Local Reality of Overcrowding — Global Unreality of Overpopulation

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 Feb 2019

Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Comprehensible Reframing of Engagement with Global Issues via Metaphors of Proximity

Introduction

18 Feb 2019 – A set of seemingly disparate issues are curiously entangled — whilst variously upheld as of both local and global significance. Most obvious are the attractions of migration for the desperate and the divisive impact on local communities — possibly framed as invasion or encroachment. Global urgency is claimed as a vital necessity in response to climate change — notably in the light of particular local disasters. Environmental degradation, pollution and loss of biodiversity are recognized as threats in their own right — but only by some.

The global economic system is claimed to be vulnerable to imminent failure and otherwise unfit for purpose. Inequality and local economic constraints call into question any preoccupation with issues framed globally — for those unable to meet their immediate survival needs locally. Access to resources, most obviously water, is becoming an ever more obvious concern — whether globally or locally. Threats to personal or national security are a major preoccupation — engendering both mutual suspicion and an accelerated arms race, with the challenge for some of full spectrum dominance.

With collapse variously anticipated, some cultivate alternative possibilities, some pursue business-as-usual, and others indulge in denial. The metaphor of rabbits on a road at night, caught in the headlights of oncoming vehicles, comes readily to mind.

The situation could be explored otherwise in the light of proxemics — the human experience of proximity in space — but extended beyond its immediate personal focus. Proxemics distinguishes degrees of proximity to the person — how individual humans use the space which immediately surrounds them. If only as a metaphor, the approach can be reframed in terms of degrees of proximity to the local, with any sense of globality then being the most distant extreme.

How “close” are global issues felt to be “in reality” — global warming, environmental degradation, etc — especially if they are too readily sensed as distant and “unreal”?? Curiously the significance of “global” can be recognized as being as elusive as that claimed with regard to the “local” implications for both deity and consensus, as argued separately (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011).

Proxemics could them offer clues to ways of articulating the response to threats experienced by communities locally, in contrast to those claimed to be of vital importance to the global community as a whole. Claims with regard to the latter are readily held to be unreal intellectual abstractions — even surreal — and therefore easily dismissed as having little experiential meaning.

There is the further possibility of a similar argument with respect to time (Karen Cerulo, Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006). Otherwise explored as chronemics, this would distinguish between cognitive engagement with the immediate present moment, the distant past (as with deep time) or the distant future. Such distinctions would include the historical past referenced to a degree in cultural memory, as well as the anticipated future — whether catastrophic or otherwise. The distinction explored between “overcrowding” and “overpopulation” also lends itself to interpretation in terms of the cognitive implications of information overload, whether for the individual or for civilization as a whole.

Given the lifestyle sacrifices already imposed upon many in France, the challenge could be seen as underlying the uprising there of the the Yellow Vests movement (Gilets Jaunes). This has been a response to the further economic measures planned by its president, Emmanuel Macron, to ensure an “ecological transition” consistent with the Climate Change Agreement (Engaging with Elusive Connectivity and Coherence, 2018; Multi-option Technical Facilitation of Public Debate: eliciting consensus nationally and internationally, 2019).

How should people now be expected to sacrifice themselves for a global cause, as is increasingly promoted as a necessity in response to forthcoming disaster? Is any such expectation a “set up” characteristic of past appeals to the general population — and despite their disastrous consequences and the evident inability to learn from them?

The argument concludes with reference to variants of a symbol fundamental to widespread understanding of governance — and the distinction made between global and local. Most evident is that of the ceremonial mace central to symbolic processes associated with authority, whether in parliaments, military parades, or religious institutions — as well as in the associated iconography. A variant is evident in the central role of the vajra in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Others are evident in the symbolic baton, staff of office, or royal sceptre. Appropriately such “mace-based governance” is now challenged from the perspective of locally marginalized “indigenous” populations, as remarkably argued by Stacie Swain (Armed with an Eagle Feather Against the Parliamentary Mace: a discussion of discourse on indigenous sovereignty and spirituality in a settler colonial Canada, 1990-2017, 2017).

However, rather than any emphasis on the primarily static function of the mace and its placement in such contexts, the argument stresses the dynamic implications symbolized to some degree in its use in “governance” of marching bands by a drum major — celebrated metaphorically in reference to Martin Luther King. The dynamic is emphasized to an even higher degree through the art of baton twirling, notably by drum majorettes. This complex of symbols is consistent with a separate argument (Governance as “juggling” — Juggling as “governance”: dynamics of braiding incommensurable insights for sustainable governance, 2018).

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