Reframing the Art of Non-Decision-Making
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 9 Jan 2017
and the Manipulation of Global Categories
Substantive revision of The Art of Non-Decision-Making — and the manipulation of categories (1997)
9 Jan 2017 – It has become strikingly evident that most major international conferences and summits have become exercises in non-decision-making. Indeed, as encouraged by “question avoidance”, decision avoidance has become an art form in its own right (Question Avoidance, Evasion, Aversion and Phobia: why we are unable to escape from traps, 2006).
The need to review a document of 20 years past, and the framing it offered then, has become even more evident in the light of a complex of issues with which the international community is variously faced. Examples include the incoherence of decision-making with regard to migration, in a period when those attracting the refugees tend to be the major producers of weaponry engendering the claims for asylum, as separately argued (Evaluating the Grossness of Gross Domestic Product: Refugees Per Kiloton (RPK) as a missing indicator? 2015).
Equally striking is the inability to respond effectively to increasing levels of urban violence and petty crime (Global Incomprehension of Increasing Violence: matching incapacity to question the reason why, 2016). This is curiously complemented by use of human rights provisions to constrain decision-making against disruption of civil society — matched by increasing disassociation from such provisions (Cultivating the Myth of Human Equality: ignoring complicity in the contradictions thereby engendered, 2016).
The unresolved issues of income inequality have been highlighted by the chairman of the corporation implicated in a worldwide emissions scandal — a corporation which has been an icon of the UN Global Compact (Former Volkswagen Chief Martin Winterkorn Could Receive €60m Payoff, Wall Street Journal, 24 September 2015). Similar inability to make systemic connections (“to connect the dots”) is evident in countries proudly announcing their increased automobile sales at a time when their major cities are obliged to take extreme measures with respect to their use because of air pollution — irrespective of any commitments to issues of climate change.
Reference is increasingly made to the need for “joined-up thinking“, and the failure to engage in it (Simon Caulkin, Why things fell apart for joined-up thinking, The Guardian, 26 February 2006). This is perhaps further exemplified by the strange complementarity between the reliance on the fiat money created for quantitatve easing and the deprecation of fake news seemingly essential to governance in a post-truth era.
In 1997 the clearest examples of such difficulties were provided by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+5”), the Group of Seven – “plus-a-half” (Denver), and the major European Union conference on institutional reform (Amsterdam). There is little difficulty in citing equivalent examples from earlier years — of which the responses to the crisis in Bosnia are possibly the most painful. Arguably the decision-making capacity of global governance has however deteriorated significantly over two decades, as evidenced by the unforeseen rise of populism challenging conventional modalities.
Much intellectual effort has gone into the process of “decision-making“. There are libraries of books and documents on the matter. Little attention has however been devoted to non-decision-making processes — the process of not deciding. As possibly the prime mode of response of the international community, it merits some attention if it is not to be challenged otherwise (International Community as God or Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Strategic chaos in the absence of an interlocking temporal pattern of longer-term cyclic processes, 2015).
In the reframing of the earlier focus endeavoured here, the concern is with identifying new ways of thinking about the “art” of non-decision-making — whether through metaphor or otherwise. These are presented in sections below appended to those of the earlier argument. Rather than the satirical reference to “art” in the earlier argument, the question addressed in this “reframing” is whether there are indeed subtler dimensions to the coherence of that process which merit consideration, most probably in aesthetic terms, as more recently argued (Meaningful Configuration Engendered only by Tacit Aesthetic Entanglement, 2016).
The hidden door to global transformation may well be “through” that to which attention is least accorded. As with many forms of creativity, the art of change may prove to be subject to strangely aesthetic constraints — unrelated to conscious decision-making. This would seem to be consistent with the level of attention now given to the surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” (‘Surreal’ declared Merriam-Webster’s 2016 word of the year, Reuters, 22 December 2016).
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