- / -
Produced on the occasion of the revelations of US diplomatic cables via WikiLeaks
The dissemination by WikiLeaks of "classified" communications of the US military and diplomatic services allows serious attention to be given to systemic phenomena which are typically dismissed as being "unconfirmed" allegations of marginal significance -- at worst exceptional incidents. Whilst "everyone" has long acknowledged the extent of secrecy and corruption, this was typically minimized or denied in official communications, establishment media and education systems. More problematic is the degree to which such systemic phenomena have been denied or minimized in academic studies and modelling of the world system.
The phenomena have however become increasingly evident through the revelation of "scandals" at the very highest level, whether involving embezzlement of funds or "illicit" sexual relationships. Many with experience of contractual relationships are aware of the extent to which they are dependent on "commissions" or other forms of bribery and unmentionable pressures -- or even blackmail and "dirty tricks".
The concern here is with the psychosocial processes of the transition between "overt" and "covert" in various flows which interweave to constitute a global system of circulating "value". The question is how to understand and represent the global nature of the dynamic of these interconnected flows -- "transcending" the denial of the extent of what is essentially covert. In the absence of any such consideration, the global system can only be understood "superficially", however much that representation is appreciated by many. For those involved in many forms of business, such superficiality does not represent the "real" world. Rather it is the camouflage for the ways business is often "really done".
This exploration follows from various others, notably the profiling of the many "world problems" perceived by international constituencies in the various editions of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential as well as other studies (Global Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom society, 2003; Mapping the Global Underground, 2010; Designing Global Self-governance for the Future: patterns of dynamic integration of the netherworld, 2010; Globalization within a Global Potemkin Society, 2000).
Ultimately the question to be asked is how adequate global models can be developed to enable credible global governance in the absence of meaningful integration of the "unsaid". The approach taken here follows from a previous suggestion to benefit, as a suggestive template, from the relatively comprehensible global complexity of the thermohaline circulation of the ocean currents around the world (Enabling Moral Currency Circulation, 2010). The phenomena to be interwoven are therefore explored through the metaphor of "currents". A set of other images is used to highlight alternative ways of thinking about the experiential continuity between psychosocial "surface-currents" and "under-currents", notably in terms of knot theory and topology. It is this inclusion and incorporation of the hidden which seen as vital to the global governance of the future -- a "two-eyed approach" vital to the sense of perspective of which the current "one-eyed approach" is deprived.
Facade of civilized normalcy: The diplomatic cables disseminated by WikiLeaks make clear the evaluations of US diplomats of the nature of systemic corruption in many countries. Understandably they make no comparison with practices which might be considered analogous in the USA itself. Again these are otherwise evident in scandals associated with election campaigns, purchase of (diplomatic) office or "earmarking" through campaign contributions, use of espionage to facilitate competitivity of US multinationals, and the like. There is little systematic investigation of these phenomena which, when it occurs, is effectively quashed -- as the investigation of the corruption in police forces over decades has long demonstrated.
It was the tearing of this facade which was labelled by such as Hillary Clinton as an "attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity". A senior US lawmaker (according to CNN) warned that it could lead to "a catastrophic breakdown of trust between nations" and a former US ambassador to Russia, James Collins (informing CNN), that it "will impede doing things in a normal, civilized way".
It is appropriate to ask whether current understandings of "normal", "civilized" and "trust" are proving adequate to the challenges of governance. Furthermore, as argued by Heather Brooke (WikiLeaks: the revolution has begun - and it will be digitised, The Guardian, 30 November 2010):
The 9/11 Commission had made the remarkable discovery that it wasn't sharing information that had put the nation's security at risk; it was not sharing information that was the problem....Leaks are not the problem; they are the symptom. They reveal a disconnect between what people want and need to know and what they actually do know. The greater the secrecy, the more likely a leak. The way to move beyond leaks is to ensure a robust regime for the public to access important information.
It remains to be clarified whether all the embassy cables were in fact designated NOFORUN since this category is understood to be "unclassified" by the US and does not correspond to those defined by the US as "classified".
As discussed previously, how is what is not known by significant constituencies (whether in positions of authority or otherwise) to be integrated into the sophisticated models designed to process the known? (Superquestions for Supercomputers, 2010). Expressed otherwise, how are blindspots to be allowed for -- and what are the consequences of groupthink when their existence is neglected? The extent, and implications of the "unsaid" are evident at the time of writing with the further dissemination of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks -- although, more generally, the dimensions and implications of the "unsaid" is necessarily a matter of ignorance (Global Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom society, 2003).
Value of secrecy: Of particular interest in response to the WikiLeaks documents is the articulation by various authors of the systemic function of secrecy in governance:
Despite the reservation of Kettle regarding "necessary and honourable", the question is whether the systematic "classification" of so much information in government, business, science and religion is appropriate. How is "appropriate" then to be determined, as with how such issues figure in global modelling of relevance to governance? Who, other than the USA and its clients, would affirm that the actions of the USA -- secret or otherwise -- were a measure of professional responsibility in an era of multiple challenges to global governance? In whose interest is the secrecy that Schroeder seeks to protect at this time? How "effective" is secrecy proving to be -- and for whom -- in the case of the Middle East peace process? (Noam Chomsky, The Charade of Israeli-Palestinian Talks, 7 December 2010). Schroeder's argument is of course based on the assumption that government authorities are worthy of trust when acting secretly, as with those making the case that they are. Both assumptions are increasingly questionable (Abuse of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009).
Inhibiting creative insight: A predictable response by the US government has been a ban on accessing the diplomatic cables released via WikiLeaks. But this appears to be extending to a warning to students at universities that accessing such materials endangers their future job prospects with the government. This thereby ensures that universities are complicit in such restrictions. The distinction between "surface-current" ("formal") and "under-current" ("informal") explored below is apparent in the account of Ewen MacAskill (Columbia students told job prospects will be harmed if they access cables, The Guardian, 6 December 2010) between:
This pattern is reminiscent to that of religions restricting access to certain literature -- exemplified by deprecated the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Catholic Church. There is little attention to this controversial matter, with even the inaccessibility of data being a matter of concern in relation to climate change research. Is this an indication of the kinds of "sub-education" which resulted in the imaginal deficiency considered significant in the interpretation of the intelligence associated with 9/11? When will students aspiring to employment in American government be "encouraged" to confine their information sourcing to Fox News -- or be "well-advised" not to read The New York Times given that it is now accused by Joe Lieberman (chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) of engaging in an "act of bad citizenship", if not a crime, by publishing versions of the embassy cables? What kinds of global modelling research would be considered meaningful by those emerging from such an educational system, especially when funding for research would be unavailable -- if it was dependent on perspectives offered by confidential or controversial material?
Engaging with the unknown: This suggests a different reading of the notorious poem by Donald Rumsfeld -- The Unknown -- presented during a Department of Defense news briefing on 12 February 2002, and discussed separately (Unknown Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008). His insight has been most recently used in the analysis by Nathan Freier (Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development. Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, November 2008).
|As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
|That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
The poem acquires additional significance when the emphasis is placed on the definition of:
If the duplicity of authority acting behind the facade of a carefully cultivated, simplistic worldview is to be called into question by "reality" in many forms, how are people then to engage with the "incomprehensible" world so revealed (Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected, 2010).
Strategically disastrous blindspots: More questionable in the case of global modelling is where the information is not of a form which lends itself to being taken into account with conventional methodologies. Examples are offered by:
Whilst there may be a degree of scientific consensus with regard to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), in fact the "anthro-component" has effectively become the "ghost in the machine" of climate change -- the phrase having been introduced by Gilbert Ryle (The Concept of Mind, 1949) to highlight the absurdity of dualist systems where mental activity is assumed to function in parallel with physical action, but where their means of interaction are unknown or, at best, speculative. The argument was further developed by Arthur Koestler (The Ghost in the Machine, 1967).
The Kaya identity (Kaya, 1990) is a decomposition that expresses the level of energy related CO2 emissions as the product of four indicators: (1) carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per unit of total primary energy supply (TPES)), (2) energy intensity (TPES per unit of GDP), (3) gross domestic product per capita (GDP/cap) and (4) population....
The challenge - an absolute reduction of global GHG 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]
Such examples imply that ignorance of one kind or another is effectively "designed into" global models -- in a questionable manner of which no account is taken (Lipoproblems: developing a strategy omitting a key problem, 2009). Such systemic reframing may be understood as a form of conceptual gerrymandering, usefully deprecated as "keyhole science" with respect to any understanding of the global system. Especially interesting are cases where anomalies are "designed out" as exceptions unworthy of attention. This is questionable both in the case of awkward data points (in seeking to confirm a theory) or of "bad apples" (as in the case of the initial response of the Catholic Church to supposedly "isolated" cases of sexual abuse by clergy). In fact "bad apples" may offer vital insight into the system.
The designing out of "bad apples" is closely related to the remarkable asystemic attitude to "positive" versus "negative". Every effort is made to exclude consideration of the "negative" as being "inappropriate" at best and demonic in some contexts. However very few systems (most notably electrical) can be comprehended, designed, or are able to function, without a fruitful distinction between positive and negative (Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005). The questionable association of "positive" with "good" may be equated here with the problematic tendency to associate "surface-currents" with the "good", and "under-currents" with the inappropriate (Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-sided: how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America, 2009).
"Sweeping dirt under the carpet":This issue is approached in a remarkably helpful and sensible manner by Emanuel Derman (Metaphors, Models and Theories, The Edge, 2 December 2010), a physicist who became a quant on Wall Street, who argues in summary:
Theories deal with the world on its own terms, absolutely. Models are metaphors, relative descriptions of the object of their attention that compare it to something similar already better understood via theories. Models are reductions in dimensionality that always simplify and sweep dirt under the rug. Theories tell you what something is. Models tell you merely what something is partially like.
The significance for collective understanding of global governance of the "dirt" thereby swept "under the rug" has been made evident in the significance attached to the embassy cables disseminated via WikiLeaks.
Derman further notes:
In physics or finance, the first major struggle is to gain some intuition about how to proceed; the second struggle is to transform that intuition into something more formulaic, a set of rules anyone can follow, rules that no longer require the original insight itself. One person's breakthrough becomes everybody's possession. The world is multi-dimensional. Models allow us to project the object into a smaller space and then extrapolate or interpolate within it. At some point the extrapolation will break down. What's amazing is how well it sometimes works, especially in the physical sciences.
But extrapolation based on limited information is dangerous; extrapolation depends on a model, not a fact.... When unconsciously used models result in paradoxes or conflicts, it becomes necessary to expose and then examine unconscious assumptions.... In physics it pays to drop down deep, several levels below what you can observe (think of Newton, Maxwell, Dirac), formulate an elegant principle, and then rise back to the surface to work out the observable consequences.
In financial valuation, which lacks deep scientific principles, it's better to stay shallow and use models that have as direct as possible a path between observation of similarity and its consequences. Markets are by definition vulgar, and correspondingly the most useful models are wisely vulgar too, using variables that the crowd uses, like price per square foot, to describe the phenomena they observe. Build vulgar models in a sophisticated way. Of course, over time crowds and markets get smarter and the definition of vulgarity changes to encompass increasingly sophisticated concepts.
The revelations via WikiLeaks, and the reactions evoked, make it very clear that the global system operates according to double standards -- as frequently suggested by many and as frequently dismissed scornfully by the diplomatic community and by the US in particular. Much is made by the latter of promoting democracy and freedom -- whatever the cost in lives and livelihoods -- and especially the freedom of information.
Enabling extrajudical action: However the revelations make it clear that the attitude in practice is rather:
Assumptions of legitimacy: For those whose activities are conducted "under wraps" as under-currents, there is nothing inherently "wrong" or inappropriate in doing so -- as Clinton has been at pains to explain to her counterparts who have been embarrassed by the revelations of the embassy cables. Most striking, in the same week, is the contrast between
Doublespeak: Part of the challenge is in the manner in which euphemism is used to indicate the existence of what is hidden or not readily admitted. But such practices, with which all are relatively familiar, actually hold the nature of the cognitive process bridging between two realities -- even two worlds. It might be said to start at the earliest age with "secrets" kept from the children -- or from the parents. In that sense, doublespeak and "speaking with a forked tongue" is what humanity does:
On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognise that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution [guaranteeing freedom of speech] are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.
The quality of doublespeak is evident from the announcement that the USA is to host Unesco's World Press Freedom Day event (Washington DC, 2011):
Whilst governments can disguise their real intentions by pretending to "freedom of information", the self-serving contradictions are evident in the simplistic response to the founder of WikiLeaks (Julian Assange, Don't Shoot Messenger for Revealing Uncomfortable Truths: WikiLeaks deserves protection, not threats and attacks. The Australian, 8 December 2010).
The theme for next year's commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and
innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals' right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age. (US Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. to Host World Press Freedom Day in 2011, 7 December 2010)
Astonishment at the duplicity revealed in the US embassy cables, and calls for the assassination of those facilitating their diffusion, are usefully placed in context by the traditional duplicity and doublespeak associated with diplomacy itself, as summarized by David Kahn (The Ancient Art of Interceptimg Dispatches, International Herald Tribune, 4-5 December 2010 -- available online under the appropriate title Dangerous Liaisons), making the point:
A British ambassador to Venice in the 17th century observed that 'a diplomat is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.' But for centuries, diplomats did more than lie. They bribed, they stole, they intercepted dispatches. Perhaps this will come as some consolation to the many American diplomats whose faces have been reddened by the trove of diplomatic cables released this week by WikiLeaks: whatever they've done cannot compare in underhandedness with what ambassadors did in the past.
It was presumably in such terms that Hillary Clinton justified to the UN Secretary-General the duplicity which she had authorised in relation to himself and his colleagues. Doublespeak is standard operating practice for the "international community" claiming to uphold the values of humanity.
The following is a brief checklist distinguishing between "under-currents" and the "surface-currents" in terms of which society is purportedly organized, and by which it is described. Descriptions of the "under-currents" are necessarily rare, if not (by definition) impossible and denied as irresponsible cynicism -- hence one value of WikiLeaks.
"under the table"
| "above board"
"in the light"
The following processes, understood as currents, are listed here as disparate elements which the future may be able to weave together appropriately into a global system -- as with the thermohaline system indicated below.
The list is necessarily tentative and indicative and calls for much refinement. Again the progressive mapping of the ocean currents over decades is indicative of the challenge. Many pieces need to be fitted together to build a picture of the system as a whole. Global models, such as the world dynamics initiatives promoted by the Club of Rome, are highly selective in the "currents" they consider relevant to an understanding of the world system. Corruption of any kind -- as an under-current -- was not taken into account. Hence the inadequacy of such models for global governance. Many of the "under-currents" indicated are the subject of further comment separately (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009).
Use of "currents" as a metaphor emphasizes that the following are dynamic processes -- experiential flows -- rather than abstract frozen categories. Separately a distinction has been made, in relation to a corresponding list, between "reality" and "fantasy" and what is then held to "exist" (Reality and existence, 2010). Here "reality" as commonly identified can be understood as a characteristic of "surface-currents", whereas "fantasy" might be understood in terms of "under-currents".
Movement within each current could be understood cognitively as bearing some resemblance to movement along an optical fibre cable in which coherence is maintained by reflection back from the side of the cable. This corresponds to the argument regarding traffic on communication geometry by Ron Atkin (Multidimensional Man: can man live in three dimensional space? 1981). Experienced as "flows" rather than "sectors", the issue is one of recognizing "inter-flows" connectivity rather than "inter-sectoral" connectivity.
As suggested for an initial (simplistic) interweaving of such currents, whether "surface-current" or "under-current", the thermohaline circulation offers a representation which is adequately complex and yet constitutes a dynamic whole of necessarily global significance. Something of this kind is required, but initially this has mnemonic advantages to facilitate discussion. In other words the argument is that each of the "surface-currents" identified above, could be associated with one of the distinct surface ocean currents in the maps below. Similarly, each of the "under-currents" identified above would be associated with one of the deep ocean currents identified in the images below.
|Global Thermohaline Circulation (conventional view)
(image adapted from Wikipedia)
|Global Thermohaline Circulation (polar view)
(image adapted from Wikipedia)
The key to any attribution of psychosocial currents to the psychosocial globe so depicted would be suggestive insight into functions appropriately analogous to "heat" and "salinity" in thermohaline circulation. Other clues to any mapping are given by the sense in which the surface-currents tend to be driven by the wind -- usefully associated mnemonically with movements of opinion, as in any "wind of change".
By contrast, with respect to the deeper currents, the predominant driving force is differences in density, caused by salinity and temperature (the more saline the denser, and the colder the denser). Mnemonically again, although "salacious" does not share a common etymology, its connotation of "lustful" (perhaps in some senses of "salty") is consistent with many theological perspectives regarding the "baser" human values. Denser could also be associated with a sense of "weightiness" or "gravitas" -- in contrast with the "light weight" readily associated with any kind of superficiality.
In other words the question is what causes a current to:
The surface-currents and under-currents can maintain their identity even though they coexist -- positioning themselves one above or below the other according to their density (as determined by temperature and salinity). This corresponds to the common experience of many of being able to function in one overt mode whilst at the same time pursuing a possibly contrary covert agenda -- as the cables of WikiLeaks have so neatly confirmed with respect to the foreign policy of one country. However the experience is most readily recognized by individuals -- perhaps obliged by circumstances to do one thing and pretend another.
Of particular interest in the psychosocial sense are any particular circumstances of upwelling or sinking. An example is perhaps offered by surprise, whether with respect to larger strategic matters (as is typical of military or business engagements) or to personal dealings. In the latter case the experience of a confidence trick is insightful. Having proceeded, perhaps gullibly, on the basis of one easy assumption -- facilitated by the agreeability of the encounter -- one is suddenly confronted by the recognition of the baseness of the other and the manner in which one has been "conned", perhaps disastrously. There is then recognition of the other's ability to function at both levels and being dragged down by that encounter. Whether the surprise is agreeable or disagreeable, its impact may well be transformative (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007; Karen A.Cerulo, Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006). The impact of the embassy cables could be considered in that light -- both for those ensconced in the legitimacy of their secretive reality and those surprised by unsuspected truths.
The transition between levels might also be usefully recognized in processes through which people "rise to prominence" (as with celebrity media exposure) or experience a dramatic "downfall" -- perhaps resulting in incarceration or some other form of institutionalization isolated from the warmth of friends and family.
The merit of the global ocean current model is that it suggests how the many currents are connected. In the psychosocial case this is quite controversial. For although a person, or a country can "rise" out of a problematic situation, or "sink" into a catastrophic one, the connections suggested here are not one-way processes, as argued separately against the use of the conveyor metaphor by Ken Wilber (Potential Misuse of the Conveyor Metaphor: recognition of the circular dynamic essential to its appropriate operation, 2007). Having "risen" one may "fall" and having "fallen" one may "rise". But the controversy here lies in the sense in which the implication is that this is cyclic and perhaps necessarily so (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007)
Whilst the process may indeed be cyclic, as with the cycles associated with substance abuse, the question raised is why any such cycle is necessary in systemic terms. Why is a one-way process not possible or preferable? One response lies in the saying "what goes up, must come down". The truth of this is evident in experience of heightened pleasure, necessarily to be followed by a "down" cycle. Staying "up" all the time is recognized as being not feasible -- at least in the longer term -- just as with "inspiration", necessarily to be followed by expiration. This is as true at the cultural level, with the rise and fall of empires over time.
Interweaving the cycles, as suggested by the system of ocean currents, suggests a possibility of engaging with the set of cycles to recognize the larger system -- thereby "breaking the cycle" in a more sustainable manner (Web resources on "breaking the cycle", 2002). The shift to a "global" focus then enables, and is sustained by, interlocking or interweaving cycles (Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways, 2010; Spherical configuration of interlocking roundtables: Internet enhancement of global self-organization through patterns of dialogue, 1998; Representation of Interlocking Elements for a Sustainable Global System, 1995).
Since it was emphasized above that the systemic focus was on flows not categories or sectors, an interesting aspect of any global mapping of those flows occurs in relation to, or engenders, zones of "solidity" which could be understood as continents and islands -- bounded cognitive sectors more reminiscent of conventionally frozen categories. As noted above, using the widely familiar planetary globe as a template offers a means of thinking in new ways about the relationships between invariance and the change implicit in flow. In contrast to the classic dictum of Alfred Korzybski, the territory can in this context be fruitfully explored as a map (The Territory Construed as the Map: in search of radical design innovations in the representation of human activities and their relationships, 1979). This is then consistent at the global level with the argument of Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979). Irrespective of the controversial aspects of such connectivity, it can be readily argued that it is the contraints and patterning proclivities of the human mind that renders any such isomorphism credible.
Rather than asking the question what currents circulate globally around the conventional social sectors -- understood through frozen categories -- the emphasis is placed on the systemic flows and what distinct zones they effectively engender. This offers scope for the imagination, as indicated below by the maps of the island continents of "Marxyland" and "Freudyland" -- produced under pseudonyms by the future researchers John McHale and Magda McHale.
|Humorous mapping exercises
Rebus Heaviwait and Emmanuel Lighthanger (Projex, New York, Links Books, 1972).
|" Marxyland "||" Freudyland "|
The thermohaline circulation of ocean currents around the globe offer a further suggestive insight. To be both wind-driven and warmed, the "surface-currents" are necessarily of greater width and more limited depth and move more rapidly. The eventual cooling and sinking of such waters leads to their movement into the ocean basins at great depth, possibly even ocean trenches, where proportionately greater volumes of water move far more slowly -- with the oldest waters estimated to have a transit time of up to 1600 years before they "upwell". Such periods are a reminder of the duration of empires before some form of "comeupance" necessarily occurs -- a deserved reward or just due.
The above argument suggests the possibility of a mnemonic attribution of significance. The intention here is not to explore this possibility further here, although the following might be considered in an exploratory and educational mode:
Given such possibilities, the systemic mapping challenge could however be reframed more formally and more symbolically in the light of possibilities such as the following set of images.
These are indicative of more formal ways of looking at the relationship between globally-organized surface- and under-currents -- through various suggestive models and metaphors, each with their strengths and weaknesses. The value and possibilities of a quest for globality have been variously discussed (Spherical Configuration of Categories to Reflect Systemic Patterns of Environmental Checks and Balances, 1994).
However the global thermohaline circulation depicted above may be readily seen as a more "organic" and cognitively accessible depiction of the interconnection of distinct processes through which life is engendered and sustained on the globe.
|Schematic representation of global circulation
each composed of interflowing sub-currents
||Use of a Möbius strip to represent the cognitive relationship between "surface" and "under" currents|
The omission of any link between the two kinds of current in the left-hand image is clearly a defect. This is corrected in that on the right with the continuity between them now evident in that (paradoxically) the strip only has a single side.
|Emphasis of the value of a paradoxical relationship between surface- and under-currents by association with the adaptive cycle (as being essential to global governance) with the Möbius strip||Use of a trefoil knot in three dimensions
-- doubled by a "shadow" equivalent
| Selection of knots (a focus of knot theory and topology)
suggesting a richer range of possibilities of the interconnecting flows between surface- and under-currents
A table of prime knots up to seven crossings.
Labeled with Alexander-Briggs notation
|Additional indication of contrasting knots|
Example of a knot diagram with crossings labelled
according to the Dowker-Thistlethwaite notation
| Two parts of a table of knots of up to nine-crossings by Sean Collom
suggesting the range of possibilities of the interconnecting flows between surface- and under-currents
|Schematic use of a chain to suggest that the surface- and under-currents, if individually represented by a Möbius strip, might be usefully understood as interlinked to form a global systemic chain
||Highlighting the disparity between any necessarily lengthy "linear" chain" of interflowing processes and the simpler sense of globality|
|One example of interweaving: framing the interflowing processes as an elegant 2-dimensional pattern imposed as a key to global order of higher dimensionality
||Another example of interweaving: encompassing the globe in a network of interlocking processes, recognizing the higher-dimensionality of globality
(formal "cognitive imprisonment" avoiding the challenge of engaging with globality?)
|A cognitive network of interflowing, interwoven processes endeavouring to "capture" globality||A cognitive network having failed to encompass and "hold" the higher dimensionality of globality|
|A spherical organization of mutually counter-acting (surface- and under-current) processes||Omphalos of Greek legend, understood as depicting the pathways of two eagles (the surface and under-currents)|
The left-hand image points to the possibility of more complex, looser-woven, open structures as a means of engaging with globality. The pattern is that of tensional integrity (tensegrity), approximating and implying the continuing quest for globality. The interweaving of contrasting structural features has been discussed separately with respect to social organization (Implementing Principles by Balancing Configurations of Functions: a tensegrity organization approach, 1979). The right-hand image uses a traditional symbol to recall how the global pattern of currents engendered by the highest dimensionality effectively "fly across the world" to meet at its center, the "navel" of the globe.
These various formal representations, with their insights and deficiencies, can be compared with the organic elegance of the complex flow of ocean currents which better holds the experiential nature of "under-currents" in the psychosocial system.
In considering ways of eliciting collective insight into remedies for the current condition of global governance, it is worth speculating on the possibility that "recreational" sport has always offered unsuspected clues through its "popularity". Whether unconsciously or not, are "we the peoples" cognitively self-remediating (rather than self-medicating) as a collectivity through sport? (John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995). This "therapeutic" dimension, appropriately associated with "recreation", enriches insight into the nature of the quest for collective intelligence and self-organization (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007).
It is intriguing, given the worldwide focus on the Olympic Games, that the Olympic symbol bears an interesting geometric relationship to the configurations above. Do particular sports highlight particular cognitive skills as explored speculatively in relation to football (Understanding Sustainable Dialogue: the secret within Bucky's Ball?, 1996).
The five Olympic rings represent the interconnectedness of the five continents of the world involved in the Olympics. In the above argument they are also suggestive of the currents effectively delineating those continents. It is also tempting to consider an implied reference to a set of "five sports" which together reflect the variety of insights corrective of global systemic imbalance and vital to the "health" of the world.
As might be expected, the classification of sports in general is a controversial matter (see Wikipedia's Outline of sports). Many sports are not included in a current Olympic programme, although considered recognized sports by the International Olympic Committee. Other "sports" are not so recognized. Some of the sports are understood to consist of multiple disciplines.
For the speculative purpose of this exercise, a rough classification might distinguish sports as follows:
The question to be asked is how these sports demonstrate particular skills and variously engage attention -- and what is the "therapeutic" effect on the collective psyche. As a channel for collective hope, do they enact distinct cognitive modalities for psychosocial systems, somewhat analogous to the function of vitamins for the human body (Implication of Personal Despair in Planetary Despair, 2010; Cognitive Implications of Lifestyle Diseases, 2010)?
Being activities rather than categories, do they offer clues to navigating the psychosocial system as a whole, as with the currents discussed above (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002)? What is the significance of the "inner game" promoted as an attitude vital to appropriate engagement with some at least of these sports?
The variety of emerging assumptions and questions regarding the WikiLeaks embassy cables suggest that a complex remedial system is kicking into action, whether five-fold or more. This is reminiscent of the case made by Arthur M. Young (The Geometry of Meaning, 1976) for the number of independent "observations" required to control a helicopter -- which he generalized into relevance for learning/action cycles, as discussed separately (Characteristics of phases in 12-phase learning-action cycle, 1998). In the recent commentary of Andrew Gavin Marshall (Wikileaks and the Worldwide Information War Power: propaganda, and the global political awakening, Global Research, 6 December 2010), the following contrasting perspectives relevant to remedial systemic insight are noted:
The challenge is to weave five such contrasting insights into any global model as "five eyes" each with its particular function. Marshall's essay aims to examine the nature of the Wikileaks releases, suggesting how "should" they be approached and understood. The question would then be whether rejected perspectives, valued by some constituencies, should then be "designed out". A healthier approach would, for example, take advantage of the insight of Ray Kurzweil in designing speech recognition and other applications using a set of modules with complementary functions. This is consistent with recognition of the challenging interplay of five modules of the human brain or of the need for distinct, but complementary, languages to order experience of richer significance (Antonio T de Nicolas, Neurobiology, Communities, Religion: a bio-cultural study, 1998).
In the quest of paradigm shifts: At the time of writing, national, regional and global governance are variously faced with stresses for which there is little new thinking. In the specific case of the financial crisis of the eurozone, Jean-Claude Trichet as president of the European Central Bank, has called upon the 16 members of the currency union for "a quantum leap in the governance of the eurozone". An editorial in The Guardian immediately thereafter was titled Eurozone crisis: New panic, old thinking (3 December 2010). Seemingly there is indeed no new thinking on the horizon in a week characterized by the worldwide release via WikiLeaks of US diplomatic cables -- and the title in the same medium How WikiLeaks altered the way we see the world in just a week (The Guardian, 4 December 2010).
Given the imaginative creativity of physicists and the unconventional thinking they cultivate, it is curious that Trichet should employ the metaphor of "quantum leap" and be quite unable to benefit more creatively from it.
Implications of "real" secrets: Both the ongoing financial crisis and the revelations of the embassy cables make the case for the need to look at the world in another way (Robert Booth and Haroon Siddique, How WikiLeaks altered the way we see the world in just a week, The Guardian, 4 December 2010). The revelations reflect only the low "noforn" level of secrecy, otherwise termed "unclassified" and accessible to some 2.5 million US officials. The rest of the world is then free to speculate on how understanding of their world might be even more radically transformed by the "real" secrets of the US, "classified" and necessarily accessible to only the very few:
As with many major institutions, including the UN and the Vatican, the quantity of documents so classified is immense. The reasons for such classification are at least questionable. Repsonding to an interviewer's question as to whether WikiLeaks should be declared a foreign terrorist organization, Noam Chomsky argues:
I think that's outlandish. The materials -- we should understand (and the Pentagon Papers is another case in point) that one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population. (WikiLeaks Cables Reveal "Profound Hatred for Democracy on the Part of Our Political Leadership" Democacy Now!, 30 November 2010).
The "world knot":Clearly this reinforces the need to include the role of secrecy and ignorance into any future models of global governance, if they are to be meaningful and relevant. How else can the real condition of the world become the subject of reflection by other than the select few -- who seem so successfully to have mismanaged the challenges faced by global governance and are unable to justify their apparent incompetence by reference to relevant classified information?
The argument above is framed to focus on the connection between surface-currents and under-currents. That connection can be formally and metaphorically described as a knot. However it is the cognitive and experiential transition between the two "contradictory" realities that calls for attention -- especially given its paradoxical nature. As a question it might be framed as: What is the knot whereby systemic "loose ends" are tied? Symbolically this might be associated with the Ouroboros -- the dragon or snake "biting" its own tail. But, as illustrated above, the theory of knots highlights a whole spectrum of possible understandings of that link. As implied by the Olympic symbol, the world cannot (yet) be understood as a "one-ring circus". As previously argued (Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges: cognitive integration implied by the Lord of the Rings, 2009), some may of course aspire to the mythical:
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
The rope-like flow of the ocean currents, looping around the world, can readily be understood and described topologically as a form of knot -- the "world knot". What insights might emerge from an effort to describe the world system of communication flows in such terms? Of relevance is the specific case for a topological approach to global modelling previously made in relation to the methodology of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential as (Global modelling perspective, 1995).
Reference to the "unknot" in a topological context (see above) -- usefully understood as the possibility of an "unknotted" comprehension of a global system -- highlights the challenge of comprehension of paradox. Mnemonically there are insights from the interplay between "knot" and "not" -- to the extent that "knottedness" of comprehension derives significantly from what is "not" recognized. The Möbius strip provides an accessible example. The tentative set of images above suggests the possibility of structuring phases of comprehension of the challenge of governance as a form of visual story. The best example of this is the classic set of 10 Zen ox-herding images, adapted separately to the framing of world problems (Integration of perceived problems, 1995).
Cyclopean vs. Poly-ocular vision:The fundamental mistake at this time would seem to be the confusion of comprehensive unity -- associated with simplistic uses of "universal" and "global" -- with the challenge to comprehension implied by the "unknot" or the Ouroboros. This might be termed the "cyclopean syndrome" -- the implication that depth may be comprehended through one eye.
Aside from the physics of stereoscopic vision, a number of authors have explored its significance as a metaphor (cf John A T Robinson, Truth is Two-eyed, 1979). This binocular approach has been extended to a poly-ocular approach by Magoroh Maruyama (Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding? Organization Studies, 25, 2004, pp. 467-480), notably considered as relevant to agriculture, as admirably described by Egon Noe, et al (A semiotic polyocular framework for multidisciplinary research in relation to multifunctional farming and rural development, 2005). In poly-ocular vision, the differences between several images enable detection of invisible dimensions, which cannot be obtained by adding several images (Maruyama, 1978).
The argument has been developed separately (Cyclopean Vision vs Poly-sensual Engagement, 2006). In relation to Polyocular strategic vision (2009) reference is made there to the much-cited tale regarding Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) against the Danes. At a critical moment, when his superior signalled he should retreat. Nelson ordered that the signal be acknowledged. He informed his flag Captain: "I only have one eye -- I have the right to be blind sometimes," and then holding his telescope to his blind eye, said "I really do not see the signal!". By his continuing the engagement a British victory was achieved. Presumably, in ignoring feedback from their constituencies, the leaders of the world expect to emulate Nelson, raising to the "blind eye" any devices capable of correcting their defective vision.
A Potemkin knowledge-society: Promoting a Potemkin vision of global society -- through the conventional one-eyed focus on "surface-currents" -- works to the extent that "we the peoples" are blind and gullible, a primary motivation of secrecy. Then indeed, "in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". WikiLeaks has enabled people to recognize the need to see "in depth" -- with two eyes -- confirming widespread recognition of both the surface-currents and the under-currents. Incorporating both into future global models, and exploring the manner in which they are connected, is the challenge for the future.
Global modelling is currently inappropriately invested in the promotion of selective "Potemkin realities" -- as in the case of climate models or economic models. The Olympic symbol suggests the possibility of at least "five eyes" essential to self-remedial global governance by "we the peoples".
Beyond impoverished metaphor: Such arguments suggest that cognitive closure on the nature of the relationship between formal and informal, surface- and under-currents, positive and negative, is not (yet) appropriate. There are fruitful paradoxes to be explored and richer metaphors to be found to enable more fruitful comprehension of relevance to global governance (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality, 2009).
The irony remains that the focus of "recreation" on ball and other sports may be invoking a degree of comprehension of the nature of self-remediation processes. This is reflected in the use of sporting metaphors: "catching the ball", "running with the ball", "making points", pursuing a line of argument", "taking sides". Arenas can even be understood as loci of "upwelling" of collective hope -- in contrast to the "downwelling" associated with widespread collective despair and individual depression.
Self-defeating demonisation of individuals: It is in this context that, as the instigator of WikiLeaks and the target for official recrimination, Julian Assange has every probability of being "fast tracked" into martyrdom as the "Che Guevara of cyberspace", as noted in his home country by Martin Flanagan (Is Julian Assange the digital age's Che? The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 December 2010). There is every probability that the US will "arrange" for his assassination, as is its wont and sense of legitimate defence of national security within a cultivated politics of fear. Thereafter only the extremely gullible will believe that such arrangements were not made by the US -- rather than by "al-Qaida", as the ultimate under-current of the current period. In the eyes of history, this will seal the fate of the US as the embodiment of the betrayal of universal values (Neal Ascherson, WikiLeaks cables are dispatches from a beleaguered America in imperial retreat, The Guardian, 4 December 2010; Tanya Cariina Hsu, The Beginning of the End of the American Empire, excerpt from "The Global Economic Crisis", Global Research, 4 December 2010). Ironically it is therefore the US that has the most interest in preventing his assassination.
The dilemma has been most sharply presented by John Naughton (Live with the WikiLeakable world or shut down the net. It's your choice, The Guardian, 6 December 2010):
What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger.... What we are hearing from the enraged officialdom of our democracies is mostly the petulant screaming of emperors whose clothes have been shredded by the net.
Gregory Bateson. Mind and Nature: a necessary unity. Hampton, 1979
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Tom Burghardt. FBI Wiretapping of Internet Users -- "All Your Data Belongs to Us" -- A Seamless Global Surveillance Web. Global Research, 21 November 2010 [text]
Karen A. Cerulo. Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst. University of Chicago Press, 2006
Emanuel Derman. Metaphors, Models and Theories. The Edge, 2 December 2010 [text]
Barbara Ehrenreich. Bright-sided: how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America. Picador, 2009
Nathan Freier. Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development. Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, November 2008
Louis H. Kauffman:
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Arthur M. Young. Geometry of Meaning. Delacorte Press, 1976
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