Potential for Coherence through Engaging Strategic Poetry

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Nov 2021

Memorable Cycles of Subdivision Enabling Viable Governance

Introduction

Ever increasing quantities pose an ever increasing challenge for governance — its comprehension and its coherence. The matter can be clarified by the following somewhat simplistic exercise.

On the assumption that coherence and comprehensibilty are readily associated with a circle or a sphere, if only as symbols, the question can be initially framed as to how memorably these can be subdivided to reflect the quantities in question. The response could be contrasted with the unprecedented historical achievement of global consensus with regard to the desirability and viability of universal vaccination — together with any expectation of the necessity of such consensus in response to climate change and equivalent challenges.

The quantitative challenge of multiplicity readily invites a mode of organization relying on the configuration of building blocks of some kind — whether physical or conceptual — as in architecture down the centuries. Knowledge architecture can be recognized as following this pattern. The vast array of institutions, international or otherwise, can be seen in this light — ironically echoing past recognition of the angelic and demonic hierarchies, now deprecated by secular society.

The obvious difficulty is the rapid erosion of memorability as the complexity increases — and consequently the loss of coherence and credibility in practice, especially in a global context. Despite their privileged access to information tools, decision-makers are themselves handicapped in this respect. Any reference to governance “oversight” capacity is then especially ironic given its alternative meaning in relation to blindspots and “overlooking” — more appropriately understood as “undersight” or subunderstanding (Magoroh Maruyama, Peripheral Vision: polyocular vision or subunderstanding? Organization Studies, 25, 2004, 3).

There is then a strong case for radical approaches to mnemonic devices enabling such constraints to be circumvented or transcended — especially when there is a commitment to wider public comprehension of the challenges by which it is assumed that significant proportions of the population need to be actively engaged (Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity? Possibilities of reconciling the “headless hearts” to the “heartless heads”, 2018). Climate change offers only one example — especially now that the inadequacies of COP26 have echoed those of its predecessors (COP-26: UN SG Blasts Climate Agreement, Information Clearing House, 16 November 2021).

Is it really the case that the current approach to such challenges is to be upheld as the only way to proceed — to engage with a challenge which may be as much psycho-social as one of adjusting techno-economic responses? Following 26 “COPs”, the widely  cited quote attributed to Albert Einstein is appropriate: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Whether misattributed as claimed, it accords with the aphorism of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Could COP27 be otherwise? What could be missing in the all-too-familiar preoccupation with the political will to change (International Organizations and the Generation of the Will to Change, 1970)?

As variously argued separately, yet to be seriously explored is the complementary role of aesthetics in facilitating insightful engagement with complexity. There are particular merits to song, music and poetry in this respect (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006; Poetry-making and Policy-making: Arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993). It is especially intriguing how these render complexity comprehensible and memorable through rhyme and rhythm — even in the case of articulations of epic proportions. Strangely this facility is typically divorced from the recognition of the various cycles by which governance is now challenged.

There is a degree of precedence to such an exploration given the existential role previously accorded to sacred music and martial music — most obviously with respect to the controversial role of mobilization. As currently understood, these are now to be deemed of questionable relevance to the challenges of global governance — other than for ceremonial purposes, or when articulated as a feature of an archetypal war between good and evil.

The concern in what follows is with the form which “strategic poetry” might fruitfully take in the future. Expressed otherwise, it is the question of whether viable strategy uptake is dependent on its embodiment in poetic form to render it memorable, meaningful and engaging. Aspects of the question are evident in increasing recognition of the choice of metaphor in framing and eliciting such engagement, exemplified by figures of speech (Questionable Classification of Figures of Speech as fundamental to the need for powerful rhetoric in governance, 2016).

This implies a radical contrast from the extremes of the “heartless heads” (exemplified by conventional approaches to strategy) and those of the “headless hearts” (exemplified by a variety of forms of aesthetic indulgence). In either case, such exemplification is curiously dependent on cultivation of simplistic tone-of-voice — itself potentially alienating to many (Varieties of Tone of Voice and Engagement with Global Strategy: alternating between a requisite variety of voices to engender coherence? 2020). By what should the “heads” and the “hearts” be appropriately challenged at this time — and by what form of “joined-up-thinking” should it be articulated? Recalling Emperor Nero, each could indeed be recognized as “fiddling” by the other “while the world burns” (Michael Ray, Did Nero Really Fiddle as Rome Burned? Encyclopedia Britannica; Spike-endowed Global Civilization as COVID-19: humanity ‘bristles” as the world “burns”, 2020).

Strategic poetry could recognize the opportunity seemingly missed in relation to the recent tragic interventions in the Middle East over decades (Poetic Engagement with Afghanistan, Caucasus and Iran an unexplored strategic opportunity? 2009; Strategic Jousting through Poetic Wrestling: aesthetic reframing of the clash of civilizations, 2009). The same could be true with respect to any confrontation with China, as might be inferred from the study of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999), as discussed separately (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).

The more general concern is with the value of poetry-making to global sense-making — to ensure the coherent presentation of complex decision-making, as previously discussed. This specifically follows from a preceding review (Comparable Modalities of Aesthetics, Logic and Dialogue — in the light of correspondences between their polyhedral representation, 2021). This focused in particular on the curious incidence of patterns of 14-foldness as a means for many to articulate coherence of a higher order (Pattern of 14-foldness as an Implicit Organizing Principle for Governance? Web resources, 2021). This is notably exemplified by the standard 14-line sonnet most widely appreciated in the works of William Shakespeare.

Given the increasingly widespread appreciation of the relevance of artificial intelligence to governance, it is most curious to note the potential relevance of an unusual modelling initiative (Alex Woodie ‘Deep-Speare’ Emulates the Bard with AI, Datanami, 1 August 2018; Jey Han Lau, Trevor Cohn, Timothy Baldwin, Julian Brooke, and Adam Hammond. Deep-speare: A joint neural model of poetic language, meter and rhyme, Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Long Papers), 2018). The approach has been summarized by the authors as This AI Poet Mastered Rhythm, Rhyme, and Natural Language to write like Shakespeare (IEEE Spectrum, 30 April 2020). It suggests a means of transforming alienating articulations of global strategy into attractive memorable form characterized by higher orders of coherence.

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