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Monkeying with Global Governance

Emergent dynamics of three wise monkeys in a knowledge-based society (Part #1)


Introduction
Monkeying with governance of an information society?
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
Cultivating a "filter bubble"
Designing systemic incommunicability into global institutions
Cultivating a culture of corporate irresponsibility
Studied ignorance: willful blindness and collective amnesia
Three "monkeys": legal pleas, modes of spin, or wise action
Confidence artistry as "monkeying"
Global organization complicity facilitated by circulation of individuals "in the know"
Reframing "monkeying" in terms of Knight's move patterns
Engendering confidence and identity within learning / action cycles
Learning through Hamiltonian cycles and pathways
Systemic avoidance in global governance and collective learning: the "fourth monkey"
Conclusion
References

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Introduction

Worldwide broadcasts on 19 July 2011 provided an unprecedented four hours of coverage of a meeting of the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport of the UK Parliament -- interviewing those primarily responsible for the governance of the world's major news organization. Through a subsidiary, this was recently implicated in a phone-hacking scandal of major proportions. Of particular concern to the Committee were the questionable relationships between that news organization, politicians at the very highest level, and the police force. The representatives had been summonsed to appear, having declined an earlier invitation.

It was recognized that the representatives of the news organization had been carefully briefed regarding their responses, especially since the scandal was the subject of several judicial inquiries. Their pattern of argument therefore merits careful attention in the light of its parallels to legal arguments in defence of questionable incidents in other arenas with implications for handling of information in relation to other forms of global governance. These include inquiries into the treatment of prisoners detained in relation to terrorism (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, etc) and the inquiries into the widespread clerical abuse of children in Catholic institutions. The development of insights here into a more general pattern, and its implications, is partially based on previous comment with respect to the latter case (Humanitarian Disaster or Act of God -- Dangerous Implication in Practice? 2011).

In commenting on the pattern of defence in all questionable incidents, this analysis uses the classic image of The Three Wise Monkeys as a metaphorical device -- hence the title. The three, and the associated proverb, are known throughout Asia and in the Western world. Appropriately they are used in commentary on corporate governance, as noted below -- raising questions as to the nature and implications of "monkeying around" as a framework for understanding misleadership (Emergence of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance of the future, 2007).

Together the monkeys embody the proverbial principle of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". To that end, one monkey covers his eyes, one covers his ears, and one covers his mouth. Occasionally a fourth monkey is variously depicted with the three others, symbolizing the principle of "do no evil". It is alleged that a notable exception to the lifestyle of non-possession of Mahatma Gandhi was a small statue of the three monkeys. Appropriate to the focus here on the information society, "don't be evil" is the informal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google (Pornpimol Kanchanalak, Searching for the fourth monkey in a corrupted world, The Nation, 21 April 2011)

It is especially noteworthy that the news organization implicated in the phone-hacking, the governments complicit in the questionable treatment of prisoners, and the religious institution with which child abuse was associated, all claim to be upholding the highest standards -- and indeed are articulate in their claims to exemplify the defence of those values.

Rather than associating "monkeys" pejoratively with individuals, or focusing on the wisdom which the three together are held to represent, the question here is whether as "information functions" they can be used -- in the light of the cases cited -- to understand the forms taken by "monkeying" with governance on a global scale. This is especially relevant given the surprising degree of complicity between institutions of global scale. The approach might then enhance insight into how the subtle principle, represented by the three wise monkeys, together can be more effectively embodied.

In concluding with an indication of emergent patterns for a learning society, the personal implications of the argument for engaging "wisely" with "global" dynamics are highlighted in the light of previous concerns (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).


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