25 June 2018 | Draft
Group of 7 Dwarfs: Future-blind and Warning-deaf
Self-righteous immoral imperative enabling future human sacrifice
- / -
Global cultivation of blame-games
Future blindness and the deaf effect as cognitive biases
Stunted focus on proximate causes and short-term remedies
Cultivating the "Big Lie" -- and "lying bigly"?
Systemic blind spots engendering systemic errors
Big Lie of the Anthropocene: underpopulation or overpopulation?
Migration and other distractants enabling future human sacrifice?
Short-term humanitarian blackmail ignoring long-term human sacrifice
Global configuration of cognitive biases: towards mapping G7 susceptibility
G7 implication in a fairy tale familiar worldwide
Understanding otherwise the gravity of the global situation
Global governance as "monkeying with the elephant"
Produced on the occasion of the
Informal “mini-summit” on migration and asylum convened by the European Commission
in anticipation of a meeting of the European Council to discuss migration issues (June 2018)
Many commentators have raised questions regarding the disastrous failure of the gathering in June 2018 of the Group of 7 leaders of the most advanced economic powers of the world (Opinion: Time to scrap the G7, DW, 11 June 2018; The G-7 Fiasco: it's time to isolate Donald Trump, Spiegel Online, 11 June 2018; Trump trade fury torpedoes Canada's G7 summit, AFP, 10 June 2018). This has been exemplified by its feeble communique.
In a time of multiple crises, the only striking outcome of the gathering -- framed as unquestionably positive -- was the collective commitment to fund the education of women and girls, most notably in the impoverished countries of the world (Canada and partners announce historic investment in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations, 9 June 2018). With respect to the flow of refugees into Europe which this funding is notably designed to address, Europe is so conflicted about the matter that it has no means of applying its intellectual, political or strategic resources to discussing the matter, to discussing about how to discuss about the matter, or to discuss that surreal condition. In that context this can be recognized as hypocrisy of the highest degree -- obscuring implication in a form of immorality with disastrous future implications. It can be understood as a demonstration of the level of cowardice cultivated with respect to global leadership by the international community (International Community as God or Sorcerer's Apprentice? 2015).
The period was also witness to the symbolic refusal to permit refugees from Africa to land in Italian ports. Framed as a humanitarian mission, and an exemplification of the highest values of the international community, the extent to which such "humanitarian" assistance should be reframed as "blackmail" is beyond the scope of reasonable discourse. The exchange of "insults" in that regard between France and Italy (immediately following their meeting at the G7) has become characteristic of EU disarray on a migration policy defined by Germany, also a member of the G7 (Katya Adler, EU's Mediterranean migrant crisis: Just a mess or cynical politics? BBC News, 13 June 2018)
Taken together, these two processes give a degree of focus to the nature of the "question which is not asked" -- and which cannot be permitted by those whom the future will have every reason to recognize as the "People of the Lie" (Scott Peck, People of the Lie: the hope for healing human evil, 1983). In the 21st Century, such a question could be understood as inherent in the skillful cultivation of the "Big Lie" of the times (Existential Challenge of Detecting Today's Big Lie: mysterious black hole conditioning global civilization? 2016). The perversity is evident in the manner in which initiatives upheld as beyond reasonable criticism are used as a form of "humanitarian shield" to disguise profound inadequacy with both strategic and moral dimensions.
The question explored here is whether the short-term focus in both cases exemplifies a form of perverse avoidance of the implications for the medium and long-term future -- and the sacrifices then to be engendered as a consequence. Such short-termism may well be construed by the future as one of the greatest crimes against humanity -- associated with greater levels of human sacrifice than have ever been seen in the past. With appropriate political incorrectness, are the "Group of 7 Dwarfs" gathered in this way to be better caricatured as a "Group of 7 Moral Midgets"?
However it would be too easy to engage with the "Group of 7 Moral Midgets" by attributing particular blame to them. This would simply be an imitation of the blame-game they play among themselves. As "our leaders" at the highest level, they are very much our own creations and a reflection of our own moral dwarfism. However any Big Lie is being engendered, it is we who are "living the lie". It is within that lie that "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
The paradox of any reactive response is usefully illustrated by the insight of Stafford Beer in the Chairman's Address to the International Cybernetic Congress (The Cybernetic Cytoblast: management itself, September 1969):
Le Chatelier's Principle: Reformers, critics of institutions, consultants in innovation, people in short who 'want to get something done', often fail to see this point. They cannot understand why their strictures, advice or demands do not result in effective change. They expect either to achieve a measure of success in their own terms or to be flung off the premises. But an ultra-stable system (like a social institution)... has no need to react in either of these ways. It specializes in equilibrial readjustment, which is to the observer a secret form of change requiring no actual alteration in the macro-systemic characteristics that he is trying to do something about.
If one is caught in a lie, what can one then do about it? If one is unconsciously anticipating disaster -- perversely looking forward to "something happening" in an essentially monotonous life -- is there a more healthy response? Do health arguments to smokers, drug users and dangerous drivers carry much weight -- or reprimanding sinfulness? Why should "sinners" be expected to act otherwise?
The question is whether there is a more artful way of engaging with the current condition.
There is clearly no lack of studies of relevance to the challenges of the times and on the inadequacy of global governance. The situation calls for framing otherwise -- and succinctly. The political and strategic emphasis on "vision" and "optics", suggests the need for corrective "lenses" given the associated metaphors which then merit attention (myopia, astigmatism, and the like). However there is then a case for exploring "future blindness" -- especially on the part of leadership
To that metaphor could be added those frequently associated with that disadvantage (Cyclopean Vision vs Poly-sensual Engagement, 2006; Developing a Metaphorical Language for the Future, 1994). Hence the reference here to "deafness" to warning signals -- complicated by increasing discrimination against whilstleblowers and dissent.
Curiously the paradoxical nature of the challenge was framed millennia ago in terms of the Three Wise Monkeys -- however their chosen constraints are to be interpreted to include "turning a blind eye" and "willful blindness". The paradox is further illustrated by two classical tales -- The Emperor's New Clothes (1837) and The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster: mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy, 2009).
More striking is the framing offered by use of "an elephant", whether unseen "in the room", or described by six or seven blind men (according to different traditions). In this exercise, the men are framed as dwarfs in order to highlight the complex dynamics through the widely familiar tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, especially in the light of a surprising number of interpretations from a psychoanalytic perspective -- whether Jungian or Freudian. The latter is especially relevant to the tendency of members of the Group of Seven to express their political commitment to "being great again" -- possibly imagined as some form of global dominance. The fairy tale helps to frame the question as to who indeed is "Snow White" -- as the embodiment of the highest human values?
The quality of G7 global leadership, informed by this naive aspiration, is explored here as a failure to address underlying systemic issues -- through future blindness and warning deafness. This systemic neglect, in a situation of considerable gravity, is seen as enabling high levels of future human sacrifice and suffering.
Global cultivation of blame-games
It is extraordinary to note that in the present period -- and seemingly without exception -- all those considered by others to be at fault are righteously able to frame themselves as essentially innocent of all blame, as separately argued (Collective Mea Culpa? You Must be Joking ! Them is to blame, Not us ! 2015). This is especially evident in the case of warfare.
Beyond accusations of "back-stabbing", ideological opponents even have a marked tendency to frame each other as "evil" (Encyclopedia of Evil Claims, Claimants, Counter-claims, and Sigils: proposed facility in support of current global strategic priorities, 2016). Remarkably such a claim has been made in the aftermath of the G7 gathering (Trump trade adviser rips Trudeau: 'There is a special place in hell', The Hill, 10 June 2018). Curiously media coverage of the original comment has been rapidly replaced by coverage of apologies for the remark.
Such blame-games (and the implication of "evil" and malign intent) are as evident between countries (US vs. North Korea) as within countries (left-wing vs right-wing, populists vs. elites, etc). The process is also evident in the blame attributed to previous governments by any newly empowered government faced with an unchanging array of problems. It is also evident between sectors (developers vs. environmentalists, science vs. religion), within sectors (Catholic vs. Protestant, Sunni vs. Shiia) and between disciplines (natural vs. social sciences).
Rather than its acclaimed role in the redistribution of resources, it could well be asked whether democracy is usefully to be explored as an institutionalized process of redistribution of blame. So framed, however ineffectual the processes of governance, there is always another party that can be upheld as totally responsible for any inadequacies or failures. As such democracy, despite being upheld as the most appropriate form of governance is better understood as a skillful mechanism for cultivating plausible deniability.
Should the quest for sustainability be recognized as the quest for a means of sustaining the lie that others are always to blame? In this sense is it appropriate to see "sustainability" as a strategic device analogous to the famous use of facades in Potemkin villages (Globalization within a Global Potemkin Society, 2000)?
The danger of course is that global society becomes primarily characterized by blame-gaming with little insight into how to transcend that dynamic -- other than by blaming others for failing to be persuaded by one's own preferred strategy.
Future blindness and the deaf effect as cognitive biases
In a quest for insight into "future blindness" it is somewhat extraordinary to note the far greater proportion of references to the future of blindness and to blindness in the future -- especially given the eventual possibility of enabling the blind to see. Especially interesting therefore is the brief checklist by Morne Mostert (Future Blindness: an index of bias for leaders, University of Stellenbosch, 15 October 2015) and the thesis of Arno Nuijten (Deaf Effect for Risk Warnings A Causal Examination applied to Information Systems Projects. Erasmus University Repository, 2012).
Reference to information systems is a reminder of the extent in which global society is now readily defined as a knowledge-based information society. Arguably the Group of 7 has responsibilities for society understood as a global information system -- or would make that claim. The focus on the "deaf effect" in institutional information projects is also a reminder of the focus for which Stafford Beer, as mentioned above, has been renowned (Brain of the Firm, 1981). How indeed is the "global brain" to be rendered appropriately attentive to the future? What are the implications of Beer's subsequent work on viable system theory?
Cognitive biases: are systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioral economics. It is unclear whether they have been a focus of attention with respect to the Group of Seven or the "international community". As noted by Wikipedia with respect to cognitive biases, although the reality of these biases is confirmed by replicable research, there are often controversies about how to classify these biases or how to explain them. Some are effects of information-processing rules (i.e., mental shortcuts), termed heuristics, that the brain uses to produce decisions or judgments. Biases have a variety of forms and appear as cognitive ("cold") bias, such as mental noise, or motivational ("hot") bias, such as when beliefs are distorted by wishful thinking. Both effects can be present at the same time.
There are also controversies over some of these biases as to whether they count as useless or irrational, or whether they result in useful attitudes or behavior. For example, when getting to know others, people tend to ask leading questions which seem biased towards confirming their assumptions about the person. However, this kind of confirmation bias has also been argued to be an example of social skill: a way to establish a connection with the other person. Wikipedia clusters the biases as follows:
Future blindness: The following is an adaptation of Mostert's "index of bias" for leadership, most notably supplemented with links to relevant literature. Seemingly the list necessarily encompasses many of the biases which feature in Nuijten's study of the "deaf effect" with respect to recognition and acknowledgement of warning signals. The checklist of 30 raises valuable questions in relation to any "cognitive dwarfism" potentially characteristic of the Group of Seven.
|Checklist of biases framing future blindness
(summary of Morne Mostert, Future Blindness: an index of bias for leaders, 2015)
- Psycho-dynamic bias, including:
Transference, Projection, Attribution
- Status quo bias
- Confirmation bias
- Personal optimism bias
- Boundary bias
- Similarity bias
- Paradigmatic bias (Semmelweis reflex), including: Axiological bias, Ontological bias, Epistemological bias, Doxastic bias
- Selection bias
- Dominance bias
- Bottom-line bias
- Novelty or recency bias
- Structural bias
- Causal bias, including:
Singular cause bias, Original cause bias
- Proximity bias
- Control illusion
- Schematic bias
- Availability bias
- Positivism (vividness bias)
- Provenancial bias
- Loss aversion
- Upside bias
- Halo effect
- Fundamentalism bias
- Recurrence bias
- Cure-based diagnosis
- Sunk-cost bias
- Passion bias
- Personal interest bias
- Randomness bias
The literature indicates other efforts to cluster biases in the range 25-30:
- P. Croskerry: The importance of cognitive errors in diagnosis and strategies to minimize them (Academic Medicine, 78, 2003, 8, pp. 775-780), indicating that researchers have identified more than 30 cognitive biases, but most are believed to operate without conscious awareness, making it unrealistic to ask physicians which biases influence their judgment, how often, with which patients, and whether those biases lead them toward suboptimal decisions.
- Rory Fryer: The behavioural link between economics and marketing (25 October 2017), indicating that there are about 25-30 cognitive biases that play the largest part in behaviour and all have different relevance dependent on the context of the situation.
Other authors produce clusters of 20:
Some authors reduce the cognitive biases of significance to an even smaller number::
Comprehension challenges of complexity: The very question as to "how many" biases merit recognition is a reminder that there are constraints on human comprehension, reinforced by preferences, as discussed separately (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization: number games people play for survival, 2014). The explores the matter through the following sections:
Cognitive bias reinforced via the media: Much has been made of media bias, whether on the part of the mainstream media or various social media. This is readily understood in terms of information warfare and memetic warfare. This is notably evident on how problems are reframed to expose or protect particular strategies and the bodies promoting them, as discussed separately (Vital Collective Learning from Biased Media Coverage: acquiring vigilance to deceptive strategies used in mugging the world, 2014). The latter explores the following aspects:
Information and memetic diseases: An alternative to use of "warfare", as a framing metaphor for the cultivation of biases, is the use of "disease" -- potentially as an analogue to biochemical warfare. This approach is discussed separately (Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008) in terms of the following aspects:
Understood as "diseases", the memetic implications can be explored as an analogue to livestyle diseases (Cognitive Implications of Lifestyle Diseases of Rich and Poor: transforming personal entanglement with the natural environment, 2010).
Stunted focus on proximate causes and short-term remedies
The dwarf metaphor is especially appropriate to the G7 focus on the proximate and the short-term. It usefully highlights the "stunted" preoccupations of its members, whether in systemic or temporal terms. G7 members could thus be described as "temporarily stunted" -- with growth as a driving fantasy.
Preoccupation with proximate causes: It is strange to note the extent to which the problems of society are primarily blamed on proximate causes -- for which responsibility may be framed as elusive. This is most obviously the case with respect to increasing exposure to flooding. Readily blamed is atypical rainfall. Minimal attention is accorded to modifications to forest cover, river banks, or increasing coverage of land with concrete -- the policies from which these derived -- nor to according building permission in zones vulnerable to flooding. The focus is on rainfall -- readily framed authoritatively as an "Act of God", beyond human responsibility in order to limit insurance reparations.
This argument is developed separately (Disastrous Floods as Indicators of Systemic Risk Neglect\;implications for authoritative response to future surprises, 2016).
Systemic neglect and radical insight : The argument can be reframed more generally in terms of systemic neglect (Anticipating Future Strategic Triple Whammies -- in the light of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear misconceptions, 2011).
It is intriguing to note, and symptomatic of the methodological challenge, that every crisis gives rise to rhetoric regarding the need to detect the root cause. Commissions of inquiry are typically set up to that end. Much is made of the methodology of root cause analysis. Little is said of the mandates of such commissions and the manner in which they may well be restricted to a focus on proximate causes -- carefully excluding underlying causes. This concern is discussed separately (Failure of radical analysis of root causes, 2015). There is little embarrassment at the failure of such analysis to engender significant insights to enable more effective remedial strategies.
The issue is especially striking in the case of terrorism and radicalisation -- notably given the "radical" implications of the latter in framing any "root" cause (Identifying the Root Cause Focus of Radical Identity, 2015; Radicalisation of Existence and Identity, 2015; Radical Disaffection Engendered by Elitist Groupthink? 2016). The situation with respect to "radical" is especially ironic in that term is both deprecated in relation to terrorism and extolled as a virtue with respect to any form of radical innovation (Radical Innovators Beware -- in the arts, sciences and philosophy, 2016; (Coming Out as a Radical -- or Coming In? Risks of cultivating negative capability in a caliphate of normality, 2015).
Exemplification of systematic short-termism: There is a strong case for exploring the manner in which many challenges of governance are dubiously framed in terms of proximate causes:
- food shortages
- water shortages
- environmental pollution
- natural disasters (flooding, landslides and earthquakes)
- extinction of species
- overcrowding and shortage of accommodation
- ill-health and civilizational diseases
- climate change (especially as framed by those who deny it)
The focus is on the immediate need -- with little if any concern for the long-term factors enabling similar crises in the future. Potentially at least, crises can be used as the key to more insightful exploration of opportunities (Systemic Crises as Keys to Systemic Remedies a metaphorical Rosetta Stone for future strategy? 2008).
Question avoidance: From a systemic perspective, is there any common thread to such challenges to governance? Given the only too evident inadequacies of governance and remedial measures, is there a question (or class of questions) which is not being asked? Typical of the question avoidance is the framing offered by Manlio Dinucci:
From the United States to Europe, the “migrant crisis” is causing bitter interior and international controversy about the policies which need to be adopted concerning the migrant flow. However, these movements are being represented by a cliché which is the opposite of reality -- that of the "rich countries" obliged to suffer the growing migratory pressure of the "poor countries". This misrepresentation hides its basic cause -- the world economic system which enables a restricted minority to accumulate wealth at the expense of the growing majority, by impoverishing them and thus provoking forced emigration (Neocolonialism and "Migrants Crisis", Global Research, 28 June 2018).
Is the "basic cause" adequately identified here by "accumulation of wealth" and by "growing majority", or do these processes conceal more fundamental causes that are not explored? Why? For example, is it not the case that an aspect of the drive to to have larger families in some cultures is considered one facet of the accumulation and of wealth. Would the poor of today not seek to accumulate wealth in more conventional terms were they so enabled?
The dimensions of the issue have been discussed separately (Question Avoidance, Evasion, Aversion and Phobia: why we are unable to escape from traps, 2006) in the following terms:
Is the question so "deadly" that none dare ask it for fear of being marginalized, condemned, and deprived of their livelihood? (Psychoactive hazards in recognizing and engaging with risk, 2016; In quest of the most deadly question, 2013; Why Is Population Control Such a Radioactive Topic? (Mother Jones, 12 May 2010).
Rather than any particular question, has questioning become a methodological modality which is systematically deprecated -- despite the widely remarked incidence of crises? Is there a total absence of critical thinking in institutions -- except when this is interpreted as elaborating criticism of opposing strategies or in order to elaborate stronger defensive arguments against external criticism?
Carefully avoiding a systemic perspective results in assertive application of derivative thinking to secondary and tertiary issues (Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems: transcending bewailing, hand-wringing and emotional blackmail, 2013). Far more subtle is the configuration of strategies "around" a central issue, discussion of whose existence and nature is avoided (Lipoproblems -- Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem: the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues, 2009). This situation has been variously compared to the "elephant in the living room".
Perhaps most remarkable at this time, given the prominence accorded to issues of migration, is the manner in which every effort is made to avoid issues relating to future migration flows in contrast to the immediate focus on the challenges within the current year, if not the current month. This is reflected in the zero coverage in all the reputable sources of probable migration flows in decades to come, as detailed separately (Anticipating Future Migration into Europe (2018-2050): beyond the irresponsibility of current political and humanitarian short-termism, 2017).
Inconvenience of the undiscussable? In a global civilization faced with systemic crises, there is the intriguing question as to where might be found any checklist of non-discussable topics and policies. What institution could dare to produce it? What journal or other media could publicize it or comment on its content? Would any such checklist be necessarily conflated with readily deprecated conspiracy theories?
In the case of the many international conferences and summits on global challenges, are the questions which are not asked of far greater systemic significance than those which are? What gets "designed off the table", by whom, and with what rationalization?
How is the "deadly" nature of such questions to be compared to those whose troublesome potential has only recently acquired a degree of salience, for example:
- blasphemy, given its capacity to trigger widespread protest
- sexual abuse, especially by authority figures, and most notably sexual abuse of children
- evil, especially as attributed to leadership and by leaders (Existence of evil as authoritatively claimed to be an overriding strategic concern, 2016) -- emphasized by the rising need for exorcism
- covert practices, whether political or financial, officially sanctioned or otherwise
- covert discrimination, most notably against women, extending to human trafficking and modern-day slavery
- secrecy and censorship
- waste accumulation, notably in the form of marine debris and space debris
The controversy associated with climate change, can be used as a means of exploring the "inconvenience" of the seemingly less deadly issues (An Inconvenient Truth -- about any inconvenient truth, 2008).
Researching systemic reaction to evoking the undiscussable: There is no lack of research on warning deafness, as noted by Arno Nuijten (Deaf Effect for Risk Warnings A Causal Examination applied to Information Systems Projects, 2012). This extends to some degree into the reaction to whisteblowers and to those articulating warnings. Controversy has however been evoked by consideration of the possibility of a Whistleblowers' Charter.
There would seem to be a case for systemic research on topics which are inherently threatening to authoritative power structures with the capacity to suppress their evocation. However, rather than the topic itself, the research could more usefully explore the dynamics of the institutional response -- as suggested by the citation above of Stafford Beer's adaptation of Le Chatelier's Principle.
The nature of the response recalls the processes of the immune response system which have of course been extensively studied. What is the psychosocial equivalent and what are the disorders to which its memetic analogue might be subject? The case of AIDS merits reflection in that regard -- especially given its hitherto undiscussable dimensions.
Especially intriguing in systemic terms is the extensive interest in "enhanced interrogation" as a means of exploring the radical nature of beliefs which are considered inherently threatening. The language and the techniques readily recall those of the Inquisition challenged by those suspected of questioning unquestionable doctrine. There is a particular irony to this in the confusion between "radical" (as a form of threatening "radicalization") with "radical" extolled as characteristic of much-valued creativity of a higher order -- one considered vital to social an technological innovation. ****
Cultivating the "Big Lie" -- and "lying bigly"?
Much has been made of the enormity of the "Big Lie", coined by Adolf Hitler to refer to a propaganda technique, This concerned the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone " could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously". Hitler believed the technique was used to attribute blame for Germany's loss in World War I. For Hitler:
In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses…more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. (Mein Kampf, Vol. 1, Ch. X.)
Contemporary Big Lie? Curiously there would appear little interest in any quest for a Big Lie which might be currently cultivated to undermine any capacity to address the challenges of global governance. Some exercises to that end include:
The latter explores the nature of a Big Lie through the following:
Post-truth and lying? Curiously any concern with a Big Lie has now shifted to preoccupation with spin and fake-news in the post-truth era of an increasingly surreal world. These could of course be considered processes especially appropriate to disguising the existence of any underlying Big Lie (Phil Tinline, The Art of the Big Lie: the history of fake news, New Statesman, 17 March 2018; What are some of the biggest lies ever told? Quora; Jane McGrath, 10 of the Biggest Lies in History, How Stuff Works; The Big Lie Technique to Deceive People, Writers Group, March 2016; Kevin Hartnett, Why we believe the 'big lie', The Boston Globe, 23 September 2015).
Another dimension has been added through the massive preoccupation with security and the secretive classification of information of any issue of particular significance to public appreciation of the challenges of governance (Afghanistan: the big lie, The Guardian, 1 February 2012; "We're All in this Together": How Sea Pirates Exposed Cybersecurity's Big Lie, Apozy, 7 March 2016). This too could be understood as a very effective disguise for a Big Lie -- as has always been the cultivation of threat however amorphous.
Perhaps there is a form of "Potemkin Threat" to be compared with the original propaganda exercise of the Potemkin Village, as has been argued with respect to the nuclear threat and that of terrorism (Ronald Bailey, How Scared of Terrorism Should You Be? Not very, Reason, 6 September 2011) Frequent reference to false flag operations is consistent with this framing.
Beyond concerns with lying itself (Sissela Bok, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, 1999; Sam Harris, Lying, 2013), a further dimension has been added through the systematic denial of evidence contradicting authoritative positions -- to the point of ensuring impunity if arguments demonstrating criminal intent prove incontrovertible (Jeremy Adam Smith, Can the Science of Lying Explain Trump's Support? Mind and Body, 29 March 2017; Steven Aitchison, 7 Big Fat Societal Lies And What To Do About Them).
Erosion of trust: These processes have resulted in a widely noted erosion of trust in authorities (Matthew Harrington, Survey: People’s Trust Has Declined in Business, Media, Government, and NGOs, Harvard Business Review, 16 January 2017; Eroding Trust in Government: confidence crumbles, The Economist, 16 November 2013). This is especially recognized in terms of politicians (Lying Politicians: The Worst Liars In American Politics, Ranker; Thomas Sowell, Big Lies in Politics, Townhall, 22 May 2012).
Given the current processes of parliamentary democracy, how can any party prove the contrary, when each party seeks to frame the other as lying? How can those with the power to do so prove that they have not used it in this way -- especially when it is profitable? When the highest authorities lie -- skillfully aided by plausible deniability -- truth and credibility become the scarcest commodities.
So framed, do parliaments have an image problem as being essentially purveyors of lies -- if not Big Lies? Is this the case with members of the Group of Seven or the UN Security Council, whether collectively or singly (William E. Connolly, Trump, Putin and the Big Lie Scenario, January 2017; Chauncey DeVega, Historian Benjamin Carter Hett: Trump's “cultivation of dishonesty” strongly reminiscent of Nazis, Salon, 14 May 2018; Xavier Marquez, This is why authoritarian leaders use the 'Big Lie', The Washington Post, 26 January 2017).
The difficulty extends to ideological and advocacy movements, for example:
- Guy Standing, The 5 biggest lies of global capitalism (World Economic Forum, 12 December 2016); Capitalism's Big Lies (National People's Party); Martin Sandbu, From Lenin to Lehman: the big lies, (Financial Times, 15 August 2017)
- Josh Marshall, The GOP and Big Lie Politics (talking Points Memo, 6 February 2018)
- Debunking the Green Scam Worldwide (The Big Green Lie); Auden Schendler The Big Green Lie (Orion Magazine, 2008); Clive Crook Climategate and the Big Green Lie (The Atlantic, 14 July 2010); Walter Russell Mead, The Big Green Lie Exposed (The American Interest, 12 July 2010); Michelle Pauli, 'Big Green Lies' (The Guardian, 5 March 2007)
- Ryan Chittum, The Big Lie of the Post-Crisis (Columbia Journalism Review, 27 September 2013)
- Kamel S. Abu Jaber, The big Zionist lie and the task ahead (The Jordan Times, 27 April 2014)
- Ben Cohen, The Big Lie Returns: how anti-semites are asserting their right to define 'anti-Semitism' (Commentary, 1 February 2012)
- Jim Quinn. The Washington/Wall Street Big Lie: Counterfeit GDP Growth (Contra Corner, 24 March , 2014)
- The Big Lie of "David vs Goliath" (American Cancr Society)
- little big lies ***
There is an amusing grammatical twist in one reframing of the process (Lying Bigly 2,140, Ahmedabad Mirror, 23 January 2018)
Papal Big Lie? Especially relevant to the following argument is reported use of the Big Lie by the Catholic Church:
Juan D. Solano, Papal Vulnerability:Pope Benedict XVI is losing popularity (The Economist, 30 March 2010):
At the root of this huge mess is the Catholic Church's grossly distorted view of sex. To Catholics, sex means sin. Accordingly, Catholics believe that chastity -- lack of sex -- is, somehow, a virtue. That explains it all: the prohibition for Catholics to have sex before marriage; forced chastity for priests and nuns; prohibition for them to get married and have normal families; the bizarre idea that Jesus's mother was "a virgin"; the prohibition for women to occupy high positions in the Church's hierarchy; and, of course, something called "confession" -- you tell your dirty stuff to a sexless priest, in secrecy. For centuries, Catholics have struggled with such anti-nature rules. But there have been too many violations, too many pregnancies, too many child offenders, too many priests who want to be normal men, too many nuns who want to be mothers. The Catholic purity is a big, big lie. Child molestation is just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is the growing number of Catholics -priests, nuns and churchgoers- who no longer believe that crap, and are going elsewhere by the millions.
In a period in which every group has a tendency to frame the contrary arguments of another in terms of the cultivation of a big lie -- with some seeking to benefit specifically from this confusion -- the concern here is which Big Lie might be seen as "biggest" in terms of exacerbating the challenges of governance at this time. In these terms, as developed below, the argument here is that the Catholic Church is intimately involved in the cultivation of the "biggest lie" as a consequence of its attitude towards sex and the relation between hose of different genders -- as helpfully clarified by the citation above from The Economist.
Systemic blind spots engendering systemic errors
The argument here is not to call into question the cultivation by Catholicism of any "Big Lies" framed by critics, which its adherents find credible and congenial -- as is the case for other ideological movement and their adherents. Rather the question is how to reframe a global condition in which any belief system is necessarily framed as based on a "Big Lie" by other belief systems -- and possibly inherently "evil" as a consequence. This is notably the case of the perception by science of religion in general (Richard Dawson, The God Delusion, 2006).
Systemic blind spots: Drivers of automobiles and other vehicles are very familiar with vehicle blind spots. This is an area around the vehicle that cannot be directly observed by the driver while at the controls, under existing circumstances. In their role as "drivers" of the vehicle of state, the question is whether governments recognize the existence of strategic "blind spots". In this respect it is noteworthy that business has engendered blind spot analysis as a method aimed at uncovering obsolete, incomplete, or incorrect assumptions in a decision maker’s mental scheme of the environment:
Given the existence of cognitive biases, appropriately there is recognition of bias blind spot, namely of the impact of biases on the judgment of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on one's own judgment.
The issue can be addressed otherwise in terms of the "blind spot" of each stakeholder. This is the focus of Alec A. Schaerer (A General Methodology for Reconciling Perspectivity and Universality - Applied to the Discrepancy between Theoretical Economics and Eco-Social Reality, 2008). He argues:
Any separative gesture inevitably produces a corresponding 'blind spot' that embodies the ''inverse' of the implied content vector; for example observation can observe everything except its act of observing. Logicians discovered that the blind spot can not be discovered within the chosen conceptual system: through the system one cannot 'see' what it cannot make distinguishable. One is unable to discern that it cannot make distinguishable what it cannot make distinguishable, namely the paradoxical pattern that the conceptual system, by explicitly splitting up the universe between itself and everything else, must on the one hand be distinct from this distinction, but on the other hand must exist implicitly within the distinction as part of totality and hence as an object of investigation.
With respect to the possible complementarity between observers, each compensating for the blind spot of the other, he makes the further point that:
In this paradoxical situation, observing other observers in their activity of observing can look like a helpful move, but the blind spot can on principle never be overcome, it can only be shifted around. Luhmann addresses it eloquently in his version of systems theory.... But by axiomatically postulating something signified that is preconstituted (namely the structure of being a system) while promoting the blind spot as just the type of form that allows differences and causalities to be formulated, he justifies the primal tangle and can therefore develop no solution on principle. Of course the world can be depicted in an endless way on this path. The question is what one really wants: sophisticated management techniques or a systematically consistent theory. Primal distinctions beyond the usual ones are decisive; for example, whether one considers material or mental elements is irrelevant because both are appearances (in the physical and mental realm) governed by the overall order, not this order itself. Understanding 'things' in terms of 'things' -- as attempted in today's mainstream -- is inevitably limited, since nothing in the realm of representables can offer the required strict generality. This is the 'mental sound barrier' that for instance physics is now up against, by relying on mathematics instead of a total clarification of categoriality. But even much of theology fell for the view 'from outside'.
The question may then be asked as to the extent to which governance is sensitive to the possible existence of blind spots -- and especially in the case of those arrogating to themselves the leadership of global civilization, namely the Group of 7. Is it probable that a Group of Seven Drwarfs would be especially challenged in this respect?
Systemic errors of Catholicism? As a major institution with a variety of claims to infallibility over millennia, to what does the Vatican recognize the existence of blind sports in its own governance? Is it possible that the Catholic Church suffers from a collective blind spot to be appropriately recognized with the humility it otherwise upholds as a fundamental virtue?
The problem for global governance, swayed as it is by the arguments of Catholicism and the immense political pressure the Vatican is able to engender, is how to justify the uncritical credibility of a belief system characterized, according to critics, by a wide range of "errors" for which various checklists are available: For example 186 are profiled in the Catholic Errors from A to Z (The Ex-Catholic Journal); 33 are provided by Keith Piper (Errors of the Roman Catholic Church, GospelOutReach). Whilst many such "errors" are primarily of a theological nature and focused on particular heresies, the dubious nature of the justifications provided for the following raise the question as to the nature of the "blind spots" which would seem to have tragic implications for present and future human suffering:
The Catholic Church remains fundamentally unapologetic with regard to any perceived failings of the past, despite claiming that its values are eternal and unchanging -- implying to a degree the lack of need to apologize for behaviours now deemed reprehensible, if not criminal. The question is if the Catholic Church can be "wrong" in some measure, on one thing, is there not a strong probability that it can be "wrong" on another -- and perhaps even tragically wrong. Or is it to be assumed that Catholic Church is "never wrong" (rather than "not even wrong" as recognized by fundamental physics)?
More problematic, and perhaps even more tragic, is the capacity of the Catholic Church to inhibit to the extent possible -- if not to prohibit -- any discussion of such matters. This positions is consistent with its failure to engage in more than token interfaith dialogue with other Abrahamic religions with whose inspiration it shares so much (especially of relevance to this argument.
Paradoxically any such engagement with alternative perspectives calls into question the dynamics of any blame-game which themselves require to be placed on the table. Clearly this argument, in ascribing particular blame to the Catholic Church, calls for another mode of discourse in which its own prejudices are effectively addressed -- as would be the case with the focus on the Big Lie of any other belief system..
It is within this framework that the commitment of the Group of Seven to funding the education of women merits consideration. Is this commitment based on an expedient Big Lie that such education will reduce the pressure on migration into Europe? Is there robust proof that this would indeed be the case, or is it a case of wishful thinking based on selective consideration of unchallenged research carefully framed to support that hypothesis? Is any criticism of such research conclusions permitted?
Is the "education of women" to be recognized -- only too ironically -- as a "motherhood strategy" beyond any reasonable criticism by anyone respectful of human values? As such could it be more critically recognized as a form of Potemkin Strategy specifically designed to assuage any anxiety by the powers of the imperium and to frame its initiatives to the public as especially appropriate?
Is a related process to be recognized in the apparent support for remedial action on climate change by the Catholic Church, as articulated in the Encyclical Laudato Si (Pope's climate push is 'raving nonsense' without population control, says top US scientist, The Guardian, 24 September 2015). Is this an example of a covert deal of convenience to both the Catholic Church and to the United Nations, as argued separately (Papal Concern for Climate Change and Refugee Care: a means of concealing criminal systemic negligence? 2015). How could the existence of such a deal be proven or disproven?
With respect to any Big Lie, and especially those of the Catholic Church, by which cognitive biases could they be recognized as having been framed? Given the historical skills of the Inquisition in "enhanced interrogation", is there a case for applying analogous inquisitorial skills to determine the manner in which the Church cultivates a Big Lie -- as an ironical contemporary form of evil?
Big Lie of the Anthropocene: underpopulation or overpopulation?
Appropriate to the question of the existence of any Big Lie, in relation to the level of global population, is the extent to which this is variously perceived -- as might be predicted:
Overpopulation as a myth and a Big Lie?
- Krithika Varagur: The Muslim Overpopulation Myth That Just Won’t Die (The Atlantic, 14 November 2017)
- Howard Kainz: The Overpopulation Myth and the New Morality (The Catholic Thing, 13 December 2012)
- R. J. Rushdoony: Myths of Over-Population (The Free Market, Mises Institute), 7, 1989, 10).
- Population Research Institute: Overpopulation is a Myth; Debunking the Myth of Overpopulation (1 October 2013);
- Nicholas Eberstadt: Five myths about the world’s population (The Washington Post, 4 November 2011)
- George Monbiot: The Population Myth (The Guardian, 29 September 2009)
- Fred Pearce: The Overpopulation Myth (Prospect, 8 March 2010)
- Overpopulation: the Making of a Myth, (Bible Believers' Newsletter, 706)
Underpopulation as a myth and a Big Lie?
- Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich:. The Population Explosion (1990)
- Richard E. White: No Myth: population rise unsustainable (Nature, 529, 2016, pp. 283)
- Randy Alcorn: It’s Overpopulation That’s Breeding Global Poverty (Noozhawk, 2 February 2014)
- Oliver Moody: Overpopulation is the biggest threat to mankind -- Nobel laureates say, The Times, 31 August 2017)
- David Attenborough: Humans are plague on Earth (The Telegraph. 22 January 2013)
- Lester R. Brown, Gary Gardner and Brian Halweil: Beyond Malthus: sixteen dimensions of the population problem (Worldwatch Paper, #143, September 1998)
- M. H. Huesemann and J.A. Huesemann: Technofix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment, (New Society, 2011)
- Karen Shragg: Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation (2015)
- Hannah Barnes: Is population growth out of control? (BBC News, 29 September 2013)
- Karl Sax: Standing Room Only: the world’s exploding population (1960)
- The Population Institute: Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (2014)
- "A plague of people". (Cosmos. 13 May 2010).
- Human Overpopulation (Wikipedia)
- Birth rates 'must be curbed to win war on global poverty' (The Independent, 31 January 2007).
- Booming nations 'threaten Earth' (BBC News, 12 January 2006)
- Once taboo, population enters climate debate (The Independent, 5 December 2009)
- Population growth driving climate change, poverty: experts (Agence France Presse, 23 May 2012).
- Unsustainable population growth: the great issue at the heart of every problem (GreenBug)
- Poverty Causes Population Growth Causes Poverty (The Donella Meadows Project, 17 September 2017)
A question of "religion"? Unfortunately it is no longer a question of whether arguments for or against overpopulation are "true" or a "myth". The international track record of debate and research on the matter has been undermined by questionable arguments and agendas since the last UN Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994). The issue has now become a victim of post-truth politics. Clearly the issue is a matter of faith for the Abrahamic religions, and especially for Christianity -- engendering beliefs which "trump" any rational or scientific argument whenever required. Ironically Donald Trump is himself a party to this process through the manner in which he has deliberately curtailed funding of programs relating to family planning -- as favoured by his religious supporters.
More problematic than the issue itself -- and the questionable lobbying tactics of those variously concerned by the future of humanity and the planet -- is the total incapacity to discuss the many dimensions of the issue. That debate itself is undermined, inhibited or prohibited in some way.
Appropriately this inhibition can be recognized in terms of the traditional process of shunning, as righteously reinforced by religion (Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation Challenge: incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008).
This is a curious echo of the incapacity of the Abrahamic religions to resolve their own disagreements -- irrespective of the extent to which these reinforce violence in a number of regions, or their incapacity to engage fruitfully with other religions. Worse still, there is no arena in which that prohibition can itself be called into question. This recalls the use of so-called super-injunctions under British law, namely injunctions whose very existence and details may not be legally reported -- in addition to prohibition of disclosure of relevant facts and allegations. It also recalls similar devices characteristic of censorship under religious law -- to say nothing of non-disclosure agreements, as well as codes of silence practiced by secret societies, such as Omerta.
This pattern recalls to a higher degree the dynamics documented by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2010). Other interests are however complicit in the process, as noted below.
Insights into the process are rare, one exception being the study by (Leon Kolankiewicz, Earth Day and Population: a missed opportunity: mapping removal of population issue from environmental movement, Negative Population Growth, 2017). Another example is provided by the Kaya Identity which plays a core role in the development of future emissions scenarios in the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios prepared for the Third Assessment Report (TAR) in 2001. As a contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report (H. Rogner, et al,, Introduction. In Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007), it is stated that:
The challenge -- an absolute reduction of global Green House Gas emissions -- is daunting. It presupposes a reduction of energy and carbon intensities at a faster rate than income and population growth taken together. Admittedly, there are many possible combinations of the four Kaya identity components, but with the scope and legitimacy of population control subject to ongoing debate, the remaining two technology-oriented factors, energy and carbon intensities, have to bear the main burden.... [emphasis added]
Remedial capacity and risk: This example was cited together with another metric (Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics: the Gaussian Copula, the Kaya Identity, and what else? 2009). The Gaussian Copula function is of interest since its successful use is alleged to have been at the root of the over-confidence of the global financial community in taking the high orders of investment risk which led to the global financial crisis of 2008, and to its consequences (Felix Salmon, Recipe for Disaster: the formula that killed Wall Street, Wired, 17.03, March 2009). Of it, its discoverer stated: Very few people understand the essence of the model.
Over-confidence can be readily cited with respect to the optimism evidenced with regard to the capacity of global governance to manage the generation and distribution of resources in response to the predicted growth in population in the decades to come. Such over-confidence takes on the characteristics of an act of faith, whether reinforced by religious doctrine or by techno-optimism.
Whether through the Group of 7, the "international community", or otherwise, there is little reliable evidence that global governance is capable of engendering the remedial capacity to address the complex of crises already foreseen. No indicators are developed to that end -- in contrast to those with respect to the resource-related challenges (Remedial Capacity Indicators Versus Performance Indicators, 1981; Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action, 2009). Of notable relevance to the study of such "capacity" is the forgotten "Jackson Report" (A Study of the Capacity of the United Nations Development System, 1969) as discussed separately (Planning for the 1960s in the 1970s, 1970).
Systemic challenges in responding to population growth:
Migration and other distractants enabling future human sacrifice?
Problem and strategic dependency: Crises typically evoke proposals to get to the root cause of the problem as perceived. Risk analysis could be understood as anticipating the probability of a crisis which, after the fact, may then be explored more critically using root cause analysis.
The systemic analysis required is exemplified by the skills required in investigating issues in complex computer systems. The approach is described in terms of dependence analysis showing how one routine is dependent on the presence and timing of another. Such analysis determines whether it is safe to repeat a routine or to enable its parallel operation. Dependency (or coupling) is thus the degree to which each module relies on each one of the other modules, namely the degree of interdependence between modules, or a measure of the strength of the relationships between modules.
Dependency hell is a colloquial term for the frustration experienced in the use of software which has dependencies on specific versions of other software. It takes several forms:
- Multiple dependencies
- Long chains of dependencies
- Conflicting dependencies
- Circular dependencies a circular dependency is a relation between two or more modules which either directly or indirectly depend on each other to function properly. Such modules are also known as mutually recursive. Loop dependence analysis is a process which can be used to find dependencies within iterations of a loop with the goal of determining different relationships between statements.
Although specifically recognized in software engineering, this offers insights into complex patterns of dependencies and loops which can be recognized in the systemic relationships between social and environmental problems and between the remedial strategies elaborated in response to them -- which may well exacerbate them.
Such chains and loops have been extensively documented in the online databases of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, as separately described (Feedback Loop Analysis in the Encyclopedia Project, 2000). The analysis of such relationships, and their visualization, was explored using the Netmap application (Preliminary NetMap Studies of Databases on Questions, World Problems, Global Strategies, and Values, 2006). That exercise notably used as examples: Energy strategies | Water problems | Water strategies | Strategies against violence.
Application of root cause and dependency analysis to challenges of governance? Particular attention has been given to the need to determine the root cause of terrorism (Radical identification of the root cause of terrorism, 2015). Arguably this has been less than successful in enabling more fruitful strategic responses (Global Incomprehension of Increasing Violence, 2016). It can also be argued that root cause analysis has been less than successfully applied to the challenges of governance in general (Failure of radical analysis of root causes, 2015).
Although much was said about "the science" relevant to climate change and its reliability, is the fact that so little attention was given to other "sciences" capable of analyzing the debate itself and its players more fruitfully to be considered a blind spot in "the science"? What efforts are made to recognize cognitive blind spots and biases in global risk analysis, as discussed by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgment of global risks, In: Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic, eds, Global Catastrophic Risks, OUP, 2008)?
The current inadequacies of democratic and other forms of governance are widely recognized (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2007). In the absence of more skillful application of systemic analysis, it is difficult to argue that few problems of governance would not be alleviated by a lower rate of population growth in population (Problems arising more or less directly from overpopulation, 2007). The latter offered the following examples, amended in the light of a related list in Wikipedia (Effects of human overpopulation) :
|Starvation resulting from lack of food
||The starvation of millions is a matter of daily record. Pathetic statements are made that food resources are available, although it is only too evident that such resources are not delivered where they are needed. This engenders intensive factory farming to support large populations, leading to the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria diseases. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this failure.
|Shortage of water
||Again this is a matter of daily record, especially inadequate fresh water. Many walk for hours to replenish necessary supplies. Shortage of water is predicted to be a major future provocation for violence. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
|Illness resulting from lack of health care
|| The poor health conditions of millions, and the death of children, is a matter of daily record -- with the increased chance of the emergence of new epidemics and pandemics, and low life expectancy. Again it is argued that health care (including vital medication) is potentially available. Again it is only too evident that such services are only made available in a tokenistic manner. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation -- notably despite the deaths of millions directly resulting from their resistance to use of contraceptives in Africa.
||Increasing numbers are progressively degrading the environment in a manner that is only too evident -- whether in terms of waste disposal (notably marine pollution), construction in "green zones", forest "clearing", extinction of species, pollution (air, water, noise, soil contamination, etc),
mass species extinctions and contracting biodiversity. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
|Shortage of arable land
||Millions are unable to obtain arable land on which to grow food for their daily need. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
|Overcrowded settlements and slums
||Notably due to lack of land, millions aggregate in settlements that are monuments to insalubrity and degrading living conditions. These result in unhygienic living conditions for many based upon water resource depletion, discharge of raw sewage and solid waste disposal. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
||As a result of increasing impacts of human activity, notably in the form of fuel combustion, flooding is experienced and sea levels are rising. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
|Overexploitation of non-renewable resources:
||This phenomenon has been widely documented, notably with respect to depletion of energy resources and groundwater reserves. The effects of overpopulation are compounded by overconsumption. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
|Inequality of access to resources
||Whilst a limited proportion of the population live lives unaffected by accumulating problems, millions have increasingly limited possibility of access to resources -- even the minimum resources for subsistence. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
||Millions have no opportunity of earning a living and feeding their families. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
||Millions live lives that offer them no opportunity to educate their children to even a minimum standard. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
||In a world of increasing inequality and ignorance, millions suffer from a variety of forms of injustice. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation.
|Violence / Terrorism
||In a world of increasing injustice, inequality and ignorance, violence proliferates within the family, in the streets, between communities and between nations -- notably over matters of territory and resources. Elevated crime rate due to drug cartels and increased theft by people stealing resources to survive. Religions and humanitarian organizations blame others for this situation -- whilst actively or tacitly promoting crusades, jihads, blessing of weaponry by military chaplains -- Gott Mit Uns.
Sectors complicit in avoidance of systemic analysis of effects of increasing population: Corresponding to the checklist above, it is useful to recognize those sectors of the society which necessarily benefit from growth in population -- to the point of being complicit in efforts to avoid any discussion of issues relating to its constraint. Rather than being part of any solution, they are necessarily part of the problem to a degree which has yet to be clarified:
||despite the consequences, religions typically have a principled commitment to unconstrained growth in the global population at all costs, possibly framed competitively through natalism
||dependent as they are on a pool of consumers, the increasing level of competition is such that an ever larger population can only be beneficial to business interests in the shorter or longer term -- irrespective of environmental impacts (automobiles, etc) and constraints on non-renewable resources; of further relevance are manpower requirements -- despite the future implications of robotics
||an ever increasing population, and the conflicts thereby engendered in competition for resources, are necessarily to be welcomed by the weapons industries -- irrespective of the level of fatalities and collateral damage
||an ever increasing population, and the associated requirement for infrastructure, are necessarily to be welcomed by the construction industries -- in addition to their manpower requirements
||an ever increasing population, and the associated requirement for food, are necessarily to be welcomed by agribusiness -- in addition to their manpower requirements, and irrespective of the environmental impacts
||ever increasing numbers imply an ever increasing call upon the health services and the products of the pharmaceutical industry -- especially in response to the needs of an aging population; this is a factor in the principled resistance to euthanasia, despite any complicity in warfare
||an ever increasing population requires recreation facilities and opportunities for tourism vital to the survival of a range of industries
||spreading risk, as fundamental to the operation of the insurance industry, requires ever increasing numbers of people -- much as in the operation of a Ponzi scheme
|security services and military
||the increasing complexity of society associated with increasing numbers -- susceptible to unrest and conflict -- offers welcome opportunities, in contrast to the prospect of disarmament and a peaceful society
||increasing numbers offer the prospect of increased income, whilst the increased complexity disguises any inadequacies by attributing it to growth of population
Systemic mapping exercises: Reproduced from Scientific Gerrymandering of Boundaries of Overpopulation Debate
Review of The Royal Society report -- People and the Planet (2012)
Global strategic "ball" -- to be detected, caught and juggled? As argued separately, governance has been widely acknowledge to be an exercise in juggling (Governance as "juggling" -- Juggling as "governance": dynamics of braiding incommensurable insights for sustainable governance, 2018). However in order to juggle, there is a need to detect the ball and to keep one's eye on it.To that end, the following exercise combines the checklists above of the effect of overpopulation with the sectors constraining discussion of the strategic dilemmas it poses.
|Towards systemic global framing of overpopulation challenge
tentative mapping of dimensions using a cuboctahedron
|Overpopulation engendering problems
||Complicity in shunning discussion
||"Wrapping" the ball
|Animations prepared using Stella Polyhedron Navigator
To the extent that any such "ball" is more appropriately understood as a "bubble", the question is when and how the bubble might "burst" (Pricking the Bubble of Global Complacent Complicity: hyperdimensional insights from the physics of bubble blowing, bursting and collapse? 2017).
Of some value to this argument relative to cognitive bias is the extensive description by Wikipedia of Cognitive traps for intelligence analysis, given that intelligence analysis is itself plagued by many of the cognitive traps also encountered in other disciplines (Richards J. Heuer, Jr. Perception: Why Can't We See What Is There to Be Seen?, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency). The traps distinguished are mirror imaging, target fixation, and inappropriate analogies. How might these apply to strategies relating to population?
Short-term humanitarian blackmail ignoring long-term human sacrifice
For much-challenged global governance, it is appropriate to ask:
- which challenges faced by government would not be alleviated by lower levels of population?
- which problems will become ever more challenging with the predicted increases in population?
- why the highly controversial dimensions of the strategic challenge cannot be discussed systemically -- and why that too cannot be discussed?
What indeed will be the coping strategies of the future?
The European mini-summit on migration, involving 16 of the 28 member states, was claimed to involve "talking with particularly affected nations about all problems connected with migration" (Brussels Hosts EU 'Mini-Summit' On Migration, Radio Free Europe, 24 June 2018). How indeed were "all problems" identified in that context? How indeed will such top-level talks clear the way for the full summit of all EU leaders (28-29 June 2018)? What is to be expected in the light of commentary on the mini-summit (EU papers over differences after ‘frank’ migration talks, The Washington Post, 24 June 2014; The Latest: No decisions at ‘frank and open’ migration talks, The Washington Post, 24 June 2014). No mention was made of the longer term challenge or its drivers -- most obviously growth in impoverished population.
The crisis is framed as a shorter-term political crisis -- especially in the light of elections later in 2018. For the future-blind, any consideration of decades into the future is completely irrelevant to the absolute priority of safeguarding the position of those in power today -- a priority hypocritically framed in terms of the highest human values.
Humanitarian blackmail? It is in this context that society and governments are systematically exposed to a pattern of "humanitarian blackmail" focused on the immediate short-term. The daily possibility of media coverage of the death of desperate refugees by drowning is used by humanitarian agencies to manipulate public opinion and strategic decision-making -- avoiding any consideration whatsoever of predictable flows of migrants decades into the future. This posture enables religions and humanitarian agencies to occupy the moral high ground, whilst avoiding any complicity in enabling future sacrifice.
As argued separately, no statistical agency is currently empowered to publicize predictions of such flows, because of the sensitivity of the issue and the vested interests in sustaining the current confusion (Anticipating Future Migration into Europe (2018-2050): beyond the irresponsibility of current political and humanitarian short-termism, 2017). The incapacity of global society to discuss the complexity of the issue systemically makes a mockery of any claims to manage complexity now or in the future (Challenges More Difficult for Science than Going to Mars, 2014).
That the blackmail is successful is indicated by the declaration of the French President Emmanuel Macron: Some are trying to use the situation in Europe to create political tension and to play with fear... We must not give in. When someone has the right to protection and asylum, we should grant it. There is necessarily little ability to articulate how potential refugee deaths can be so effectively used in blackmail -- at a time when those exposed to that blackmail are indifferent to the deaths and suffering they deliberately engender elsewhere on a daily basis.
The focus on knee-jerk strategic response is cynically framed by imagery of the condition of the refugees (Starvation Imagery as Humanitarian Trump Card? Counterproductive emotional blackmail engendering worldwide indifference, 2016). This process ignores the condition of those subject to such military action and the processes enabling future suffering of far greater numbers for many decades to come. This is evident in a compilation by humanitarian agencies of a list of those who have died endeavouring to reach Europe (The List: the 34,361 men, women and children who perished trying to reach Europe, The Guardian, 20 January 2018). No effort has however been made to develop any list of those who have died as a consequence of European complicity in violent conflict in Africa and the Middle East.
As with the blame-gaming noted above, the term "humanitarian blackmail" is now righteously used to frame the failure of others to act according to the principles of the proponents of any initiative (Refugee Crisis: from the humanitarian blackmail over food to today's violence, Statewatch, 3 June 2016).
The tragic irony is that society and governments -- most notably those represented at the G7 -- are indifferent to even greater numbers of deaths on a daily basis within the countries from which the refugees are migrating. Such deaths are a consequence of secretive military actions in which they are variously complicit -- deliberately designed to destabilize and devastate those societies in the pursuit of questionably framed agendas. The tragedy is compounded by the contribution to GDP that those intervening in this way derive from sale of arms for those arenas (Evaluating the Grossness of Gross Domestic Product: Refugees Per Kiloton (RPK) as a missing indicator? 2016; German military to move forward with plan to lease Israeli drones, DefenceWeb, 15 May 2018).
Engendering future human sacrifice: With the immediate short-term as the strategic focus to avoid the "humanitarian embarrassment" of media coverage of refugee deaths, it is clear that there is an underlying commitment to major sacrifice of human lives in the future. No estimates are necessarily available for the numbers which will be sacrificed in this way for the decades into the future -- despite the enthusiasm for estimates of other socio-economic dimensions. The mass sacrifices deplored in civilizations of the past -- the Aztecs, and the like -- will be trivial by comparison, as with the institutionalized genocide of more recent regimes.
Given the fundamental role of the Abrahamic religions in inhibiting fruitful dialogue on the challenge, it can be readily argued that those religions have a perverse dependency on human sacrifice of some form (Fundamental Need for Human Sacrifice by Abrahamic Religions: vital prerequisite for sustainable global civilization? 2018). Key to this dependency is inhibiting any discussion of unconstrained population growth -- as is only too evident in migration summitry involving governments of Christian inspiration.
It is in this sense that the recent G7 commitment to funding education of women and girls can be seen as the height of hypocritical cynicism. It is readily recognized as a device for disguising the nature of an undefined challenge through a strategy which all would welcome as innocuous and "positive". That its efficacy is questionable is not a matter of discussion -- since any exploration of that possibility would be prevented (as has been the pattern documented by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2010).
Ambiguity regarding migrant processing centres: Arguably the current major strategic proposal by EU countries to set up off-shore "centres" merits similar criticism (EU to consider plans for migrant processing centres in north Africa, The Guardian, 19 June 2018; ‘Disembarkation platforms’ outside EU considered to end migrant row, EURACTIV, 20 June 2018). Building such centres in north Africa is seen as an attempt to deter people from making life-threatening journeys to Europe across the Mediterranean.
Provisional agreement has now been reached on the estabishment of "voluntary controlled centres" and "regional disembarkation platforms" How these are to be carefully distinguished from "concentration camps", "POW camps", and "internment camps" will be a matter for the future (List of concentration and internment camps). This will be especially relevant given the permanence of "refugee camps" elsewhere, and the construction by the USA of border "detention centres". Of some relevance is the conspiracy theory regarding FEMA camps in the USA. No mention is made of the increasing numbers of migrants in future decades and the EU strategies complicit in engendering them. Europe and the G7 are clearly "conflicted" on how future sacrifice of others is enabled.
Moral dilemma highlighted by the "trolley problem": The subject of very extensive study and commentary, variants of the so-called trolley problem concern the relative merits of doing nothing, with the consequence that many will die, versus becoming actively complicit in allowing a few to die -- in order to save the many. A related problem of "lifeboat ethics" is especially pertinent to the current reality of refugees on the Mediterranean, notably as used as a metaphor for resource distribution by ecologist Garrett Hardin (Lifeboat Ethics: the case against helping the poor, Psychology Today, September 1974). With a lifeboat bearing 50 people, having room for 10 more, the dilemma arises if it is surrounded by a 100 swimmers in the ocean. The question is whether (and under what circumstances) swimmers should be taken aboard the lifeboat.
The trolley problem is a specific ethical thought experiment among several that highlights the difference between deontological and consequentialist ethical systems. The central question that these dilemmas bring to light, as framed by moral philosophy, is on whether or not it is right to actively inhibit the utility of an individual if doing so produces a greater utility for other individuals.
It would be expected that the strategic dilemmas of such framing in terms of moral philosophy would be applied by EU governments and humanitarian organizations to the migration challenge -- especially given French pride in their philosophical skills (see Dilemme du tramway). This does not appear to be the case. Of some relevance are the following references to the trolley problem:
- Jason Brennan: An Alternative Trolley Problem: immigration, not global aid(Bleeding Heart Libertarians, 20 August 2012), with many comments
- Paul R. Camacho: The Trolley Car and the Refugees: the choice ahead (Hiiraan Online, 22 December 2015)
- A. Trevor Thrall: Refugees, immigration, and the trolley problem ( Learn Liberty, 5 March 2017)
- Silvia De Poli, et al.: The Drowning-refugee Effect: media salience and xenophobic attitudes (Applied Economics Letters, 24, 2017)
- Alexander Bowe: Syria and the Trolley Problem (The Korbel Report, 5 September 2013)
- Chris Lyons: Some thoughts on morality and the European migrant crisis (Greater Manchester Humanists, 20 September 2015)
- David Heslin: Refugees Are Not Your Trolley Problem (NewMatilda, 16 May 2016)
- Albert Barque-Duran and Emmanuel M. Pothos: The Refugees’ Dilemma: not all deontological moral choices are of the same kind (MindModelling, 2017)
- Taverne: La gestion des migrants et les faux dilemmes (AgoraVox, 2 janvier 2018)
- Schäuble, Kant und das Trolley-Problem (Zettels Raum, 3. Januar 2007)
In contrast to conventional framings of the trolley problem, current strategic thinking is focused on the immediate pressure to act to save the relatively few at this time -- whilst completely ignoring the implications of inaction with respect to the many through decades into the future. Here the two trolley tracks of the thought experiment are through time rather than through space. The dilemma merits exploration in terms of "temporal violence" for which insights from financial risk taking would be valuable.
Whilst insight from the trolley problem is frequently sought, various authors have expressed caution in that regard (Christopher W. Bauman, et al, Revisiting External Validity: concerns about trolley problems and other sacrificicial dilemmas in moral psychology, Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2014, 8/9). The latter indicates: We are concerned that studies of sacrificial dilemmas may lack experimental, mundane, and psychological realism and therefore suffer from low external validity.
Does the migration crisis now offer sufficient "experimental, mundane, and psychological realism" to encourage further urgent investigation of the dilemma? Expressed otherwise, it would appear that society is faced with a form of "memetic warfare" between the "headless hearts" and the "heartless heads" -- with no process whereby an appropriate strategy can either be formulated or discussed. Memetic warfare is now recognized as a form of information warfare and psychological warfare involving the propagation of memes on social media (Noopolitics and memetic warfare within the noosphere, 2014; Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001).
It might be expected that leading European philosophers, such as Bernard Stiegler and Peter Sloterdijk, would be able to offer key insights into the dilemma of migration/refugees -- given their respective key works (The Neganthropocene, 2018 and Spheres: Bubbles / Globes / Foams, 2011/2014/2016). Unfortunately their thinking, as with politiians, does not appear to address the practical challenges of overpopulation and their collective comprehension (Yuk Hui and Pieter Lemmens, Reframing the Technosphere: Peter Sloterdijk and Bernard Stiegler’s anthropotechnological diagnoses of the Anthropocene, Krisis; Pieter Lemmens and Yuk Hui, Apocalypse, Now! Peter Sloterdijk and Bernard Stiegler on the Anthropocene, boundary2, 16 January 2017; Nikos Papastergiadis, Does philosophy contribute to an invasion complex? Sloterdijk the antagonist and the agonism of Mouffe, Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, 9, 2017).
As with European leaders in their debate on migration, the focus would seem to be on whether boundaries should be open or closed -- framed as "security of boundaries". This is paralleled by the deprecated initiative of Donald Trump, described as follows by Jim Hightower:
The fact that we are resorting to the construction of an enormous fence between two friendly nations admits to an abject failure by policymakers, who are so bereft of ideas, honesty, courage and morality that all they can do is to try walling off the problem. (A Wall Won't Fix Immigration, Alternet, 27 June 2018)
Hopefully Sloterdijk's arguments in Spheres nevertheless help to frame the merit of the "global" configuration in the following section.
Global configuration of cognitive biases: towards mapping G7 susceptibility
Configuration of biases in 2D: The cognitive biases indicated by Wikipedia are accompanied by the following configuration of 180+ biases designed by John Manoogian III -- namely the majority listed there. Centered on the depiction of a human brain, the configuration raises the question as to how this pattern might be understood in terms of the "global brain" and the responsibility of the Group of Seven in that regard. Of particular interest, in the light of the extensive role envisaged for artificial intelligence, is the extent to which such biases may be inadvertently embodied in algorithms with implications for governance.
Configuration of future blindness biases in 3D: The set of "future blindness biases" selected by Mostert can be usefully configured in 3D. The rhombic triacontahedron on the left is the dual of the icosidodecahedron in the images on the left.
|Animations of tentative mappinga of 30 Future blindness biases onto polyhedra
| onto vertices of icosidodecahedron
(triangular faces transparent)
| onto vertices of icosidodecahedron
(pentagonal faces transparent)
| onto faces of rhombic triaconahedron
|Animations prepared using Stella Polyhedron Navigator
Configuration of 180 cognitive biases in 3D: The larger set of cognitive biases can be tenatively configured as follows, necessarily raising the question of how they may be clustered and interrelated in any such mapping.
|Animation of tentative mapping of biases from Cognitive Bias Codex
180 vertices of
truncated truncated icosahedron
|Animation of tentative mapping of clusters of Cognitive Bias Codex
20 faces of icosahedron
|Animations prepared using Stella Polyhedron Navigator
Further insight is potentially available through exploring the manner in which mapping in 2D can be transformed into 3D -- given the forms of "global" comprehension that the latter enables.
|Folding/Unfolding animation of 30 Future blindness biases
mapped onto 30 faces of rhombic triaconahedron
|Folding/Unfolding animation of 30 Future blindness biases
20 faces of icosahedron
|Animations prepared using Stella Polyhedron Navigator
Beyond dispute through viable system theory? The various mappings above are tentative and merit far more extensive exploration from a systemic perspective. Of particular relevance is the use of spherically symmetrical polyhedra for that purpose, notably to enable more effective collective cognitive engagement with the complexity of the issues. It is noteworthy that polyhedral models feature in the analysis of issue dependency. The justification for use of such polyhedra, especially the cuboctahedron, follows from the pioneering work of Buckminster Fuller (Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, 1975/1979). His focus on tensional integrity in relation to the icosahedron is a feature of the work of Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute: the invention of team syntegrity, 1994).
A valuable feature of such mapping templates is their intertransformability -- especially that between the icosahedron and the cuboctahedron, but extending to the rhombic triacontahedron. In a period of purported preoccupation by the EU with the future applications of technology, it is noteworthy that no use of such mappings is envisaged in relation to EU conferences (as discussed separately), as might have been considered appropriate to the complexity of EU debate on migration (Visualization Enabling Integrative Conference Comprehension: global articulation of future-oriented 3D technology, 2018).
How indeed is the EU to shift "beyond dispute"? How is a viable system to be understood in that regard -- in the quest for any form of sustainability?
G7 implication in a fairy tale familiar worldwide
Arguably there is a need to engage otherwise with the challenges of globality (as currently exemplified by migration) in a mode with suitably archetypal cultural resonances -- together with their aesthetic associations. Given the impossibility of discussing the matter in any reasonable terms, nor even of discussing that impossibility, the challenge might be usefully framed as identifying a modality which is requisitely surreal -- commensurate with the prevailing degree of irrationality. In a condition which can only be described as ridiculously tragic, ridiculous approaches merit attention in order to enrich the debate.
The framing in the title of the Group of 7 in terms of the tale of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs offers the possibility of analyzing global dynamics in a quite different manner. There is every possibility that the tale, through its renderings in film and other media, is better known worldwide than the Group of 7. Such a comparisons has been previously made (Nick Enoch, But where's Snow White?! Off to work go G7 leaders as they plant saplings at Japan summit Mail Online, 26 Mail Online 2016; An Anti-G7 protestor holds a placard reading seven dwarfs over the hills..., Getty Images, 6 June 2015; The G7 Is Acting More Like the Seven Dwarfs, Business Week, 4 June 1989).
Psychoanalysis? The dwarfs of the tale were used as the central metaphor in a workshop of the World Academy of Art and Science, as noted separately (Re-enchantment of Work -- Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Its Off to Work We Go: Engagement in the 21st Century, 1996). The writer comments:
And since I have some interest in the Jungian psychological perspective, I was also concerned that each of these 7 could be understood as having a positive, overt side as well as a negative, covert 'shadow' side. So within each of us we tend to have 7 dwarfs, each with a kind of positive connotation under normal circumstances but also a kind of shadowy, undigested connotation. In a sense the set of dwarfs makes up a kind of multiple personality, with each dwarf being a kind of schizophrenic subpersonality to which each of us has some access as we engage in the communities around us. The challenge of society is somehow to provide the engagement opportunities for personality integration, whilst at the same time offering environments through which we can learn through our unintegrated, and often polarized, perspectives. And the communities offering such learning opportunities have to be sustainable.
However there are various twists from the traditional tale which merit imaginative attention, as noted by Adam Gidwitz (The Twisted History of Snow White International Literacy Association, 24 October 2013). At the end of the tale, a Prince purchases Snow White’s body from the seven dwarves, having fallen for the Princess when he first lays eyes on her – despite the fact that she is, in fact, dead. This marginalised aspect of the Fairy Tale demonstrates necrophilial desire and the theory of the death drive. Elizabeth Bronfen argues that in ‘Snow White,’ the prince desires the dead princess because through her corpse, he is able to validate his own life:
Far less known is the wide range of interpretations of that tale from a psychoanalytic, symbolic and spiritual perspective. Variously insightful, these include:
Dwarfs? Especially relevant to the use of the dwarf framing of this argument is the unusual, much-cited, interpretation of their role in the tale by Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment: the meaning and importance of fairy tales, 1976). For Bettelheim:
Dwarfs -- these diminutive men -- have different connotations in various fairy tales.... Like all dwarfs, even the unpleasant ones, they are hard-working and clever at their trade. Work is the essence of their lives; they know nothing of leisure or recreation. Although the dwarfs are immediately impressed by Snow White's beauty and moved by her tale of misfortune, they make it clear right away that the price of living with them is engaging in conscientious work... According to the ancients, seven planets circle the sun, hence the seven dwarfs. Dwarfs or gnomes, in Teutonic lore, are workers of the earth, extracting metals, of which only seven were commonly known in past times-another reason why these miners are seven in number. And each of these seven metals was related to one of the planets in ancient natural philosophy (gold to the sun, silver to the moon, etc.). These connotations are not readily available to the modern child.
But the dwarfs evoke other unconscious associations. There are no female dwarfs. While all fairies are female, wizards are their male counterparts, and there are both sorcerers and sorceresses, or witches. So dwarfs are eminently ale, but males who are stunted in their development. These "little men" with their stunted bodies and their mining occupation -- they skillfully penetrate into dark holes -- all suggest phallic connotations. They are certainly not men in any sexual sense -- their way of life, their interest in material goods to the exclusion of love, suggest a pre-oedipal existence.
At first sight it may seem strange to identify a figure that symbolizes a phallic existence as also representing childhood before puberty, a period during which all forms of sexuality are relatively dormant. But the dwarfs are free of inner conflicts, and have no desire to move beyond their phallic existence to intimate relations. They are satisfied with an identical round of activities; their life is a never-changing circle of work in the womb of the earth, as the planets circle endlessly in a never-changing path in the sky. This lack of change or of any desire for it is what makes their existence parallel that of the prepubertal child. And this is why the dwarfs do not understand or sympathize with the inner pressures which make it impossible for Snow White to resist the queen's temptations. Conflicts are what make us dissatisfied with our present way of life and induce us to find other solutions; if we were free of conflicts, we would never run the risks involved in moving on to a different and, we hope, higher form of living. (pp. 209-210) [emphasis added]
Being great again? The introduction noted the frequently cited aspiration of the leaders of the Group of 7 that their own country should "be great again". Such a declaration combined with the "phallic connotations" of "stunted men" potentially contradicts Bettelheim's interpretation that they have "no desire to move beyond their phallic existence to intimate relations". This could be considered consistent with the curious inability of the the Group of 7 to initiate and engage in meaningful socioeconomic change.
More provocative is their characterization in terms of "prepubertal" children. Other analyses emphasize the developmental dimension of the tale -- potentially consistent with the male sexual connotation of "being great again". Succinctly stated, should Bettleheim's prepubertal "diminutive men" be recognized as indulging in sexual fantasies appropriate to their age -- challenged by a frustrated sense of erectile dysfunction?
The group of professionals from the psychological sciences would presumably have little difficulty in adding to their analysis of Donald Trump issues relating to erectile dysfunction. This would be consistent with the symbolic penis envy to which leaders could be expected naturally to succumb -- presumably underlying the construction and deployment of ever greater missiles (The Coalition of the Willy: musings on the global challenge of penile servitude, 2004). Variants of this are evident in the construction of ever taller skyscrapers and the increasing indulgence in space rocketry.
Such fantasy is notably consistent with the language of earlier reports of the challenge for the US-led Coalition of achieving an "exit strategy from Iraq". A report in the Washington Post indicated that the Pentagon
was likely to employ a hybrid exit strategy between three broad options
identified as: "Go Big", "Go Long" and "Go Home". The hybrid has been dubbed:
Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long' (Julian Borger, The Guardian, 21
November 2006). As with the blame-gaming noted above, related commentary indicated: They
lied their way into Iraq. Now they are trying to lie their way out Bush
and Blair will blame anyone but themselves for the consequences of
their disastrous war -- even its victims (Gary Younge, The Guardian, 27 November 2006).
Snow White? As framed by the tale however, who indeed might be "Snow White" in those prepubertal fantasies? Various candidates might br imagined -- controversially. Given that the majority of the Group of Seven would claim to be of Christian inspiration and representative of male dominated societies, the Pope is the most natural candidate in the current global context -- as the perceived embodiment of humanity's highest values for many, and appropriate to this argument in the present period. The tale offers its own twist however in variously framing Snow White as "dead" -- although with the potential of coming alive again, much like the aspirations of the G7 members.
Wicked Queen? Possibly more intriguing, as framed by the tale, is the identity of the Wicked Queen for the Group of 7. At this point in time Russia would seem readily to have fitted that role -- especially as framed by the interpretation of Sheldon Cashdan (The Witch Must Die: the hidden meaning of fairy tales, 2014). However there is the other interpretation offered by the key role of the "magic mirror" in the tale. It would seem that each member of the G7 has access to such a mirror and gazes into it to determine "who is the fairest of them all".
Through such role switching, typically of a fairy tale, each dwarf can secretly take on the function of the Wicked Queen -- whilst imagining himself to be the Prince.
Magic mirror? The power of the "magic mirror" is clearly central to a surreal global context in which the imagined possibilities of "being great again" can be continually cultivated -- irrespective of what might otherwise be considered the reality of the situation. An image illustrative of this is offered by Aaron Rand (Snow White and the G7 Dwarfs, 8 June 2018). There is then no difficulty for each dwarf to frame any of the others as a Wicked Queen -- as proved to be the case in their much cited attitude to Donald Trump on the occasion of the meeting in June 2018.
|Snow White and the Wicked Queen?
|Photograph: Jesco Denzel/AFP/Getty Images
The photo of Angela Merkel and other world leaders standing over a seated Donald Trump at the G7 summit has been given the meme treatment on social media (Viral picture of Angela Merkel standing over Donald Trump gets the meme treatment (The Guardian, 11 June 2018; That Merkel Photo Is More Like a Meme Than a Renaissance Painting, The Atlantic, 11 June 2018). Each leader’s office released different variants which have given rise to contrasting commentaries (Trump, Merkel, Macron: the G7 photos worth a thousand words. The Guardian, 11 June 2018; Don Surber, G7 is Donald Trump and the Six Dwarfs, 9 June 2018).
Shifting patterns of significance and projection? The fairy tale context of the magic mirror offers a reminder that the appropriate modality for its interpretation and comprehension in a surreal culture is best found through an aesthetic logic and the complex interplay of images and connotations which are central to psychoanalysis. Bettleheim offers pointers. The notoriously unimaginative assertions of psychological professionals regarding Donald Trump offer another -- in framing his behaviour solely in terms of Narcissus (Bandy X. Lee, et al, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assess a president, 2017).
Given his trickster propensities, more appropriate would be the Norse deity Loki, as celebrated in the Ring of the Nibelung (Identity in question via Trump: Narcissus vs Loki?, 2017). But where is the further professional insight into the G7 and the international community -- as the dramatic embodiment of Valhalla he is thereby destined to enflame and destroy? A destiny he is clearly in process of fulfilling.
As with the Ring of the Nibelung, fundamental to any interpretation are the complex aspirations of the dwarfs in seeking to "be great again". For the majority of Christian inspiration, the relationship between the papal embodiment of the highest human values, and the subtle "channelling" of the Queen of Heaven by the Pope, calls for the most careful exploration. If it is with her that they unconsciously seek some form of global mystical consummation, the obsession of the USA with full-spectrum dominance clearly merits Freudian exploration. It is even more noteworthy that this quest has recently been extended beyond the "globe"-- to outer space: It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space (Trump directs DOD to establish a Space Force in a surprise announcement today, The Verge, 18 June 2018).
More enchanting and intriguing are the associations recognized between Catholicism and The Lord of the Rings -- given its dramatic exploration of "dwarves" and the highest embodiment of human values for J. R. R. Tolkien as a Catholic (Steven D. Greydanus, Faith and Fantasy: Tolkien the Catholic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson’s Film Trilogy, Decent Films):
As the passion of Christ is dimly echoed in the struggles of Tolkien’s three heroes, so the place of Mary in Catholic faith and piety is reflected in another key figure of Middle-earth: Galadriel, the elven Queen of Lothlórien. Tolkien himself explicitly acknowledged this connection, observing in a letter to a friend, I think it is true that I owe much of this character to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary. In another letter he remarked that it is upon our Lady that all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded....
It’s in the devotion she inspires, most especially in the dwarf Gimli, that Galadriel’s Marian resonances are most apparent. Gimli’s heart belongs to his immortal Queen as unreservedly as the heart of St. Louis de Montford or St. Maximillian Kolbe to the Queen of Heaven, and through Gimli the reader, even the non-Catholic or non-Christian reader, has a kind of window into the world of such devotion.
Galadriel is not the only elven Queen with Marian associations. The elvish hymns sung in praise of Elbereth resonate with Marian hymnody; a number of writers have observed similarities between the following lines of Tolkien’s poetry and a well-known Marian hymn Tolkien would have known from childhood.
|Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western seas!
O light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!…
O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western seas.
|Hail, Queen of Heaven, the ocean star,
Guide of the wand’rer here below:
Thrown on life’s surge, we claim thy care -
Save us from peril and from woe.
Mother of Christ, star of the sea,
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me.
Especially curious are the shifting framings between an heroic Trump perceived by many to be defending Christian values, and an evil Trump guilty of the most regrettable crimes against humanity. A similar oscillation is evident in the case of Angela Merkel, readily perceived as a disaster for Europe -- the Wicked Queen? -- as well as embodying values associated with the compassionate nature of the Queen of Heaven -- Snow White? It is in that mode that she was recently the recipient of the highest Catholic award for her aid to refugees (Merkel receives Franciscan 'Lamp of Peace' in Assisi, Italy, DW, 12 May 2108). Awarded in the same period as the Gaza massacres cited above, Christian Germany at the same time concluded a major arms deals with Israel (German military to move forward with plan to lease Israeli drones, DefenceWeb, 15 May 2018).
As might be expected, Catholic fora have commented extensively on the relationship between the Queen of Heaven and the portrayals of Snow White (Catholic elements in film, “Snow White and the Huntsman?”, Catholic Answers Forums; Michael Duricy, Semiotics, Snow White and Mary: a mystical rose by any other name? International Marian Research Institute).
|Metaphors with unexplored implications from the Vatican hierarchy
Catholics should practice "responsible parenthood" and don't have to breed "like rabbits".
(Pope Francis: No Catholic need to breed like 'rabbits', 19 January 2015)
Right now, Europe is mopping up water, but we need to turn off the tap! Or we'll be forever mopping up water.
(Cardinal Peter Turkson, Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, (Catholic Convention, DW, 11 May 2018)
Understanding otherwise the gravity of the global situation
The use of the fairy tale to interpret the role of leadership in the global situation has advantages, but other framings also merit exploration. Eliciting such reframing could be considered a question of mythopoetic design to engage the imagination globally -- as with the Mahabhararta, the Kaleva, the Ring of the Nibelungen, the Lord of the Rings, and the like. .
Central focus of design criteria? This might include:
- something "big" beyond simple collective comprehension and definition, whose existence can only be acknowledged by allusion and indirection -- a challenge to being "seen" and from which the "eyes must be averted"
- such an omnipresent reality should evoke a form of "worship":
- be beyond any reasonable challenge -- precluding definitive statements as to its nature as being analogous to blasphemy
- necessarily to be recognized as life-sustaining for humanity -- a dependably eternal source of energy, however that is to be understood
- with respect to such a fundamental feature of the psychosocial system, it is appropriate to recognize:
- a limited number of secondary features variously reminiscent of archetypal deities or the values with which they are typically associated
- a limited number of corresponding problematic archetypes, most notably the challenges to those values and their celebration
- a larger number of tertiary features, whether values, deities or other entities
- an appropriate dynamic configuring the above in a pattern of coherence, preferably implying a degree of cyclical movement though which relationships between the entities are continuously shifting
Solar system as a design template? Perhaps appropriately ironic, an accessible template for such a modality is one shared by civilizations worldwide -- and one which has stood the test of millennia. The sun and the solar system can be used as a template for such an exercise in global understanding, recalling that archetypes and values of every kind have been projected onto that template. In his comment on the dwarfs of Snow White, Bettelheim notes: According to the ancients, seven planets circle the sun, hence the seven dwarfs.
In this period of extensive development of astrophysics and space travel (and the imaginative speculation these have evoked) this ancient template can be envisaged otherwise. Potentially this might well serve as a catalyst for understanding globality and its challenges.
As a template for a global civilization it could indeed be premature to assume that the solar system is to be understood as heliocentric, when many are far more centered on its geocentric nature, or even on its flatness. The first edition of Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat (2005) was given the first Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2005. The award recognizes one business book that provides 'the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues, including management, finance and economics.' as reviewed separately (Irresponsible Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2008). Ironically the question could be raised in relation to the well-publicized International Flat Earth Conference recently held (Michael Marshall, The universe is an egg and the moon isn't real: notes from a Flat Earth conference, The Guardian, 2 May 2018; Is the Earth flat? Meet the people questioning science, The Guardian, 27 May 2018; Alan Burdick, Looking for Life on a Flat Earth: what a burgeoning movement says about science, solace, and how a theory becomes truth, The New Yorker, 30 May 2018).
Although a potential advantage for this approach, it is curious to note the recognized importance of "gravity" in reconciling the objective reality of the solar system with the "gravity" of the issues with which global civilization is faced -- necessarily evoking a measured gravitas (and gravity of tone) cultivated as a traditional virtue by archetypal global leadership.
Pantheons? Fundamental to this framing is the central role of the "Sun". Necessarily ambiguous in this modality, it needs to hold the sense in which the remainder of the psychosocial system gravitates around it. It naturally calls for recognition as a fundamental source of life-giving renewal which cannot be called into question -- or challenged in any way. Such is its "illuminating" power, however, that "eyes must be averted" from its brilliance. Its generative power is far beyond ordinary comprehension. It is in this sense that unending human population growth can be associated with that solar focus as being the very essence of globalization and the nexus of all human values. Institutions such as the United Nations and the Catholic Church can only echo this enabling function nexus to a degree.
The secondary "deities" are then naturally to be recognized in such clusters as the Group of 7, the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council -- or their embodiment in individual leaders such as Donald Trump, Theresa May, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and the like. These are indeed upheld (if only by their supporters) as the embodiment of human values -- as the leading "forces of light" -- variously understood, and committed in their different ways to sustaining the power of the Sun, by which they themselves are empowered.
This modality also calls for recognition of the key features of the problematique by which these forces of the light are challenged, namely the "dark forces" -- or the "wrathful deities" in archetypal terms. Given the constraints of collective comprehension, their number is also similarly limited such as to include: violence (terrorism), starvation (food), disaster (flooding, etc), unemployment, environmental degradation, and the like.
The dynamics between the constituent forces of light are an only too familiar feature of the daily news feed -- romance (brown-nosing), special deals and exchanges, betrayal (back-stabbling), mutual appreciation (special relationships), and so forth. The manner in which they are variously challenged by the dark forces of the problematique is also familiar -- and the intricacy of the covert relationships between them -- are also a familiar topic of debate and controversy, to the point of evoking mutual recrimination.
This relatively simple "pantheon" of light and dark is variously articulated in its turn. This is most evident in the multiple agencies of the United Nations (WHO, ILO, FAO, IAEA, etc) which echo and mirror the central pantheon, and which are in each case especially mandated to engage with particular forces of the dark (disease, unemployment, starvation, etc). Characteristically these agencies make extensive use of names and logos associated with the Greek and Roman pantheons.
In systemic terms, the solar system offers a remarkable template for the relationship between all these entities. This association has been recognized down the centuries to the present day. The deities of empires past are specifically associated with particular planets, as are the values they embody. The newly discovered bodies in the solar system continue to be named after deities from those pantheons of yore -- even though they are remembered by very few.
Gravity. "gravity assist" and "swing by": The focus on gravity within that context offers an unusual way of comprehending the manner in which the primary actors in global governance exploit it -- even cynically -- beyond the gravitas of their declaration and the gravity of crises to which they so frequently refer. This has been rendered comprehensible to many through publicity given to the process of "gravity assist" whereby space vehicles can navigate the social system.
This helps to understand how global leadership can avoid engaging with global issues through "flying by" or "swinging by" such issues -- exploiting their "gravity" to boost their own energy, without any need to move out of orbit and "land on them" in reality. The dynamics are curiously echoed by what is termed "brush-by" contact between (wannabe) leaders in summit receptions (What is this 'brush-by' that Ed Miliband has scheduled with Barack Obama? The Guardian, 20 July 2014)
In orbital mechanics and aerospace engineering, a gravitational slingshot, gravity assist maneuver, or swing-by is the use of the relative movement (e.g. orbit around the Sun) and gravity of a planet or other astronomical object to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft, typically to save propellant and reduce expense. Gravity assistance can be used to accelerate a spacecraft, that is, to increase or decrease its speed or redirect its path. The "assist" is provided by the motion of the gravitating body as it pulls on the spacecraft.
The first is the most common, and gains its energy from the momentum of the planet. Planets have some good pace on them, and plenty of energy to share. Picture Jupiter moving "to the left" if you shoot a spacecraft just to the right of it, you'll steal some of it's energy, slowing down the planet by an immeasurable amount and speeding up the spacecraft significantly.
The second uses a perfectly timed rocket burn to spend more time falling towards a body than flying away from it. This works best with the sun. A spacecraft that needs a bit more speed can start off falling towards the sun, gradually acquiring speed from the gravity field. Then, as you're reaching maximum speed, you burn a rocket engine to achieve the maximum speed possible. When you're coasting away from the sun, you'll be moving much faster, so you'll spend less time in the gravity field and therefore lose less energy than you gained. In the end, for example, you'll spend 15 hours falling towards the sun (accelerating) and 5 hours moving out of the gravity well (decelerating). Without the burn, you don't gain any net momentum or speed upon completion of the maneuver.
Global governance as "monkeying with the elephant"
"Elephant in the room": With respect to the invisibility and avoidance of central issues -- of which the heliocentric role of the Sun is but one example -- much use is made of the proverbial invisible "elephant in the room", as noted above. (What does the phrase “the elephant in the room” mean? Quora; George Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant!: know your values and frame the debate, Chelsea Green, 2004).
The phrase is especially valuable with respect to global warming and the manner in which root cause analysis has only been applied superficially to the issue (United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2009). As framed otherwise by Raghu Murtugudde (Climate Change Needs an Elephant Whisperer, LiveScience, 27 November 2013):
When it comes to climate change -- and communicating about it -- people seem to lose sight of a simple, longstanding fact about the human mind: It is split into two parts. On one side, there is a rational rider, on the other, an emotional elephant. The rider rationalizes and procrastinates when danger is not imminent, while the elephant, while slow to motivate and hard to steer, eventually takes the correct path and stays the course. Society needs to inspire that elephant, and quickly.... Society must find a way to whisper to the elephant about climate change, to get that mind on the right path.
Climate Change and the Elephant in the Living Room: in quest of an endangered species, 2008
As noted in a review of the Paris Climate Change Agreement (The "Saving of Humanity" framed by "Sinking of the Titanic": rising sea of discontent engendered by warming climate of opinion, 2015), various omissions are specifically cited as being the "elephant in the room":
- COP21: Paris climate summit Is migration the elephant in the room? 26 November, 2015
- Elephant in Room at COP21 Paris Climate Talks? Food. ARC 2020, 3 December, 2015
- COP21: The elephant(s) in the negotiation room: how will differentiation be addressed in the Paris deal? Climate Policy Observer, 5 December 2015
- COP21: Shipping and aviation emissions are the elephants in the room, Transport and Environment, 27 November 2015
- No Ocean, No Climate: COP21:s "Big Blue Elephant in the Room", CONERGY, 9 December 2015
- Antarctica: The Elephant in The Room at COP21, The Take Away, 27 November 2015
- Weighing the Climate Elephant, Foreign Affairs, 29 June 2015
|Population growth as the ignored "elephant in the room"
of the Paris Climate Change Agreement (2015)
"Blind men and the elephant": Potentially more appropriate to any understanding of the cognitive biases of the G7 dwarfs is the widely known proverbial tale of the blind men and an elephant.
|Blind men and the elephant
(as used, with commentary, in the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential, 1976, p. 1131)
This photograph, used in the Unesco Courier (January 1971), is from a Swedish philosophy textbook and illustrates a fable, well-known in Asia, concerning the ease with which the parts can be confused with the whole.
Individuals, organizations, governments, and specialized agencies also tend to perceive the world problem complex in the way the blindfolded young men perceived the elephant. Each is convinced that he has a clear understanding of the nature of the beast with which he has contact:
- One perceives it as being basically an economic problem (he happens to be an economist)
- Another perceives it as basically a problem of human rights (he is a civil rights lawyer)
- Another perceives it as basically a problem of mutual understanding (he has a background in education)
- Another perceives it as a technological problem (he happens to be an engineer in a large corporation)
- And the last one perceives it as being an affect deliberately created by one of the other young en (he is interested in politics)
Hence the confusion and bitter disagreement concerning the world problem complex which emerges from placing the advocates of such unrelated perceptions side-by-side.
Problem: What are the blindfolds in reality? How can they be removed so that such perceptions can be interrelated without denying the validity of any one of them?
|Photo Björn Rodhe, Galon AB, Göteborg.
Used in Per Ericson et al, Filosofi för Gymansiet, Almqvist and Wiksell, 1970
The tale clarifies further the challenge of detecting the elephant -- given the seeming failure of the intelligence services in that respect, perhaps to be understood as a "failure of imagination" equivalent to that formally recognized in the case of 9/11 (Elephant Detection: the traditional case of "7 blind men" 2008).
. The challenge can be variously explored as discussed separately (Strategic Challenge of Polysensorial Knowledge ringing the "elephant" into "focus" 2008).
Monkeying with global governance: 3 monkeys? Another framing for the dwarf-like behaviour of the Group of 7 is offered by the traditional three wise monkeys -- commonly depicted as follows.
Wise Monkeys of Nikko
Traditional "cognitive Hazmat suit"
See no evil
Hear no evil
|A widely-known "four monkey" version
is commonly available to tourists
and is potentially of more relevance to failure to address the overpopulation issue (see below).
The Group of 7 can then be understood as "monkeying around" with global governance, as argued separately (Monkeying with Global Governance: emergent dynamics of three wise monkeys in a knowledge-based society, 2011). This framed the dynamics through the following:
In introducing the above-mentioned comprehensive study of "warning deafness" -- in contrast to "future blindness" -- specific reference was made to the three monkeys by Arno Nuijten (Deaf Effect for Risk Warnings A Causal Examination applied to Information Systems Projects, 2012). An image of the three monkeys was used on the cover. In the Western world, and of relevance to the modus operandi of the G7, the three monkeys are used with respect to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance of it.
Fourth monkey -- unfortunately unwisely forgotten? That study also makes specific reference to a less-known fourth monkey Shizaru -- notably associated with not taking action -- to which reference is seldom made. As such, it too is especially relevant to the G7. However, much more intriguing with respect to the fourth monkey, as is evident from a typical image, is the manner in which it covers its genitals -- interpreted in Buddhism to mean Do no evil, or in a Hindu interpretation as Hide your pleasures. Hide your enjoyment, don't show it to anybody (Baljit Balli, When the fourth monkey joins Gandhi's three wise monkeys, 26 August 2017).
Clearly the fourth monkey is especially relevant to potentially irresponsible attitudes with respect to reproduction and ill-considered increase in population in the absence of adequate resources.
|The Fourth Wise Monkey: Shizaru
||Poem dedicated to The Fourth Monkey
With a sly grin upon his face
This monkey sits
Upright and true,
With his hands covering
His private place,
So no evil,
Shall come to you.
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