- / -
Produced in response to widespread media coverage of an alleged phrase by Donald Trump
(Trump derides protections for immigrants from 'shithole' countries, The Washington Post, 12 January 2018;
'A New Low.' The World Is Furious at Trump for His Remark About 'Shithole Countries', Time, 12 January 2018;
Here's What People in the Room and Out Are Now Saying About Trump's "Shithole Countries" Remark, The Slate, 15 January 2018)
As the declared leader of the free world, President Donald Trump is alleged to have described some countries on Planet Earth as "shithole countries". The allegations have been taken very seriously by many -- despite denial from Trump himself, and controversy regarding that denial. The United Nations has formally condemned the racist language of Trump -- seemingly without any substantive proof that the accusations were more than a conspiracy by those with vested interests in his impeachment (Kim Hjelmgaard, U.N., African countries blast Trump's 'racist' words in angry global backlash, USA Today, 12 January 2018).
The accusations are a feature of the "fake news" which increasingly substitutes for facts in global discourse. Due process is being variously set aside, as controversially argued by Margaret Atwood in relation to allegations of sexual abuse (Am I a Bad Feminist? The Globe and Mail, 13 January 2018).
The controversy engendered by the allegations against Trump invites a more fundamental insight -- irrespective of their veracity. Given the personality of Trump, and a well-recognized pattern of behavour, is his argument in any way appropriate, namely that the quality of life in some countries can indeed be deprecated with "tough" language? He admits to his toughness in this respect. How does this relate to past recognition of some countries as "failed states", or "basket cases" -- as widely recalled with regard to a dismissive statement by former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, just prior to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize?
Whatever the phrasing, tough language would indeed be typical of informal discussion of life in some countries -- and a reluctance to engage with them or to visit them. It is hypocritical to deny that. Diplomats, including those of the UN, may well be specially compensated for taking up appointments in countries where the quality of life is an extreme challenge. Few of those protesting so vigorously would care to live in the countries purportedly characterized in that way. Why is that? Given the need for political correctness, in what terms would they frame their reluctance?
Is it possible that -- unconsciously -- Trump's ill-considered frankness has now made it possible for the world to recognize an unfortunate truth -- in public discourse, finally? Distracted as he has typically proven to be, is "shithole" indeed an appropriate qualifier, readily recognized? However, rather than its applicability to a select group of countries, does it notably apply to the USA in particular and to Planet Earth as a whole? Is any purported projection of "shithole" status, on countries other than the USA, a case of cognitive displacement -- a process which might be readily recognized in his case, and appreciated as such by Americans?
Understood otherwise, there is a further possibility. Do people have a real need for the "shithole" condition of the planet to be recognized by one of its highest authorities? Is this the more fundamental reason for the scandal so widely expressed at this purported phrasing? Rather than blinkered assumptions, characterized by multiple defensive denials, is there a fundamental need for the real condition of the planet to be articulated -- rather than collective indulgence in pretence and illusion? Of course it helps if that recognition can be articulated by a personality who can be condemned and ridiculed for doing so -- a "fool rushing in where angels fear to tread". The articulation can then be set aside as ridiculous, with any truth to be accepted minimally and tentatively, if only unconsciously. Too much truth in that regard would of course be unbearable, intolerable and unacceptable.
The concern here is to explore the evidence for Planet Earth as a "shithole" planet, as it might be perceived in the light of various criteria.
The argument is used as a means of explaining the absence of any overt contact with extraterrestrials. This is despite intensive search over decades for intelligent life in a galaxy of myriad worlds, especially that coordinated as the programme of search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) -- recently renewed through Breakthrough Initiatives. The absence of such contact has long been a mystery for which few explanations have been satisfactory. However if Planet Earth has been recognized as a "shithole planet" by distinguished galactic authorities, this would then constitute a credible explanation -- thanks to President Trump.
To the extent that a "shithole" is characterized by massive accumulation of unrecycled waste, there is little difficulty in distinguishing the following, whether separately or together, as indicative of Planet Earth as a "shithole":
|Unclassified variety of forms of waste
Indication of (W) links to Wikipedia; (E) links to Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential
Many other issues profiled in Wikipedia, and in the World Problems Database of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, are indicative of other dimensions of Earth as a "shithole" planet. A comprehensive summary with links is provided by Robert J. Burrowes (Junk Planet: is Earth the largest garbage dump in the universe? Information Clearing House, 23 February 2018).
Particular locations are used as "dumping grounds" for waste, or become the locations where waste accumulates, with little consideration for its recycling or management. These include:
There is extensive debate about human overpopulation of Planet Earth. This is variously dismissed as a myth, given the purported capacity to distribute food and other resources, as well as envisaged technological adaptation to changing circumstances (Human Overpopulation: Still an Issue of Concern? Scientific American; Is Overpopulation a Myth? Science Alert, 30 December 2016; Overpopulation Is Not the Problem, The New York Times, 13 September 2013; How to debunk the myth of overpopulation in three easy steps, LifeSite News, 1 October 2013; Overpopulation is a Myth).
Considerable skill is exhibited in avoiding reasoned discussion of the overpopulation issue and of the difficulty of debating it effectively, as discussed separately (Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation Challenge: incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008; United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2009). As suggested by the latter there is a strange process of denial in play, reminiscent of that in relation to "shit" and to "shitting" (Laura Carroll, Why We Deny the Realities of Population Growth, The Huffington Post, 5 July 2013; By Rob Mielcarski, Overpopulation Denial, un-Denial, 25 March 2016; Anthony G Gordon, Why is everyone in denial over the problem of overpopulation? ResearchGate, 2014).
Far less is explicitly said about the generation of waste globally, as indicated above, especially including human waste. Succinctly stated, however, this is a case of "more mouths, more shit". This may be particularly problematic in countries lacking adequate sanitation facilities but characterized by unrestrained population growth. Without any racist implication, the countryside there has then to be used as a "shithole" -- literally. This suggests that framing arguments that overpopulation is a myth could themselves be characterized as "full of shit".
Rather than framing the question as to how many people can the Planet Earth hold, it could also be framed as how much waste can the planet hold? This is particularly pertinent given the effects of marine pollution on the fisheries already faced with a challenge of overfishing and fish stock depletion. The same might be said of the impacts on soil, notably as the quantity of agricultural land is diminished or variously rendered unsuitable for cultivation. The argument that civilization has the capacity to process that waste appropriately is proving to be as dubious as the argument that Europe can integrate refugees from countries which may well be qualified as "shitholes".
A more general case can be made in the light of the massive extinction of species on which humanity depends for its survival to an as yet unknown degree.
It can therefore be argued that the increase in the population is intimately related to the increase in the "shittiness" of the planet and its status as a "shithole planet".
There is widespread informal characterization of any who disagree, or who articulate their opposition, as being "full of shit". This appreciation tends to be mutual, as between those in opposing political parties. This offers the extraordinary sense in which the majority of those in any parliamentary or academic debate can be deemed to be effectively "full of shit":
Remarkably this appreciation applies to those who seek leadership roles in society, whether or not they are aware of that perception::
Extraordinarily, the 2016 presidential election in the USA could then be explored as a choice between two people variously recognized as being "full of shit". This raises the question whether all elections to leadership of democratic countries should be understood in that light. Is it rare that those competing for such positions should not be characterized by some group as "full of shit"? Curiously, where "strong leadership" is sought -- as in profit-making corporations or the military -- this may amount to appointment of the biggest "shit", deliberately.
Such recognition has been presented as a question, inviting comments, by Matt Gaiser (Do politicians know that they are full of shit? Quora, 17 January 2017). Framed otherwise, is the person who is held to be "full of shit" aware of that condition? The question is clearly pertinent to any capacity of a planet, or its leadership, to recognize that it is in fact a "shithole planet". There is the further extraordinary possibility that any houses of parliament could then be understood otherwise -- given current debate as to whether Trump's alleged qualifier was "shithouse" or "shithole".
The recognition has been extended to professional expertise: The 6 Most Statistically Full of Shit Professions (Cracked, 27 January 2010). It has also been framed more generally by Peter Shankman (Why Most People Are Full of Shit, and How to Not Be One of Them, 11 September 2011). The recognition necessarily extends beyond individual disciplines and political parties to ideologies: Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Liberalism, Environmentalism, and the like. All have been variously characterized as "full of shit".
Of potential relevance to considering reactions to Trump's use of "tough language" -- perhaps especially by the United Nations -- is the argument of André Spicer (Business Bullshit, 2017):
Our organizations are flooded with empty talk. We are constantly "going forward" to lands of "deliverables", stopping off on the "journey" to "drill down" into "best practice". Being an expert at using management speak has become more important in corporate life than delivering long lasting results. The upshot is that meaningless corporate jargon is killing our organizations.... we need to call this empty talk what it is: bullshit.... organizations have become vast machines for manufacturing, distributing and consuming bullshit.... the meaningless language of management has spread through schools, NGOs, politics and the media.
Especially problematic is the extent to which various religions may be framed in such terms, with those doing so potentially framed dangerously as blasphemers (Leila B. Salaverria: Duterte: Catholic Church 'full of shit', Inquirer, 24 January 2017; Dauson Lovi: Holy Shit: a brief look at Christianity's problem, 2009). Religion in general may be so framed, as has been humorously indicated (Brad Berson, World Religions, Philosophy and Other Things: the complete and uncensored shit list, 12 February 2009). The only religion to have consciously identified with this condition in any way is Buddhism, with its classic Zen recognition that: Buddha is a shit stick.
Recognition of any such failing is particularly relevant to any effort to address or remedy a problematic condition. A striking example is provided by the appreciation of the extensive US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture (2012) in which Dick Cheney, the Vice-President of that time, is variously cited. He is widely noted as describing elements of the report as "crap" (Eric Bradner, Cheney: 'The report's full of crap', CNN, 11 December 2014; Kendall Breitman, Cheney on torture report: 'Full of crap', Politico, 10 December 2014; Maya Rhodan, Dick Cheney Says Senate Torture Report Is 'Full of Crap', Time, 11 December 2014).
Equivalent assessments could be found for many global preoccupations and strategies. For example, Tony Abbott, a former Prime Minister of Australia, is quoted as declaring: Climate change is crap (variously nuanced in subsequent assertions).
With respect to insight into Earth being a "shithole" planet, another Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, famously referred to his country as the "arse end of the world" (Keating's rear view of the lucky country causes storm, The Independent, 26 June 1994) -- a perspective subsequently celebrated in an Australian musical. The perspective has been echoed by another former prime minister, Kevin Rudd (Rudd sees nation at bottom end, too, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 2002). Such repeated use by the highest authority of the nation suggests that colloquial use there of "down under" should be understood as having other implications.
Whilst the insights of such authorities are exceptional, far more common is the use of "shit" in popular discourse. Especially intriguing are the anatomical implications of "are you shitting me" and its French variant "vous m'emmerder". Arguably it is only hippos in their mud pools of choice that engage in that process.
If indeed President Trump engaged in a process of cognitive displacement, then his characterization of selected other countries as "shithole countries" is best explored as mirroring his unconscious recognition that the USA is itself a "shithole country", if not the primary "shithole country" -- as he would be in the best position to recognize, being its elected leader.
If that phrasing is only an allegation by interested parties -- themselves key figures in the politics of that country -- then this would suggest that it was they who were aware of the "shithole" condition of the country, however unconsciously. Irrespective of whether it was Trump or his accusers who are to be challenged for the "shithole" phrasing, either can be understood as having a very fundamental need to express that insight -- to get it out into the public domain.
Much is made of data confirming that the USA is the greatest source of pollution in the world -- presumably to be understood as the primary criterion for qualification as a "shithole country":
Josh Hoxie: Commentary: I Live in a 'Shithole Country. It's Called the United States. (Fortune, 12 January 2018):
The U.S. is the wealthiest country on earth. Yet one in five children here will go to bed hungry tonight. Thirteen million American children live in poverty, the highest rate among the world's wealthy countries....The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, conducted a two-week tour of the U.S. in late 2017. He found some of the most extreme inequality anywhere in the world....
America also has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, and is the only industrialized country not to guarantee health care as a basic human right.
Danielle Campoamor: Trump's America Is A Shithole Country (Newsweek, 15 January 2018) argues that:
... by many standards, the United States, is, in fact, a shithole country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 23,000 infants died in the United States in 2015. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and black women in America are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women.... A 2017 analysis by the CDC Foundation found that nearly 60 percent of all maternal deaths were completely preventable....
In December, the United Nations began investigating extreme poverty in the U.S., the world's richest country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41 million Americans live in poverty, with the top one percent of Americans controlling 38 percent of the nation's wealth....
In 2013, a government study found that one military veteran dies by suicide every 65 minutes in this country.... The United States is also the only developed nation without mandatory paid maternity leave.... Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. A man accused of sexual assault by 19 women is now our president.
From 1966 to 2012, nearly one-third of the world's mass shootings happened in the United States, and Americans own more guns than any other group of citizens in the world. In 2017, 987 American citizens were shot and killed by police officers.
Marykate Jasper: 15 Reasons America Might Be the Real "Shithole Country" (The Mary Sue, 13 January 2018) concludes:
Now, obviously, no country is really a "shithole country," because countries are made up of human beings who have intrinsic worth and value; every nation on the planet has made some positive contributions to human culture, innovation, and politics. But before Donald Trump talks trash about the rest of the world, he might want to look a little closer to home - and a little closer at how his own policies are exacerbating America's problems.
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman: People On Twitter Tell Trump No One In Norway Wants To Come To His 'Shithole Country' (The Huffington Post, 11 January 2018)
The striking consequence of Trump's purported remarks is the narrow focus they have evoked regarding a particular form of "boardroom" discourse. Use of "shithole" has been directly associated with racism and has been condemned as "racist". Somewhat strangely it has not been implied that it might also have been associated with sexism in any way. This association now merits some attention in any strategic context, given the extreme sensitivity that incidents of sexual abuse have recently aroused, notably following condemnation of racist usage by the United Nations (as mentiioned above).
This is all the more pertinent in the light of the subsequent report on the incidence of sexual abuse within the United Nations offices (Rebecca Ratcliffe, Sexual harassment and assault rife at United Nations, staff claim, The Guardian, 18 January 2018). Seemingly the UN has allowed sexual harassment and assault to flourish in its offices around the world, with accusers ignored and perpetrators free to act with impunity. The timing is unfortunate given the continuing concern with rape by UN peacekeepers (Azad Essaby, Why do some peacekeepers rape? Al Jazeera, 10 August 2017). The latter describes this as occurring in the "most war-ravaged countries on Earth" -- presumably to be compared with those purportedly named by Trump as "shitholes".
Whether in terms of "racism" or "sexism", these incidents would probably cause extraterrestrials to puzzle over the presumptuous use of "universal" within the United Nations in relation to its much-vaunted Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is however the possibility that galactic culture might attach far greater significance to that as a well-cultivated myth (Cultivating the Myth of Human Equality: ignoring complicity in the contradictions thereby engendered, 2016).
The point to be made, however, is that far more common use is made of "fuck" in boardroom and military discourse. It features widely in movie portrayals of tactical and strategic undertakings -- to the point that the movie would not be considered authentic if use was not made of the term and its grammatical variants.
Curiously "fuck" is not considered an indication of authenticity in public decision-making, as in the UN Security Council for example. It is considered inappropriate language in public debate -- despite the emphasis with which it is appreciatively associated. Although it might then be asked whether failure to use it renders such debate less than authentic in the eyes of many members of the public (What do you think of the effectiveness of the word "fuck" Quora, 2013).
The question could even be raised with respect to human rights. Is there a sense in which they are held to take a far more controversially fundamental form beyond explicit acknowledgement, as can be speculatively explored (Universal Declaration of Fucking Rights: a fundamental extension of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a civilization blinded by euphemism? 2016). From a galacitic perspective, such a systematically dysfunctional understanding of "universal" is liable to evoke very particular reactions.
Some politicians are noted for their use of "foul language" in private discourse with colleagues and opponents (Ed Hornick, Top 16 foul-mouthed politicians, CNN, 30 April 2011; Mike Adams, 56 examples of outrageously foul, lewd language spewed by Bill and Hillary Clinton over the last three decades, Natural News, 9 October 2016; Kellyanne Conway suggests Hillary Clinton's language is more vulgar than Anthony Scaramucci's, MarketWatch, 28 July 2017).
Given the current importance associated with sexual abuse, a key question is whether use of "fuck" is now to be considered sexist in boardroom discourse or elsewhere (Jeremy McKeen, What Filthy Words Are Most Sexist -- and Why Do We Love to Use Them? Good Men Project, 11 June 2017). If it is indeed sexist, it would merit condemnation to a degree similar to any use of "shithole".
It could be argued that "fuck" is not sexist because it does not discriminate between the genders and typically involves both. However it could also be seen as implying the dominance criticized in male behaviour and a degree of subservience which those framed as females are then obliged to accept, whether it is welcome or not. The extent of male rape in prisons can be seen in this light.
It could be argued that "fuck" is potentially more discriminatory than "shithole" because it suggests an ongoing dynamic with consequences, whereas "shithole" only describes a non-developing condition -- if a permanent one. Use of "fuck" in strategic and tactical discourse typically frames a mode of engagement with opponents or targets -- or the challenge they may constitute in adopting that modality, as in "they are fucking with us".
The matter is however rendered more complex in boardroom discourse between males when "fuck" and its derivatives are used in the absence of females. The metaphor then encompasses the primary modality of homosexual intercourse namely the use of the anal orifice -- the "shithole". In male-dominated contexts there is therefore a confusion between the manner of "fucking" and the use of the "shithole". Enthusiasm for the use of "bugger" is then also of some relevance, with multiple implications (Backside to the Future: coherence and conflation of dominant strategic metaphors -- Worshipping the Golden Ass, 2003). Potentially this then interweaves racist and sexist mindsets to a more problematic degree than is implied by criticism regarding reference to "shithole countries".
The point is emphasized in a more symbolically problematic manner in the commentary aroused by the failure in the same period of the Pope to respond effectively to cover-up of sexual abuse by clergy in dioceses in Chile. This offers the even more offensive connotation of "shithole dioceses" (Pope Francis accuses Chilean church sexual abuse victims of slander, The Guardian, 19 January 2018; Rick Noack, Pope angers Chile after backing bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The Washington Post, 19 January 2018). For many this unfortunately only too reminiscent of a pattern of cover-up by the Catholic Church.
The argument can be taken further in that many would claim that the "shithole countries" -- and others -- have been the victims of "rape". This is an accusation occasionally levelled in relation to the structural adjustment policies of international development institutions, most notably the IMF, as separately described (Institutional "rape" as systemic equivalent to individual rape? 2011).
Multinational corporations would be readily accused of such rape -- presumably enabled by a mindset cultivated in a boardroom environment in which "fuck" is used. There is therefore a sense in which what is deprecated as sexist discourse regarding individuals is implicit in forms of sexual abuse and harassment which take institutional form. Obviously some would claim that "shithole countries" have been "gang raped" by multinational corporations.
Arguably, to the extent that it is deprecated, there is a strangely perverse strategic confusion between "shitholes" and those otherwise sought in "fucking" -- especially when that is experienced and framed as "rape".
There is every possibility that a mature galactic civilization may use criteria of cleanliness as a prerequisite for contact with any planet. The cleanliness of Planet Earth may well be far below those standards -- as would be imagined in the case of any "shithole planet". The point can be made by comparison of many countries with Singapore -- perhaps the cleanest country on the planet, although this is variously disputed (The World's Cleanest Countries, Ranker; Top 10 Cleanest Countries In the World, The Top Tens; Top 10 Cleanest Countries of the World, CNN, 31 December 2014; The World's 10 Cleanest Countries, Forbes, 21 April 2010).
There is a case for comparing countries distinguished in this way with those faced with unchecked population growth -- and unchecked accumulation of waste. It could be argued that the populations of some countries are -- metaphorically at least -- inadequately "toilet trained". They are still susceptible to "shit" anywhere indifferently -- with little awareness of the implications. If thought about at all, the assumption may simply be that "someone" will pick up their "shit". Arguably they themselves effectively define their environment as a "shithole" -- unconsciously or not -- whether or not it is visibly expanding in size (as with the hole in the ozone layer).
Framed by the principles of recycling, it could be argued that many simply do not know how to handle the waste they generate or -- in other terms -- they do not know how to "shit" precautiously, and have no desire to know.
With the claims that the River Rhine is drunk eleven times before it reaches the sea, the question reamins as to the public acceptance of vegetables cultivated with the aid of human waste -- "shit". Despite the example set by astronauts, however carefully treated, will the sense of "eating shit" continue to be acceptable on a "shithole planet"? Would it be acceptable to ETs as guests of humanity -- given their probable sensitivity to such matters?
These points focus on tangibles which need to be "cleaned up" because of the manner in which they accumulate tangibly and visibly in the environment -- to the point of stinking like any "shithole".
More problematic are the intangibles framed by concerns that people need to "clean up their language". This is a concern long characteristic of institutions representing the moral and ethical values of society.
The concern is most notably recognized with respect to words banned as constituting unparliamentary language -- typically including "shit" and "bullshit" -- despite comments to the contrary. (Elizabeth Thompson, The 106 things you can't say in Parliament, iPolitics, 14 December 2011; Manisha Krishnan, The Canadian Parliament's List of Banned Words Is Bullshit, VICE, 23 November 2016; Paul Mainwood, What is a formal way of saying that someone is 'bullshitting'? Quora). With 82 responses, the latter notes the philosophical study by Harry Frankfurt (On Bullshit, Princeton University Press, 2005).
Citing Frankfurt again, the challenge is also usefully argued by Jeff Jarvis (In Defense of Bullshit, The Guardian, 3 April 2006), specifically in order to record that:
The US Federal Communications Commission just declared that shit and all its variants, including bullshit, are not merely indecent... but are now profane if broadcast. That is a profound distinction. Legally, a profane word is "certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance".... This devil's dictionary has but two entries....
But bullshit is political speech. It is our single most precious means of expressing displeasure with the political and the powerful. Without the word, we are left with far less satisfactory means of protest.
The ironic paradox is that the behaviours of many of the institutions upheld as defenders of decency have been demonstrated to be "full of shit" -- to the point of "stinking" otherwise and requiring the skills of image management to provide "deodorants".
This condition is exemplified by the pious discourse of the clergy complicit to varying degrees in the sexual abuse of minors. This hypocrisy has also become evident through the accusations against celebrities -- whether in the media, politics or the corporate world -- regarding both their sexual abuse and their tendency to a variety of forms of corruption, or complicity therein. That they should favour "clean language" is now seen as a convenient pretence to disguise the other modalities in which they engage or find convenient to tolerate.
This perspective suggests that any "travel advisory" issued to extraterrestrials would simply recognize that Planet Earth constitutes a health hazard -- just as many member countries of the United Nations would have their own travel advisory recommendations with respect to visiting countries where there was indeed a health hazard (see list of countries issuing travel warnings). Coincidentally it appears that the USA has revamped its travel warnings in the same period as Trump is alleged to have made his controversial remark (New Travel Advisories for U.S. Travelers Share, Diplomacy in Action, 19 January 2018; Briefing on the Department of State's New Travel Advisories, Diplomacy in Action, 19 January 2018). The website features a color-coded, interactive global map highlighting the most dangerous countries in red, and features a four-tier risk assessment system with detailed country-by-country information.
The highest level of warning is summarized by one blogger as follows, under the title (Welcome to Planet Shithole, Americana Prime, 15 January 2018):
Do not travel to due to crime, terrorism, and piracy. Violent crime, such as kidnapping, rape and murder, is common. Illegal roadblocks are also widespread. Terrorists continue to plot kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks. They may attack with little or no warning, targeting airports and seaports, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, and other areas where large crowds gather.
Aside from such dangers as a "shithole planet", would Planet Earth simply be too unhygienic by galactic standards -- which might include sensitivity to the degree of cognitive and spiritual pollution?
As has been frequently remarked, use of the radio waves has inadvertently resulted in every Earth broadcast being transmitted for potential reception by distant galactic civilizations. This phenomena has given focus to the question as to why humanity has not yet been contacted by extraterrestrial civilizations.
It is important to recognize the extent to which such civilizations will have been informed about the conditions and preoccupations on Planet Earth. However it is also important to question how content disseminated in this manner might be perceived by such civilizations.
Obvious issues include both news reports on wars and violence, and the enthusiastic cultivation of media violence. Of greater concern is how advertising hype would be distinguished or conflated with "fake news". Both are variously qualified as "crap" and "full of shit", raising questions as to why audiences are such enthusiastic consumers of them (Renée Loth, Fake news and telling the difference between fact and crap, The Boston Globe, 31 October 2017; Fake news: how to cut through the crap in a post-truth world, Marie Claire, 1 March 2017; Yasmin Tayag, Pope Francis: Fake News Spreaders Are Shit-Loving Coprophiliacs, Inverse, 7 December 2016).
Given the extent of the phenomenon on the internet -- presumably available to galactic civilizations in a similar manner -- the enthusiasm for pornography on Planet Earth could well be a concern, especially in the light of seemingly unresolved issues associated with "fucking".
In the light of attempts to regulate content through media and advertising standards, it is appropriate to assume that more "universal" standards would have been elaborated by distant civilizations. In this sense there is every reason to imagine that Planet Earth falls far below such standards -- rather than providing a much appreciated source of galactic entertainment, as some have chosen to speculate.
There is also the challenging possibility that the "universal" insights of a galactic civilization may have been able to encompass sexist and racist language, as well as concerns with "fake news", lying, advertising hyperbole and puffery, in far more subtle ways, as speculatively discussed separately (Zen of Facticity: Bull, Ox or Otherwise? Herding facts and their alternatives in a post-truth-era, 2017).
The concern here (as noted above) is with the lack of contact by extraterrestrials following the intensive efforts of the SETI programme. The argument can be given greater focus by recognizing that the ETs would see themselves as having "got their shit together" in contrast to the global strategic inadequacies of Planet Earth.
Mystery of "holes": These inadequacies are readily defined metaphorically through use of "hole", most typically from a financial perspective. The Financial Times Lexicon defines a black hole as: A business activity or product on which large amounts of money are spent, but that does not produce any income or other useful result. This is readily associated with "shit" and "deep shit" (US Federal Reserve Admits "We're In Deep Shit"! Boffy's Blog, 18 September 2013).
For Greg Hunter (Financial Crisis Worse Because It's Global, GoldSilver, 18 January 2016):
Don't think the U.S. is immune from trouble. The U.S. is at the center of the black financial hole. So, will the U.S. eventually implode with the rest of the world?
Donal Casey expresses it otherwise (Political leadership deficit worse than financial hole, The Irish Times, 24 October 2009). Another framing is offered by Tom Whipple (The Peak Oil Crisis: a $4 trillion hole, Resilience, 20 August 2015). The public debt is frequently defined in terms of a "hole" (Chinese Debt: the great hole of China, The Economist, 18 October 2014).
Joined-up thinking? Missing is any clear strategic understanding of what is involved in any planetary effort at "getting shit together". In environmental terms this could be seen as merely limited to implementation of sophisticated recycling processes. Cognitively it might be expressed in global "joined-up thinking". As framed from an economic perspective this might be understood as:
The global financial crisis demonstrated that our globalized world has reached a level of international connectivity that far exceeds the reach of national policies and the effectiveness of the global architecture. It also demonstrated the extent to which the system as a whole lacked the redundancies and circuit breakers that underpin a degree of systemic resilience. Initially, the crisis forced national governments to coordinate their policy responses and to abandon representation mechanisms that made sense 60 years ago but no longer do so today. (Rebalancing the Global economy: a primer for policymaking, World Bank, June 2010, p. 170)
The implications of that are necessarily elusive since they suggest understandings of unity beyond the simplistic patterns variously advocated. Arguably, in the light of the insights of physics, they might well embody "holes" in unsuspected ways given their mysterious nature, as speculatively explored (Is the World View of a Holy Father Necessarily Full of Holes? 2014).
The argument could be presented diagrammatically through extending the systemic dynamic of "more mouths, more shit" (as mentioned above). Clearly "fuck" needs to be integrated into that pattern, as well as the "bullshit" by which the pattern is unconsciously sustained or systemically denied. Three forms of the pattern could be depicted, indicative of any progressively recognized contiguity of those modalities. Each modality could be understood as a form of hole, if not a "psychosocial black hole".
|Progression in cognitive interconnectivity?|
Cognitive self-reflexivity? As depicted above, the pattern is typical of essentially "mechanical" depictions unreflective of the paradoxical and self-reflexive cognitive challenges -- appropriately deprecated as typical "bullshit". The challenges of engaging otherwise with the "hole" -- through joined-up thinking -- are usefully indicated by the variants of the Valknut symbol below (Valknut. Norse Mythology for Smart People). These highlight the sense in which the primary characteristic of a "shithole planet" is to be caught in a knot -- perhaps the Gordian knot with which Alexander the Great was traditionally confronted (Mapping Grossness: Gordian knot of governance as a Discordian mandala? 2016).
|Joined-up thinking as suggested by variants of the Valknut symbol|
|Closed 3-link chain||Triquetra / Trefoil knot||Borromean ring|
|Images reproduced from Wikipedia|
These images are helpful in suggesting that any cognitive "hole" -- as with any "shithole" -- may be more difficult to detect than might be assumed. This is especially the case if the topology of the "hole" is of multidimensional nature, whatever that might mean from an extraterrestrial perspective. This could be usefully understood in terms of any so-called logical "hole" in an argument, otherwise termed a fallacy. These may be used without realizing it, or for the purpose of confusing others. Again it is possible that ETs might be more sensitive to a wider range of fallacies than those appealing to ethos, logos, and pathos.
Detection of the "hole", qualifying Earth for "shithole" status from an ET perspective, could also be usefully compared with detection of any "Big Lie" (Existential Challenge of Detecting Today's Big Lie: mysterious black hole conditioning global civilization? 2016). Of potential relevance is the extensive debate on the hole argument, an apparent paradox in general relativity physics (John D. Norton, The Hole Argument, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). In purely mundane terms, "finding the hole" may well be a challenge in sexual intercourse.
Configuring a sustainable planetary "shithole" through "globalization": There is an appropriate elegance to the puzzling nature of the above depictions as exemplifying joined-up thinking, given the symbolic association of Valknut with Germanic myths and Gotland -- the "land of the gods".
The relevance of such triadic symbols to this argument is discussed separately (Cognitive Implications in 3D of Triadic Symbols Valued in 2D, 2017). It is of particular interest in the light of the joined-up strategic framing currently offered by the triple helix model, as discussed separately (Reconciling triskelion and triple helix: a topological transformation with psychosocial implications? 2017).
Holes of direct personal significance: Missing from the visual renderings above is the simplicity associated with the systemic operations denoted by the preceding set of triangles -- considered separately. These are more conventionally understood in tabular form, distinguishing individual and collective equivalents and emphasizing their nature as processes, whether valued or deprecated (Seven Deadly Sins of Fundamentalism: assessing memetic weapons capability of neoconservatism, 2004):
|Tentative association of processes and values with distinctive "holes"|
|personal||collective||"values" ?||"sins" ?|
imbibing / drug-taking
expanding the market
exploiting the market
Tetrahedral configuration? One approach to their configuration in 3D is to present the first 3 process "holes" of the person as 3 upper sides of a tetrahedron, with the fourth side, as the base, used for the sustaining "bullshit". A similar approach could be used for the first 3 collective process "holes" -- corresponding to those of the individual. The distinct tetrahedra might then be configured together, as extensively discussed and illustrated separately with respect to the triangular dipyramid, stellated octahedron and Merkabah symbolism (Framing Global Transformation through the Polyhedral Merkabah Neglected implicit cognitive cycles in viable complex systems, 2017).
The first two processes (rows) correspond to the classic Roman insight bread and circuses -- on the sustaining of which the global economy is currently dependent. Through these processes seeming unrelated and disconnected -- "disjoined" -- missing is a visual rendering to explain how each tends to be invisible in practice from the perspective of the other. Rather than depiction of the triangles or their interlocking in 2D, this may be more effectively addressed in 3D if the cognitive functions of each are understood to be mutually orthogonal. This configuration is discussed and illustrated separately with respect to the three symbols of the mutually hostile Abrahamic religions (Mutually orthogonal Abrahamic symbols from the perspective of projective geometry, 2017; video).
As four processes, these can be understood as framing the planetary "shithole", perhaps usefully recognized as a cognitive "underground" (Mapping the Global Underground, 2010). Such a mapping exercise bears an interesting resemblance to that featured in the Global Risks Report (2018) of the World Economic Forum. The nature of the "shithole" is usefully recognized as an "abyss", as featured in that report, and the subject of commentary by Bill Van Auken ("Fractures, Fears and Failures:" World’s ruling elites stare into the abyss, TruePublica, 25 January 2018).
It is however intriguing that the "globalization" promoted in that context could be understood as designed to obscure -- through "bullshit" -- the complicity of participants in engendering the central "shithole", and even its existence. Is "globalization bullshit" a case of orbiting around the "nothingness" of a "shithole" (Orbiting Round Nothingness across Communication Space, 2012; Configuring the Varieties of Experiential Nothingness, 2012)?
For some leaders it is clear that "staring into the abyss" by which humanity is confronted would be intimately related to the personal experience of depression (Joseph E. Stiglitz, Post-Davos Depression, Project Syndicate, 1 Febryary 2018). This recalls Winston Churchill's "black dog" experience during World War II (Nassir Ghaemi, Winston Churchill and his 'Black Dog' of greatness, The Conversation, 25 January 2015; Winston Churchill and manic depression, Bipolar Lives, 16 June 2015). Such depression is frequently described in terms of a "black hole":
As noted by the World Health Organization, globally more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. The sense of living in a "black hole" could be readily framed by those experiencing it as living in a form of "shithole". From an extraterrestrial perspective, the global incidence suggests that this could well be understood as characteristic of a "shithole planet".
Doughnut configuration as a lifebuoy? Oxfam has promoted the Doughnut Model, variously articulated by Kate Raworth (What on Earth is the Doughnut?…; Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist, 2017). This endeavours to clarify humanity's 21st century challenge of meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet, as discussed separately (Exploring the Hidden Mysteries of Oxfam's Doughnut: recognizing the systemic negligence of an Earth Summit, 2012).
Essentially the model uses:
The model is then used to argue that humanity has to live on the toroidal form -- neither in the hole within, nor outside that form. Rather than as a doughnut, this could be more vividly recognized as a lifebuoy (or ring buoy) to which humanity must desperately cling. That term was in fact used by the author in an early draft of the model. Some of the challenges of that metaphor are explored separately (Spaceship Earth, lifeboat, liferaft and lifeplan as complex associations, 2014).
A particular limitation of the model as depicted in 2D is that it is then necessarily "flat" -- with the "third dimension" of the doughnut-as-a-torus -- present only by implication, and lacking any cognitive or strategic significance. This is also the case with the remarkable images offered in 2D in the Global Risks Report (2018). Would a flat lifebuoy float? Unfortunately such 2D depictions have a tendency to reinforce a highly questionable "flat Earth" perspective (Irresponsible Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2008).
Curiously matching that "aberration" is the perspective that the Earth is in fact hollow. A new account of how the hollow-Earth hypothesis emerged and gained traction, notably amongst the elites of Nazi Germany, is provided by Joel Frohlich (Life in hollow Earth, Aeon, 2018). Is there a sense in which some purportedly "global" perspectives effectively continue to subscribe to that understanding, if only in cognitive terms?
The central hole of the doughnut can indeed be recognized as a "shithole" in the light of the above argument -- and the personal experience of all within that zone. This offers the unfortunate image of a human habitat -- the lifebuoy -- floating on what is effectively a sea of "shit". Being two-dimensional, it is however unclear from the metaphor what enables it to float -- especially when there is a requirement that models be able to "fly", with "float" being used only in the more tentative sense of "floating an idea".
Unfortunately the model has also encouraged arguments regarding the need to "live within the doughnut" when its geometry suggests that this is indicative of living in its central hole -- then effectively "the shithole". There is a strong case for a complexification of the geometry of the toroidal form -- to which the torus lends itself -- to relate its inside with its outside, as indicated below and separately argued (Cognitive osmosis through topological eversion and interlocking tori -- framing outside-inside otherwise, 2017). This takes more appropriate account of the cognitive paradoxes to be addressed.
This model has appeared in a period in which much has been made of the increasing discrepancy between the "haves" and the "have nots". This could be understood as a form of "cognitive hole" -- notably as a form of "financial black hole", exemplifying one aspect of a "planetary shithole". The point is made in a recent Oxfam report as reviewed by Larry Elliott (Inequality gap widens as 42 people hold same wealth as 3.7bn poorest, The Guardian, 22 January 2018).
In a separate effort to build on the toroidal form of the doughnut, the metaphorical implications of its "hole" offered a primary theme in the earlier critique (Identifying dimensions of thoughtlessness: nature of the "cognitive hole"?; Configuration containing a "cognitive hole" of thoughtlessness within the Oxfam doughnut; Strategic game-playing via the "cognitive hole"? ).
Cyclide configuration? Given the fundamental significance thereby associated with the toroidal form of a doughnut, there is a case for continuing to explore how its central hole can be used in a more systemically radical manner in order to hold the processes which are contributing so evidently to the planet's "shithole" condition. It is appropriate to note in passing the cosmological significance attached to that form in the so-called doughnut model of the universe, as well as its archetypal value in the form of the ouroboros, as discussed separately (Complementary visual patterns: Ouroboros, Möbius strip, Klein bottle, 2017).
Offering a means of holding the systemic dynamics of concern is a particular geometric inversion of the standard torus known as a ring cyclide, one of a class of Dupin cyclides, as variously discussed and illustrated (Dupin Cyclides, University of Oxford Mathematical Institute). The value of the ring cyclide was highlighted in relation to discussion of the toroidal ouroboros (Future design options for interactive 3D animations of cognitive osmosis, 2017).
|3D variants from Wikipedia||2D schematic variants|
Arguably there is a need for the "cognitive discomfort" of such an inversion to provide the requisite contrast from the more comforting familiarity of the toroidal doughnut -- as a means of holding those dynamics by which the "shithole" is so strangely framed. For those opposed to any such quest, the ring cyclide could be simply framed for mnemonic purposes as a croissant (kipferi) rather than a doughnut, or as a head-support enabling passengers to sleep -- or perhaps, more appropriately, as a well-padded toilet seat.
The point to be emphasized is the seeming need for some form of cognitive inversion to engage cognitively in a new way with the "abyss" so recently recognized by the World Economic Forum (as noted above). As used, the doughnut model can be seen as highlighting a "comfort zone" at a time when there is call for a more challenging depiction of the nexus of processes -- for which a degree of offensiveness is necessarily appropriate.
|Tentative use of cyclide to interrelate lifecycle consequences
of processes of "mouth", "shit", "fuck" and "bullshit"
The proportions of the diagram could be refined for illustrative purposes using crude estimates to populate an associated table as shown below. Especially significant is representation of the cumulative data over the whole lifecycle for an average individual.
|Indication of data to clarify the image above|
|per day||per year (365 days)||per lifetime (72)||world (7.6 billion)|
|7,500 kilojoules||2,737.500 kilojoules||197,100,000 kilojoules
1.49796 × 1015
|Faeces excreted ("shit")||0.128 kilograms||46.720 kilograms||3,363.84 kilograms||25,565,184
As depicted, of particular interest is how the functions of "fuck" and "bullshit" might be held by the ring cyclide. It could be argued that those of "mouth" (consumption) and "shit" (defecation) can be held by the cyclide form in 3D, allowing for the movement over the lifecycle associated with a fourth dimension. The question is whether those of "fuck" and "bullshit" are of a higher order of complexity in cybernetic terms, potentially requiring a 5D depiction -- however this might be projected into 4D or 3D.
The relationship of the ring cyclide to the toroidal doughnut is then of particular relevance as a geometrical inversion with cognitive implications. Should the toroidal form be understood as threading through the hole of multiple instances of the cyclide, for example? Complexifications which merit exploration are suggested by the following, reproduced from earlier arguments (Visualization in 3D of Dynamics of Toroidal Helical Coils, 2016; Enabling Wisdom Dynamically within Intertwined Tori: requisite resonance in global knowledge architecture, 2012).
Rather than a metaphorical "lifebuoy" or "doughnut", the focus there was on the quest for optimum designs of a "mandala" in 3D -- thereby emphasizing the dimensions of the challenge in "getting shit together" cognitively (Concordian Mandala as a Symbolic Nexus, 2016). Animation such as the following were developed to explore this.
|Animation of two horn tori||Dynamic model of intertwined tori|
|(major radius in proportion of phi)
Upper torus has flow out of top
Lower torus has flow into top
| (screen shots variously rendered)
Red torus has a vortex (smoke ring) dynamic;
Blue torus has a wheel-like dynamic
|Adaptation, with permission, of animation
by Wolfgang Daeumler (Horn Torus)
|Compact variants by Sergey Bederov (x3d; vrml)
Earlier variant by Bob Burkhardt (vrml)
The requisite topological complexity within which the cognitive hole may need to be detected is usefully suggested by the arguments and animations of Paul Nylander. For Nylander the Hopf map is a special transformation invented by Heinz Hopf that maps to each point on the ordinary (global) 3D sphere from a unique circle of points on the 4D sphere. Taken together, these circles form a fiber bundle called a Hopf Fibration. Applying a 4D to 3D stereographic projection to the Hopf Fibration gives a 3D torus called a Clifford Torus composed of interlinked Villarceau circles. By applying 4D rotations to the Hopf Fibration, the Clifford Torus can be transformed into a Dupin cyclide or by turning it inside-out.
The following animations help to suggest how any "cognitive shithole" might be framed otherwise, as discussed separately (Transforming vehicles of identity between global and toroidal forms, 2016)
|Animations of toroidal complexification|
|Torus-to-Sphere transformation||Trefoil knot||Clifford torus|
|Animations reproduced from Wikipedia|
|Made by User:Kieff||Made by Jason Hise|
Bull mythology: The form of the ring cyclide (as described above) is curiously reminiscent of schematic representations of bull horns as they have figured so centrally as sacred bullsin the bull mythology of many cultures, and most notably those of Europe. Cattle are considered sacred in world religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and others. Religions in ancient Greece, ancient Israel, ancient Rome, and ancient Germany held similar beliefs.
In Ancient Egypt the most popular deity was the cow goddess Hathor, similarly horned but with a solar disk set between the horns -- presumably now to be understood in global terms. Hathor continues to be of significance to symbolic Freemasonry -- of particular relevance given suspicion regarding the proportion of leading decision-makers at events like that of the World Economic Forum who are alleged to be members by conspiracy theorists. Great symbolic significance is of course associated with the bull in Iberian culture.
Although seemingly of quite distinct etymology, it is curious to note the extent to which "bullshit" is so frequently used in contrast to "shit" or "bull" alone, now that "fake news" has become of such global concern. Engagement with any form of "bull" then invites speculative reflection (Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting, 2009; The-O Ring and The Bull Ring as Spectacular Archetypes: dramatic correlation of theatre, theory, theorem, theology, and theosophy, 2014).
There would appear to be a strange metaphorical nexus which includes the use of "balls" -- both in the sense of bull(shit) and of courage (as in bravado and cojones). Few would question Donald Trump's capacity with regard to either, irrespective of questions arising from his famed commitment to "make America great again" -- seemingly challenged by the existential threat of "Little Rocket Man", with the curious implication of "erectile dysfunction" in the US rocket department.
This nexus now includes the modern myth-making associated with what appears to be a feminine complement to "balls", as celebrated by the Golden Globes awards (Golden Globes Confusing Cleavage, Hype and Hypocrisy, 2018). In an era combining "fake news" and what is effectively the "emasculation" of traditional authority, aspirations of such authorities to make their countries "great again" curiously recall the use of neuticles, namely prosthetic testicular implants, notably for previously neutered dogs. Strangely again, their use of silicone is comparable to its use in the breast implants featuring so visibly at the Golden Globes events.
How might purportedly significant global strategic initiatives be distinguished from implantation of "neuticles", given explicit recognition of such emasculation, most notably in the many references to the emasculation of the United Nations? The metaphor is also used with respect to certain forms of advocacy, democracy itself, and alternative movements (William C. Paddock, The Emasculation of the Population Movement, Population and Environment, 19, 1998; Siraj Abdulkarim, U.S. and the emasculation of democracy, Daily Trust, 9 July 2014; Reidar Visser, The emasculation of government ministries in consociational democracies, International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies, 6, 2012).
In comprehending how a "planetary shithole" might come to be perceived -- whether or not by ETs -- does this nexus also now include some understandings of globe and globalization? This could offer strange associations to the popular British propaganda song of World War II -- Hitler Has Only Got One Ball -- with the punch line: Goebbels has no balls at all.
A sense of globality is now the focal symbol of planetary civilization, equivalent to that attributed to the Sun by cultures past. However the level of fake news and puffery -- exemplified by various kinds of bubble -- merits reflection on how "globe" and "bubble" might be related as psychosocial constructs (Pricking the Bubble of Global Complacent Complicity, 2017; Globallooning -- Strategic Inflation of Expectations and Inconsequential Drift: global, glo-bull, glow-ball, glow-bawl, 2009).
In endeavouring to comprehend the ET perspective, the concern may be that any such "globality" is in effect sustained as a "bubble" by gases which are essentially "foetid". It is this cognitive or behavioural "stench" of decay which could be highly offensive to ETs, as may be the case in human "shithole habitats" lacking sanitation.
An alternative metaphor is that, the civilization on Earth -- as a "shithole planet" -- might best be characterized as suffering from a form of cognitive halitosis. In a civilization characterized by the unsaid, who would know, or be able to tell? (Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid", 2003; Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem: the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues, 2009).
Trickster: In his explication of "shithole", there is however a case for comprehending Trump's systemic role in terms of the trickster archetype (Corey Pein, Donald Trump, Trickster God, The Baffler, 4 March 2016). Especially valuable in this respect, as argued separately, is the role of Loki in Germanic mythology (Loki, Norse Mythology), This is celebrated by Richard Wagner in the operatic cycle of The Ring of the Nibelung in relation to Valhalla -- namely the realm of the gods (Identity in question via Trump: Narcissus vs Loki?, 2017). In the conclusion of the first opera Das Rheingold, Loki reveals his hope to turn into fire and destroy Valhalla -- and in the final opera, Götterdämmerung, Valhalla is set alight, destroying the Gods.
The possibility follows from the intense current interest in questioning the cognitive capacities of Donald Trump by those desperate to ensure his impeachment and establish their own greater sanity -- despite lacking any coherent alternatives. Inspired by Greek mythology, pathological narcissism is much favoured by psychoanalysts, however nuanced (Elizabeth Lunbeck, The Allure of Trump's Narcissism, Los Angeles Review of Books, 1 August 2017; Paul Krugman, Trump's Deadly Narcissism, The New York Times, 29 September 2017; Allen Frances, I helped write the manual for diagnosing mental illness: Donald Trump doesn't meet the criteria, Stat News, 6 September 2017).
Trump's association with "Fire and Fury" is therefore particularly relevant in seeking to establish his abnormal mental condition. However, given Trump's explicit commitment to "clean the swamp", his purported responsibility for causing the shutdown of the US government could well be understood through the alternative metaphor of enflaming Valhalla (US government enters shutdown after Senate rejects funding bill, The Guardian, 19 January 2018; US shutdown sparks bitter blame game, BBC, 19 January 2018; Trump's one-year anniversary marked by shutdown instead of celebration, USA Today, 19 January 2018).
In functioning systemically like Loki, Trump can be seen as a master of inadvertency -- as the inadvertent president -- effectively a "Black Swan" incarnate, in the spirit of so-called black swan theory (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2010). Meriting a degree of precautious appreciation, Trump can be seen as a variant of the archetypal role of the court jester, with all the ambiguity of his pronouncements. This can be related to the strangely provocative role of the Fool in the Tarot pack, where its value as a trump card is ironically explicit. Consistent with the Loki function, a much more critical case is made for his recognition as a clown -- both as a source of humour and terror -- as articulated by Tom Engelhardt (Creating an Empire of Graveyards? Information Clearing House, 25 January 2018).
In framing Trump's role in terms of Loki, the argument of Stephan Grundy regarding his ambiguous nature requires consideration:
No figure in Norse mythology is as controversial as Loki. Contemporary Heathenry is divided over how to treat him. Is he a bringer of freedom and enlightenment, or an agent of destruction? Was he ever honored in the old days-and is it a valid Heathen practice to worship him now?. (God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki's role in the Northern Religions, 2015)
The "gods" of this current time could well be recognized in those gathered in the "international community", the stars and "celebs" so widely appreciated, or the sets of values they claim so dubiously to uphold -- all readily challenged as "bullshit", given the nature of the "shithole" they together engender (International Community as God or Sorcerer's Apprentice? Strategic chaos in the absence of an interlocking temporal pattern of longer-term cyclic processes, 2015; Golden Globes Confusing Cleavage, Hype and Hypocrisy, 2017).
Coincidentally, if it should be understood as such in systemic terms, Gotland is being re-militarized by Sweden as a consequence of tensions exacerbated by Trump between the USA and Russia (Daniel Darling, Sweden's Re-militarization of Gotland is Both Symbolic and Strategic, RealClear Defense, 21 September 2016; No island as important as Gotland, says US military chief, The Local, 24 July 2017; Sweden to issue leaflets on how to prepare for war, BBC, 18 January 2018).
Method to madness? Having engendered Trump-as-Loki in systemic terms, rather than society seeking to render extra-systemic Trump-the-individual -- as a "terrestrial extra", if not an extraterrestrial in his own right -- could there be method to his madness, irrespective of how unconscious this may be, or may need to be? As famously articulated by Shakespeare in Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2):
There's a method to his madness... His answers are so full of meaning sometimes! He has a way with words, as crazy people often do, and that sane people don't have a talent for.
Prior to the election of Trump, many had remarked variously on the insanity of the world using similar titles (Mike Fishbein, Staying Sane in an Insane World, Zero Infinity, 14 December 2016; Scott Berkun, Staying Sane In An Insane World, 28 July 2016; J. Krishnamurti, Living in an Insane World, 1989).
Those upheld as models of sanity -- or perceiving themselves to be so -- had however done little more than mitigate its increasing insanity, if they had not themselves exacerbated it by avoiding critical issues. Commentary on insights from the Trump era now simply tends to reiterate a pattern of criticism, without being able to offer significant insights on the scope and focus of future strategic leadership in response to that insanity (Elizabeth N. Saunders, Is Trump a Normal Foreign-Policy President? What We Know After One Year, Foreign Affairs, 18 January 2018). Is more of the same to be otherwise anticipated?
Is it to be hoped that a form of hyper-rationality will be embodied in leadership of the future, as might be concluded from the arguments of Yehezkel Dror (Avant-Garde Politician: leaders for a new epoch, 2014; For Rulers: priming political leaders for saving humanity from itself, 2017)? In a world of insanity, is it then a case of in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king?
If such hyper-rationality cannot itself be distingished by elites from madness, arguably there is a need for society to engender a role by unconventional means to engage otherwise with that insanity:
Incomprehensibility? The criteria for a non-shithole planet would clearly be of importance to ETs, as can also be speculatively explored (Self-reflective Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criterion of species maturity? 2008). The fundamental difficulty for a shithole planet is comprehending the elusive nature of "joined up thinking". The latter document notes the articulation by Doris Lessing in her fictionalized description of a poignant encounter of a "development specialist" from an advanced galactic culture with a leading representative of a "developing" planet:
To say that he understood what went on was true. To say that he did not understand -- was true. I would sit and explain, over and over again. He listened, his eyes fixed on my face, his lips moving as he repeated to himself what I was saying. He would nod: yes, he had grasped it. But a few minutes later, when I might be saying something of the same kind, he was uncomfortable, threatened. Why was I saying that? and that? his troubled eyes asked of my face: What did I mean? His questions at such moments were as if I had never taught him anything at all. He was like one drugged or in shock.
Yet it seemed that he did absorb information for sometimes he would talk as if from a basis of shared knowledge: it was as if a part of him knew and remembered all I told him, but other parts had not heard a word. I have never before or since had so strongly that experience of being with a person and knowing that all the time there was certainly a part of that person in contact with you, something real and alive and listening -- and yet most of the time what one said did not reach that silent and invisible being, and what he said was not often said by the real part of him. It was as if someone stood there bound and gagged while an inferior impersonator spoke for him. (Re: Colonised Planet 5 - Shikasta, 1979, pp. 56-57).
This account could well encapsulate the encounter of an ET representative with the leadership of a "shithole planet" -- Donald Trump, Jean-Claude Juncker, the Pope, the Secretary-General of the United Nations?
The alleged declaration of Donald Trump, and the worldwide reaction, help to clarify the real problem faced by countries qualified as "shitholes" in representing themselves within a global arena -- at the General Assembly of the United Nations, for example. Having probably been declared to be a "shithole planet", Planet Earth is faced with an analogous problem in representing itself in any galactic arena -- whatever form this might take.
Equivalents to more informal categorizations, like "shithole", are to be found in relation to questionable commentary on occasional use of "basket case", "failed state", "pariah state", or "rogue state" (David Marsh Basket Case: the case against, The Guardian, 1 June 2012).
Aspects of the problem -- and the remedy -- are evident in the distinctions made among the countries of Planet Earth. They cluster themselves selectively into groups such as the Group of 7 or the Group of 20. Others are left to form themselves into the Group of 77. More relevant to the galactic challenge for Planet Earth is the establishment of a List of Least Developed Countries by the United Nations from 1971. The list is reviewed every three years. A country is so classified if it meets three criteria (curiously omitting environment):
In the current context it might be asked how the controversy around Trump's alleged framing is to be distinguished from the relegation of countries onto that list by the UN -- as third or fourth class world citizens (if that). All the countries he is alleged to have distinguished figure on that list. This is the kind of galactic categorization by which Planet Earth is probably framed. It might eventually be able to look forward to associating with other "shithole planets" so defined -- as do such countries on Earth.
In anticipation of any such minimal recognition, there is a case for speculating on learnings from the first encounter of Europeans with the Lenape Native Americans, resulting in the purchase of Manhattan Island. The sale of the island for $24 of beads, is described by Aja Raden:
The story of the purchase of Manhattan is one of the most contentious and oft-disputed stories in American history. That modest sale has gone down in history as the biggest swindle ever perpetrated. The fabled exchange has been dissected and re-examined with the weak hope of proving it a myth. Some people just dismiss the event out of hand, claiming it's apocryphal -- that the infamous exchange never took place at all. The deal seems so unfair, some parties have even suggested that the island be returned to the "original" owners. But what may be the most surprising fact about the whole transaction is that in 1626, and for a long time afterward, both parties were very happy with it. (Keep the Change: The Beads that Bought Manhattan, The Huffington Post, 22 November 2015).
As with the European encounter with the Aztec civilization, how might such an encounter play out? This can be speculatively explored (Communicating with Aliens: the psychological dimension of dialogue, 2000).
There is every possibility that the ETs would be skilled in negotiation psychology beyond anything that humanity has imagined -- especially with respect to paradox, contradiction and metaphor (Sensing Epiterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): Embedding of "extraterrestrials" in episystemic dynamics? 2013). Their representatives might even be remarkably skilled in what is deprecated as "bullshit". Whilst they may appreciate being exposed to Facebook as a form of transparent global self-reporting, they may also be vigilant with regard to the need for due diligence to compensate for superficiality and pretence. Is it possible that the prophesied end-times scenarious will take the form of a final battle between the "pretenders" claiming not to offend and the "offenders" claiming not to pretend?
Their approach may be reminiscent of negotiations with Italian corporations where two well-separated sets of accounts were maintained. Rather than restricting their attention to Facebook, they may be curious about any reluctance to present a possible "Arsebook" to clarify the real problems of Planet Earth -- otherwise "covered up". This is perhaps to be compared with an environmental impact report (Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid", 2003). With respect to their understanding of "bullshit", ETs could well be imagined to have their own special style of "bullfighting" (Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting: challenge of transcendence, 2009).
ETs could well prove to be perplexed by the extent of disciplined "anal" preoccupation through analysis and psychoanalysis -- appropriate to any "Arsebook" perspective -- in the relative absence of any complementary exploration appropriate to any other sense of "hole" or "whole". Is this consistent with national preoccupation with arsenals?
On the other hand there is also the possibility that their skilled negotiators will have recognized the need to use the kind of "tough language" exemplified by boardroom and military discourse on Earth. "Shit" and "fuck" may be especially evident. The prevailing mode of discourse on Earth may have been interpreted as providing guidelines for effective communication (Writing Guidelines for Future Occupation of Earth by Extraterrestrials: Be done by as you did ? 2010).
Other possible dimensions to any such encounter might include some equivalent to the Christian priesthood -- so influential in the various encounters with the American Indians -- potentially sensitive to the possibility that inhabitants of Planet Earth "lacked souls" and appropriate beliefs. The ETs may have their own style of hypocritical prissy pretence -- matching that of those claiming to uphold humanity's highest values. The controversy aroused by Trump's alleged remarks may prove to be a valuable "test bed" for alien encounter.
More intriguing is the possibility that the ETs had delayed their visit in anticipation of there being an even greater amount of "shit" -- of higher quality. This would be reminiscent of the interest of dung beetles, or of entrepreneurs at the start of the Industrial Revolution with their slogan: where there's muck there's brass. Maybe Earth has not yet met their special needs.
Far more problematic, as with the case of "shithole countries", is the question as to whether and how they may have been "shat upon" -- and by whom. Who could be understood as doing the "shitting"? Does the history of how Haiti has been used in this way then suggest a provocative parallel with the history of Earth -- from an ET perspective? Given the manner in which humanity is now transforming the Middle East into a "shithole region" with Jerusalem as its vortex, the symbolism of the transfer of the US Embassy there may prove to be far from perplexing from such a universal perspective (Jerusalem as a Symbolic Singularity: comprehending the dynamics of hyperreality as a challenge to conventional two-state reality, 2017).
There is also the possibility that ETs may have a highly developed sense of humour featuring forms of "joined-up thinking" which would make it difficult for humans to "get the joke" (Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005). If their humour had a scatological dimension, this might well feature in their attitude to "shithole planets".
Whilst clearly a "terrestrial extra", and allegedly in contact with ETs, is it possible that Trump is himself an "extraterrestrial" (R. Hobbus, White House Says Trump in 'Frequent' Contact with Extraterrestrials, Real News Right Now, 14 September 2017; Jeremy B. White, White House unable to say whether Trump believes in aliens, Independent, 19 December 2017)?
Harry Frankfurt. On Bullshit. Princeton University Press, 2005
Stephan Grundy. God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki's role in the Northern Religions. Lulu.com, 2015
Doris Lessing. Re: Colonised Planet 5 - Shikasta. Jonathan Cape, 1979
Kate Raworth. Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017
André Spicer. Business Bullshit. Routledge, 2017
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable. Penguin, 2010
Ben Zimmer. Great Moments in 'Shithole' Literature. The Atlantic, 12 January 2018 [text]
For further updates on this site, subscribe here