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Individual reframing of global investment of attention

Investing Attention Essential to Viable Growth (Part #11)

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The theme of a current issue of the New Scientist is the implication for society of ceasing to believe in God (World without God: what if everyone stopped believing tomorrow?, 3 May 2014). Curiously the issue includes an article presenting the case for an alternative to the "dark matter" in whose existence most physicists have long "believed" -- despite the lack of any evidence (Mordehai Milgrom, It's time to give up on dark matter, 6 May 2014; "Dark matter" doubters not silenced yet, World Science, 2 August 2007; Mordehai Milgrom, Does Dark Matter Really Exist?, Scientific American, August 2002).

Unfortunately the lead article by Graham Lawton (Losing Our Religion) might be usefully caricatured as "bad science meets bad theology" -- consistent with methodological inadequacies previously highlighted (Knowledge Processes Neglected by Science: insights from the crisis of science and belief, 2012). That impression is reinforced by the different ways the Milgrom piece is questionably reframed: Dark Destroyer: killing 27 percent of the Universe (on the contents page) and Forget Dark Matter: embrace my MOND theory instead (online title). Is science now to be recognized as a belief system analogous to religion?

In the spirit of the New Scientist question, however, it is appropriate to explore the implications for society of ceasing to believe in the global financial system -- and especially in the "dark matter" of trillions of public debt, for which no credible concrete proof is available from parties who could be accredited as disinterested. The justification for such an exploration is partly reinforced by belief in the market as God (Harvey Cox, The Market as God: living in the new dispensation, The Atlantic Monthly, 1 March 1999; Nick Anderson, The Market Is God, 7 June 2013; Cathy Lynn Grossman, Baylor Religion Survey reveals many see God steering economy, USA Today, 20 September 2011; Daniel M. Warner, An Essay on the Market as God: law, spirituality, and the eco-crisis, 2002; John H. Armstrong, The Market as God, 20 April 2010).

In the light of the much-publicized scientific argument of Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006), is it then appropriate to refocus his argument -- with that of the New Scientist -- and ask "what if everyone stopped believing in the market tomorrow"? Is the market also a "delusion"? Is a more generic understanding of "atheism" then required -- to include science itself? Is there the possibility of a strange form of conceptual Ponzi scheme in operation -- through which meaning is systematically sucked into unquestionable frameworks, whose further growth is thereby ensured?

The preceding argument highlights the manner in which the global financial system can be considered -- by the individual -- as engendered by the investment of personal attention. The individual has been persuaded to invest in its reality -- as might be argued from the perspective of social constructionism (Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge, 1967; Paul Watzlawick, The Invented Reality: how do we know what we believe we know? 1984). To the extent that money is itself symbolic of confidence, this too can be understood as a particular investment of attention in which the individual is "invited" to engage (Peter Koenig, 30 Lies About Money: liberating your life, liberating your money, 2003).

This framing then offers a way of comprehending "global" as being the degree of integrative comprehension that is meaningful to the individual -- effectively engendering globality, as can be variously explored (Psychosocial Implication of Without Within: enjoying going solar for oneself, 2013). The conventional physical nature of globality, so frequently emphasized, obscures its integrative, experiential and generative characteristics (Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997). From this perspective, the experience of global and local are entangled to a degree that merits continuing reflection -- especially in the light of the subtle insights offered by mathematics.

In these circumstances, individuals are as a free to perceive themselves, like the financiers of Wall Street, as Masters of the Universe (Kevin Roose, Masters of the Universe in the age of self-doubt, Fortune, 20 February 2014; Suzanne McGee, Chasing Goldman Sachs: how the Masters of the Universe melted Wall Street down, 2011). This corresponds curiously to the degree of closure (however premature) in the appreciation of astrophysicists regarding their comprehension of the tangible Universe and in that of theologians with respect to the intangible Universe. Appropriately the term has been exploited imaginatively by a media-gaming franchise: Masters of the Universe. This frames an opportunity for everyone, as separately argued (Being the Universe: a Metaphoric Frontier, 1999).

Understood in this way, various conceptual entities which are increasingly oppressive and disempowering (experienced as externalities), can be radically "reappropriated" by the individual as personal investments of attention -- from which the individual is potentially free to disinvest. It could of course be argued that the disinterest in practice of the majority of the population in these entities is itself an indication of the absence of their investment in them -- exemplified by the so-called democratic deficit, apathy and "disconnect".

These entities might include, for example:

  • Financial market: To what extent does this "exist" as a reality, other than in terms of the attention accorded to it? Rather than an external reality, is it not more fruitful for the individual to recognize its metaphorical nature implying an implicit reality through which attention of various kinds is mediated? As an elusive entity -- beyond the control and regulatory capacity of governments -- a case can be made for its function in defining and trading value in the subtlest terms (Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993). Is the individual then free to be understood as the elusive controller of the global financial market. How does an individual then speculate on such a market?
  • Stock exchange: Especially fruitful are the dynamics of a so-called stock exchange, usefully understood as mirroring an internal dynamic through which values are defined and "traded" -- through disinvesting and reinvesting attention. Does the individual operate a variety of stock exchanges which financial instruments and commodities are traded, as might be associated with a "values exchange" (Human Values "Stock Market": investing in "shares" in a "value market" of fundamental principles, 2006)
  • Vatican bank -- indulgences (Global Market in Indulgences: extending the carbon trading model to other value-based challenges, 2007)
  • Banking institutions: Is it fruitful for the individual to recognize how financial institutions (such as the World Bank, IMF, or central banks) mirror personal psychological processes, most notably whereby "interest rates" are set and "loans" are made with a degree of conditionality?
  • International community and Al-Qaida: Given the quality of concrete evidence for the existence of the "international community" or "Al-Qaida", to what extent can they be considered the carefully cultivated product of the collective imagination, as argued separately (Cultivating Global Strategic Fantasies of Choice: learnings from Islamic Al-Qaida and the Republican Tea Party movement, 2010)?

Framed in this way, what meaning is to be associated by the individual with public debt and the "trillions of dollars" said to be circulating globally under the control of elusive parties? The question is especially pertinent in a period in which there are indications of another major financial crash (Henry Blodget, Don't Be Surprised If This Is The Start Of A Stock Market Crash, Business Insider, 10 April 2014; David Zeiler, Black Monday Stock Market Crash Returns to Haunt 2014, Money Morning, 15 April 2014; Daniell Chamber, Warren Buffet Joins Economists Warning of Major Stock Market Crash in 2014, 2l March 2014). Are these precursor indicators of a more generic disaster, as might be argued (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009)?

Much more intriguing however is the sense in which the individual is effectively a nexus of investment of attention in what the financial community might choose to frame as a vast network of "holding companies". By this is meant that through deliberate investment of attention, whether conscious or unconscious, the individual is a majority shareholder (with a "controlling interest") in a wide variety of conceptual entities: dictionaries, religions, media empires, disciplines, military bases. This includes the military industrial complex, the international community, the network of terrorist organizations, organized crime, information surveillance systems, and the like.

In these terms, everyone is free to perceive themselves in archetypal and functional terms as a Warren Buffet, a George Soros, a Koch brother, or a Russian oligarch. Those such as Barack Obama, the Pope, the Dala Lama, or Vladimir Putin, are then to be understood cognitively as "puppets", "employees" or dramatis personae. The metaphor of an "evil vampire squid" was famously used to frame the Goldman Sachs empire (Matt Taibbi, The Great American Bubble Machine. Rolling Stone: Politics, 9 July 2009; Lee Banfield, The Most Famous Investment Banking Metaphor Ever Posted, Finance Business English, 23 January 2014). However every individual, through the attention invested, is now free to recognize their own intimate controlling involvement in the global enterprises in which "Goldman Sachs" is held to be influential.

Self-financing as key to health and wealth: The argument highlights the the manner in which wealth and and well-being are intimately related to confidence engendered by cognitive reappropriation of the tokens with which they can be associated. As a form of global integrative awareness, the integrity of this cognition can be explored as "wholth" (Wholth as Sustaining Dynamic of Health and Wealth: cognitive dynamics sustaining the meta-pattern that connects, 2013).

As an imaginative process of engagement with externalities, this renders comprehensible the possibility of being both "unimaginably wealthy" ("beyond one's wildest dreams") and unimaginably impoverished (consistent with the most profound depression). The interplay between these extremes is variously expressed, cultivated and transcended -- most notably through humour.

In a sense one is free to "issue one's own currency" as attention, to care for its circulation, as suggested from a variety of perspectives (Circulation of the Light: essential metaphor of global sustainability? 2010; Primary Global Reserve Currency: the Con? Cognitive implications of a prefix for sustainable confidelity, 2011; Enabling Moral Currency Circulation: reframing a stimulus package to avert moral bankruptcy, 2010).

At one extreme, the process may be framed from the perspective and rituals of a hermit or an intentional community, as argued by Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity: a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich, 2010). The inner wealth may be expressed aesthetically or through appropriating the complexity articulated by physics (Being a Poem in the Making: engendering a multiverse through musing, 2012).

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