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Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting: Challenge of transcendence

Uses bullfighting to frame alternative approaches to global governance.

Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting
Concerned recognition of collective "bull"
Token targeting of inhumanity through scapegoats
Complementary metaphors of governance
Comparison of metaphors
Cultural symbolism of the bull and bullfighting
Dilemma intrinsic to modern usage of "bull"
Dynamic collective illusion: partially sustained between the horns of a dilemma
Symbolism and the realm of the bull
Man-bull dynamic: engendering duende
Dynamic interplay of reality and illusion: matador's passes
Moment of truth: sacrificing the bull
Symbolic associations and clues
Transformation depicted by metaphorical geometry
Strategic implications for future global governance

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Produced on the occasion of Europe-wide elections to the European Parliament, an intensification of the campaign against bullfighting in Spain, an economic crisis endangering the bullfighting industry, the fatal goring of a matador, and a major policy address by Barack Obama on Middle East policy.


Bullfighting (or tauromachy) is considered by many to be a flagrant example of glorified indulgence in abhorrent human cruelty to animals and a highly problematic reflection on those who appreciate it. It is also considered by some to exemplify some of the highest values of humanity, notably courage, skill and elegance in the face of the immediate possibility of personal fatality. A bull is seen as the epitome of animal strength and courage, and much to be admired.

What follows is an exploration of how the challenges of global governance might be fruitfully understood through the lens of bullfighting -- through two complementary metaphors. In one, global governance is like the matador's manipulation and domination of the bull, accompanied by a degree of torture and slaughter (starvation, inhumane weapons, etc). In the other, it is change agents who are like the matador, faced with the irritable, dangerous animal of global governance. In the first, goverance is glorified through spin -- with its problematic consequences either reframed as honourable or carefully kept from public awareness. In the other, it is change agents who are glorified, but with little effective attention to sustaining the processes of governance that are jeopardized as a consequence of their action.

A valuable context for any such exploration is to be found in the cultural, even archetypal, significance of the bull over millennia. Bull mythology was widespread in the ancient world where it had been the subject of various cultural and religious incarnations -- now partly reflected in some neopagan cultures. Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice.

In the following metaphorical comparison, the significance of the "sacred bull" is seen as variously confused and semantically conflated through the appropriation and expression of the highest human values through "bull". The challenge is to understand how such values should be appropriately celebrated and under what conditions the "bull" should be "sacrificed". The current implications of the underlying archetypes are discussed thereafter, notably with regard to bullying, bullshit, bull-markets, financial bubbles, and to the dilemmas associated with globalization.

The deceptive illusion at the orgin of the financial crisis might be appropriately described in terms of the marketing "bull", as "marketing bullshit", through which toxic assets were repackaged and sold on. This in turn reinforced the inflated expectations of the bull market which sustained what has proven to be a financial bubble of catastrophic potential. Any such "bull", and the skills of "bullfighting" therefore merit attention.

These concerns are subsequently set within a mytho-poetic framework of potentially more fundamental significance for global strategies at this time. The preceding comparison (summarized in Annex 1) may however be considered in its own right, without that context.

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