17 July 2009 | Draft
Globallooning -- Strategic Inflation of Expectations and Inconsequential
Global, Glo-Bull, Glow-Ball, Glow-Bawl
- / -
Metaphor in global discourse
Global warming -- things are getting "hotter"
Confidence-building and hope-mongering
"Inflation", "growth" and "development"
"Balloons" vs "Bubbles": a strategic reframing
Balloon-related strategic metaphors
Balloon design and construction
Balloon operation and governance
Challenge of symbol conflation: "Sun", "Earth", "Moon"?
"Global" complex of metaphoric associations and connotations
Configuration of balloons as an appropriate metaphor for global strategy
Governance of strategic vehicles as "timeships"
This is an effort to identify the critical combination of factors
contributing to consensus on the success of a global conference -- achieving
"lift-off" and ensuring it "flies" . It is partly inspired
by the G8
Summit in Italy (July 2009) when
media reports noted the failure to meet unpublished targets of development
aid set at the Gleneagles
G8 Summit (2005). Reports also noted that despite
failure to provide any form of remedial support to those affected by the earthquake
at the Summit location, a basketball court had been constructed for one
of the eight conference participants and a jogging track for another.
Gleneagles, announcement of historic agreement was expected on major issues,
notably global warming -- in preparation for the UN
Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009). Can there be any doubt that
the G8 Summit will be rated a success -- by its participants? By history? And
The G8 Summit occurs following the financial crisis of 2008, during its continuing
dramatic consequences for many national economies, and without any immediate
prospect of successfully regulating the banking system which had enabled the
crisis. Announcements continue to focus on the vital need to rebuild confidence
in the global financial system. The usual appeals continue to be made by the
"usual suspects" regarding the plight of hundreds of millions in many countries.
It is readily assumed that there is consensus on the understanding of "globalization"
and "global". However, as discussed by Wendy Larner and William Walters
as Governmentality. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political,
Vol. 29, 2004) with regard to presentations at a meeting of the International
Sociological Association (2002):
The shared collective conception was one of epochal macrolevel
change. The intellectual challenge was to specify more clearly the content
of this change, to develop more rigorous accounts of hegemonic projects and
institutions, to examine the consequences for different places and people,
and to identify how globalization was being resisted. Our argument is that...
globalization is treated as a transformation in the very structure of the
world. This is true not just of mainstream accounts, but even many of those
employing critical perspectives.
As argued by Melba Cuddy-Keane (Globalization
and the Image: Imagining the Global, Paper for 2002 MLA Convention
New York, Society for Critical Exchange) the world is now witness to a
conjunction between the charting of space and the charting of knowledge
-- a conjunction that raises the question of the relation between the turn
to spatial tropes and increasingly globalized consciousness of the
This is written at a time when the death of Robert
McNamara has engendered
further reflections on the hyper-rationalism for which he was responsible in
defining the strategy of the Vietnam
its far higher death rate than that in Afghanistan -- where similarly rational
strategies have been attempted, in an 8-year military disaster, despite
using the most advanced military technology available. At the same time further
revelations are emerging regarding the degree of cover-up of repugnant "enhanced
that has been a key feature of the "battle for hearts and minds" in
that arena -- all in the name of enabling democratic values.
here is with the ongoing development of value-based strategy of questionable
efficacy -- in the glow of which people are expected to bask, ignoring its
shadow. The focus in what follows is on the cognitive frameworks through which
such changes are to be comprehended, given the manner in which they are accompanied
by totally problematic dimensions, as discussed separately (Abuse
of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009; Viable
Global Governance through Bullfighting: challenge of transcendence,
of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance of the
Metaphor in global discourse
The question explored in what follows with regard to gatherings like the G8
is whether there should be greater recognition of the role of metaphor in framing
the understanding of what is occurring and what is achieved -- whether from
the contrasting perspectives of participants or of observers. The preparation
of such events by sherpas is
well-known -- thereby introducing a mountaineering metaphor in the approach
to the "summit".
The G8 Summit has occasionally been compared to a gathering of
White and the Seven Dwarfs, as on the occasion of the 2009 Summit
Street Breakfast: Must-Know News, 15 June 2009). The metaphor is clearly
loaded given the implied characterization of "Snow White" and the "Dwarfs"
-- and the source of the imagery. Vanessa Rossi (The
Global Power Game is Changing: Exit Strategy for G8? Tracking
the G8 L'Aquila Summit, 4 July 2009) acknowledges that ball games have
always been a popular metaphor for managing global affairs.
in Discourse, Cambridge University Press, 2008) uses as a leading
example an article by James Landale (Half
full or half empty? BBC
News, 8 July 2005) concerned with the aftermath of the G8 summit
at Gleneagles -- focused on the initiatives to relieve poverty in Africa
and to halt climate change. As Semino notes, in the opening of the article,
the reporter explicitly states that, after all the activities and negotiations,
the summit had finally come down to "a battle of
In the end,
after all the talks, the lobbying and the haggling over words, the G8 summit
at Gleneagles came down to a battle of metaphors. Just how best should the
work over the last three days at this Scottish golf course and equestrian centre
be characterised? Was, asked some, the cup half full or half empty?
Other metaphors mentioned and discussed include:
- A mountain has been climbed only to reveal higher peaks on the other side..
But let's also look down on the valley from where we've come.
- Politics is about getting things done step by step, this is progress, and
we should be proud of it (U2 rock star Bono)
- Dr Kumi Naidoo, from the anti-poverty lobby group G-Cap, said after 'the
roar' produced by Live 8, the G8 had uttered 'a whisper'.
Semino develops the analysis of such use of metaphor in the light of the seminal
work of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (Metaphors We Live By, 1980).
The concern here is whether there is a set of metaphors to be explored in relation
to globalization and its framing of the challenges it faces. It follows from
earlier work on a Governance
through Metaphor Project and on associated papers (Documents
relating to Metaphor for Governance).
The use of metaphor can of course be challenged, as by Gabriel Syme (Stretching
the swan metaphor, Samizdat.net, 6 July 2005) with respect
to the flying swans
logo of the UK's presidency of the EU -- the first time an EU presidency
had had an animated logo. The concept had been explained as:
idea is a metaphor for leadership, teamwork and efficiency, which is particularly
appropriate for the EU, given the system of rotating leadership. Migrating
birds fly in a V formation. This is highly efficient, because all the birds
in the formation, except for the leader, are in the slipstream of another bird.
Periodically the leading bird drops back and another bird moves up to take
The concern in what follows is whether it is possible
to provide a useful metaphoric framework for the dysfunctionalities of global
Global warming -- things are getting "hotter"
As a global substantive issue, concern with "climate change" has
now taken priority over a range of earlier priorities: development, environment,
terrorism, energy, human rights, etc. As in the framing of each of them in
their time, climate change now subsumes those that preceded it -- if only as
a distraction from the limited success on earlier issues.
To the extent that each such issue has dimensions which are of profound psychological
significance, each may be explored as a metaphor of a partially recognized
challenge faced by humanity. There is also evidence of a degree of metaphoric
confusion. For example, "climate change" is readily confused with "climate
of change", notably in order to distract attention from increasing pressure
for the latter (Climate
of Change Misrepresented as Climate Change: insights from metaphorical confusion,
2008). Man-made crises, such as the global finance crisis in
2008, may be reframed in the guise of "natural" disasters -- as a
"hurricane" or "tsunami", for example -- thereby avoiding
any need to identity responsible parties (Climate
Change as a Metaphor of Social Change: systemic implications of emissions,
ozone, sunlight, greenhouse and overheating, 2008).
The question might be asked whether each new global priority brings
a sharper articulation of those fundamental dimensions which are so poorly
recognized -- with systemic consequences of increasing proportion. Many decades
ago, a warning of the challenge of a coming "crisis of crises" was
articulated by John Platt (What We Must Do, Science, 166, November
1969). The moment has apparently now been recognized by the
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who recently declared:
We are living through an era like no other. There are multiple crises: a
food crisis, fuel crisis, flu crisis and financial crisis... Each is a crisis
we have not seen for many years, even generations. But this time they are
hitting the world all at once. We have never seen any era when we have been
hit by all these multiple crises at the one time... Peacekeeping has experienced
serious setbacks. Today we face mounting difficulties in getting enough troops,
the right equipment and adequate logistical support. This supply has not
kept pace with demand. (United
Nations peace missions in peril, The Guardian, 8 July
Things are indeed hotting up. More social unrest is expected. The question
in what follows is whether it is possible to draw together some of the threads
associated with the strategic responses to such seemingly disparate crises
-- to comprehend them as a whole.
As discussed in Climate
Change as a Metaphor of Social Change: systemic implications of emissions,
ozone, sunlight, greenhouse and overheating (2008), it might be usefully
said that disparate sectors of society
are variously faced with an "emissions problem". This suggests
a degree of systemic equivalence between them that remains to be explored. For
- carbon emissions: This is the dominant focus in relation to containing
- sexual emissions: It is the associations of a term
such as "carbon
would naturally arouse the interest of psychoanalysts of the Freudian tradition.
It might be said that there is a supreme irony
to the fact that it is the excessive "carbon emissions" at the origin
of climate change that are in fact potentially analogous to the "emissions" associated
with sexual reproduction and the rising population -- engendering that climate
change. More provocatively, is birth itself not to be considered a form of
"carbon emission"? Are the necessary percentage reductions, so
desperately sought, misleadingly attributed to surrogate "emissions"?
- financial emissions: Most curiously, the real-estate bubble
at the origin of the financial collapse of 2008 was built up to launder mortgage-based
securities packages, thus providing the baseline of monetary and derived "financial
emissions" for what was to become a hyperinflationary expansion of a physically
- emission of promises: As suggested in the financial case, the promises,
pledges and commitments of global gatherings can be understood as a form
of emission. Their embodiment in a plethora of "resolutions" that clutter
the international legal to little effect might well be compared with the
challenge to lift-off of the thousands of items of space
debris orbiting the globe.
In each such case, and in the light of inflated expectations,
the global population may be understood as "borrowing" greedily against the
future -- and the generations expected to manage that debt.
associations of "climate
potentially very "sexy",
if only to the unconscious. Terms such as "global warming", "overheating", "inflation", "growth", "globalization" and "talking
things up" may well have associations which condition consideration of "climate
change" and its relation to "population", as considered in more detail elsewhere
change and overpopulation as cultural challenges of reflexivity,
may be understood as the change of behavioural climate induced by sexuality
-- a more fundamental inconvenient truth.
It has become obvious that carbon emissions are
inducing the increasing temperatures which are of great concern in global warming
-- partly to be understood in terms of the "hot air" resulting from
Curiously, the financial bubble which collapsed (engendering the
financial crisis of 2008) is now recognized to have been built up by the "hot
air" intrinsic to the optimistic misrepresentation of toxic investments
to unsuspecting gullible investors. Major financial institutions and governments
were complicit in this process of engendering "hot air". In their current
concern with "confidence building", the process of "talking it
up" again has recourse
to "hot air". How can the current declarations of financial authorities
be distinguished from such "hot air" --
desperate as they are for recovery? Would they knowingly mislead if it contributed
to such recovery?
Even more curious, given the sexual connotations, are those situations
in which "carbon emissions" are the focus of debate in a "congress" or
a "seminar", and when the "seminal" insights that emerge are cause for "dissemination".
But it is in such contexts that "emissions" take yet another form,
namely as the "hot air" that is most characteristic of conference
discourse and declarations to the media regarding their outcomes for wider
public appreciation -- as with declarations of the G8 and other international
The point is made, for example, that the countries represented at the G8 Summits
are responsible for some 80% of global carbon emissions. It might well be asked
whether they are not also responsible for some 80% of the "hot air" of
global strategic discourse. How much of their discourse will history consider
to have been substantive -- even from the perspective in 2009 on the Gleneagles
Summit of 2005? How would developing countries now rate the quality of discourse,
and commitments made to them, at the 2005 event?
Of course such intergovernmental events are not the only source of global
"hot air". How will history see the quality of discourse at the multiplicity
of global events facing the current "crisis of crises" ? Interesting
test cases are the contrasting gatherings of the constituencies of the World
Economic Forum (Davos) and of the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre). What proportion
of that discourse is usefully to be described as "hot air"?
With the "crisis of crises" now characteristic of global conditions,
and the increasing social unrest which is becoming apparent, does the manifestation
of such unrest naturally include the production of "hot
air" by protestors
-- reflecting the degree to which the situation is getting "hotter"?
This is one social analogue to "global warming".
Recent years have seen an explosive growth of internet-facilitated social
networking. This historically unprecedented volume of communications has been
widely remarked, now exemplified by those of Twitter. Such communication now
far exceeds the volume of communication of international bodies -- to the point
of marginalizing the latter on some urgent issues. Most striking however
is the extent to which communications are attracted to topics that are "hot".
It might be said that it is the interactivity of social networking which increases
the temperature of global communication, thereby understood as increasing its
significance. Of course such "heat" may also be associated with any
sexually related content of the communication (chat rooms, porn sites, etc).
Does the expression "hot air" unambiguously imply "not fit
for purpose", or does "hot air" indeed have a vital function?
As a typical feature of weather systems, a cyclone refers to an area of closed,
circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. Large-scale
cyclonic circulations are almost always centered on areas of low atmospheric
pressure associated with rising hot air. This consequent pressure differential
suggests a relationship to the processes causing a hot air balloon to rise
(as discussed below).
Confidence-building and hope-mongering
As a reaction to the gloom of the doom-mongerers, much is made of the need
to build hope. The focus on confidence building is to be understood in these
terms. This was a focus of the successful presidential campaign
of Barack Obama (The
Audacity of Hope, 2006).
The difficulty for those promoting hope and confidence is to ensure the
credibility of their initiative -- especially given any past complicity in
developing and sustaining the hopes basic to the financial bubble that has
so recently burst. What other forms of hope have been, and continue to be,
dubiously promoted? (Credibility
Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "credit crunch" focus as symptom of a
dangerous mindset, 2008; Abuse
of Faith in Governance: mystery of the unasked question, 2009).
Despite the crisis, it could be inferred that there have been limited learnings
China faces its capitalist crisis: Don't put too much faith in the Chinese
to deliver the world from recession, The Guardian, 17 August 2009)
The US remains by far the most powerful nation on earth, but bubble economics
and military overstretch have sapped its strength.... Chucking money at the
economy will lead to an even bigger problem of over-investment, an explosion
in bad loans and a tendency for a good chunk of the increase in the money
supply to leak out into speculation. Over-capacity and falling profit rates
will mean that many inefficient companies kept alive by the injection of
cheap money will have real problems in servicing their debts. This approach
to crisis management is nothing new. China has responded in the way that
Alan Greenspan did after the dotcom crash: it has solved the problems of
one bubble by creating another.
How necessarily intertwined are hope-building and confidence-building with
"hot air" and deception? Are they to be fruitfully distinguished? Does global
leadership require a degree of misleadership? (Emergence
of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance of the
"Inflation", "growth" and "development"
Past decades of economic development have been intimately associated with
inflation, namely the rise in the general level
of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. This economic
understanding tends to obscure the psychosocial significance of the process.
In effect progressively greater collective value is attributed to those products
and services -- which monetary tokens partially reflect.
This process is intimately
related to the social psychology of rising expectations -- most notably those
engendering and sustaining a financial bubble. Greed has been widely promoted
as "good". The process continues as recently noted by Richard Bernstein
is for now still blowing bubbles, Financial Times, 20 July
The global economy has experienced during this decade the biggest credit bubble
in our lifetimes, and virtually every industry in every country benefited.
In fact, all the growth stories of the past decade (such as China, emerging
market infrastructure, residential housing, hedge funds, private equity and
commodities) are capital intensive investments that benefited from easy access
to cheap capital. The global credit bubble seems to have created a global economic
Paul Krugman (Beliefs
in Collision: how the bubble was missed, International
Hwerald Tribune, 5 September 2009) argues that:
Some economists, notably Robert
Shiller, did identify the bubble and warn
of painful consequences if it were to burst. Yet key policy makers failed
to see the obvious... How did they miss the bubble?.... But there was something
else going on: a general belief that bubbles just don't happen. What is stiking,
when you reread Mr Greenspan's assurances, is that they weren't based on
evidence -- they were based on the a priori assertion that there simply could
not be a bubble in housing. And the financial theorists were even more adamant
on this point.
Curiously it is the economists complicit in sustaining the financial bubble
that collapsed in 2008 who remain favourable to a steady rate of
inflation as an indication of a healthy developing economy. Beyond their focus,
the question to be asked is what is effectively being "inflated",
whether or not the rate of inflation can be distinguished from the dangers
of a financial bubble.
Few economists challenge the need for ever increasing growth -- the more,
the better -- irrespective of any constraints on resources. This is one reason
to favour an ever burgeoning population as a means of ensuring new opportunities
for such growth. Although there is considerable criticism of isolated Ponzi
schemes -- whatever the undeclared admiration for the skills of their perpetrators
-- it is not considered appropriate to question whether the global economic
system is effectively just such a scheme. In systemic terms it would be difficult
to distinguish the global variant from the smaller examples criminalized as
In the metaphoric use of "bubble", it is curious that little reference
is made to "bubbling". On the other hand, there is indeed recognition
inflation" and, above all, "ballooning debt". In a strong critique,
at the time of writing Nassim
Nicholas Taleb and Mark Spitznagel (Time
to tackle the real evil: too much debt, Financial Times, 14 July 2009)
argue that: We
need to rebuild the world to make it resistant to the economist's mystifications.
They explore possibilities in terms of "inflating" and "deflating".
"Balloons" vs "Bubbles": a strategic reframing of globalization
The process of globalization, so widely promoted by those complicit in sustaining
the financial bubble prior to 2008, then bears a curious resemblance to the
global consequence of an inflationary process, the unquestioned product of
development and growth -- framed as vital to a healthy society.
Rather than using the "bubble" metaphor, it might
be more appropriate to explore the "balloon" metaphor.
The bubble metaphor is consistent with a certain implication that the bubble
is a natural phenomenon -- not necessarily man-made -- as with financial "hurricanes" and
the like. A form of emergence by implication to be recognized (with surprise)
after the fact. The balloon metaphor makes it much clearer that this is a man-made
construct -- deliberately made or manufactured. Both of course need to be inflated
in some way although the process is far less obvious in the case of a bubble,
especially after the entry point has disappeared.
Curiously globalization itself is visualized by two totally contrasting metaphors:
either an image of the planet as a whole (however the surface is depicted),
arcs around the globe signifying point-to-point communications and transactions
(constituting a complex network, however configured). Whatever the former
is held to signify, the globality of globalization is effectively constructed
by the latter. In that sense globalization can be explored as the process
of manufacturing a viable balloon, notably as a global vehicle for the transportation
of humanity, rather than a bubble (which has only been held to have such capacity
Just as balloons are more substantial than bubbles, the process
of engaging with them offers more possibilities for instrumental thinking
characteristic of strategic development -- however enchanting it may be to
dance with bubbles and to fantasize about the opportunities they represent.
Even Wall Street has been described as a fairyland. The challenges of such
engagement have been considered separately (Engaging
with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes,
Balloon-related strategic metaphors
Balloons as strategic vehicles: Strategic use is already
made of the balloon metaphor, as in the expression "floating a trial
The bubble metaphor is not used in this way, except in the sense of a "bubble
of hope". Presumably a "trial balloon" could
be presented as a "bubble of hope", but it is the former that is
expected to "fly" in some
way -- as an expression of that hope. If it does not then the trial is rated
a failure. No such operational considerations apply to use of the bubble metaphor.
Despite the use of the
bubble metaphor as central to some economic processes, and notably to its inflation
by a bull market,
little attention is given to the viability of the bubble as a container --
even of hope. When it collapses there is little to be learnt regarding future
bubble construction -- or future means of containing hope. This is curious
when there is such intense concern, notably at this time, with confidence building
and building up hope -- to the point of framing it as the key to resolution
of a crisis.
It is almost as though bubble construction was indeed so insubstantial
as to be based entirely on the extreme subtleties of collective consensus
and belief. But again the challenge of building or manufacturing consensus
avoids the considerations that would be essential to construction of a viable
strategic balloon (Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing
Consent: the political economy of the mass media, 2002).
Strategic balloons of current relevance to discussion of the response to
global warming are most evident in the "trial balloons" variously
proposed by proponents of geo-engineering -- some of them as fantastic
as the design of modern balloons (Geo-engineering
Oversight Agency for Thermal Stabilization, 2008). See also The
Manchester Report: 20 ideas for solving the climate crisis (The
Judah Grunstein (The
Afghan Paradox, World Politics
Review blog, 18 February
2009) explores the Afghan war as a cross-border balloon in which insufficient
pressure has been applied on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, arguing
that the balloon has been half-squeezed on one side, and half-squeezed on
the other, and that the result has been to increase the risk of the balloon
bursting on both sides.
Stephen Sprat (Of
Banks, Balloons and an Ecology of Finance, 26 January
2009) argues with respect to the UK economy:
The government resembles a grimly optimistic hot air balloonist, spat
out of a storm and crashing to earth while frantically pumping more and more
hot air into the balloon, only to see it flow out of huge holes rent in the
fabric of his craft....The balloon's predicament mirrors our own. For the
basket read the UK economy. For the balloon read the UK banking sector. For
the gas read the supply of money, which the government can produce either
by borrowing or by printing.... Returning to our balloon, its fabric should
be used to create many balloons of different sizes supporting the single
basket of the real economy... A variety of different types of institutions
serving different sectors in a variety of ways is far more resilient: the
system can cope with failures in some areas, as it retains the support of
others. If one balloon bursts, the basket does not fall.
Balloons as metaphors of transcendence: Helium-filled balloons
are typically released to celebrate the hopes associated with new strategic
initiatives. According to Vojtech Jirat-Wasiutynski (The
Balloon as Metaphor in the Early Work of Odilon Redon, IRSA, 1992),
in the early work of the symbolist painter Odilon
Redon (1840-1916) balloons function as visual metaphors for the human
need to transcend earthly existence as part of a spiritual quest. Rather
than use traditional religious or mythological imagery, Redon turned to
the hot-air balloon because it was a particularly topical and modern image
in the 1870s. As noted by Jirat-Wasiutynsk:
Dans le Reve (1879) and A Edgar Poe (1882): The imaginary
world of le reve in Redon's art is characterized to a large extent by the
suspension of gravity. He used the balloon in particular as an appropriate
modern metaphor for spiritual quest and the human desire to transcend material
existence... Redon's use of images of floating heads and very human, if odd,
creatures...evokes a spiritual realm polarized between above and below.
There is thus an important symbolic function of the balloon with which aspirations
of strategic transcendence of mundane crises are subtly associated. Although
seemingly a switch of metaphors, balloons (like bubbles) are part of the "vision
thing" so vital to strategy and motivation. It is the bubble/balloon that
has to be "seen" to elicit belief in transcending problems (Developing
a Metaphorical Language for the Future, 1994). But is Redon's "suspension
of gravity" to be construed, in the strategic case, as a form of delinking
from the grounded reality of the world?
Balloons in psychology: The metaphor is notably used in
both therapy and
in personality characterization.
- Psychotherapy: Various authors indicate the
value of this metaphor in therapy (E. M. Huss and Thomas St. James O'Connor,
broken balloon: a metaphor for divorce, Journal
of divorce and remarriage,
23, 1995, 1-2, pp. 211-223). For Catherine Ford Sori and Lorna L. Hecker
therapist's notebook for children and adolescents: homework, handouts,
and activities for use in psychotherapy, Haworth
Press, 2003) pp. 10-11
The metaphor of a balloon is useful for children to understand
visually how fears can be inflated, by thinking bad thoughts,
or deflated, by thinking good thoughts. Young children may not
understand what an "irrational"
or "negative" thought is, but they will understand "bad" thoughts
"good" thoughts.... Once the children have identified
and "good" thoughts, explain that fear is like a balloon....
Explain that bad thoughts fill the balloon up...good thoughts
are ways to deflate the balloon.
- Egotism: Google offers references to
"ballooning ego" (825 items), "ballooning egos" (207),
"inflated egos" (46,400), "inflated ego" (93,200), and "inflated personality"
(253). The phenomenon is explored in a study by Steve Maich and Lianne
Ego Boom: Why the World Really Does Revolve Around You, Key Porter
Books, 2009) and in relationship to leadership by Dean B. McFarlin and
Paul Sweeney (Where
Egos Dare: The Untold Truth about Narcissistic Leaders and how to Survive
Them, Kogan Page Publishers,
2002). Rosie Steeves (Ego
can undermine leadership aspirations and company success) notes
that: When asked to name the three biggest problems
standing in the way of outstanding leadership, one president of a successful
global organization answered: "Ego, ego and ego." Playing
on "EGOs" vs "NGOs", the challenge has been variously
recognized in the case of NGOs (with Google offering 833 items
combinaing "inflated egos" and NGOs):
Apart from the lack of protectiveness, another shortcoming she identified
with NGOs is Southeast Asia was the competitive mindset - they are competing
with each other for funds and do not share their resources. The situation
was worsened by major ego issues where individual egos were bigger than
the organisations they worked for.[more]
NGOs in Sri Lanka often mimic the very parochialism they seek to transform
government. Clamouring for donor aid, scarce human resources, a paucity
innovation and ideas, inflated egos and personal vendettas... [more]
These examples highlight some pathological phenomena held to be usefully represented
by balloons or "inflation". Others include "ballooning anger" and "ballooning
The challenge of egotism in the case of leaders, and especially global leaders,
has long been remarked -- most recently on the occasion of the G8 Summit of
2009. There is also the curious potential "resonance" between
appreciation of the "globe" by global leaders and their own self-appreciation.
As at the national level, a leader may famously declare "L'Etat
(I am the State, as asserted and believed by Louis
XIV of France). The same might be said of the so-called Masters of the
Universe, a label first used by Tom
Bonfire of the Vanities, 1987).
Such personalized identification may, on the other hand, be fruitfully
explored by all, as argued separately (Personal
Globalization, 2001). In the light of the discussion below of "hot
air ballooning" as a metaphor, there is a certain charm to the possibility
of exploring its psychological potential as a personal strategy in a globalizing
world. This accords with the sense of an "inner fire" necessary to
carry one over mundane obstacles -- a "fire" notably cultivated in some Taoist
G Jung and Richard
Wilhelm, The Secret of the Golden Flower: Chinese Book of Life, 1972; Patrick
Harpur and Tanya Graham, The
Philosophers' Secret Fire: a history of the imagination, Blue
Angel Gallery, 2007).
Balloons in epistemology: Ann Roex and Jan
the concept of epistemological beliefs into medical education: the hot-air-balloon
metaphor, Academic Medicine, 01/07/2007, 82(6), pp. 616-20)
argue that the metaphor of a piloted hot-air balloon illustrates
the different factors contributing to medical expertise: the hot-air balloon's
basket symbolizes the well-organized knowledge base, the envelope (i.e., air
bag) stands for the skills repertoire of the pilot, and the burners represent
motivation, intelligence, and other noncognitive factors. The pilot needs to
achieve sophisticated levels of epistemological beliefs and metacognitive skills
to be able to reach the upper levels of expertise with his well-equipped balloon.
The metaphor emphasizes the dynamic disposition of expertise and offers a visual
framework for designing curricula, assessment procedures, and educational research
Given such arguments, it is appropriate to ask what epistemological insight
is brought to bear on global strategic development -- especially when, as currently
conceived, it can give rise to unexpected financial bubbles and their collapse.
Balloons in organization and management: A variety of uses
have been found for such metaphors:
- Metaphors of organization: James Lawley (Metaphors
of Organisation, Effective Consulting, 1, 5, November
"launching new balloons" used by the director of one organization,
facilitated by the processes of Symbolic
in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling) and Clean
Language, as developed by David
Through the process of Symbolic Modelling he devised a metaphor
of a central launch pad from which a hot air balloon could rise and descend.
The balloon was navigated by its own captain and yet was always connected
to the launch pad by a cable which both defined its scope and provided safety.
This arrangement allowed for other balloons to be launched, and the possibility
that when a balloon became large enough the cable could be severed and replaced
with a looser, even more autonomous form of organisation. Clean
the Director to explore a multitude of aspects of the metaphor: the balloon,
the qualities of the captain, the launch and landing gear, the relationship
with outside observers, the round table strategic plans, the effect on the
public looking at the balloon as it was flying, etc.
- Development of teamwork: Teamwork
Metaphor: Cluster Ballooning (International Association of Teamwork
Facilitators, 17 June 2006)
highlights the use of multiple balloons as a metaphor:
It's called "cluster ballooning" and it's for those
who've dreamed of being carried into the sky by a giant bouquet
of colorful toy balloons... Cluster ballooning
is a great metaphor for teamwork. One balloon all on it's own can't
lift the person. It takes a "team" of balloons all moving
in the same direction to successfully lift the person (the organization/business).
- Development of IT systems: The
metaphor has been used in the development of software projects [more]
and IT systems, as noted by Faisal
the Foundation for a Scalable ETL Environment: Designing For Availability
Managing Big Data Information Management Online,
26 January 2001) provides an extensive discussion of the metaphor,
The helium-balloon metaphor models modern information technology systems
pretty well. If left alone, balloons leak their helium and IT systems
eventually fail. Technology systems can fail for any number of reason
including power outages, disk failure, memory failure, software errors,
etc. Balloons require refills; IT systems require maintenance and administration.
For example, upgrading or patching the operating system may require an
outage. Reorganizing database storage structures may also require an
These examples highlight the practical focus which the balloon metaphor offers
in management. Clearly global strategic initiatives could benefit from such
Balloons in social systems: In reviewing a study
by Andrew McMurry (Environmental
Renaissance: Emerson, Thoreau, and the Systems of Nature.
Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 2003), Stephen Dougherty (Systems
Theory for Ecocriticism, Electronic Book Review, 2006) notes
McMurry's view that: Social systems are like balloons and ideologies are
like gases: it does not matter what gas you put in the balloon so long as you
fill it, and then argues:
It follows, then, that McMurry shows no interest in this or that particular
gas. It is only the balloon he wants to talk about. Thus the initial hypothesis: "the
ideological construction of nature has no appreciable effect on the problem
of nature from the perspective of a social system".
In other words, it is not so much what we say about the environment that
is important. Instead we must recognize, or somehow more fully appreciate,
how whatever we say is always already constrained by the particular communication
system in which the utterance is made. While the balloon metaphor is helpful,
it is only a start, indeed a kind of balloon itself.
Ballooning population: The metaphor is used with respect
to both the number of people and to their individual size:
- Overpopulation: On the occasion of a UN Press Conference
Growth, Challenges of Poverty Reduction, 1 April 2009) it was indicated
that: "Among the world's least developed countries, however, a ballooning
population meant they would not achieve the Millennium Development Goals
before the 2015 deadline". The conclusions of the UN World
Water Development Report (2009) were headlined by the UN News Centre
global population adding to water crisis (12 March 2009).
- Obesity: The term "ballooning figure"
is used as an expression of seriously increasing weight. Surveys show that
people have adjusted their perceptions of what is normal body weight as the
population's weight ballooned (Ballooning
population sees fat as normal: study New Zealand Herald,
8 August 2007). American obesity rates are reported to have increased in
23 states over the past year and decreased in none (Caroline Scott-Thomas, US
obesity rates ballooning, 2 July 2009).
Given the greater recognition of the challenge of individual obesity compared
to that of overpopulation, it is appropriate to explore whether the dysfunctionalities
of the latter might be better understood in the light of the former -- as with
other problermatic forms of ballooning. Is overpopulation to be understood as
a form of collective obesity, especially given its call upon resources? Is globalization
to be seen as obscuring dysfunctional ballooning -- or should current globalization
itself be understood as a form of ballooning?
Ballooning in economics: Notably in
relation to the challenges of globalization, many studies accessible on the
web refer to: ballooning demand, ballooning
global debt, ballooning fiscal
deficits, ballooning trade deficit, ballooning free flow of
speculative and volatile short-term capital, ballooning of global finance, ballooning
trade surpluses, ballooning stock swap, ballooning executive compensation, ballooning
legacy of ecological debt, ballooning of bad debt, ballooning bureaucracies,
ballooning informal economies, ballooning lending, ballooning electronic commerce,
ballooning external debt, ballooning fear concerning terrorism, ballooning military
spending, ballooning demand for illegal drugs.
Ali Farazmand and Jack Pinkowski (Handbook
of globalization, governance, and public administration CRC Press,
2006) argue that as countries prosper, political power takes on "rubber
band" and "balloon" characteristics, and failure to do
so by LDCs restricts their capacity to benefit from globalization.
This implies that any appropriate global strategy for the future needs to
encompass "ballooning", in effect to acquire considerable expertise in it --
rather than to be vulnerable to "bubbles" and "bubbling". Of relevance in the
examples here is the use of "ballooning" as an indicator of numerical increase
when so many other expressions exist. Arguably there is a widespread sense
of a form of increase that is not "linear" but "volumetric" -- for which other
terms are inadequate.
Ballooning in cardiovascular systems: This is a form of pathological
swelling in blood vessels and the heart, notably in the form of apical ballooning
syndrome. This suggests the merit of exploring systemically analogous dysfunctionality
in the circulatory systems of the body social, following the method used with
respect to the circulation of energy in the Roman civilization by Thomas
Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization,
2006). The economic examples cited above are indicative of possibilities. On
the other hand as a remedial surgical technique, balloon valvuloplasty is used
in the case of patients with critical pulmonary valve stenosis. Is such ballooning
one of the pathologies of the "heart" of any economy -- perhaps relevant
to the economic consequences of the financial crisis of 2008?
Balloon metaphor fundamental to astrophysics: The geometry
of the expansion of the universe has long been explained using
models of an inflating balloon (Balloon
Analogy in Cosmology, 1998), despite arguments
that this is a misrepresentation (Is
the universe really like an expanding balloon? Curious
Cornell University, 2005).
It is most curious that the balloon should be considered appropriate to represent
such a fundamental process in the universe -- if not the universe itself. Understanding
of global and globalization -- a process whose similarity to such expansion
bears examination -- is not well carried by current imagery. The fact that
it is vulnerable to "bubbles" does indeed suggest that it has been unable to
disassociate itself from a form of fairyland thinking -- despite pretence
to the contrary. Indeed those sustaining the financial bubble were variously
accused of dwelling in an unreal fairyland. There is perhaps a greater irony
in that those so complicit in the financial crash of 2008 prided themselves
on being labelled
Masters of the Universe (see Arrogance
of the "Masters of the Universe", 2009).
Balloon design and construction
From an historical perspective it might be considered curious that the formalization
of corporate limited responsibility initiatives (independent of government
charter) occurred in the same period
as the development of viable hot air balloons.
Hot air balloons: In offering the first opportunity for humans to fly, balloon
construction has a long history. The earliest viable design of 1783 was based
hot air balloon and
the practice of hot
air ballooning continues to this day. Balloon envelopes are now made
in all kinds of shapes, notably those of commercial products, because of the
perceived value of balloons in many marketing strategies -- especially on the
occasion of promotional exhibitions. As such they may be readily understood
as mirroring psychosocial analogues variously launched at the international
conferences with which such exhibitions are associated.
Gas balloons: In addition to the hot air variety, the other
main form of balloon is
the gas balloon. This may be filled with gases such as hydrogen, helium,
ammonia or coal gas (primarily methane). Clearly ensuring the lifting
capacity of balloons of whatever variety involves consideration of the use
of gases which may well now be defined as greenhouse
gases -- just as similar gases are associated with combustion engines vital
to other currently challenged modes of transportation. Extensive investigation
is underway into the use of unmanned balloons for interplanetary expeditions,
namely in photographic reconnaissance of planetary surfaces (Planetary
Exploration and Balloons, 2007).
Puffery: Whichever the form of balloon, whether hot air or
gas, it is clear that there are insightful possibilities for extending the
metaphor. As noted above, production of "hot air" is one of the characteristics
of conference gatherings designed to ensure that a strategy gets off the ground.
But here meaning is now given to such strategic uplift. The process even has
a degree of recognition in legal terminology as "puffery".
This involves claims, typical of the promotion of many strategies, that express
subjective rather than objective views, irrespective of whether any reasonable
person would take those claims literally. Those engaging at length in such
puffery in conferences may even be caricatured as "windbags" --
even to the point of being noted in terms of "huffing" and "puffing".
Buoyancy: The prime consideration in ensuring lifting capacity
is that the enclosed gas be lighter
than air, namely lighter than the surrounding atmosphere. Gas balloons
are sealed to contain the selected gas. In the case of the hot air variety,
the heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density
than the relatively cold air outside the envelope. The amount of lift (or
buoyancy) provided by a hot air balloon depends primarily upon the difference
between the temperature of the air inside the envelope and the temperature
of the air outside the envelope. Curiously such terms are closely related
to metaphoric use of "lift" by enclosing ("enlightened") "positive" proposals
in relation to a context of relatively ("heavy") "negative" attitudes.
"Positive" may of course
be associated with a higher temperature -- when the strategic proposal is
distinguished as "hot", notably when associated with considerable
enthusiasm. Hence the link to confidence building and the enthusiasm of
a bull market. In the case of an enclosed gas balloon, it is its density relative
to air that is the key. Comparisons may be found with the capacity of enclosed
communities to sustain a different strategy -- through a comparatively "enlightened" mindset
-- in relation to their environment (Dynamically
Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge
society, 2004). A point can of course be made that some strategies
enabled by "gases" that are distinctly "inflammable" --
as would be argued with respect to those communities inciting to certain forms
Airships and their internal structure: Rather than depend
on air pressure to sustain the shape of the balloon envelope, larger carrying
capacity may be achieved through the construction of airships. These may be
either rigid, semi-rigid or
as blimps). Development of the largest rigid forms ceased with the Hindenberg
disaster in 1937. The semi-rigid forms were valued (by the military) for
the facility with which they could be deflated and transported elsewhere. There
are no rigid airships flying today; the only modern semi-rigid form is the Zeppelin
NT. There are many modern non-rigid forms now in operation worldwide.
Of interest in these distinctions, from the simplest
form of balloon, is the manner in which internal reinforcement is required
to ensure the shape. This recalls the organizational considerations in the
implementation of strategies. Of particular interest are those first envisaged
in the light of his cybernetic insights by Stafford
Beer (Platform for Change, 1975; Brain Of The Firm, 1981; Diagnosing
the System for Organisations, 1985), especially his work on syntegrity
Dispute: The Invention of Team Syntegrity, 1994). It is significant
that global strategies as currently proposed have very little trace of the
patterns of checks and balances considered essential in the light of cybernetic
management. In that sense they are less than "rigid" and might be
better understood as "non-rigid" (blimps), or indeed as balloons.
"Floppy" might be an appropriate descriptor.
Global balloon design: The Hindenberg disaster highlights
the design issue of whether larger strategic frameworks are inherently dangerous,
even fatal, or whether they might become viable in the light of modern insights
into the possibility of strategic design -- embedded within a knowledge space.
Parallels might be explored with the inappropriateness of the design of the
financial bubble of 2008 -- as a contemporary form of strategic Hindenberg,
dependent on inflammable toxic gases. The quest for a more adequate design
of a global financial system might then be considered as a rethinking of how
such a global strategic balloon should be safely designed.
Balloon worlds: Consideration has been given to the possibility
of designing extraterrestrial environments based on balloons (Karl Schroeder,
Also known as
a pressurized superplanetary sphere. This unusual kind of deep space structure
is basically an enormous hollow shell whose shape is held rigid by gas pressure
within. Using known materials such as carbon nanotubes and advanced composites,
such a balloon megastructure could be built up to about the size of Jupiter
and still remain structurally stable. However, smaller balloon worlds several
hundred or several thousand kilometers across may prove much more practical
to both build and maintain.
Such language and thinking might be equally applicable to some global psychosocial
Balloon operation and governance
Inflation: The challenges of hot-air balloon inflation are
well illustrated by video clips (Balloon
inflation, 2007; Hot
Air Balloon Inflation, 2009). They are very suggestive of the steps
involved in ensuring that a strategy is capable of lift-off with a payload.
The stages are clarified by a set of images provided by Bob Le-Roi (Balloon
Flight, 2004), including:
- preparing the passenger carrying basket (pre-loaded with
- assembly of propane burner fitted to flexible mounts
- testing of burners, GPS navigation and radio communication
- laying out of balloon envelope
- attachment of envelope to basket, appropriately tethered
- spreading the envelope over the ground (roughly according to shape)
- preliminary introduction of cold air into the envelope (using a petrol
driven fan so that it starts to take shape on the ground)
- some passengers enter basket to act as ballast with first heating of air
- tethering of line from top of balloon ("cap line")
- remaining passengers enter in anticipation of lift-off
These stages offer a succession of metaphors to clarify the process of developing
a viable strategy. Of particular interest is whether "inflation" involves "pumping
in" imagination, funds or enthusiasm, or any combination of them.
Lift off: A further useful distinction relates to the manner
in which balloons can be operated (in contrast with airships). Clearly the
first objective is to achieve vertical "lift
The next challenge is direction. A prime characteristic of balloons is that,
under the control of the operator, they can only move vertically -- otherwise
drifting uncontrollably with the wind.
This offers a useful extension of the
metaphor in that any strategic balloon necessarily continues to be constrained
in its governability by the winds of fashion and opinion. The many such strategies
are then appropriately to be envisaged as floating along at various "heights" and
drifting with the winds of change. Of course distinctions as to "height" might
be related to various senses of superiority -- especially given the perspective
offered from greater height, abstraction and detachment from grounded reality.
Are the strategic balloons of the religions to be understood as operating at
the greatest heights?
Of related interest is the manner in which vertical movement is controlled:
achieve lift off in the first place, the tethers (preventing
dragging along the ground) typically have to be released. One approach may
be the shedding of ballast. As a metaphor, what are
the "tethers" that
have to be released to ensure that a strategic balloon lifts off? What "ballast" has
to be shed to ensure that the strategy is no longer grounded? Cynics might
argue that the tethers holding back some strategies are principles (or their
legal embodiment) that need to be abandoned as outmoded, or cast off as
unnecessary constraining ballast -- given the manner in which they hold strategic
development down and back. The justifications for "enhanced interrogation"
are an exemp0lification of this.
- Once airborne, vertical movement is typically controlled by either turning
on or off the propane burner (in the hot air case), and/or
opening or closing vents (otherwise known as a parachute
valve) that release the lighter than air gas from the top of the envelope,
thereby controlling buoyancy. The first case recalls the manner in which
the strategy might be periodically rekindled to arouse enthusiasm (by an
appropriate speaker) -- "raising the collective spirit" by "talking
The second would seem to be associated with processes of releasing pressure.
Again speakers at strategic gatherings may well "vent" their anger
as a means of releasing accumulated pressure -- perhaps to bring the gathering
back to ground.
Dirigibility: A hot air balloon cannot be steered
- it can only travel downwind. However, some directional control can be achieved
by finding different winds at different levels. In a typical balloon, for any
movement sideways, the pilot increases or decreases the altitude of the hot
air balloon in the hope of finding a different wind direction, since at different
altitudes, the wind blows in different directions.
The larger balloons, whatever their degree of rigidity, become
of greater significance with the increase in payload. To be useful these must
however be able to move independently of the wind. Propellers driven by combustion
engines are attached in some way, as on some modern day blimps. What might
be the vital strategic propellants to ensure dirigibility?
As a metaphor,
these considerations are a challenge. Clearly there would appear to be severe
constraints on the size and carrying capacity of strategic balloons. Only "blimp
strategies" would appear to be viable and governable independently of
the winds of change. Perhaps it is appropriate to imagine strategic space as
filled with a mixture of strategic balloons and blimps, variously shaped and
constrained, drifting or moving at different heights -- all reminiscent of
the cult movie celebrating the earliest days of powered flight (Those
Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, 1965).
|Strategic hot air balloons of the international community?
Landing: Balloons call for particular skills when landing,
especially if the intention is to use a predetermined landing site
-- usually only possible with balloons of the dirigible variety. Otherwise
the destination may be quite unpredictable and dependent on the prevailing
winds. This might be said to be equally true of many global strategies. Curiously
one of the deprecated forms of landing by powered aircraft is described by
the term "ballooned
The above considerations beg the question of how any "global strategy" --
as with any response to global warming -- is to be designed, inflated and operated.
Are global strategies, in the light of the ballooning metaphor, inherently
ungovernable? However consideration should be given to the aesthetics of strategic
"ballooning", as suggested by the above images. Further insight might be obtained
from the inflation of values in the art market itself. Indeed many commentators
note the manner in which this value "bubble" in the art market has proved to
be much more resilient than that in the conventional financial market.
Challenge of symbol conflation: "Sun", "Earth", "Moon"?
In the light of the above, it might prove appropriate to explore the degree
of problematic symbol conflation through current uses of "global":
- Solar symbolism:
This has been one of the most important cultural symbols throughout human
history, with fundamental psycho-spiritual associations. To a certain degree
the sense of transcendence attributed to "globalization"
-- transcending the local to a higher level of integration -- borrows from
what has been associated with the solar symbol -- possibly to be understood
as "stealing" from it. In this sense "global" is eclipsing "solar",
although curiously the consequential "global warming" is now evoking
proposals to shut out solar rays in some way -- as through some geo-engineering
- Earth symbolism: Again this has been one of the most
important cultural symbols throughout human history. The value of being
"grounded", notably in the reality of locality or a local community,
is increasingly recognized. Much is made of the symbolism of Gaia and
its systemic functions. But, curiously again, "global" (as an
abstraction) has to a degree sought identification with the planet, often
used as a symbol of it -- possibly even a primary symbol of it. More curious
is the widely publicized argument that globalization is a process of "flattening" the
Earth, as promoted by Thomas
L. Friedman (The
World Is Flat, 2005), as criticized separately (Irresponsible
Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance
- Moon symbolism: Mircea
Eliade notes that: It was lunar symbolism that enabled man to relate
and connect such heterogeneous things as: birth, becoming, death, and resurrection;
the waters, plants, woman, fecundity, and immortality; the cosmic darkness,
prenatal existence, and life after death, followed by the rebirth of the
lunar type ("light coming out of darkness"); weaving, the symbol of the "thread
of life," fate, temporality, and death; and yet others. In general most
of the ideas of cycle, dualism, polarity, opposition, conflict, but also
of reconciliation of contraries, of coincidentia oppositorum, were either
discovered or clarified by virtue of lunar symbolism.(The
Sacred and The Profane: the nature of religion, 1957). Strangely
such insights have been rendered largely irrelevant by the process of globalization
and the sense of 24/7 acyclic global activity. In this sense globalization
has effectively eclipsed the Moon.
The irony of the "ballooning" significance attributed to globalization
is that it might be said to be achieved at a cost:
- Solar "reaction", taking the form of global warming
- Gaian "reaction", taking the form of degradation of many environmental
systems of as yet unsuspected significance for the sustainability of human
- Lunar "reaction": taking a variety of strange forms that might
be said to include: the widespread quest for alternative realities through
substance abuse (consistent with Dionysian reactions to the Apollonian mindset
claimed by globalization technocrats), social unrest and extremism (readily
framed as "lunacy"), and, perhaps most ironic, demonstrations against
globalization summits given a prime media focus by mooning.
Thus speaks the collective unconscious in an increasingly unconscious civilization
(cf John Ralston
Unconscious Civilization, 2006).
Curiously with respect to any planetary global strategy, "balloon" (in
its spelling) combines the solar implication through "ball" and
the lunar implication through
"loon". In this contexrt it is appropriate to note the specific combination
of the above symnbols in the proposed Flag of Earth, as flown at SETI locations
around the world and available through the North
American AstroPhysical Observatory (What
Is the Flag of Earth? 2008).
"Global" complex of metaphoric associations and connotations
Any strategic initiative depends on weaving together a viable pattern of factors,
some of which are necessarily highly dependent on imagination and associated
motivation. However these factors are not necessarily innocent and unproblematic
in all respects.
Just as the branding of any new commercial product is typically the subject
of careful investigation as to its possibly unsuspected connotations in the
imagination of significant sectors of its potential market, the descriptor
"global" and the process of "globalization" call for even
deeper exploration. One step in that direction was the work of Natalia Pecherskaya
as a Metaphor (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International
Studies Association, Honolulu, 2005). Another argument regarding conceptual
metaphor is that of George
Lakoff in favour of cognitive linguistics'
analysis of figurative language -- given that reasoning regarding
abstract topics (such as globalization) is
somehow rooted in the reasoning used for such mundane topics as spatial relationships
(such as balloons).
Potentially associated with "global" are a range of images that
it may evoke, if only as a consequence of (mis)pronunciation, or the inspiration
of creative satirists (a matter to which marketing agencies are very sensitive).
The process here is first to provide -- through a tentative exercise in
"deconstruction" -- an indicative list of associations
worth exploring, if only for the mnemonic reasons argued elsewhere (In
Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics,
2007). They are necessarily of varying credibility to those variously engaged
with global strategies.
Rather than interlinking them in a semantic or cognitive
map, an effort is then made to interrelate them through a single, multi-facetted,
composite "global" image
2). As indicated elsewhere, typical 2-dimensional cognitive maps are no
longer adequate to the integrative cognitive challenge (Engaging
with Globality through Cognitive Crowns: all-encompassing, well-rounded experience,
2009; Polyhedral Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social
implications for organization and global governance, 2008).
and indirect associations might therefore include:
- as an obvious root of "global", with its spherical connotations
- as implying a ball game, typical of global interaction (and its early
strategic consecration in The
- descriptions of fun as "having a ball" -- notably
evident in the lavish entertainment provided for participants at Summit
gatherings, even to the provision of a "ballroom";
of relevance is that the champagne tradition of hot air ballooning
derives from a need to assuage those where the balloon finally lands.
- as urban slang for sexual intercourse (as in "balling"),
a notable feature of global meetings (Women and the Underside of
- in reference, via the plural, to degrees of courage or (im)potency:
balls", etc (a feature of the lyric of a World War II
- "Bull" as a (mis)pronunciation of "ball":
- as a form of "hot air" (discussed in Viable
Global Governance through Bullfighting: challenge of transcendence, 2009,
- a characteristic of misrepresentation in discourse and of mis-selling
(strategic) opportunities -- "talking things up"
- significant to the development of bull markets and the inflation
of any financial bubble, namely consensual confidence-building (notably
enhanced by "hot air")
- with connotations of bulldozing initiatives, bullying and bovine
generation of carbon emissions
- with multiple ancient cultural associations to deities -- such as Zeus
- possibly understood as "baloney", namely nonsense
- "Bawl" as homonym, or alternative pronunciation,
- implying an expression of suffering in the form of "bawling"
- as in the marketing abbreviation of "glow",
implying an attractive or polished shine -- a heightened glow, especially
visible in the prevailing strategic darkness
- with connotations of "glow", implying warmth, possibly enthusiasm
-- or even undesirable "heat"
- as "low", by derivation from the heat of "glow" (as
in the contrast between
"hi-cal" and a "lo-cal" alternative)
- possibly suggesting "local" (as a complementary contrast
- "Loon": as the "lunar" suffix
of a strategic balloon:
- in relation to "loony" as a colloquialism for lunatic (namely
one who is mentally ill, dangerous, foolish or unpredictable). Many strategies
are described by their opponents using this term -- as are those critical
of strategies on which "consensus" is claimed
- in relation to "looning", variously understood as:
- "hanging about". Appropriately descriptive of many strategies and
those who lurk around them
- rambling stream of consciousness communication on blogs (Urban
Dictionary). Appropriately descriptive of the discourse
relating to many strategic challenges.
- "loud maniacal laughter", as eloquently described
by an exemplar of the ecological perspective, Henry
David Thoreau (Walden,
1910): His usual note was this demoniac laughter ... but occasionally,
when he had balked me most successfully and come up a long way off,
he uttered a long-drawn unearthly howl, probably more like that of
a wolf than any bird; as when a beast puts his muzzle to the ground
and deliberately howls. This was his looning -- perhaps the wildest
sound that is ever heard here, making the woods ring far and wide. Perhaps
the most appropriate descriptor of many global strategies from the
perspective of those who suffer from their serial inadequacies
and associated hope-mongering.-- a howl of frustration.
- in relation to popular protest as vividly expressed by "mooning"
- possibly as "moonshine", notably in relation to
connotations of "bull",
and to compensation for the deception to which it gives rise in support
of strategic efforts that are effectively "reaching for the moon"
- "Noble": through the traditional symbolic
association of "ball" (especially
with the "orb" of royalty and celestial beings (with their
overarching strategic role), and by extension:
- "Nobel", to the extent that Nobel Laureates are typically sought as
guarantors of new global strategies
- "Nobble", as a typical process
whereby a strategy is deliberately obstructed or undermined ("dirty
tricks"), notably in favour of some competing alternative
(possibly as Ig
Nobel, in contrast with
- "No bull", an increasing preoccupation in the presentation
of marketing strategies
- "Gravity": as the characteristic of
the challenge to humanity and the planet to which a global strategy responds,
in addition to that of achieving lift-off; also pointing to the attractive
function of "global",
notably through the sense of englobing "all" the
peoples of the globe (We the Peoples...):
- "Gee": as the exclamation
of astonishment associated with an integrative global vision --
exemplified by the view offered to passengers on a strategic balloon
- "Gravitas": as the weighty significance
attributed to authoritative pronouncements regarding global strategy
- "Grounded": as the desirable sense
of reality associated with appropriately grounded strategies (linking
to "local") -- if they achieve lift-off
- "Gaia": as the systemic implications
of which any global strategy supposedly takes account
Combinations of the above might then notably include:
- "Glo-Ball" and "Glow-Ball":
- implying "global warming" (suggesting
that the latter phrase is then effectively a tautology) and possibly
imply a "scorched Earth" final outcome, whether radioactive
- implying, through "balling" as
sexual intercourse, the fundamental global process engendering global
- "Glo-Bull": typical of the overselling
of many global strategies (possibly essential as puffery to ensure the inflation
necessary for their lift-off, and to positive reframing of any subsequent
inadequacies). "Globaloney" might
be an alternative.
- "Glo-Bawl" and "Glow-Bawl": implying
(in the form of "glo-bawling" or "glow-bawling")
an increasingly heated pattern of worldwide social unrest, protest and
expression of suffering (possibly expressed with the aid of fire)
This portmanteau term
offers a suggestive combination of "global" and "ballooning" to
encompass the considerations and potential associations above. The challenge
is how to design and operate a global strategic balloon -- achieving lift-off
and dirigibility safely. It recognizes the potential role of "hot air",
or the use of problematic (even explosively inflammable)
"gases" -- and their confusing relationship to the "emissions" which
are the focus of the response to global warming.
Central to this confusion is the manner
in which efforts are made to achieve the coherence of global strategies using
"hot air" -- as exemplified by the endlessly repeated declarations
(and circular arguments) regarding climate change. In that sense the associated
global strategy is definitely a form of balloon. It is proving a challenge
to inflate -- if indeed it has integrity (rather than significant rents allowing
leaks), such that it could acquire a coherent shape appropriate to lift
off. Should attention focus on whether the potential container for hope or
confidence actually leaks -- preventing its inflation? But as a balloon, will
it be governable?
The following image endeavours to interrelate the above associations in a
composite "global" image. The shift into 3Dt follows from
previous exercises in relation to governance and value frameworks (Towards
Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors,
Pattern Language: software facilitation of emergence, representation and transformation
of psycho-social organization, 2008; Configuring
Global Governance Groups: experimental visualization of possible integrative
relationships, 2008; Topology
of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations,
|Fig. 2: Globallooning represented
as a cognitive composite
Tentative mapping onto a truncated octahedron (using Stella
Navigator, developed by Robert Webb)
[click for experimental animated
(600k) or download slide
show version (1mb)]
|A helpful overview of
the software application is provided in Wikipedia. Its most recent
version provides unique access to polyhedra in both three and four dimensions. Demo
versions (3D or 4D) may be downloaded free of charge; an explanatory
manual is available.
The selection of a truncated octahedron for the above image is purely for
convenience. Other polyhedra could be used to map the network of associations
(see Figure 3, below). Of particular interest is the possible
significance of the 4 hexagonal zones relating each square of associations
to others. As a preliminary mapping, there is a temptation to envisage a type
cube motion that would
allow exploration of ways of reconciling the faces more appropriately.
Configuration of balloons as an appropriate metaphor for global strategy
The following image from an earlier exploration (Union
of Intelligible Associations: remembering dynamic identity through a dodecameral
mind, 2005) points to the possibility of taking deliberate advantage
of multiple multi-facetted sets of associations in order to achieve a higher
order of coherence for a global strategy. The interlocking associations then
together constitute a form of strategic Rosetta stone through which inherently
incommensurable dimensions (of the frameworks of otherwise competing strategies)
are related. This might be considered to be consistent with the conclusion of
a symposium of the wise -- to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Boston
University -- which selected a Tessellation as
the metaphor that best captured the spirit of the times (Lance Morrow, Metaphors
of The World, Unite!, Time, 16 Oct. 1989). The argument here is
that this needs to be configured in more than two dimensions.
Governance of strategic vehicles as "timeships"
Implicit in the balloon metaphor, as highlighted above, are various movements
in space (but over time):
- volumetric expansion through inflation
- vertical movement on lift-off (and descent)
- horizontal movement over terrain
As such, a strategy is unduly associated with spatial movement when its purpose
is in fact far more intimately associated with time. Rather than a form of
"spaceship", a strategy is therefore primarily best understood as
It enables collective movement through time.
Understood as a spaceship, the significance of its movement as a balloon
over terrain is trivialized -- especially in terms of its relative ungovernability
(at the mercy of the direction of the
wind). As a timeship however, this movement translates into the inexorable
movement through time. Its "secret" technological
advantage is its ability to reconfigure the spacetime in which it moves,
through the manner in which an transformative mutation then enables it
to be perceived. Such an understanding of timeships has been explored elsewhere
conception, technology, design, embodiment and operation, 2003; Embodying
a Timeship vs. Empowering a Spaceship, 2003).
The multi-facetted composite Figure 2 points to the manner
in which complementary processes, indicated by incommensurable metaphoric dimensions,
may be integrated in a form of "time machine" through which the strategy
is then empowered.
To the extent that the symbolism of a "globe" is associated with
cultural symbols -- Sun, Earth, Moon -- of importance over millennia around
the world, the internal psychodynamics of the strategy together constitute
the kind of viable
system model (VSM) envisaged by Stafford Beer as a cybernetician
(Leonid Ototsky, Stafford
Beer and viable systems in the XXI century, 2006). It is in this sense
that a strategy becomes psychoactively engaging (Topology
of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations,
The "cluster" of Figure 3 then holds the disparate
epistemological orderings that constitute the requisite variety for a truly
global strategy. The cluster emphasizes the facetting of
insight absent from the "seamless" cognitive structure implied by
a typical balloon metaphor. The "closest packing" of Figure 3,
as a "vector
equilibirum" fundamental to the integrative insights of R.
Buckminster Fuller (Synergetics:
Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, 1975),
points to more integrative possibilities (Vector
Equilibrium and its Transformation Pathways, 1980).
It is in this sense that such a constantly mutating configuration is not "going
rather than "anywhen". It effectively embodies time to some degree
-- if only as temporal processes. It is from such an atemporal perspective
that traditional governance of the Chinese Middle Empire is alleged to have
effectively transcended conventional decision-making. It is in this respect
that the ancient symbol of the omphalos (Figure 4, below)
embodies a variety of relevant insights.
4: Omphalos of Delphi
Traditional Symbol of Globallooning?
|Copy of the Archaic omphalos (navel-stone).
It is covered by the agrenon, a thick net of garlands.
In this context it is strikingly reminiscent of the form of a hot-air
balloon. Given the symbolic significance of global strategies, this is
potentially echoed in the fundamental symbolic significance traditionally
associated with the omphalos.
Appropriately for the symbol of any global strategy:
- the most famous omphalos was
at Delphi, in the center of the temple of Apollo, marking the center
(or navel) of the earth.
- an omphalos was
viewed as the holiest object at various oracle centers in all the lands
bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
- the intersecting garlands around a
sphere are also reminiscent of the tensegrity
unusual architectural forms (based on the polyhedra of Fig.
The omphalos is a complex of symbols holding facets of understanding
- the meeting point of the
two golden eagles of Zeus that
flew from the two ends of the world
- providing a semblance of Zeus as a means of engaging effectively
with time (symbolized by Cronus,)
- the earth spirit Python,
conquered by Apollo, and buried beneath it
|The omphalos is related
to stones of somewhat similar form in other cultures, such as the lingam --
all symbolizing the navel of the world. Some date from periods in which
the associated symbolism of the bull was
valued -- in ironic contrast to current appreciation of it in relation
to the "hot air" through which strategic importance is inflated
(Michael Rice (The
Power of the Bull, 1998).
|In justification of the trial balloon above...
"On the requirement to
Donald N. Michael, On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn, 1973
Unprepared Society: planning for a precarious future, 1968
More bluntly, future-responsive societal learning makes it necessary
for individuals and organizations to embrace error. It is the only way
to ensure a shared self-consciousness about limited theory to the nature
of social dynamics, about limited data for testing theory, and hence
about our limited ability to control our situation well enough to be
successful more often than not.