Destabilizing Multipolar Society through Binary Decision-making
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 27 Jun 2016
Alternatives to “2-Stroke Democracy” Suggested by 4-Sided Ball Games
27 Jun 2016 – Prepared on the occasion of the historical Brexit referendum through which the UK decided to leave the European Union — in a period in which popular concern was primarily focused on the outcome of Euro 2016 .
Upheld as an exemplar of the participative democratic process, the United Kingdom voted on 23rd June 2016 to leave the European Union. Some 51.9% voted to leave, with 48.1% voting to remain. These proportions recall the earlier democratic vote in Austria in which 50.3% voted for an environmentalist president and 49.7% voted for a president from the far right (Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right, The Guardian, 23 May 2016).
The overly evident triumphalism of the majority in each case obscures the regrets of the minority — if not their profound anxiety and despair. Somehow that is considered appropriate in a democratic society in which the majority is unquestionably “right” and the minority is simply “wrong” — and must “live with it”. Curiously the pattern is evident to an even higher degree in international ball games, as is the case with the 2016 UEFA European Championships or those of Eurovision 2016. One national team will “win” and much will be made of its triumph. All others will “lose” — readily to be disregarded as “losers” — to the existential despair of their supporters.
Why is this pattern considered to be so appropriate and healthy in a multifacetted democratic society? How to involve those framed as the minority who lost — beyond the platitudes and tokenism of the majority leadership, variously claiming to “reach out” to “them” inclusively? As with any victory, their subservience to “us” is of course a prerequisite (Us and Them: Relating to Challenging Others, 2009). Can democracy seriously be upheld as meaningfully sustainable when 49% are of one view and 51% are of another? Will the future consider this to be totally surreal — a cause for hilarity and tears over centuries to come?
The inadequacy of this process is strikingly evident in the current period through the number of major strikes and demonstrations in European countries by those who claim their voices are not heard by those “in power”. The level of dissatisfaction is indicated — following Brexit — by the number of countries, regions and factions who are now mobilizing their efforts for a similar disassociation in their aspiration for a form of independence. Ironically many in the “defeated” anti-Brexit minority have since initiated a formal petition for a new referendum under new rules (EU referendum petition signed by more than 2m, BBC News, 25 June 2016; Petition to hold second EU referendum reaches 2m signatures, The Guardian, 25 June 2016). Another petition calls for the independence of the City of London from the UK — possibly implying that citizenship itself is constrained by overly simplistic thinking in a world in which many have muliple passports and allegiances.
The “European Project” itself faces a crisis of major proportions, which was preceded by variously detectable foreshocks (Edward Harrison, The Ugly Heart of the European Project, Foreign Policy, 12 July 2015; Ferruccio Pastore, The Migration and Asylum Crisis as a Transformative Shock for Europe, Istituto Affari Internazionali, 2015; John Lichfield, Lamps out over Europe as Brexit marks the end of the European Union, The Independent, 24 June 2016; Henry Porter, Terrorism, Migrants, and Crippling Debt: is this the end of Europe? Vanity Fair, 7 January 2016; George Soros: “Europe Is On The Verge Of Collapse”, Zero Hedge, 21 January 2016).
It remains to be seen whether this disaffection engenders new questions of relevance to genuine “reform” — or whether radical creativity is systematically repressed by outdated conventional reactions. As a key player in the European Project, the French approach to any form of imaginative radical thinking is far from encouraging (Radical Innovators Beware — in the arts, sciences and philosophy: terrifying implications of radical new deradicalisation initiative in France, 2016). As the main promoters of the European Project, the tragedy is their conviction that they know unquestionably what is appropriate and have always known what is “right”. All that is “wrong” is the failure of others to agree with them. Seemingly there is a failure to recognize that if one does not know how one is part of the problem, one is unable to understand the nature of the solution required.
From that perspective, it is therefore completely unnecessary for new kinds of questions to be asked, however “wrong” events may prove the mindset to be. Is there any evidence that “radical” questions have been asked by the EU as an institution — especially having launched the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) in 2011? Are such questions valued or deprecated? Has any capacity to ask new kinds of questions been developed with respect to democratic governance?
As to the “ugly heart” of Europe, what of the extent to which the migration crisis has been triggered and exacerbated by simplistic economic arguments for the sale of arms by European countries to the countries from which migrants are thereby driven, as separately argued (Evaluating the Grossness of Gross Domestic Product: Refugees Per Kiloton (RPK) as a missing indicator? 2016). The binary framework is curiously mirrored by the definition of migrants as seeking to come from “out” to “in”. There is little consideration of how their numbers have been engendered by a perverse form of surrogate paternalism, nor of the non-binary nature of any diaspora (Affinity, Diaspora, Identity, Reunification, Return: reimagining possibilities of engaging with place and time, 2013).
In this context it is intriguing to note the almost complete lack of research on alternatives to democracy as currently conceived. This is exemplified by the slogan notoriously proclaimed by Margaret Thatcher: There Is No Alternative (TINA). Is it possible that the collapse of the European Project will be recognized by the future as due to a pathetic “failure of imagination” — as with the authoritative assessment of the intelligence failure which gave rise to 9/11?
The concern here is the extent to which this pattern is reinforced by 2-team ball games — like football, rugby, basketball, and the like — which are such a focus of popular attention, most notably through the media. Are there indeed no other approaches which might emerge from a minimal degree of investment in research on more complex forms of “democracy”?
Could such possibilities be explored with computer simulations — given their ever increasing sophistication with respect to strategic pattern detection in game playing? Why do international organizations make no effort whatsoever to encourage such research?
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