Civilization as a Global Configuration of Silences: Recognizing Silence of a Higher Order


Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service


This speculative exercise takes silence as its point of departure, following previous exploration of that theme (Global Strategic Implications of the “Unsaid”: from myth-making towards a “wisdom society”, 2003). The concern here is whether the matters on which there is collective silence can be understood as being configured “globally” in some way — such as to sustain civilization in an unsuspected manner. This approach contrasts with any assumption that civilization is primarily characterized by the pattern of what is openly and fruitfully said.

The concern is consistent with the argument of John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995), as noted previously (Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization: implications of God, debt, overpopulation, waste, negligence, encroachment and death? 2012). It is however even more pertinent in a period of widespread debate on the significance of the recent disclosures regarding global electronic surveillance — especially with respect to the preceding silence in that regard. This is of course a feature of the silence regarding the global significance of the vast quantities of information officially classified as secret by governments, the maze of secret international agreements, and a mysterious global network of military bases. How is global civilization expected to emerge and be governed with so many zones of silence?

Reference to silence however usefully challenges the easy assumption that avoidance of saying and openness is necessarily problematic — especially given claims that the “silent majority” is characteristic of stable democracy. There is a further challenge from current initiatives in various democratic countries to enact legislation to silence dissent or protest, on the assumption that this enables effective governance, despite other possibilities (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011)..

Aside from this preference of Authority, silence is of course much valued in many settings, notably in some forms of dialogue. Silence on certain matters is highly recommended — even framed as basic to civilized discourse. It can be central to the process of meditation and spiritual practice. There is therefore clearly a degree of uncertainty as to when silence is productive or highly unfruitful — and for whom — as is often only too evident.

Given such ambiguity, the question here is how any configuration of “silences” could be recognized as providing a coherence to sustainable civilization, despite the accumulation of issues so systematically ignored. Aspects of this concern figured in previous initiatives (Map of Systemic Interdependencies None Dares Name, 2011; Mapping the Global Underground, 2010; Mind Map of Global Civilizational Collapse, 2011). Are the many “world problems” profiled in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential to be usefully explored as “zones of silence” — as matters about which little is adequately said globally or for which representative voices go “unheard”?

Rather than being characterized by what is said or shown, the significance of official statements is now primarily characterized by what is not readily apparent. It is no longer what Authority says that is of as much concern as that on which it is silent — however vociferously justified by questionable arguments (and any necessary false flag operations), as separately discussed (Playing the Great Game with Intelligence: Authority versus the People, 2013). It has become difficult to establish the quality of truth in such declarations with any confidence. The sense of a conspiracy of silence has become an inspiration to conspiracy theories of every extreme.

In this context, there is a case for elucidating a common global framework for the destructive and constructive potentials of silence — as implied by the remarkable summary made by Renée Gendron (The Meanings of Silence during Conflict, Journal of Conflictology, 2011).

With disclosures regarding the capacities of remote sensing, notably through the visual capacity of global satellite imagery and drones, this argument can be extended to include other senses — especially the “unsensing” implied by their metaphorical use in public discourse. The silence of the “unsaid” (and the “unheard” voices), would then encompass the “unseen” (issues?) , the “unfelt” (pain?), the “unsmelt” (conditions?) and the “untasted” (lives?) — all of which are beyond the capacities of remote sensing, metaphorical or otherwise. Ironically public discourse amongst politicians could now be caricatured as the remote insensitivity of droning Authority — mirroring the preferred military options.

The argument concludes with experiments in indicative visual representation of the dynamic combining the complex relationships between the problematic forms of silence / ignorance / uncertainty with their constructive alternatives (silence / unknowing / confidence). These provide a basis for understanding the requirements for three dimensional configurations in representating a “global” dynamic suggestive of the nature of global civilization — and of its sustainability.

Modes of unsensing and unrecognition
Varieties of conspiracies of silence
Varieties of silences of the professions
Engaging with silence through other metaphors
Qualities of silence as variously appreciated
Confronting incommensurable forms of silence
Silence — Ignorance — Uncertainty: fundamentally interwoven?
Towards configuring silences globally
Dark energy of sustainability?



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Nov 2013.

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