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Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering

Credit crunch focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset (Part #1)


Introduction
Hope-mongering: blowing bubbles of confidence and trustworthiness
Varieties of hope-mongering
God as a focus of hope-mongering
Incitement to sacrifice as hope-mongering
Hope-mongering in expectation of intangible values
Technical hope-mongering
Military and security hope-mongering
Mis-selling and misrepresentation as hope-mongering
Political hope-mongering
Systemic hope-mongering
Hope-mongering by the financial system
Luck: gambling and lottery hope-mongering
Hope-mongering through postponing fulfillment
Relationship hope-mongering
Hope-mongering through distraction
Hope-mongering through reframing
Exceptionalism as hope-mongering
Dangerous neglect of underlying patterns
Overpopulation shunning mindset: the most dangerous form of hope-mongering?
Conclusion

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Introduction

The drama of the financial crisis and "credit crunch" -- sufficient cause for grave concern -- is presented here as exemplifying underlying cognitive patterns that should be cause for even greater concern. It presents a case for looking at environmental overshoot "through" the cognitive framework of the financial system -- the systemic role of its actors, instruments, concepts and dynamics, as well as how long and short-term risk is managed in a context of both fear and hope-mongering, as engendered by fact and rumour, and variously exploited. [The implications are also explored in a subsequent document: Systemic Crises as Keys to Systemic Remedies: a metaphorical Rosetta Stone for future strategy? (2008)]

As what history may see as a foretaste, the financial crisis is therefore to be understood as a magnificent, only too realistic, metaphor of institutionalized approaches to international risk management at this time, notably as articulated just before the full crisis in The Economist (Confessions of a Risk Manager, 9 August 2008). Despite the overshoot possibilities indicated by the Club of Rome in Limits to Growth (1972), the opening sentences read:

In January 2007, the world looked almost riskless. At the beginning of that year I gathered my team for an off-site meeting to identify our top five risks for the coming 12 months. We were paid to think about the downsides but it was hard to see where the problems would come from. Four years of falling credit spreads, low interest rates, virtually no defaults in our loan portfolio and historically low volatility levels: it was the most benign risk environment we had seen in 20 years.

The remedies to emergent crises, as failures of risk management, may also be seen as metaphors of strategic propensities. In this case emphasis has been placed on "injection" of liquidity from a source that in some ill-defined way is "meta" to the system in crisis -- a curious term in a society with a pervasive drug problem in which "injection" may indeed be framed as a remedy. More curious is the widespread belief that humanity can be "bailed out" by extra-systemic processes, whether by "God" (framed by some as the "opium of the people") or by "human ingenuity" (of the quality that gave rise to the crisis in the derivatives market). These issues are epitomized by the fact that there is indeed a risk that the next president of the country exemplifying these propensities will be someone who welcomes the possibility of complete civilizational collapse as a means of evoking a divine "bailout".

Much is made of doom-mongering -- of which the legendary Greek Casandra is confusingly proposed as an archetype, embodied in such terms as Casandra Syndrome. This label is applied in situations in which valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved. Such situations are readily, and even deliberately, confused with situations in which articulating warnings is used to attract attention and to manipulate others to the advantage of the doom-monger. This is epitomized by the tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. It has notably been used to justify budgets for large public projects, ranging from defence to physics experiments.

In both situations people are challenged to work out what credibility is to be given to the warnings. This challenge is exemplified in the current promotion of terrorism as a threat -- supposedly exceeding in significance many other situations faced by humanity and the planet (Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). Casandra, given her knowledge of future events, has effectively be taken up as the mascot of the international futures movement for such reasons.

The focus here is on a complementary challenge, however, namely how to determine the credibility of those who engage in hope-mongering for which there is no convenient Greek archetype, nor any well-remembered tales -- although the tailors in the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes might be understood to exemplify the activity of hope-mongerers. Hope-mongering may of course be used as a counter-measure to the doom-mongering of modern Casandras.

Politics of fear: Sustainable hope vs Sustainable development?
Long after the real threat of German invasion had passed, Churchill kept alive a pretence. He knew that defence against descending Nazi hordes sustained the illusion of useful activity among millions of British citizens who might otherwise have slumped into despondency and inertia.
(Max Hastings, The Guardian, 29 September 2008)
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(Max Hastings, The Guardian, 29 September 2008)

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