise be considered the most tangible aspects of the material world -- as evident in the world of business and finance, necessarily so economic with the truth. "Confidence" is supposedly not even a matter of consideration in any evaluation of the financial condition of a commercial enterprise or a national economy. This supposition is in fact quite incorrect as the financial crisis of 2008-9 has demonstrated through concern with assumption of risk and "credit ratings".
Of great interest however is the essential role in psychosocial organization of other words using the prefix "con". Just as "con-fidence" reflects a vital mutuality of "fidelity",many other words prefixed in that way offer related or complementary insights: convention, congress, consensus, conviction, consumption, concern, conversation, conscience, consciousness, etc. Such words, as a set, would seem to imply a system of processes of poorly acknowledged importance.
Just as "confidence" has been disguised and seemingly marginalized within the economic system, it also underlies a range of other preoccupations with which "confidence" is not necessarily associated. One purpose here is to draw attention to a variety of what might be termed surrogates of confidence in order to point to confidence as a common intangible, if not the most fundamental. The nature of this intangible -- as an existential, subjective experience -- is arguably a special challenge to individual and collective engagement with any common global reality. This challenge defies simplistic assumptions and calls for careful consideration as the dynamic cognitive "glue" that ensures the connectivity and coherence presumably essential to global governance and to viable strategies for the future. Emphasis on "hope" in political discourse is necessarily a characteristic of this "glue".
The suggestion here is that, unknowingly, global society is partially trapped within an impoverished "con" metaphor -- whose neglected dynamics effectively constitute a fundamental form of currency. Hence the title of this exercise and its reference to the unusual term "confidelity"-- already in use in reflection on the confidelity, integrity and availability of service-oriented architectures. The question here is the nature of the global confidelity that might be fundamental to such a global currency.
This reflection is produced in anticipation of the 2011 G-20 Cannes Summit -- the sixth meeting of the G-20 heads of government in a series of on-going discussions about financial markets and the world economy. At the previous 2010 G-20 Seoul Summit, the president of the World Bank had called for a revamping of the global currency system, immediately reinforced in commentary in the Financial Times. Following the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008-2009, the so-called Washington Consensus was held to have ended. At the Seoul Summit, the G20 then agreed on a new Seoul Development Consensus.
The contentions which follows might be understood as consistent with the emerging concern regarding the elaboration in the G-20 conference of a concept configuring factors relevant to constraining conversion of currencies within a suitable context -- in the light of the learnings arising from the recent confusion consequent on the limitations of the Washington consensus. Adapting the insight into "metaphors we live by" (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, 1980), the question is whether global strategy and discourse are cognitively constrained by "prefixes we live by" -- effectively constituting an array of pre-logical "biases" by which global preoccupations are "pre-fixed". The use of such prefixes is explored in Annex A (Exploration of Prefixes of Global Discourse: implications of a cognitive prefix for sustainable confidelity, 2011). This justifies consideration of the interplay between consciousness, creativity and the embodiment in identity in Annex B (Embodiment of Identity in Conscious Creativity, 2011).
With respect to the current calls for a global reserve currency -- as with the earlier gold standard -- the concern here is with the potential implication of individual and collective conscience and, more fundamentally, with the nature of consciousness itself. Both are essential prerequisites for the confidence vital to the sustainability of such a vehicle, especially given the assessment of John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995). It is in this light that the more fundamental "reserve currency" may be recognized in the interplay of the underlying integrative cognitive processes implicated in "con" -- and as yet to be fully explored.
As is to be expected, global adoption of such a reserve currency will be contested and the subject of controversy -- framed as a confidence trick, as with the euro (recently so variously challenged). It is in order to "re-cognize" and encompass this dynamic memetic complex that the global reserve currency could be appropriately named as the "con", especially given its fundamental dependence on collective consciousness.
The trigger for this exploration was a continuing reflection on the extent to which the global financial system was upheld as fundamentally based on "confidence" and "trust", as repeatedly stressed in efforts to "rebuild confidence" during the recent financial crisis and its aftermath. This preoccupation took the form of a preliminary paper (Varieties of Confidence Essential to Sustainability: surrogates and tokens obscuring the existential "gold standard", 2009). The intention here is to develop and replace that uncompleted argument.
As was noted there, the erosion of confidence is seen more generally as an erosion in the credibility of many structures and processes in society, from interpersonal relationships to the global level, as previously explored (Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "Credit crunch" focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset, 2008; Abuse of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009). However the challenge to confidence is also only too evident in individual experience, whether as an existential sense of uncertainty, a loss of self-esteem, or some form of loss of faith. The increasing concern with depression and the widespread use of mood-altering substances offers a measure of the dimensions of the challenge. Economically these substances are now recognized to represent a market of a magnitude similar to that for oil and for arms.
It is noteworthy that the dramatic electoral shift in the USA presidential campaign in response to the financial crisis was significantly driven by the language of "hope" (Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream, 2008; "Hope" poster). However the aftermath suggests that simplistic hope-mongering is itself problematic, as separately argued (Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "Credit crunch" focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset, 2008). The question is then the nature of the cognitive dynamics sustaining hope and confidence -- especially in risky situations. Hope is the primary sentiment in anticipation of the outcome of a risky strategy -- especially a strategy in whose fruitful outcome there is little reason to be confident. How is hope to be transformed into confidence?
The focus here is however on "con" as a prefix implying a degree of integration and coherence, whilst recognizing its ambiguity as an antonym of "pro" (thereby implying a degree of opposition as in the con position in debate), and its misleading association with "con" (as an abbreviation of confidence trickery). Notable examples of the latter include:
Especially significant to control of vessels, presumably including governance of "Spaceship Earth", is the navigational phrase "taking the con" -- a responsbility associated with "taking the helm" (Taking the Helm: a policy brief on a response to the global economic crisis, Asian Development Bank, 2009; William Keyser, Taking the Helm: what business startups can learn from dinghy sailing, ZeroMillion.com, 2011; Matthew Forney, China -- Taking the Helm, Timeasia.com, 2006).
This may involve use of a conning tower in the case of both a submarine and a ship. In a chapter on Organizations as Submarines: why data governance Is Imperative, E. Michael Power and Roland L. Trope (Sailing in Dangerous Waters: a director's guide to data governance, American Bar Association, 2005) note:
We believe it would be useful for Directors to adopt a dynamic image of their Company that accurately reflects the need to safeguard valuable but highly mutable information assets. Companies are increasingly less like "castles" with their Boardroom's citadels enjoying a clear view of the far horizons and of approaching attackers. In their use of information technology in daily operations, the companies of the 21st century more often resemble a modern submarine, dependent upon computer systems and continuous scanning to protect against incoming threats. The Boardroom is more like a "conning tower" or bridge. Like a sub captain, a Director must develop the expertise to evaluate the infor mation provided by his Company officers in order to clarify the status of the ship.
It is unclear to what extent the "conning tower" metaphor, in whichever sense, influenced the Project for the New American Century -- with its directive to control the internet. Anticipating the internet, the metaphor had notably been used by R. Buckminster Fuller (Conning Tower: 'Hoop-Skirt' Room -- Presidential Situation Room, Shelter Magazine, 1932) in an approach to the architecture of global governance:
A series of conning towers could link broadcast stations worldwide and combine them with film, visuals and sound, integrating access to the world's historical information, latest news, latest discoveries and research findings and making them available democratically to all. These conning towers would be "designed to preserve the integrity of intellectual progress by freeing the enthusiasm momentum of hitherto stultifying effects of constantly repeated disclosures of 'purposes' and 'results' which through medium of 'conning tower' require but one disclosure for their potential social diffusion.
Would it be the United Nations that is the "conning tower" of world governance? Is any other body capable of the integrative function of "taking the helm" of global governance? The ambiguity of that function has however been recognized in various contexts, notably with respect to the equivalent navigational phrase of "taking the con":
Beyond any simple word play, this exploration acknowledges the cognitive linguistic arguments of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (Metaphors We Live By, 1980) especially in the light of their extensive arguments regarding the "container" metaphor. In a sense it is the dynamics of "con", as explored here, which provide a container for hope and its transmutation into confidence.
This interest follows from previous explorations of "negative" descriptors (eg nongovernmental), in making structural distinctions (multi-, cross-, inter-, trans-, meta-), and in prefixes in general (New Paradigms via a Renewed Set of Prefixes: dependence of international policy-making on an array of operational terms, 2003).
The early explorations of potentially problematic use of prefixes focused on the negative policy connotations of negative descriptors, notably the use of "nongovernmental" in Article 71 of the United Nations Charter (Conceptual Distortions from Negative Descriptors: non-governmental vs. anti-governmental, 1974). The argument was that "non" could easily be interpreted as "anti" -- reinforcing governmental hostility to nongovernmental actors characteristic of those times. This of course now takes the form of suspicions regarding their potential subversive and terrorist associations. More generally this concern now pertains to any formulation that is not "positive" (Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005).
An important question was whether any set of "negative" descriptors, however well-articulated in one language, could be readily translated into another language such as to maintain rather than distort or blur those distinctions -- and without unintentionally introducing pejorative connotations. This investigation was extended to include the structural distinctions -- such as multi-, cross-, inter-, trans-, and meta-. These are central to some debates, as in that regarding "international organizations" in relation to "multinational organizations" (or corporations), to say nothing of "transnational associations" (Conceptual Gaps And Confused Distinctions: possible ambiguities in the translation of interrelated concepts between sectors, jargons or languages, 1974). The investigation focused on a translation experiment which included the comment:
Discourse in international society depends to a quite important extent on the use of rather subtle and interrelated distinctions. Some of these are established and preserved by the use of a series of prefixes, at least in the indoeuropean languages. An example is :inter-national, multi-national, cross- national, trans-national. The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to the possibility that such neat sets of distinctions may be difficult to translate, particularly into non- indo-european languages, without leading to gaps in the series or blurring some of the distinctions.
With respect to the emerging interest in matters "interdisciplinary", this included a diagram illustrating the structural differences between elements in a conceptual series distinguished by prefixes such as : multi-, cross-, pluri-, inter-, trans-, supra-, meta-. The diagram was an elaboration of one developed by Erich Jantsch (Towards interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in education and innovation, 1972, p. 107). This led to the above-mentioned exploration of prefixes in general (New Paradigms via a Renewed Set of Prefixes, 2003) and to the possibility of a new "syntax" (An Appropriate Syntax for the Future: beyond the conventional rules of thought, 2010).
The confusions regarding the distinctions made by such sets of prefixes have not disappeared, especially when translation is involved. As noted above, in the focus here on "con" as a prefix implying a degree of integration, there is a considerable degree of ambiguity associated with its function as an antonym of "pro" (thereby implying a degree of opposition), and its misleading association with "con" (as an abbreviation of confidence trickery). It is also used as an abbreviation of convict and, in the USA as an abbreviation of Certificate of Need.
French uses the term "con" to describe, through insult, an extreme form of stupidity -- most notably in a political context. [Originally with specific sexual connotations, these are now carried even more strongly by its English equivalent, assumed to share a Latin derivation (from cunnus) -- thus conducive to reflection on the potential Freudian implications of other uses of "con" in a sexually conscientized society. Seemingly the relationship to similar-sounding words (Spanish coño, and Portuguese cona) has not been conclusively demonstrated. A related case has been made for the significance of "invagination" (Engendering Invagination and Gastrulation of Globalization, 2010). Both imply understandings of the containing matrix within which innovation is conceived and engendered. Appropriately, Germaine Greer has suggested that there was something to be valued about the English equivalent, in that it was now one of the few remaining words in English that still retained its power to shock.]
|Citations from the extensive entry on con in the French version of Wikipedia|
What is the functon of this ambiguity regarding "con" in relation to any emergent "confidelity"? The question is appropriate given the dependence of successful marketing (whether of products, politics, or programmes) on the relative ignorance of those who consent to the process -- and readily framed as "con" or some equivalent, especially if the process is resisted. Of relevance to any global reserve currency is the remark of the American essayist H. L. Mencken:
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
"Con" as a form of stupidity, by which all may be characterized in the eyes of others (as a lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense), is appropriately caricatured by the 5 Laws of Stupidity formulated by Carlo Maria Cipolla. Functionally it highights the merit of a degree of modesty.
The psychodynamics of the relationship between individual and global merits the attention given to it by Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979; Angels Fear: towards an epistemology of the sacred, 1988; A Sacred Unity: further steps to an ecology of mind, 1991). A special issue of the S.E.E.D. Journal (Semiotics, Evolution, Energy, and Development) in 2004 focused on Essays on Recursion, Difference, Dialectics, Maps and Territories in Celebration of Gregory Bateson's centennial. The relevance to global organization in that collection is well-clarified by the comment of Donald H. McNeill (What's going on with the Topology of Recursion? SEED, Volume 4, No. 1, March 2004):
Language is at once a relatively invariant standard for communication and a repository of evidence about the importance of recursions. The English language offers more than 200 basic words having the prefix 're-' from 'react' through 'revise' and then some, all of which connote persistence through recurrence. We repeat, recite, and rehearse. We recognize and represent and record and reproduce, then perhaps recollect and reflect and relate. We may reassure and resolve. We often retort and sometimes respect. And we may get lost in research or reverie. We convince ourselves and one another with reiterations and remonstrations. All the while we take ourselves for granted in our self-referential con-sciousness, which reminds us that many 'co-' and 'con-' words connote mutual recursivity just as the 're-' words do. Moreover, there are 'volution' words which further strengthen an appreciation of turnings as in 'revolution,' 'involution,' 'convolution,' and 'evolution.' Thus do we find the 'psyche-ology' in everyday conduct, thought, and language to be replete with more or less persistent relative invariants spinning from our recursing minds. [emphasis added]
McNeill precedes those remarks by introducing the importance of psychology and its relationship to cybernetics (a theme central to Bateson's preoccupations) -- now a focus of the cybernetics of knowing (Maurice Yolles, Knowledge Cybernetics: a new metaphor for social collectives, Organisational Transformation and Social Change, 2006; Exploring Cultures through Knowledge Cybernetics, Journal of Cross-Cultural Competence and Management, 2007). McNeill argues:
Discourse about the human psyche -- psychology -- has long included words borrowed from cybernetics such as 'input' and 'feedback.' Determination of whether or not such words are being used appropriately and insightfully in practice is left as an exercise for the reader, but there can be no doubt that 'mental stability' and 'lives spiraling out of control' have at least some common sense meaning with strong cybernetic implications. The topology of mentation itself is that of reflection and re-minding. Habits, of course, are relative invariants of thought and action, stirred in the psyche and characterized by repetition. Memory produces relative invariances through recyclical processes of recollection and re-membering while thinking is a recyclative process so powerful that it can project intentional goals as relative invariants for the future.
The point with respect to mental habits has been well-explored by Antonio de Nicolas (Habits of Mind: an introduction to clinical philosophy, 2000).
The tables arising from the tentative exploration of "con" as a prefix are presented as an Annex A (Exploration of Prefixes of Global Discourse: implications of a cognitive prefix for sustainable confidelity, 2011). These complement the earlier tables on a more extensive array of prefixes (New Paradigms via a Renewed Set of Prefixes: dependence of international policy-making on an array of operational terms, 2003). It should be stressed that these exercises are deliberately exploratory with the intention of scoping out the possibility for more systematic and detailed investigation.
The question is how such information might be most fruitfully presented to encourage investigation and offer an early sense of potentially interesting conclusions. What is the form of presentation of an array of prefixes which would enable new thinking on global discourse of relevance to any global currency? This question is taken up below and in Annex B (Embodiment of Identity in Conscious Creativity).
Indicative extracts from the main tables are presented below. The first table highlights the "con-words", using one tentative clustering. The second distributes usage of the word-roots between a selected set of prefixes, using a second approach to clustering. The second table, from the earlier research, combines the prefixes, co- and com- with con-, whereas the first considers only the latter. As an extract from the table in Annex A, the first includes only the con-words which have many associated prefixes; the second table includes only the beginning of that presented in Annex A (in order to show the format).
Notable omissions from the first table are instances of "double" prefixes, such as unconscious. A questionable feature of this preliminary exercise is the inclusion as prefixed "con-words" of words where the root is not a word independent of the prefix (as with the "-scious" portion of "con-scious"). In this respect the case of "-cept" (as in "concept", and as with the case of "-ception") is especially interesting through its etymological relation to "taking in" -- potentially as a prelude to engendering. The tables could of course be enriched in future by indicating frequencies of prefix usage.
|Table 1: Word-roots prefixed with "con" juxtaposed with their use with other prefixes
(extract from version in Annex A; roughly clustered as indicated in the left-hand column)
|Tentative clustering||"Con-words"||Use of the word-root with other prefixes|
|1. Structure / Order / Pattern||conjoin / conjointly||adjoin, conjoin, disjoin, enjoin, injoin, interjoin, misjoin, rejoin, subjoin, underjoin, unjoin|
|convene / convention||circumvention, contravention, intervention, invention, obvention, prevention, subvention, supervention,|
|conference||circumference, deference, difference, inference, interference, preference, reference, transference|
|convolution / convolute||advolution, circumvolution, devolution, evolution, intervolution, involution, revolution,|
|constitution||destitution, institution, prostitution, reinstitution, restitution, substitution|
|1.1 Boundednes / Integrity / Identity||contraction||abstraction, attraction, detraction, distraction, extraction, protraction, retraction, substraction, subtraction|
|constable||bistable, contrastable, instable, intastable, metastable, nonstable, prestable, unstable|
|condition||dedition, edition, extradition, perdition, prodition, redition, sedition, tradition|
|contain / container||attain, detain, distain, obtain, pertain, retain, sustain|
|1.2 Complementarity||converse||adverse, averse, controverse, diverse, everse, inverse, obverse, perverse, reverse, subverse, transverse, traverse, underverse, universe|
|consistence||absistence, insistence, overinsistence, persistence, resistence, subsistence,|
|consonance||assonance, dissonance, equisonance, resonance, unisonance,|
|2.0 Time||concurrent||countercurrent, crosscurrent, decurrent, discurrent, excurrent, incurrent, intercurrent, occurrent, percurrent, recurrent, uncurrent, undercurrent,|
|contemporary / contemporaneity||cotemporary, extemporary|
|3.0 Focus / Concern / Commitment||confluence||affluence, circumfluence, diffluence, effluence, fluence, influence, profluence, refluence, superfluence|
|concise||abscise, circumcise, criticise, excise, incise, precise|
|concern||decern, discern, excern|
|3.1 Intimacy / Entanglement||consort||assort, besort, missort, resort|
|conspecific||nonspecific, subspecific, unspecific|
|3.2 Empathy / Feeling||content / contentment||attent, detent, distent, extent, intent, ostent, portent, potent, retent, untent|
|contemper||attemper, destemper, distemper, mistemper, obtemper,untemper|
|congenial||primigenial, primogenial, ungenial|
|consolation / console||desolation, insolation, isolation|
|4.0 Agreement / Disagreement||concession / concede||abscession, accession, decession, discession, incession, intercession, introcession, precession, procession, recession, retrocession, secession, succession|
|convent||advent, circumvent, event, intervent, invent, prevent, provent,|
|concur||excur, incur, intercur, occur, recur, reincur, transcur|
|contract||attract, detract, distract, extract, protract, retract, subtract|
|4.1 Pattern / Norm||conform / conformity||biform, deform, efform, enform, inform, outform, perform, preform, reform, transform, unform, uniform, variform|
|constant||circumstant, distant, instant,restant, substant|
|4.2 Visibility / Salience / Trickery / Subterfuge||conspiracy / conspiration||aspiration, inspiration, interspiration, perspiration, respiration, suspiration, transpiration,|
|convert||revert, divert, subvert, invert, pervert|
|conjuration / conjuror||abjuration, adjuration, objuration|
|4.3 Judgement / Opinion / Belief||conversion||adversion, anteversion, aversion, contraversion, controversion, diversion, eversion, extraversion, extroversion, introversion, inversion, obversion, perversion, retroversion, reversion, subversion, transversion,|
|conscribe / conscription||ascription, circumscription, description, inscription, prescription, proscription, rescription, subscription, superscription, transcription,|
|4.4 Discourse||convocation / convoke||advocation, avocation, devocation, equivocation, evocation, invocation, provocation, revocation, sevocation, univocation|
|congress||aggress, digress, egress, ingress, progress, regress, transgress|
|confer / -ference||afer, circumfer, defer, infer, prefer, refer|
|4.5 Deprive / Attribute||consign / consignment||assign, cosign, countersign, design, ensign, obsign, resign, subsign, undersign|
|confine / confinement||affine, define, diffine, prefine, redefine, refine, superfine|
|5.0 Engender||concept / conception / conceive||acception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception,misconception, perception, preception, proception, proprioception, reception, superconception, susception,|
|confect / confection||affection, defection, disaffection, effection, infection, perfection, profection, refection|
|5.1 Influence||conduce / conducive||abduce, adduce, circumduce, deduce, educe, induce, interduce, introduce, obduce, produce, reduce, seduce, subduce, traduce, transduce|
|conduct / conduction / conductor||abduct, adduct, deduct, educt, induct, introduct,obduct, product, reduct, subduct, traduct|
|5.2 Outcome||conclusion||circumclusion, disclusion, exclusion, inclusion, interclusion, occlusion, preclusion, reclusion, seclusion|
|congestion||digestion, disgestion, egestion, indigestion, ingestion, suggestion,|
|confound||infound, profound, refound|
|consecrate / consecration||desecrate, obsecrate, unconsecrate|
|5.3 Collapse / Fusion||confusion||affusion, circumfusion, diffusion, effusion, fusion, infusion, interfusion, intrafusion, perfusion, profusion, refusion, suffusion, transfusion|
|conflux||afflux, deflux, efflux,influx, overflux, reflux, superflux, transflux|
|consume / consumption||absumption, assumption, presumption, resumption, subsumption, transumption|
|6.0 Implication / Meaning||conjection||abjection, adjection, dejection, disjection, ejection, injection, interjection, introjection, objection, projection, rejection,subjection, superinjection, trajection|
|contention / contentious||abstention, attention, detention, distention, intention, irretention, pretention, retention, sustention,|
|connate / connature / connation||denature, ornature, transnature, unnature,|
|6.1 Knowledge||conscience||inscience, nescience, omniscience, prescience, unscience,|
|conscious||lascious, luscious, multiscious, omniscious|
|consentient||assentient, cosentient, dissentient, insentient, presentient|
|concussion||discussion, excussion, percussion, recussion, repercussion, succussion|
|Table 2: Selected prefixes (including "con") and their usage in relation to word-roots
(short extract from extended version in Annex A; originally from New Paradigms via a Renewed Set of Prefixes, 2003)
|.||.||.||Co-||Re-||De-||Dis- / Di-||Pro- /Pre-||In- / Im-||Ex- / E-||A- / Ab-|
|.||.||.||Com- / Con-||Retro-||.||.||.||Into-||Extro-||.|
|.||.||.||Together / With||Repetition||Down
From / Away
For / Forward
On / Upon
|2||-script||Attribute||Conscript||Rescript||Description||.||Prescription / Proscription||Inscription||.||Ascription|
|6||-duce||Change||Conducive||Reduce||Deduce||.||Produce||Induce||Educe|| Adduce /
Proposals: In the midst of the financial crisis, proposals were made by the United Nations to replace the dollar with a global currency -- the biggest overhaul of the world's monetary system since the Second World War. The fundamental importance of such a currency has been variously described (Simit Patel, The World Reserve Currency: an introduction, InformedTrades, 2 February 2011; Nouriel Roubini, The Next Reserve Currency, Economist Online, 15 May 2009; Kersi Jilla, Global Common Currency and Global Reserve Currency: understanding convertible currency, ForexMetricsBlog, 2011)
The proposals, included in UNCTAD's annual Trade and Development Report (2009), amount to the most radical suggestions for redesigning the global monetary system (UN report calls for new global reserve currency to replace U.S. dollar, People's Daily Online, 30 June 2010). Counterarguments have been presented (James A. Dorn, The Dangers of a New Global Reserve Currency, South China Morning Post, 2 April 2009). As noted in an extensive comment by Helmut Reisen (Shifting wealth: Is the US dollar Empire falling? Vox, 20 June 2009):
Just ahead of the G20 London Summit (April 2009), Zhou Xiaochuan (China's central bank governor) proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the IMF. The main global reserve currency would be represented by a basket of significant currencies and commodities, an extended version of the Fund's Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). China's call for an overhaul of the global currency reserve system has been echoed by Russia's President Medvedev as an important building block of a new global financial architecture.
Although many economists have pointed out that the economic crisis owed much to the malfunctioning of the post-Bretton Woods system, until now no major institution, including the G20, has come up with an alternative. As noted by Edmund Conway (UN wants new global currency to replace dollar, The Telegraph, 7 Sep 2009, with 632 Comments):
In a radical report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said the system of currencies and capital rules which binds the world economy is not working properly, and was largely responsible for the financial and economic crises. It added that the present system, under which the dollar acts as the world's reserve currency, should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration. Although a number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency, the UNCTAD report is the first time a major multinational institution has posited such a suggestion. In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving.
China continues to be prominent in the debate (Dian L. Chu, Global Reserve Currency: Chinese Yuan vs. the U.S. Dollar, Daily Markets, 4 March, 2010). In preparation for the G20 2010 Summit in Seoul, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, called for a fundamental revamping of the global currency system involving a lesser role for the US dollar and a modified gold standard (The G20 must look beyond Bretton Woods II, Financial Times, 7 November 2010). The Financial Times underscored the significance of the column by making it the subject of its front-page lead article (Gold Digging at World Bank, Financial Times, 8 November 2010) and another (Zoellick's call on gold standard dismissed, Financial Times, 8 November 2010). For Zoellick:
In May of 2010, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF, stated that, 'crisis is an opportunity,' and called for 'a new global currency issued by a global central bank, with robust governance and institutional features,' and that the 'global central bank could also serve as a lender of last resort.' (Concluding Remarks by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at the High-Level Conference on the International Monetary System, Zurich, 11 May 2010). However, he stated, 'I fear we are still very far from that level of global collaboration'. The "crisis" theme, resulted in a commentary by Andrew Gavin Marshall ('Crisis is an Opportunity': engineering a global depression to create a global government, Global Research, 26 October 2010).
With talk of currency wars and disagreements over the US Federal Reserve's policy of quantitative easing, the summit of the Group of 20 leading economies in Seoul this week is shaping up as the latest test of international cooperation.
With the Seoul G20 Summit having agreed on a new Seoul Development Consensus to replace the Washington Consensus and the Bretton Woods system, such proposals are highly likely to be debated at the Cannes G20 Summit (November 2011) -- within a cultural context that attaches a rather particular significance to "con". At the time of writing, and on the occasion of a preliminary G20 finance ministerials meeting under French presidency (Paris, 2011), there is widespread speculation that Dominique Strauss-Kahn may succeed Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France. The meeting committed "to pursuing the reform of the financial sector".
Human engagement: The failures of the long-held IMF policy of "structural adjustment" are renowned for having been challenged by UNICEF in calling for "structural adjustment with a human face" (1987). Widely criticized, the IMF policy has been held to be a cause of poverty (Anup Shah, Structural Adjustment: a major cause of poverty, Global Issues, 28 November 2010; IMF serious about measuring conditionality impacts? Bretton Woods Project, 17 February 2011).
A related focus on "hearts and minds" has emerged -- tardily -- as central to US strategic intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been recognized as essentially a failure. From this perspective it might be fruitfully asked how proposals for a global currency system might be expected to be a focus for the confidence on which it has proven to so clearly depend. Insights into "building confidence" in the financial system have been as elusive as those of "nation building" and "building democracy" in conflict-torn countries. International institutions have long demonstrated that they have only the crudest idea of the nature of the dynamics required in practice -- however skilled their initiatives are "spun" through public relations. What is the transformative "magic" of "hearts and minds" underlying this description of the democratic uprising in Libya by Mahmoud Al-Nakou (Libya: neither tribal nor Islamist, The Guardian, 27 February 2011):
There is little doubt this determination and resilience comes from the transformation in spirit and atmosphere across the Arab region after the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. This new spirit is locally produced and nurtured, refusing to be western-driven or influenced. Its aim is not only to return Libya to a state where transparency, democracy, pluralism, freedom and fairness prevail, but to restore its standing in the world. Its relations with the west must be based on mutual recognition, shared and common interests and parity, not the old ways of a relationship built on corrupt dealings, fear and abuse.
Technicality vs Musicality: "con" as a trap: The dilemma for institutional comprehension might be fruitfully illustrated by the two standards by which performance in music, song, and dance is competitively assessed, namely technicality and musicality. The current challenge for global currency proposals is that they focus on economic technicalities. Confidence is however to a high degree dependent on forms inspired (and rendered memorable) by "musicality" -- a connectivity central to anything touching both human "hearts" and "minds". The point has been extensively argued with respect to the function of poetry (Poetry-making and Policy-making: arranging a marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993; A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006; Poetic Engagement with Afghanistan, Caucasus and Iran, 2009).
How might the nature of a global reserve currency be "sung" to render it credible and memorable? Can distinct qualities of systemic integration be usefully distinguished using the musical qualities with which con is associated (in Italian) -- as presented in the following table? Use of qualitative terms in fundamental physics to describe the flavours of quarks -- such as charm -- offer a precedent.
|Con as used in many musical directions and scores|
|con allegrezza: with liveliness
con amore: with tenderness
con affetto: with emotion
con anima: with feeling
| con brio: with spirit / vigour
con dolore: with sadness
con forza: with force
con espressione: with expression
|con fuoco: with fire
con larghezza: with broadness
con moto: with motion
con slancio: with enthusiasm
The concern here is therefore with the manner in which both "hearts" and "minds" are imaginatively entangled in "con" as a memetic operation. The question is how they are then to be understood as dynamically entangled in any emerging global "consensus" -- beyond the obvious limitations of other "hearts and minds" initiatives.
The problem for the Washington Consensus, or its revamping as the Seoul Development Consensus, is that these both correspond to a mode of thinking -- an "old faithful" -- which has long proven to be years behind the need and the appeals by those in need. Is this constrained mindset to be recognized as fruitfully challenged by richer understandings of the "con" function?
The point is well made by policy scientist Geoffrey Vickers (Freedom in a rocking boat: changing values in an unstable society, 1972): A trap is a function of the nature of the trapped. As widely used in global debate, does the "con" operator constitute some form of trap? Does its current use epitomize the inadequacies of thinking "in-the-box" (effectively "in-the-container") -- despite the many calls for "new thinking". most notably articulated by Edward de Bono (Six Frames for Thinking about Information, 2008; New Thinking for the New Millennium, 2000)
Strangely the nature of the trap is partially evident in the challenge for the UN of the contemporary relevance of "We the peoples...". In quest of a global currency system founded on collective confidence, and capable of attracting it sustainably, is there a need for a new unitary significance for "UN" as a dynamic, rather than as a static concept (Dynamic Reframing of "Union": implications for the coherence of knowledge, social organization and personal identity, 2007)? It has been striking to note the strategic importance of social networking services (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) in enabling the democratic uprising in the Arab world -- in comparison with the strategic irrelevance of the UN in that process. Ironically the issue was implicit in a meeting on What Role for the UN in Global Governance?, held in New York in that period (Kanya D'Almeida, United Nations: an organisation on life-support? Inter Press Service, 14 February 2011).
As an example, several days after the Gaddafi regime began attacking its own people, Carne Ross (as a former UK diplomat) argued that the minimalistic press statement on Libya by the UN Security Council was completely inadequate (The UN's duty to Libyans, The Guardian, 23 February 2011). Ross commented on the subsequent resolution (Libya: UN Security Council resolution 1970 (2011), adopted 26 February 2011).
As currently framed, a global currency is a concept -- likely to be opposed in controversy, ironically, both by "contrarians" and by "cognitive contraception".
|Confidence and its Surrogates
indicative configuration of the variety of expressions and tokens of confidence
(Reproduced from Varieties of Confidence Essential to Sustainability:
surrogates and tokens obscuring the existential "gold standard", 2009)
Exploiting a recent neologism, a global currency is fruitfully understood as a "global confidelity" -- consonant with what has been sought in a global ethic. Perhaps not surprisingly "confidelity" has been used to indicate a fruitful relationship with the divine -- as a complex construct necessarily beyond human comprehension.
Ensuring "confidelity" could also be understood in marketing terms as achieving customer loyalty and "buy in" -- as evident in loyalty and fidelity programmes. With respect to the framing of any "hearts and minds" strategy, rather than as a form of fourth generation warfare with an "other", it could be explored in terms of richer forms of "engagement", as between "individual" and "global" (Tao of Engagement -- Weaponised Violence and Beyond, 2010; Engaging with Globality, 2009).
In terms of "technicality", valuable insight into "confidelity" has been provided by Damjan Kovač and Denis Trček (Qualitative trust modeling in SOA, Journal of Systems Architecture, 2009 in a special issue on Service-Oriented Architectures). Information security mechanisms are identified by them as preserving the "CIA properties" (Confidelity, Integrity, and Availability) of information assets within a specific domain:
Trust among cooperating agents is an essential precondition for every e-business transaction. It is becoming increasingly vital in service oriented architectures (SOAs), where services from various administration domains are deployed. Traditional hard security mechanisms with different techniques of authorization, access control and information security services give a solid foundation, but they fail when cooperating entities act deceitfully. Trust as a soft social security mechanism can protect against such threats and consequently improves the quality of services and reliability of service providers. This paper presents an abstract trust model that applies complementary qualitative methodology which addresses the core of trust as socio-cognitive phenomenon. The model complements existing quantitative methodologies and is applied in the web services environment that enables trust management in SOAs.
The irony of the use of the "CIA" acronym in the above context is suitably consistent with the ambiguity of certain connotations of "con" (as noted below). With the tremendous increase in indebtedness, especially valuable is a need to integrate currency in its essentially binary form as credit or debt (profit or loss) and the moral implications of transparency and nontransparency associated with the black economy (Enabling Moral Currency Circulation: reframing a stimulus package to avert moral bankruptcy, 2010).
Given the recent dubious reliance on quantitative easing to mitigate financial crises -- with its questionable moral implications -- appropriate confidelity would appear to call for recognition of the further temptations of "moral easing" (From Quantitative Easing (QE) to Moral Easing (ME): a stimulus package to avert moral bankruptcy?, 2010). Similar concerns might be extended to the "cognitive easing" readily recognized in widespread use of "spin", spurious arguments and the lack of critical thinking (Critical Thinking vs Specious Arguments, 2001; World Crises: dishonest and spurious arguments, 2008). It is of course intriguing that spin should be so intimately related to the manufacture of consent -- especially amongst those who would be readily defined as "con" (Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media, 1988).
Given that concerns with global currency focus metaphorically on the "health" of the economic system, a case may be made for exploring learnings from the health of the human body, especially in terms of confidence in remedies and their delivery systems. This too implies a form of confidelity, most evident in doctor-patient confidentiality. However, as with the global financial system, this may be undermined by issues evident in the antagonism between the delivery systems of "big pharma" and "complementary therapies", as separately explored in relation to the global financial crisis (Remedies to Global Crisis: "Allopathic" or "Homeopathic": metaphorical complementarity of "conventional" and "alternative" models? 2009).
Implicit in use of "currency" is the actual flow of funds as a dynamic, whether credit or debt. However funds are not simply "conveyed" from A to B. There is therefore a strong case for exploring global flow patterns indicative of the complexity of any such system. Beyond assumptions that funds are conveyed is an insight into global flow patterns offered by the global thermohaline ocean circulation, as separately discussed (Potential Misuse of the Conveyor Metaphor, 2007). This may also be explored in psychodynamic terms with implications for understanding of consciousness (Circulation of the Light: Essential metaphor of global sustainability? 2010).
Here the assumption is made that the cognitive operations with which "con" may be associated (as exemplified in the tables below and in an Annex A (Exploration of Prefixes of Global Discourse) are central to the dynamics of conscience and consciousness -- and any emergent sense of individual and collective identity. This tentative assumption is considered to be a key to the credibility of any "global reserve currency" and engagement with it -- if not as in some way fundamental to its sustainability (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002) .
The question is whether some sort of periodic array of cognitive operators -- "pre-fixing" conventional consideration of concepts and their configuration -- offers insights into the structure and dynamics of consciousness of global psychosocial organization. Again this raises the question of the "prefixes we live by". The exploration could benefit from the work of various authors, as previously summarized (Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993). These notably include:
As a philosopher, Jones specifically refers to pre-logical biases which he articulates in terms of seven axes. He demonstrates that disagreement in academic (or other) discourse on any topic -- the "romantic period" in his example -- can be largely predicted by the positions each author holds on each axis, namely preferences with respect to the extremes of each axis. This is very probably indicative in the case of global discourse and potentially with regard to any global currency. These axes have been arbitrarily configured below to suggest how they might function as a cognitive container for the dynamics of confidelity.
|Configuration of axes of biases
containing the consensual processes
potentially fundamental to global confidelity (based on W.T. Jones, 1961)
It is tempting to "inform" any periodic array of prefixes with such insights -- as might be done in the future.
Is the system of potential cognitive modalities effectively "embedded" in the set of prefixes? How do these enable and inhibit "engagement" with integrative global processes? Is "confidelity" to be understood as "emergent" dynamically through the interplay of the prefixes "embodying" the cognitive modalities? Of particular interest is the extent to which a pattern of biases may constrain (or enable) emergence of confidence in the connectivity and coherence implied by correspondences, as separately discussed (Theories of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007).
This section is presented separately as an Annex B with the following sub-sections:
Ponzi scheme: Ironically, and perhaps appropriately, consideration of a global currency occurs at a time when the ambiguity of "con" has become dramatically apparent. In addition to the fact of the Ponzi scheme of historically unprecedented scope orchestrated by Bernard Madoff, the drama has been accentuated by his declaration that others in the financial world "must have known" (Dominic Rushe, Bernard Madoff says banks and funds were 'complicit' in $90bn fraud, The Guardian, 21 February 2011). This reinforces the case of plaintiffs endeavouring to recover their massive investments from financial institutions held to be complicit.
It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish (unquestionable) arguments for "growth", "capitalism" and "development" -- especially their implementation in practice -- from the processes by which a Ponzi scheme might be recognized. This is especially the case in the light of the dependence of these processes on cheap labour and expansion of markets -- as enabled through facilitating unchecked exponential global population increase. The complicity of religion also merits recognition in promoting such increase as a means of desperately ensuring a source of hope -- "hope fodder" rather than "cannon fodder"? (Root Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unexamined role of Abrahamic faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth, 2007).
WMD: At the time of writing it has also been revealed that the primary justification for the deadly trillion dollar intervention in Iraq was significantly based on the fabrication of evidence by an informant code named Curveball (Helen Pidd and Martin Chulov, Curveball's lies - and the consequences: details of what the Iraqi defector said about WMD, and how it was used by Germany and the United States, The Guardian, 15 February 2011; Carne Ross, Curveball and the manufacture of a lie, The Guardian, 15 February 2011). This was the basis for the confident presentation to the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003 by Colin Powell in soliciting international consensus (Ed Pilkington, Helen Pidd and Martin Chulov, Colin Powell demands answers over Curveball's WMD lies, 16 February 2011).
In this light George Bush and Tony Blair can be said to have engaged in a bait-and-switch confidence trick on a global scale in their constitution of what has been caricatured as The Coalition of the Willy (2004). But there is a degree of irony to the perception that the neocons were themselves conned by a deal-making exile when he promised to build a secular democracy with close ties to Israel (John Dizard, How Ahmed Chalabi Conned the Neocons, Salon, 4 May 2004).
9/11: The 9/11 bombing has been the subject of a documentary -- without narration, script, or conjecture (The Ultimate Con). Arguments for this perspective have been accumulated in a series of publications by David Ray Griffin (The New Pearl Harbor: disturbing questions about the Bush Administration and 9-11, 2004). "Con games" continue to be upheld as of strategic value, as noted by David Macary (The Pentagon and the Ultimate Con Game, CounterPunch, 4 January 2011).
WikiLeaks disclosures: The unsuspected degree to which information is withheld from public debate has been highlighted by recent WikiLeaks disclosures -- and by subsequent dramatic efforts to criminalize such publication of documents considered to be confidential (WikiLeaks and the First Global Condom War, 2010). Of particular interest is the extent to which the international institutional system, which is the logical focal point for any global reserve currency, is seemingly itself subject to espionage (Alleged Breach of UN Treaty Obligations by US, 2010).
The disclosures via WikiLeaks, revealing the clothing within which the Emperor proudly draped himself, could be seen as a global instance of the "new clothes" of the traditional folk tale (Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster: mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy, 2009).
Natural disasters: It is striking that those who enable the system vulnerability which render floods (and the like) disastrous are typically not held responsible. However if their initiatives themselves suffer from the disasters, it is they who seek assistance from taxpayers (via the government) for some form of bailout -- on the basis of spurious excuses (Disastrous Floods as Indicators of Systemic Risk Neglect, 2011).
Popular uprising in the name of democracy: The 2010-2011 Middle East and North Africa protests in Arab countries are acclaimed as an unprecedented revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests in pursuit of democratic organization. Whilst undemocratic regimes are being overthrown or challenged by this process -- celebrated by those living in "democracies" -- the outcomes are necessarily uncertain. As yet unresolved within "democracies" is the extent to which they are indeed as democratic as they would like to claim to be. As famously noted by Winston Churchill:
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe... No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Most relevant to the expectations of those successfully engaged in protest is the extent to which democratic processes are significantly distorted by vested interests, notably manipulating opinion formation through the media with the support of considerable financial resources. Electoral processes are frequently challenged as fraudulent. Little effort is made to question this process or to remedy its defects. From this perspective, promotion of democracy is readily to be understood to be a "con". Especially ironic in the country claiming to be the most democratic, is the constitutional provision for citizens to carry arms -- upheld as essential to enable them to defend their rights in a democracy (Arming Civil Society Worldwide: getting democracy to work in the emergent American Empire? 2003).
Unchecked irresponsible behaviour of financial institutions: In the aftermath of the financial crisis, in which major financial institutions have proven to be so complicit, it is widely acknowledged that very little has been achieved to remedy recognized deficiencies. As noted by Danny Schechter, "while Bernie Madoff languishes in jail, bankers continue to profit as the poor lose their homes and hope" (US economics: One big Ponzi scheme, Aljazeera, 20 Feb 2011). Compounded by their urgent requirements for bailouts from taxpayers, the process can indeed be described as having been a "con" of the highest order. This assessment is confirmed by the sense that it is the governments (complicit in the irresponsible performance of those institutions) who are now proposing to "reform" the global monetary system. A case of "setting the fox to guard the chicken coop".
As an example at the time of writing, in a year when Barclays announced a record £11.6bn of profits:
Sale of arms to repressive regimes: At the time of writing, witness to major democratic protest within many Arab countries, it was made clear that this was not a constraint on continuing sale of arms to dictatorial regimes in the region (Robert Booth, Abu Dhabi arms fair: tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Idex 2011, The Guardian, 21 February 2011). British firms continued to sell the crowd control weapons by which protestors were being gunned down at the time of the arms fair (Simon Jenkins, Britain can push democracy or weapons - but not both, The Guardian, 22 February 2011). It is noteworthy that it is typically the permanent members of the UN Security Council, as the world's leading purveyors of arms to combatants, that are thereby most complicit in inhibiting initiatives towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Britain argues that expecting small countries to manufacture all their defence weapons is at odds with reality (Nicholas Watt, David Cameron hits out at critics of Britain's arms trade, The Guardian, 22 February 2011; David Cameron's Cairo visit overshadowed by defence tour, The Guardian, 21 February 2011). The argument is inconsistent with sales to repressive regimes and the ongoing sale of arms to larger countries. It is an unfortunate coincidence that Robin Cook, the only UK cabinet minister to question such policies from an ethical perspective, should have been so regrettably removed from public life.
Internet potential: Much is made worldwide of the exciting future potential of the web. Multitudes are switching their communication processes and hopes into some form of dependency on it -- most notably the young. At the same time, various authorities find themselves increasingly threatened by its capacity to call into question and destabilize their hold on power -- as only too evident with respect to the Arab democratic uprising. Following the earlier neo-con project of the Project for the New American Century to "control the internet", initiatives continue within the USA to enable the internet to be "turned off" (Grant Gross, Obama 'Internet kill switch' plan approved by US Senate panel President could get power to turn off Internet, TechWorld, 25 June 2010). The process as a whole could be seen as an exercise in bait-and-switch -- a technological con -- enabling populations to be variously "groomed", through search engine and other usage, precisely because of the engendered dependency. The pattern is evident in efforts by monopolies to ensure consumer lock-in before exploiting such dependency.
Global reserve currency: Irrespective of any unfortunate historical allusions to the nature of a Big Lie, the question is how these examples illustrate the potential for an "ultimate con" in relation to the constitution of a global reserve currency. Is a massive "con" effectively a global strategy currently held in reserve?
Is such a "con" conceivable with respect to a global reserve currency -- in the light of the evidence, irrespective of whether that evidence is receivable in law or through due process? Might it be the "same people", or the "same mindset", making a case for a global reserve currency (see Wikipedia List of Ponzi Schemes)?
What is to be made of arguments of bloggers and others regarding the euro itself as a form of Ponzi scheme, or as providing a context for such (The Debt Ponzi Scheme continues in Euro Land, 7 December 2010; Pater Tenebrarum, The New Euro Area Ponzi becomes Operational, 27 January 2011; European Bailout is s Giant Ponzi Scheme and Giant Moral Hazard: Euro To Suffer, 11 May 2010).
|'You may fool all the people some of the time,
you can even fool some of the people all of the time,
but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.'
Much has been made of the possibility of the collapse of global civilization (Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the renewal of Civilization, 2006; Jared Diamond, Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005). This may be preceded by forms of singularity which variously constitute a "conflagration" (Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon -- a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004). The singularity may however be characterized and preceded by increasing individual and collective confusion, exacerbated by the flood of information (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009). This may well be the precursor of global collapse.
The concern has been urgently highlighted by James Lovelock (The Vanishing Face of Gaia: a final warning: Enjoy It While You Can, 2009). However his fruitful systemic reference to Gaia focuses primarily on her "cosmetic" appearance to humanity. The "Acts of God", with which disaster is so intimately associated, point to the continuing remedial capacity of Gaia -- effectively a "governor of last resort", once the credibility of humanity's current global management capacity finally evaporates. Better understanding of humanity's (cyclic) cognitive engagement with Gaia may offer a key to a more fundamental "global reserve currency".
In exploring a cyclic understanding of globality, and its implication for engagement with a global reserve currency, reference was made to the powerful example of the global thermohaline ocean circulation, as separately discussed (Potential Misuse of the Conveyor Metaphor, 2007). In terms of global environmental collapse with major implications for global civilization, concerns have been expressed at the possibility that global warming could, via a shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation, trigger localised cooling in the North Atlantic and lead to cooling, or lesser warming, in that region. Disruption of the circulation in other oceans might have similar effect.
As a metaphor, such collapse offers a model for reflection on cultural exhaustion and collapse of the cycles discussed here which are as yet poorly recognized in their global implications. It is in this sense that an exhaustion of hope might triggers the form of collapse envisaged by Jared Diamond (Collapse, 2005). As argued here, this suggests a disruptive engagement of individual despair in global dynamics (Implication of Personal Despair in Planetary Despair, 2010).
Curiously these processes of collapse have long been echoed in the death of individuals and the failure of collective initiatives -- as well as in the fall of the greatest empires. Aging is intimately associated with increasing cognitive confusion preceding any such collapse -- whatever the paradoxically enhanced capacity for pattern recognition described by the cognitive neuroscientist Elkhonon Goldberg (The Wisdom Paradox: how your mind can grow stronger as your brain grows older, 2005).
For some poets and philosophers such death has been seen as the ultimate "con" -- even evidence of a malevolent divinity in the gnostic tradition. The aging have always sought ways to trick mortality -- especially when sufficiently well-endowed. Religions have been heavily criticized for exploiting -- as a form of confidence trick -- the prospects of an afterlife. Perhaps the ultimate bait-and-switch -- supposedly for the best of reasons ("saving souls"). Hence the continuing enthusiasm for the quest for immortality, most recently with respect to technological advances enhancing prospects for biological immortality.
|Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
(from W B Yeats, The Second Coming)
With the associated loss of hope and confidence, and the dominance of despair, can the processes of such collapse be usefully compared to the collapse and "death" of stars -- in the light of the metaphors explored in the Annex B (Embodiment of Identity in Conscious Creativity, 2011)?
Crazy enough? An appropriate conclusion to the above argument, in French, would be that it is complètement con. It might however be asked whether it is "con enough" -- as in the much-quoted statement by physicist Niels Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli:
"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough." To that Freeman Dyson added: "When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope!" (Innovation in Physics, Scientific American, 199, 3, September 1958)
If the challenges of a world "gone crazy" are more complex than those faced by physicists, with what quality of ignorance is any hopeful integrative possibility to be explored, engaged in and embodied?
What is the "reserve currency" of a global civilization and how might it collapse? Arguably a global knowledge-based society is inherently unsustainable unless it can engage meaningfully with the ignorance and stupidity that it effectively engenders, as perceived by those claiming the privilege to know and be informed. The ignorant have always demonstrated a significant destabilizing potential from which new beginnings emerge.
Cognitive predetermination: It would not be surprising to discover that the conception of global strategies in a male-dominated world are indeed unconsciously trapped and conditioned by a prefix with female genital connotations -- conflated with conventional implications of ignorance and stupidity. Its immediate consequences are evident in group photographs of representatives at G20 Summits (Framing the Global Future by Ignoring Alternatives: unfreezing categories as a vital necessity, 2009). This is a strangely poetic legacy of the abandonment of French as the language of global diplomacy (Women and the Underside of Meetings: symptoms of denial in considering strategic options, 2009). Whilst English and French share the use of many prefixes, the language bias in the argument here is justified in that it will be English usage (of prefixes) which will frame (if not "pre-fix") the contractual formulation of the conclusions of negotiations regarding a global reserve currency.
Is it appropriate to see current proposals as trapped in some form of "con" -- vainly pursuing a chimera of consensus on sustainability when a subtler framework is required to navigate the adaptive cycle? This necessity has been highlighted by Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006). Is the viability of a global reserve currency to be understood as necessarily complemented by circulation of a "moral currency" (Enabling Moral Currency Circulation: reframing a stimulus package to avert moral bankruptcy, 2010)? More fundamentally, or more generically, is this to be compared with a form of "cognitive currency", in which relative ignorance has a role (Circulation of the Light: essential metaphor of global sustainability?, 2010)?
Constrained communication: It can readily be argued that the case made here is merely a form of word play. However the concern is precisely with respect to the possibility that global discourse is trapped in a form of word play -- a subtle form of doublespeak -- with cognitive implications constraining the development of appropriate strategy. The approach taken here is partially inspired by the Oulipo movement of mathematicians, poets and semioticians in experimenting with how significance emerges within consciously constrained communication forms, as discussed separately (Lipoproblems: developing a strategy omitting a key problem, 2009).
Arguably it is the failure to take account of the constraining use of prefixes, especially "con", which is an unconscious determining factor of John Ralston Saul's Unconscious Civilization (1995). It might be asked what kinds of policies could be formulated if prefixes were to be avoided, as with the prescripting of the communiques of strategic summits by "Sherpas" -- as "pre-fixers" par excellence. Or, as a complementary alternative, how could the array of prefixes be consciously and creatively "played" as a means of engendering greater coherence (Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance, 2010; An Appropriate Syntax for the Future: beyond the conventional rules of thought, 2010)?
Engaging with ignorance: Rather than being deprecated, the sense of "con" as a confidence trick can be fruitfully seen as a means of engaging with ignorance -- of which all are increasingly characterized in an expanding global knowledge society. As with a child's first encounter with a mirror, the emergence of a higher order of consciousness comes through "seeing through the con". Hence the ic mirror test of self-awareness. The more general challenge is then how to encompass higher orders of the "con dynamic" -- involving conception, concern, conscience and confidence -- as a dynamic context for the emergence of consciousness and identity. The mirror test can be fruitfully reframed from a hypothetical perspective of extraterrestrials (Self-reflective Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criteria of species maturity? 2008).
It is this capacity which is essential to any strategic response to the unexpected. How else to embody the requisite complexity capable of engaging with emerging strategic surprises (Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected, 2010)?
Cyclicity: Any global reserve currency then merits reflection in terms of the confidelity with which it can then be sustainably engaged collectively. A key to this engagement would appear to be the cyclic "con dynamic" -- between what are otherwise framed as nouns and substantives. In that sense the identity of individuals is more fruitfully and fulfillingly "re-cognized" as emerging within that essentially non-linear "con dynamic", then to be understood as verbs rather than nouns (or even "pro-nouns"). The consciousness of identity is then continuously recreated within the interlocking cycles of that dynamic (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007). It is through these cyclic processes that global engagement is enabled (Spherical configuration of interlocking roundtables: Internet enhancement of global self-organization through patterns of dialogue, 1998; Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997).
Engagement with globality: The challenge is to discover metaphors to enable engagement with "globality" such as to render any global currency sustainable, as previously explored (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality, 2009; In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007). With respect to the paradoxical "cognitive twist" essential to the integrity of the con-dynamic explored here, this is fruitfully understood as a key to the navigation of the adaptive cycle that is the emerging challenge of global governance -- well illustrated topologically by the cognitive implications of the Möbius strip and the Klein bottle (Sustaining a Community of Strange Loops, 2010; Intercourse with Globality through Enacting a Klein bottle, 2009). How else to "encompass the con" (Transformation of Global Governance through Bullfighting, 2009)?
Isomorphism: Of particular interest is the possibility that a degree of isomorphism is required between the "con dynamic" within psychosocial contexts and the pattern through which a global reserve currency system is comprehended and implemented. This is partly evident in the relationship between Buckminster Fuller's "geometry of thinking" and his suggestions for energy currencies within a global energy grid -- understood in polyhedral terms. This energy focus is consistent with that of the analysis of civilizational collapse of Thomas Homer-Dixon (2006) -- perhaps to be generalized to the global distribution of information (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009).
Polyhedral configuration: To the extent that prefixes embody the set of memetic transformations necessary to sustainability and the cognitive navigation of the adaptive cycle, their association with interlocking cycles configured in polyhedral terms -- involving nesting and packing constraints -- is vital to the requisite isomorphism (Polyhedral Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization and global governance, 2008). With respect to any failure in transmutation of hope into confidence and confidelity within that context, the disconnect is highlighted by the increasoingly widespread sense of despair (Implication of Personal Despair in Planetary Despair, 2010).
An interesting conclusion of the argument is that any effort to "make a point"with respect to global strategic initiatives, in isolation from such configuration, is essentially meta-stable in terms of attracting global consensus -- to be fruitfully compared to any effort to balance a tetrahedron on an apex. Such considerations offer a reframing of any sense of globality and its gnerative capacity (Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997).
|Context for emergence of a sustainable global reserve currency|
|con [as togetherness]||conventional||conventional||conventional||conventional|
|con [as opposition]||challenged||challenged||challenged||challenged|
|con [as trickery / surprise]||emergent||emergent||emergent||emergent|
|con [as ignorance]||incomprehension||incomprehension||incomprehension||incomprehension|
Joseph Campbell. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and as religion. New World Library, 1986/2002 [review]
Edward de Bono:
Antonio de Nicolas. Habits of Mind: an introduction to clinical philosophy. iUniverse, 2000
Jared Diamond. Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. Viking Books, 2005 [summary]
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Thomas Moore. The Planets Within: the astrological psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Lindisfarne Press, 1990
Barack Obama. The Audacity of Hope: thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream. Vintage, 2008
Steven M. Rosen:
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John Ralston Saul. The Unconscious Civilization. House of Anansi, 1995
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