Engaging with Elusive Connectivity and Coherence
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 24 Dec 2018
Global Comprehension as a Mistaken Quest for Closure
Produced on the occasion of the unexpected riots of the Gilets Jaunes (“Yellow Vests”) throughout France, with images of Paris in flames, symbolically paralleled by a UN Climate Change Summit to implement the Paris Agreement
There is a curious confluence of disruptive dynamics in this period. These include the confusion surrounding the implementation of the UN Climate Change Agreement and that associated with the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — opposed by populist movements associated with right-wing agendas. Symptomatic of the disruption, and a symbol of a wider challenge to democratic processes, is the uprising in France by the Gilets Jaunes (“Yellow Vests”) — recently contained there by the “forces of law and order” who are themselves threatening their own uprising at the time of writing. This dynamic can be easily seen as modeling challenges faced by the European project as a whole. It can also be seen as indicating the forthcoming response to implementation of the Climate Change Agreement (Andrés Ortega, “Yellow Vests”: The First Rebellion Against the Ecological Transition, The Globalist, 4 December 2018).
A number of countries are now witness to similar internal dynamics, possibly characterized as “poisonously” divisive — as in the USA and the UK — curiously accompanied by political ambitions to “be great again”. To such processes it is appropriate to add the escalating USA-Russia and USA-China tensions, as well as the continuing regional conflicts and proxy wars, most notably in the Middle East. Other conflicts and challenges are foreseen in relation to resources. Also foreseen is yet another financial crisis as a consequence of issues unresolved since the previous occasion.
The following argument follows from a previous exercise in endevouring to reframe the divisive governmental response to “wings” in the political system, notably those deprecated as radical and extremist (Coordination of Wing Deployment and Folding in Politics: bird flight and landing as complementary metaphors of global strategic coherence, 2018). With respect to that metaphor, fruitful reflection is challenged by excessive value attached to being at the “leading edge” — deprecating those on the “trailing edge” — when both are essential to flight (Seeking the “Cutting Edge” of Sustainable Community, 1997) .
Significantly, the uprising of the Gilets Jaunes is giving rise to a truce period in which a national Grand Debat is being organized in France at all levels of society. It remains completely unclear whether the capacity for such dialogue can engender the coherence for which many hope. Specifically are the available skills for such diaogue adequate to the tasks or yet to be recognized as “not fit for purpose”?
That earlier document endeavoured to interrelate various threads, most notably the star symbols so systematically displayed on national flags before which leaders declaim their strategic ambitions. Such symbols lend themselves to visualization in three-dimensions as both “wings” and as “propellers”. The visualizations suggested the merit of re-imagining star-filled flags, such as the Flag of Europe, in order to determine whether they could be presented dynamically in 3D to indicate greater possibilities of collective empowerment such as to enable “lift off” and sustainable “flight” of psycho-social systems, as in the case of Europe. With respect to the gobal response to climate change, how is psycho-social “propulsion” to be understood otherwise — or is it dangerously assumed that no new thinking is required on such matters?
The argument here is based on the recognition that there is a major disconnect between what is highly valued as a symbol — whether articulated in terms of birds (eagles, etc) or stars — and the lived experience of many “on the ground”. In transcending partisan perspectives, such symbols would appear to be unrelated to the reality of partisan dynamics. There is considerable irony to the fact that many animals are valued as national symbols at a time when degradation of the environment is threatening their extinction — aside from any consideration of the biodiversity which the relations between those symbolic animals might otherwise imply.
The approach in what follows is to see the challenge as a challenge to collective imagination which can benefit from new metaphors (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts for Comprehension of Complex Psychosocial Dynamics, 2007; Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007; Global Challenge of the Global Challenge: ¿ In-quest of a decision-making framework appropriate to a world in crisis? 2016).
In the quest to elicit cognitive empowerment from fundamental symbols, threads which merit interweaving include: bird flight (as an inspiration for lift-off), propeller design (as a motivating force), the Triple Helix model of innovation (interrelating government, academia and business, for example), and visualization technology (offering insights into 3-dimensional dynamics). These threads were introduced with animations in the earlier document.
The challenge here is to take the argument further in the light of insights into engaging with the connectivity and coherence they so elusively imply. Specifically the concern is with how the quest for closure, as reflected in the strategic quest for sustainability, peace, and the resolution of various problems, may be mistaken as a quest for stasis consistent with the ill-adapted conventions of the “state” (nation state, state of the union, state of the world, state of the future), as previously argued (Dynamic Transformation of Static Reporting of Global Processes, 2013). The dynamics of the world would indeed appear to call for a form of process thinking.
However the additional twist to be explored is the possibility that insight is not “deliverable” statically as a product by new technology. Rather it is intimately associated with experimental and experiential engagement with such facilities. This can be seen as a feature of use of social media, exemplifying the early insight of Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Message, 1967).
Consistent with this perspective is the challenge of communicating coherence when the process of experiential engagement is necessary to any insight — only briefly to be “grasped”, as can be provocatively argued (Beyond Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities: learnings from sexual harassment as a metaphor, 1996). Expressed otherwise, the challenge of comprehension and coherence might be better framed as one of learning to dance — coming together and drifting apart
Unity, and the desperate collective quest for it, could better be understood as an illusion, with greater insight offered by liminality (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011; Living as an Imaginal Bridge between Worlds: global implications of “betwixt and between” and liminality, 2011). This frames the need to engage more fruitfully with incomprehension (Living with Incomprehension and Uncertainty: re-cognizing the varieties of non-comprehension and misunderstanding, 2012)
These issues are highlighted by the following argument and the constraining uses of current visualization technology — anticipating the future possibilities of virtual reality.
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