20 March 2009 | Draft
Looking in the Mirror -- at Josef Fritzl ?
Global conditions on reflection
- / -
Reflective TV screens?
Celebration of agreement and togetherness?
Confirmation of purity -- a healthy catharsis
Habituation to participation in such actions
Why? Who? Which?
In November 2008, Mumbai was the focus of a serious terrorist attack which
was a shock to India and the world. Amongst the multitude of commentaries on
the incident, perhaps the most insightful was that by Arundhati
was not our 9/11, The Guardian, 12 December 2008):
The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism
is to look at the monster in the mirror.
This is an exploration of possible learnings to be obtained from the worldwide
intensive coverage of the trial of Josef
Fritzl in Austria -- convicted in
March 2009 for incarcerating his daughter for 25 years, frequently raping her,
bearing children by her, and failing to take a newborn, sickly child to hospital
- resulting in the child's death. In the week preceding the trial, Germany
was witness to a horrific school
shooting resulting in 15 deaths, also in March 2009.
on which many have focused in such cases is "why?".
In the same period (March 2009) there has been coverage of the historically
unprecedented Ponzi scheme, involving $65 billion, operated by the esteemed
Bernard Madoff --
and the disastrous consequences for those who had confidence in him over decades
(including his co-religionists). But simultaneously there has been intensive
debate and public anger, notably in the USA and the UK, over the contested
efforts to remunerate exorbitantly those in major corporations whose disastrous
financial management had necessitated unprecedented bailouts from government.
Little, if any, effort has been made to indict those who might be considered
complicit in the associated financial crisis and its consequences -- despite
the widespread loss of livelihood, housing, pensions and life savings, with
more to come.
In such a confusing context it is understandable that the case of Josef Fritzl
can be considered a huge relief. Here is someone about whom uncontested universal
agreement can be experienced. He is clearly completely guilty (by his own admission)
and totally bad (given his reprehensible actions) -- if not purely evil. There
are few issues of global significance on which such a degree of consensus
has been achieved, or can be anticipated.
More generally it would appear that this is the strange role performed for
society by such as: Saddam
Hussein, Adolf Eichmann, Adolf
Hitler, Pol Pot, Josef
Mengele, or "terrorists".
But beyond "he bad" therefore "me good", as characteristic
of binary logic, is there more to be learnt by considering such individuals
and the consensus they evoke? The question here is not whether
any degree of sympathy should be envisaged for them. Rather it is a question
of whether the universal consensus and judgement distract from other learnings
-- perhaps much more inconvenient, but of greater potential significance in relation
to other global issues.
Hence the value of following Arundhati Roy in an effort to look at the
"monster in the mirror". What is to be seen there? Who is "Josef
Fritzl" ? With respect to terrorism, as one writer confirmed:
I have seen the
enemy and it is us (Joan Chittister, Pogo
may have been right, National Catholic Reporter, 17 June
Reflective TV screens?
The most intensive media coverage of Fritzl has been on television and video-clips
-- enhancing impressions through print media. As a metaphor of modern communication,
it is however curious that television and computer screens do not have a "reflective" mode
to their displays. In fact eliminating
"reflection" is a feature of screens of higher quality in faithfully
reproducing an image. Such screens might be said only to "refract"
the image they display -- perhaps distorting it to some degree for convenience
(shifting the colour values, brightness, etc).
The speculation here is with regard to what might be seen if such screens
became "reflective" -- in a metaphorical sense. What if the characters
portrayed, and their behaviours, were to be "tagged" in some way
with one's own characteristic behaviours -- in those psychological modes of
which one may not choose to be frequently conscious? Tagging is
a term familiar to computer users, enabling them to identify a document by
The question for such an advanced display -- not technically impossible --
would be to what extent is a given characteristic of Josef Fritzl a feature
of my own behaviour?
This recalls the function of the magical mirror of which the witch periodically
mirror, on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all? (Brothers
Grimm, Snow White,
As with "one way" glass, in cases like Fritzl, it could be argued that
visual displays are now used in a somewhat similar manner -- except that their
potential "polarization" is typically locked into a reversed mode. As normally
used now, they are not polarized to function as mirrors but in order to see "through" them.
So called polarized glass
filters out certain types of light waves, notably as used on many LCD visual
displays. In this metaphor, it is filtering out "insight waves" that would
The witch asks her question in order to trigger a switch in polarity
-- but only if there is an inconvenient truth to be learnt.
As currently used however, by portraying something unquestionably evil, the
screens reaffirm the (ethical and moral) "beauty" of the beholder.
For clearly one is much "fairer",
and less "ugly", than the Fritzl person who is displayed. In this
case, for the user, the display is not understood as a "reflecting" mirror.
It is not in the "reflecting mode" in which it normally functions
for the witch. The image is of someone else and elsewhere -- the "other" --
As research has shown, people do not need the mirror to function to reflect
who they are. There is no "consumer demand" for that modality. They readily
assume that they are "fair", if not the "fairest of them all":
As is characteristic of national self-esteem, and personal self-confidence,
it is implicitly assumed that there is no need to ask:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who is the greatest of them all?
The answer is taken for granted. We know who is the greatest and may be vigorous
in asserting that truth to others -- enhancing divisiveness. Those such as
Fritzl perform the unique healing function of confirming this impression, but
for world society as a whole, by use of the "see-through"
modality into which the mirror is locked in answer to
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who is the baddest of them all?
There are however twinges of doubt as indicated by the following:
- Anneli Rufus. Mirror,
Mirror on the Wall: Who's the Cruelest Species of Them All? AlterNet.
23 February 2008
- John Christensen.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's
the Most Corrupt of All? Tax Justice Network (World Social forum,
Nairobi, January 2007)
- Andrew C. McCarthy. Mirror,
Mirror on the Wall: on torture and executive power, Democrats sing a
different tune when the president is … a Democrat. National
Review, 31 October 2007
- Karen Davis, et al. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: an
international update on the comparative performance of American health
care. The Commonwealth
things appear to me if the polarization of the display is switched into
"mirror mode" in relation to Josef Fritzl?
The witch's mirror reports on those at a distance, elsewhere.
Initially it would appear that none of "us" is in any way associated
with the behaviors of Josef Fritzl. He is conveniently and hygienically bracketed
off as pure evil -- elsewhere.
The delicate question is how such distancing is achieved and maintained. The
challenge is to be seen in the experience of passing a beggar in the road.
The person may be close -- even too close -- but one is quickly habituated
to reinforcing every possible sense of distance. The person may be ignored
or framed as socially far from one's own space. Cognitively they are transported
outside one's comfort zone -- if not one's own world.
This is a simple example. More complex is exposure to a mugging in one's immediate
proximity. Again one can define the dynamic as "not my problem" --
whatever the degree of violence. This may be true of domestic violence overheard
in a neighbouring apartment -- however violent. Who wants the hassle of being
Clearly the more "distance" one can build into the relationship
with such events, the greater one's lack of implication and the greater the
justification for inactivity -- and the better one's comfort zone is protected.
It is unreasonable to consider that one is in any way responsible for the
pain and suffering inflicted in the abattoir "over the hill", in
the vivisection laboratory "down the road", or the torture practiced
Bay". Animal slaughter, vivisection, and torture are all done hygienically
on my behalf -- in ways which avoid offending my sensibilities. After all
it is for my own good -- citing necessary nutrition, potential medical advances
("saving lives"), and "national
security" respectively -- trump cards all of them.
Whilst the media may offer images of the otherwise unimaginable conditions
of poverty and deprivation in slum areas
"across the tracks", or of analogous conditions in distant continents,
none of these would one choose to visit or consider relevant to the education
of one's children. No school visits to abattoirs, vivisection laboratories,
prisons or slum areas.
Does such insulation imply lack of implication? Out of sight and sound,
underground, out of mind? Just how many steps are we really removed from such
contexts -- physically, socially or psychologically? The literature on small
world networks (as popularized by the six
degrees of connectivity to Kevin Bacon), and the associated small
world experiment, come to mind (cf Albert-László Barabási,
Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else
and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, 2003).
Josef Fritzl was implicated in repeated incestuous rape, sequestration over
an extended period, and withholding aid to a person in danger. To what extent
are "others", seemingly without any involvement in such practices, nevertheless
potentially implicated in them? Meaning me.
Johan Galtung (Violence,
Peace, and Peace Research, Journal of Peace Research,
1969) makes a vital distinction between physical
violence and structural
violence. Physical violence is for the amateur, using weapons in order
to dominate. For Galtung, structural violence is the tool of the professional
employing exploitation and social injustice to achieve domination. In addition
to "structural violence", Johan Galtung (Cultural
Violence, Journal of Peace Research, 1990) has defined "cultural violence" as any aspect of a culture
that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form.
Symbolic violence built into a culture does not kill or maim like direct
violence or the violence built into the structure.
It is within such a framework that the "mirror" may then show us
to be implicated in what is most horrendous about Frizl's behaviour. Exactly
how "professional" am I in Galtung's terms? Fritzl was convicted for:
Withholding aid: It was the death consequent upon this
failure to act that led to Fritzl being subject to a murder charge. To
what extent are those in industrialized countries to be seen as withholding
aid to those in developing countries? This has been a characteristic over
decades -- with the degree of inaction highlighted most dramatically in
the past months (whilst awaiting the conviction of Fritzl) by the billions
(if not trillions) of dollars suddenly made available to corporations.
Such sums have never been considered as available to either developing
countries or the impoverished and marginalized in any developed country. The
aid made available has now been proven to have been token -- having been
framed as "sufficient".
How many have died as a consequence? How many sickly children have been
displayed on television -- with a voice-over commentary to the effect that
the child died "later on the same day"?
Has this affected the actions of the international community beyond token
gestures and unfulfilled promises?
More importantly, in viewing that child, has it affected my behaviour --
beyond token gestures, if anything at all?
One of the intriguing factors about the Fritzl case is the circumstance
under which others became aware of his behaviour. Had he then withheld
aid his activity might never have been revealed. Presumably there are others
in this situation.
Enforced sequestration: Sequestration for 25 years is
unthinkably evil. Curious, however, how many in developing countries, and
in the slum areas "across the tracks", are effectively "sequestrated"
by inaction in which I am complicit. Curious also is that on the same day
of Fritzl's conviction, Sean Hodgson was freed from incarceration in the
UK -- after 27 years imprisonment arising from police complicity in a miscarriage
of justice (Sandra Laville, Miscarriage of justice
victim served extra 11 years due to 'lost' evidence, The
19 March 2009).
Television often provides video coverage of slum areas and refugee camps
-- of the hovels in which people live out extended periods of their lives,
and of the filthy water which serves for drinking, washing and waste disposal.
In Fritzl's case, much is made of the fact that his children never "saw
the light of day" or even a patch of grass. What kind of "light" do
those in polluted slum areas see for most of their lives? And grass?
Would it not be more appropriate to acknowledge that such people have been
effectively placed (by me) in an "underground bunker" -- out
of sight, out of mind? In a strangely perverted manner, television crews
go into the bunker to provide us with some insight into its conditions.
Somehow this serves to reinforce the fact that this has nothing to do with
us? We are not implicated? We can all agree on that?
Why then is Fritzl's behaviour so shocking? Is it "closer to home" in
some way? Potentially more threatening for that reason, even though we
are even more confirmed in the sense that it in no way reflects our own
complicity in such behaviour?
- Living conditions: Television has repeatedly provided
images of the bunker in which Fritzl's children lived. What proportion of
the population lives in such conditions or worse?
What justifies our degree of shock when many in slum areas of industrialized
countries live in far worse conditions? For Europeans, it is not sufficient
to claim that our shock is justified because it all happened in Austria which
is so "close
Refugees attempting to enter the UK in the Calais area (an hour "down
the road" from me)
live in much worse conditions -- as do "boat people" entering Europe.
Thereafter the latter may be obliged to work and live in sweatshops -- in European
cities -- under conditions much worse than Fritzl's children. The same is true
of the USA -- the subways of New York are known as lifelong shelters for many.
We have repeated television evidence of this, but somehow it does not arouse
With what degree of shock would we respond to applying the jurisdictional
framework and norms from Austria to a slum area somewhere -- whether in an
or "basket case" country? What would we conclude if the living conditions
in Fritzl's bunker were significantly better than those in slum areas elsewhere,
if not in Austrian towns?
- Rape: We are appropriately horrified by the rape in which
Fritzl so systematically engaged over an extended period in his bunker. Our
horror is diluted in the case of knowledge, offered by reports and
statistics on domestic violence and abuse, of the extent of rape by husbands. The
horror is further diluted by the ambiguity regarding whether the wife has
any right to dissent from sexual intercourse or how she should be treated
if she does. In that sense we do not know how much intercourse between husband
and wife could be considered rape. Of
course we recognize that the situation may be much worse in other cultures
-- notably where children are married by their parents to elderly men.
In the case where we live in some form of domestic harmony, we are clearly
not implicated in such domestic abuse. We can bracket off any engagement
in rape in which we indulge under other circumstances. We can accept the
minimum level of convictions for cases of reported rape -- even in developed
countries. This is somehow a fact of life, far less shocking than the Fritzl
case -- because it is the raping of persons unknown, even when it is a matter
of date rape. How many men are effectively serial rapists like Fritzl, travelling,
like him, on "sex tourism" holidays? Of course indulging in sex
with consenting minors is then not rape -- they "consented" for
The incidence of (serial) rape in Africa, notably in the ongoing conflicts
in East Africa, has been repeatedly reported. Who is sustaining those conflicts
and what is my implication in their involvement in doing so?
Given that structural violence creates conditions of impoverishment in which
people are forced into prostitution, to what extent is this "sex work" enforced
in some measure by my complicity, ensuring serial rape over an extended period
-- with its probable consequences, including HIV/AIDS? Does the attitude of
the Pope regarding use of condoms, announced at the time of Fritzl's trial,
exemplify such complicity? (cf Riazat Butt, Pope
claims condoms could make African Aids crisis worse. The
Guardian, 17 March 2009).
And what of the incidence of closed houses and sex slavery, allegedly an hour
"down the road" (from where I live) -- an economic option for those
from Eastern Europe?
- Incest: Again this is one of the most profoundly shocking
behaviors within family relationships, even though for 300 years in Roman
Egypt. a significant proportion of all marriages recorded
were between brothers and sisters (Incest: an age-old
taboo, BBC News, 12
March 2007). Fritzl's behaviour is appropriately framed as totally reprehensible.
However, again, the extent of parental sexual abuse of children is frequently
reported. It is often a feature of domestic violence. It may be
happening next door. It is a pattern that has characterized European peasant
families even up to recent times. Its extent is unknown because of the shame
and fear associated with reporting it.
Given that members of the clergy, who enjoin their charges to call them
"father", may also be understood as engaging in a form of incest
-- when they engage in sexual abuse of those whom they identify as their
"children". Is "spiritual incest" any more innocent because
it is with a non-blood relationship?
Condemning the isolated cases that come to light, as with Fritzl, does not
ensure that the pattern is not endemic.
- Engendering children: Again the number of children that
Fritzl fathered, by his daughter, is deeply offensive. But how widespread
is this pattern and who is sensitive to its manifestations?
The extent to which men engage in casual sex, whether in the form of rape
or not, engenders
unknown numbers of children -- many of whom may be neglected or "terminated".
Whether separately or combined, the question is the extent to which we are
complicit in the toleration of these behaviours -- even engaging in them indirectly,
enabling them, or "turning a blind eye". Clearly the appetite for experiencing
them vicariously through the media and
"adult movies" suggests that we are implicated to some degree.
But the key question, in the light of Galtung's identification of "structural
violence", is whether our distancing of ourselves from direct involvement
is not to be considered like any distancing from physical violence. Just as
the latter is for "amateurs" in Galtung's terms, is my implication
in such activity more "professional"? As with the head of any crime
syndicate, do I get others to perform my "dirty work"?
Has the "Josef Fritzl" in me constructed an "underground bunker" to contain
those I see so frequently in slum areas of industrialized and developing
But beyond the latter, acting behind the scenes (and adjusting the scenery)
is surely the conceptual violence of the super-professional, using disinformation
and psychological operations (military psy-ops) -- and the associated processes
of brainwashing. Examples of conceptual violence include use of category euphemism
to inhibit or numb recognition of other dimensions of an experience. This is
typical of business and military jargon (bodycount, collateral damage, etc.)
but even of reference to body processes (washroom, etc.) -- reinforcing an
insidious form of experiential denial.
Celebration of agreement and togetherness?
Worldwide exposure to the conviction of Josef Fritzl, or to that of Saddam
Hussein, is therefore indeed a marvellous relief. How wonderful to be able
to celebrate the universal sense of togetherness, community and agreement --
on this issue at least.
It is a relief from the absence of effective
agreement on anything else, notably on that which might constrain our behavior
in response to unemployment, housing shortages, inadequate funds for daily
life, climate change, environmental pollution, territorial disputes,
The rapid trial of Fritzl contrasts so satisfactorily and transparently with
the inability either to convict or constrain those rewarded so munificently
for their complicity in engendering the financial crisis and its economic consequences.
No question that they might be imprisoned for life -- however many they have
forced into prostitution, for example. Ironically, in fact, it is the level
of anger against them which has precluded revelation of their identities --
in the interests of their safety and that of their families.
Confirmation of purity -- a healthy catharsis
The identification of a person, like Josef Fritzl, who is so uniquely "bad"
is a unique confirmation and guarantee of my relative "goodness" --
No reasonable person could disagree that that behaviour was
and "evil" and therefore those of us -- not so convicted -- must
necessarily be "good" and
"pure", relatively at least, if not absolutely, for we
would not do anything like that. Curiously the worse I can "make" Josef Fritzl
to be, the better I can make myself -- relatively at least.
The forensic psychiatrist, Heidi Kastner, who inteviewed
Fritzl (Emine Saner, 'Do
I feel sorry for Josef Fritzl? A small part of me does', The
21 March 2009), states that evil is a fascination for us:
...it helps focus all the evil outside on a specific person. That's
the one that's bad; we're the good ones. So it helps you to feel good and
it serves some atavistic need in all of us. This is probably why executions
were - and in some cases still are - public.
It is intriguing how the identification and exposure of isolated cases like
Josef Fritzl, Bernard Madoff, Saddam Hussein -- or members of the clergy engaging
in sexual abuse of "their children" -- is increasingly recalling
the traditional evocation of scapegoats for
the health of the community. The scapegoat provides a means for the community
to dissociate itself from the behaviours which can be identified with the scapegoat
-- and for which the scapegoat can be appropriately condemned, as with public
hanging in the market place.
How the scapegoating "works" can perhaps be usefully illustrated
by a completely unusual documentary (on French public television some years
ago) of a "black
mass" held in a
French hotel. The officiant gave a pin to every participant and invited them
to project their most negative thoughts into that pin. Then he requested that
they bring them to him and stick them into his body. Exposure to the image
of Fritzl offers a somewhat similar "magical" possibility of projecting
one's negative thoughts into it.
Habituation to participation in such actions
It remains curious the extent to which many require a periodic dose of participative
vicarious engagement with the behaviours for which Fritzl has been condemned
-- as experienced "through" the magic mirror.
In this respect, somehow the "mirror" might be said to have a third
mode -- which maybe its primary mode -- distinct from that of framing what
potentially offering an image of "me"
for reflection. The third mode is the one in which I engage vicariously and
unconsciously with aspects or facets of myself in the widest spectrum of
entertaining dramatic presentations. I am hero or villain, lover or loved,
wise or foolish, etc. The interplay of roles allows me to explore aspects of
my identity -- framing some as "me" and others as "not-me".
Each night I engage with myself through villains,
of the most horrific characteristics imaginable -- whether real or imagined
-- and relish their violent annihilation having participated vicariously in
their actions. Or I may simply indulge in the "adult movies" available
in every respectable hotel -- exploring every variety of interaction through
every orifice, without consciously registering my involvement in the roles
The forensic psychiatrist, Heidi Kastner, describes Fritzl as "very ordinary".
He was not to be considered insane. In that sense he indeed resembles many
of us. Before any consideration of "why" he engaged in the reprehensible
behaviour, it is therefore useful to consider "how" he did so. But in considering
"how", the issue is not the logistics of the physical construction and maintenance
of the bunker as a living environment but rather how the cognitive bunker was
constructed and maintained.
It is from this that it is possible for me to learn about
how I might have constructed such a bunker. As Saner report he account:
Kastner points to his ability to block out the parts that didn't fit his
version of the truth.
With regard to any stress he might experience in living his double life
for so long, Kastner indicated:
You would imagine, but he had this ability to block things out. He said
that as soon as he locked the door down there, he locked a door in his brain
too. He would have barbecue parties in his garden and he said, "You wouldn't
have thought I would be able to have parties with them just under the garden
there, but I never thought about them".
How difficult is it for any of us to "block out" facts that do not fit our
own cultivated version of the truth? It is often recognized that we have "parties"
without thinking of those elsewhere -- even those whose cheap labour may have
furnished the ingredients of the meal.
But am I not far more "professional" than Fritzl? The full array of NATO forces
in Afghanistan is acting there "in my name" -- shooting up wedding parties,
etc. I block that off with the greatest of ease. Then there are the pilots
of the drones increasingly deployed in that arena -- possibly with their remote
pilots back in Kansas or elsewhere, and indeed able to go off to a barbecue
after a session without the slightest qualm. Surely, in Galtung's sense, it
is Fritzl who is the "amateur"?
Why? Who? Which?
Why: With every new media focus on such as Fritzl, school shootings, massacres,
or the like, the anguished question is "why?". To what extent is
It would seem that the answer to the "why" is not to be found in the entertaining
dramatization that one mode of the mirror offers. Nor is it to be found in
its mode of transmitting an image of what is so clearly "not me".
Who: As noted above by Arundhati
Roy with respect
the only way to comprehend it is
"to look at the monster in the mirror".
Rather than the entertainment mode, is this the real third mode of the mirror
-- a "third way".
Which: Curiously the "witch" has the expectation that her question
will trigger any necessary switch of mode on the part of her magical technology.
control" of a television only offers the capacity to "switch channels" --
to choose "which" channel is most meaningful.
In this sense our
incapacity to switch modes may be due to the fact that, in cognitive terms,
we are effectively
"bewitched" -- as in many fairy tales. We are indeed "enthralled" by
what we see in the mirror in the mode into which it is normally locked.
As a "cognitive technology", it is perhaps appropriate to reframe one of Arthur
C. Clarke's "laws"
of prediction: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Just as we celebrate our "civilization" by contrast with the horrors
of the past, will those of the future relish the total evil of the withholding
of aid in our epoch in an analogous manner -- safely framing themselves as
models of appropriate behaviour by comparison? In a similar manner we view
with horror the mass human sacrifices of past civilizations, as being incomparably
evil compared to the civilized manner in which we engage in and condone mass
slaughter within our own times. Such slaughter is of course continuing
at this very moment in East Africa. The international community has expressed
Where the "distance" we use in relation to Fritzl, or to those in
"living hell", is a physical one -- ensuring lack of proximity --
for those of the future, their "distance" would then be one of time.
Our civilization, with all we are doing to the planet and each other, might
then serve as the "Fritzl" for a future civilization. One might hope,
however, that such binary logic will be transcended in times to come. More
specifically -- in any more advanced understanding of "vision" as
a metaphor through which to
"envisage" their place in the flow of history (Metaphor
and the Language of Futures, 1992). Hopefully they may refine the "optics" of the
cognitive mirror described above.
Of interest in that respect are the subtleties emerging from neurobiology
as summarized by Paul Broks (Mirror,
mirror on the wall, is there anyone there at all? The Times,
20 September 2005). Potentially even more interesting is the value of the mirror
in the self-recognition
test for consciousness -- as it might be applied then,
or to humanity by extraterrestrials (Self-reflective
Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criterion
of species maturity? 2008).
A fruitful clue as to how the future might then enhance the "optical
is offered by Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic
Dialogue: essays on multipolar politics,
1988) as discussed elsewhere (Noonautics:
four modes of travelling and navigating the knowledge "universe"? 2006).
Beyond binary logic (A, not-A), he stresses the importance of a quadrilemma as
valued in some Eastern logics (A, not-A, A-and-not-A, neither-A-nor-not-A).
The question is whether the "reflective" modes of the mirror might
then be understood as offering insight in those terms (Me, not-Me, Me-and-not-Me,
neither-Me-nor-not-Me) -- suggesting the possibility of a fourth mode for the
mirror. This suggests a more systematic distinction between the modes.
|Fig. 1: Mirror modes in the light
of the quadrilemma of some Eastern logics
|Fig. 1a: Represented in the light of the logic of representation
on the complex plane with "real" and imaginary" axes
||Fig 1b: Representation as a polyhedron associating
the cognitive conditions with governance challenges (of Fig. 2a)
The diagrams above raise the question of what
any fourth mode might be. Presumably it might be that associated with "stepping
into the mirror" as variously explored in traditional tales and science
into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns,
2009). Understood in Lewis
Carroll's terms as a "cognitive
rabbit hole", the
implications of a "fourth cognitive dimension" have been explored elsewhere
with Globality through Knowing Thyself: embodying engagement with otherness,
2009). In the diagrams below, these modes (as labelled and colour coded in
Fig. 1b) are tentatively related to the governance challenges of: problematique,
resolutique, imaginatique and resolutique.
The mirror metaphor explored here has a long tradition in Buddhist culture,
notably in China, in terms of the "mirror of the mind". It is notably associated
with contrasting views as to whether enlightenment is to be achieved "suddenly" or
"gradually" (Paul Demiéville, The Mirror of the Mind. In:
Peter N Gregory (Ed), Sudden
and Gradual; approaches to enlightenment in Chinese Thought,
1991). The contrast has been the focus of strudies of "subitism"
versus "gradualism". In terms of the latter understanding, the mirror
has to be "polished", removing "dust", to enable it to
function appropriately. In terms of the former, this is quite unnecessary (see
discussion in Creative
Cognitive Engagement: beyond the limitations of descriptive patterning,
2006). Within such a Buddhist framework, there is the additional sense in
which the elaboration of the Me/not-Me distinction (through the quadrilemma)
may be fruitfully associated with an analogous elaboration of the Attachment/Detachment
This contrast might be used
to enrich the operation of the magical mirror above. In the case of a television,
the ability to switch channels is instantaneous. For the witch, switching
modes was also not a problem. However it is possible that mode switching may
be more akin to the "fade-in" of slide representations -- with which
many are familiar. In that sense, during the (possibly lengthy) transition,
there is necessarily uncertainty as to which mode one is in -- even implying
a form of cognitive uncertainty priunciple.
The relevance of the mirror metaphor to governance is illustrated in a
remarkable account by the Studies Coordinator in the Lessons Learned Center
(Office of the US Director of National Intelligence) Josh Kerbel, Lost
for Words: the Intelligence Community's struggle to find its voice,
US Army War College Quarterly, Parameters,
Summer 2008). Kerbel introduces his commentary as follows:
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq intervention, most of the national
security components of the US government have had some -- mostly overdue
moments. Such reviews can only be considered healthy. For as Sun Tzu, the
Chinese military and intelligence theorist, said, Know
the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
The fact is, however, that many of those governmental components did not
necessarily like what they saw looking back at them from the mirror. This
result was particularly true of the intelligence community, which found its
own self-identity issues staring back with an unnerving intensity. To be
blunt, the intelligence community, which for the purposes of this article
refers mainly to the analytic component, still does not 'know itself.'
The challenge of mirroring continues to be explored in fiction. In a commentary
by William Astore (Aboard
the Imperial Star Ship Ameriprise: Heading for the Final Frontier, Tomdispatch.com,
26 March 2009) the role of
such fiction is highlighted in its effect on the imagination -- and potentially
on the credible framing of appropriate governance as currently experienced.
He develops his argument in the light of the Mirror
Universe (MU), a fictional parallel
universe in which the plots of several episodes of the widely distributed Star
Trek television series take place -- notably with respect to the episode
entitled Mirror, Mirror (1967). In this barbarous universe the USS Enterprise --
otherwise representing a positive mindset embodied in much of the self-image
of the American culture -- some characters (as the result of a "transporter" accident)
find themselves having switched
places with their evil twins, aboard a mirror vessel, the Imperial
Star Ship (ISS) Enterprise. The normal Star
Trek universe typically depicts an optimistic future which values peace
and understanding -- purportedly the core values of American culture. The mirror
universe shows these values to be marred by continual
warfare, with compassion considered a liability.
When we look in the mirror, we want to see a peace-loving Federation
member staring back at us, not a barbarian from the ISS Enterprise...
The author of the commentary is a retired lieutenant colonel
(USAF) who taught for six years at the Air Force Academy. He however argues:
It's disturbing how closely the recent journeys of our Ameriprise have
come to resemble those of that imperial Enterprise. Yet we've hardly
seemed to notice, convinced as we were that our ship of state is still the
good Enterprise, spreading democracy and freedom, even if meddling
in other cultures as well. Perhaps we've forgotten that another way to express
the wisdom contained in the Prime Directive is: "The road to hell is paved
with good intentions."...
Early signs are not good when it comes to the latest Obama-led Ameriprise.
Our spaceship of state still seems remarkably addicted to phasers and photon
torpedoes, an addiction we refuse to own up to, even as we send one variety
of our own spaceships, which we call unmanned aerial drones, over the tribal
lands of Pakistan and Afghanistan armed with Hellfire missiles. We also refuse
to admit that we're an imperial power, even as we build new military bases
along the final frontiers of our planet,...
In the long run, we may well be able to reject naked barbarity and lust
for power. But can we resist the power of our own illusions, of the notion
that, despite missteps, mishaps, and mistakes, we're always a force for good
in the world?
Whilst it may indeed be ridiculous to see myself as Josef Fritzl, much of
what is being "done" -- to those whose conditions I view with horror
-- is being done "in my name" (and with my money as a taxpayer) .
To what degree, I fail to comprehend.
The structural violence to which others are subject is being engendered, in
some measure, for me by those with whom I am complicit. This is clearest in
the case of violence, in the form of torture or collateral damage, excused
by appeals to "national
security". It is evident in the case of vivisection by appeals to necessary
"medical advances" and "saving lives" (supposedly
vital to my health or that of my children). Would I wish to be associated with
withholding the possibility of appropriate care for them? Again it is also
evident in the slaughter in abattoirs, or the conditions of intensively farmed
animals -- "bunkers"
of the greatest sophistication from which the animals do not see the light
of day. Would I choose to visit any of these places to see what is being done
in my name? Would I be invited to do so? Would I choose to see a televised
report of it?
Having written the above account, inspired by Josef Fritzl, am I likely to
do anything more about the magic mirror -- to ensure that I can benefit from
its third option?
What could I learn from it, if I could get it to work? And the fourth?
The great advantage of scapegoats like Josef Fritzl is (if they are not
executed) they get put away for life. So all's well. The show is over and
the credits are rolling and we can go off to bed. Of course someone creative
may soon be producing Joseph Frizl videogames and virtual world options --
"build your own bunker", etc. But in a sense this is one of the options we
already have with the magic mirror.
|The psychological rule says that when an inner situation
is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when
an individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner
contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn
into opposite halves. Carl Jung
|Brahmanism: This is the sum
of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.: Mahabharata 5:1517
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so
to them.: Matthew 7:12
|Islam: No one of you is a
believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.: Udanavarga 5:18
|Judaism: What is hateful
to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest
is commentary.: Talmud, Shabbat 31:a
Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you
would not have them do unto you.: Analects 15:23
|Taoism: Regard your neighbor's
gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.: T'ai
Shag Kan Ying P'ien
That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever
is not good: for itself. : Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5
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