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Gaia: default global governor of last resort?


Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors (Part #17)


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The challenge of global governance has been variously understood and articulated in many settings. Many international institutions are variously engaged in response to that challenge, especially after having reduced it to particular priorities framed by their respective mandates.

It is increasingly clear that the array of institutions and networks is far from responding to the challenge in a timely or adequate manner. The requisite variety of approaches, in cybernetic terms, has either not yet emerged or is severely handicapped in its ability to act globally in a coherent manner. In a sense there is as yet no "global identique" or any operational understanding of what it requires of global governance. The relevant analyses are those of Jared Diamond (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2005) and Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, 2005).

There is a saying in French: si on ne s'occupe pas de la politique, la politique s'occupera de vous, which could be translated as: if one does not concern oneself with politics, politics will concern itself with you. The question might be asked with respect to the subtleties of global governance of a complex system.

Taken as strange attractors, the pantheon of deities presented as metaphors above, might be understood as calling for "due regard". What is the due regard variously expected by the gods? At a time when the need for constraints on human proclivities is increasingly recognized, what are the specific "sacrifices" which each dynamic system requires for its stability? Of particular interest with respect to the global system as a whole, with which the deity Gaia has been tentatively associated, is how the above saying might be rephrased -- perhaps as:

If one does not concern oneself with Gaia, Gaia will concern herself with you.

What then is the due regard expected by Gaia? Much has been written about this by the environmental movement. It is clear from the accelerating depredation of the environment, that the response is not only inadequate but that nothing in the global strategic pipeline is likely to offer more than a token response. The current fashionable focus on "climate change" can be seen as merely a device for avoiding the issues of "unchecked population expansion" and "unsustainable economic growth" which will continue to aggravate that depredation. Many cultural traditions have stories regarding the attitudes of the gods to merely token regard.

With respect to "deity", there is a delightful irony to the exposure given to the controversial study by scientist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006). With respect to the deities discussed here as strange attractors, any delusions with regard to them, or to Gaia, are irrelevant to the dynamics that they can engender -- however humanity chooses to take cognizance of them or not.

The point to be made here is that the attractors represented by deities in a pantheon are essentially impersonal in their dynamic operation -- however intimately they may appear to be related to particular values. Those values are then best understood in terms of systemic health rather than the health of particular individuals, collectivities, species or ecosystems.

As clarified in many traditional tales, due care and attention is appropriate to the complex dynamic systems with which deities may be associated for mnemonic purposes. Those deities may indeed then give the appearance of responding "benevolently" -- ensuring a life of abundance and plenty. There is a charming irony to the manner in which supposedly ignorant peoples superstitiously associate "deities" with their households, ponds or fields -- given that this elicits the kind of due regard which ensurs the appropriate maintenance of complex systems. Deities may then indeed be understood as "peaceful", following the Tibetan terminology. The challenge of global governance is to ensure that appropriate attention is paid to the complex systems with which the deities have been associated -- preferably to ensure the emergence of a system of higher negentropy.

It appears however to be of relatively little significance to Gaia whether human global governance gets its act together in dancing with the various strange attractors that constitute the dynamics of the globe. Gaia is indeed the default governor of last resort and is completely capable of activating dynamics that will overcome any constraints on the emergence of a system of a different order. Humanity is free to be part of the problem (which Gaia will solve) or part of the solution.

The challenge for humanity is that if it does not understand how it is part of the problem, it is necessarily challenged in understanding the nature of the solution that may then be required -- with the intervention of Gaia. There is indeed an elegance to the manner in which Gaia can conscript dysfunctional human agendas -- such as those exacerbating illness -- to constrain the impact of humanity on the system as a whole. Thus "climate change" is merely one of Gaia's devices for correcting systemic imbalance.

It is in this sense that the "peacefulness" or "wrathfulness" of the deities (of the Tibetan Book of the Dead) is truly an illusion in the Buddhist sense rather than in that offered by Richard Dawkins. The Wrathful Deities are really the Peaceful Deities in disguise, their dark and seemingly "malevolent" side manifesting as a consequence of humanity's inappropriateness. The complex attractors of the pantheon, through which due regard may be paid to Gaia, can readily shift into that slightly different mode -- should humanity fail to dance appropriately with them. It is humanity that effectively evokes such malevolence through systemic neglect.

It is in this sense, following the intuitive prophecies of many traditions, that Gaia is effectively now being called upon by humanity to intervene as global governor of last resort -- given the evident systemic incompetence of humanity in that respect. It is in this sense that the deities will shift into a "wrathful" mode. The prophesied "Four Horsemen" of the Apocalypse might then be understood as strange attractors functioning otherwise -- possibly to be usefully represented by particular polyhedra (Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon: a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004; Towards a Logico-mathematical Formalization of "Sin": fundamental memetic organization of faith-based governance strategies, 2004 ).

As the deities shift into their wrathful mode, there are learnings to be derived from the systemic patterns that sustain their distinct coherence. As mapped by the polyhedral nets, these may be wisdom narratives or vital systemic feedback loops. These may become clearer in their negative manifestation than in their positive form. As is well-recognized on death row, there is nothing like imminent painful demise to sharpen the mind.

See an extensive comment on the above from the perspective of the complexity sciences,
by Chris Lucas (The Complexity and Artificial Life Research Concept for Self-Organizing Systems)

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