Towards engaging appropriately with time (Part #1)
Prepared on the occasion of political upheaval in Arab countries, potential destabilization of Europe through default on public debt in Greece and other eurozone countries, problematic military outcomes in Afghanistan and Libya, and failed response to climate change challenges
The assumption is readily and naturally made that global society is "governable", just as the assumption is made with regard to individual countries and local authorities. This assumption is fundamental to many strategic initiatives with global intentions. It is quite unclear whether the assumption is valid or has been adequately explored. It is however very clear that there is every indication, from the track record of initiatives and policy frameworks, that current approaches to governance are less than adequate to the challenges foreseen and those whose possibility is suspected.
Any argument implying inherent ungovernability is of course considered questionable in the light of the relative stability of many governments and the relative success of some strategic initiatives, whether global, regional or national -- namely their viability in the relatively short-term. The possibility that such relative success may be obscuring fundamental weaknesses and incapacity -- in the longer term -- is therefore readily denied.
The possibility of intrinsic "ungovernability" of systems as complex as global society is further increased by arguments relating to abuse of power and indications of misleadership, as previously discussed (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009; Emergence of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance of the future? 2007).
To these may be added the question of collective inability to comprehend or explain the phenomena with which governance is expected to deal (Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected, 2010). Perhaps even more problematic is, not only the assumption that a degree of consensus can be achieved to enable sustainable governance, but that the very nature of any such consensus may be a fundamental delusion, however assiduously cultivated (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011).
Curiously these questions at a global level are echoed in the crises widely experienced at the family level. There are many conflicting recommendations as to how a family should be "governed" for the good of all. It is however evident that, whether or not these are effectively implemented, the incidence of family breakdown, domestic violence, and alienated youth, are all indicative of a challenge to the capacity of governance -- even within the families of the governors. (Divorce rates data, 1858 to now, The Guardian, 18 February 2011; US Census Bureau, Census Bureau Reports 64 Percent Increase in Number of Children Living with a Grandparent Over Last Two Decades, 29 June 2011). As described for the UK, traditional concepts of the family have disintegrated; marriage rarely comes first and increasingly does not happen. Levels of cohabitation have trebled, the number of babies born outside marriage has quintupled, and the number of single-parent families has trebled (Madeleine Bunting, Family Fortunes, The Guardian, 25 September 2004).
Further considerations relating to the following argument have been developed in a complementary document (Strategic Embodiment of Time: configuring questions fundamental to change, 2010).