Considerable Conglomeration of “Cons” of Global Concern
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 October 2012
by Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service
Eightfold Constraint on Constructive Conflict Control?
In these strange times there would seem to be a strange preponderance of ways in which problematic conditions are articulated through use of words prefixed by “con”. There is therefore a case for exploring these phenomena more systematically. This is done here by clustering words of that form which are used with greatest frequency. The approach is to endeavour to isolate clusters which are especially important to processes of governance — or to concerns regarding the efficacy of that governance.
In anticipation of a more systematic study and conclusion, clusters of significance can be usefully configured as an eightfold pattern of “con” terms which tend either to be ambiguous or to form meaningful pairs. The pattern is as follows:
- “contra” (or con), in the sense of being against any proposed change or remedial initiative (as in the shorter version of the Latin pro et contra), with a preference for conservation of the status quo — perhaps creatively reframed, as by “neocons“. This therefore constitutes a primary constraint on many forms of change. Many public demonstrations and protests may focus primarily on what people are specifically against, leaving implicit exactly what they are for and how that is to be achieved.
- “con” as widely used in French as an extremely derogatory expression to denote stupid people (connard). This is currently applied by the population to those in authority and the policies they propose — in France or elsewhere. It may also be implied, through other expressions, by those in positions of power in their exploitation of those they esteem to be ignorant — as with the miss-selling of complex financial derivatives. In the case of confidence trickery, intended victims are known as “marks”. The attitude is exemplified by the widely publicized comment by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, suggesting that 47% of the population of the US was not worthy of consideration.
- Confidence, ambiguously:
- confidence as experienced in relation to authority, institutions, the professions, society, community, and the future. It is this confidence which has been much abused in recent years, as widely noted in relation to the financial system and in the associated efforts at “confidence-building” (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009). The disastrous breakdown in confidence has had implications for the self-confidence of many.
- confidence trickery (“con-game“) recognized after the fact as being an exercise in deliberate deception, of which the subprime mortgage scandal and various Ponzi schemes are examples.
- Conviction, as a consequence of belief, and confidence in that belief:
- conviction, especially that arising from belief giving rise to the sense of being unquestionably right. A convict (also known as a “con”) is a person who has been convicted of a crime — as a consequence of collective belief in the system of justice. The distinct convictions, resulting from confidence variously engendered by different systems of belief, is the root cause of faith-based conflict.
- condemnation, is a consequence of conviction that the other is in the wrong. This is currently exemplified by radical interpretations by the different faiths and by the blame-game regarding responsibility for the current financial crisis. Ironically few, if any, of those most complicit have been convicted for their involvement.
- consensus, as desperately sought in a variety of circumstances with respect to enabling remedial strategies. Current examples include, climate change, regional conflicts (Iran, etc), minority rights, research ethics, capital punishment, and the like. Meaningful global consensus may be unreachable (cf. The Consensus Delusion, 2011)
- constitution, as the legal formalization of collective consensus. Constitutional provisions may be used to prohibit valuable change and reform, as with the constitutional amendment ensuring access of the population to firearms in the US.
- control, as the primary preoccupation of governance and any form of management, and hence the concern of the security services with “law and order”. Current conditions suggest that the global system is effectively “out-of-control” and may be essentially ungovernable (cf. Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011)
- conspiracy, as highlighted by the many conspiracy theories regarding the secretive operations of government, and even the existence of secret government, or secret government agencies. Partial confirmation is offered by former US Senator Ted Kaufman (chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel) identifying “The Blob” , namely the government entities that regulate the finance industry, and the army of Wall Street representatives and lobbyists that continuously surrounds and permeates them (The Payoff: why Wall Street always wins, 2012). Further documentation is offered by Tony Cartalucci (Naming Names: Your Real Government, Land Destroyer Report, 21 March 2011). Concerns extend most notably to the role of major corporations — and the existence of a considerable configuration of their conglomerates (Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world, New Scientist, October 2011; David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, 1995)
- consumption, as a major current concern in relation to increasing population numbers and the challenge to resources (The Royal Society, People and the Planet, 2012) This may also be understood both in terms of the problematic consequences of overconsumption on health (obesity, malnourishment, etc) and the environmental consequences of the accumulation of waste.
- consummation, understood in terms of the quest driving many lives, whether understood within the immediate context of (physical) relationships or as the ultimate qualitative achievement of a lifetime of struggle
- Conception, ambiguously interpreted as:
- conception of structures of every kind, whether with respect to construction of building, explanations, theoretical models, or images for public relations purposes, namely frames of reference, potentially “written in stone”, and including processes promoted by consultants. The consequence of such “emissions” is noteworthy in terms of the plethora of insights and the information overload experienced by many
- conception in the sense of unconstrained human reproduction, with its consequent call on increasingly limited resources and the much-challenged capacity to deliver them appropriately. With this is associated the divisive issue of contraception. Especially significant is the manner in which many strategic concerns for both society and the family derive from unconstrained reproduction — although this originating factor is ignored in framing preoccupation with the immediate challenges.
- Consideration, in various senses of according attention, or not, to what is esteemed to be of importance:
- consideration, understood more broadly as according attention and recognition to phenomena which may previously have been neglected — or deliberately ignoring them. Many expect sympathetic consideration of their condition and circumstances by society and by authority, whether or not this calls for action.
- concern, understood as (selective) recognition of a potential danger calling for further investigation and action. Many issues in society are formulated as a focus for action as a consequence of expressed concern, possibly grave concern.
A previous exercise explored the way in which a complex strategic concern could be addressed by ignoring a key consideration (Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem — the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues, 2009). This was inspired by a form of constrained writing or word game consisting of writing texts in which a common letter or group of letters is omitted — usually a common vowel. That approach is one adopted by Oulipo, a group of writers, poets and mathematicians. In that spirit, the question here is whether the current crisis can be significantly articulated using terms prefixed by “con”. This is then a form of game in which only “con” words are used to describe all the processes of governance from a cybernetic perspective — cybernetics as being the science of control. The issue then is what would be missing and why?
To that end, the following table clusters a set of 643 words starting with “con” — of which the first two are consider* (902) and control* (811). There is an appropriate irony to the emergence of “consider” in this way, given its etymology — deriving from stellation and sidereal — even suggestive of “star-gazing”. The exercise follows an earlier exploration (Exploration of Prefixes of Global Discourse: implications of a cognitive prefix for sustainable confidelity, 2011). The “eightfold” mapping follows from a different exercise (Mapping Paralysis and Tokenism in the Face of Potential Global Disaster, 2011).
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.