Thursday, 4 September 2014

2. World conflicts are a reflection -and a result- of own internal conflicts

Looking at the world in the way I suggested in the first post, where it appears as a projection of ourselves, the question of whether there is an ordering principle is turned on its head.

The order we see in the world is an emergent structure that arises from recreating our own structures inside our minds into the relationships and the way we organize ourselves in groups and societies. 

The bigger the organizations are, the more we will instill in them an urge to build and express an identity and asserting their place in the world. We instinctively know they need strong bonds to ensure cohesion and a coordinated action. They'll express personality traits through symbols, imagery, processes and culture ('the way we do things here'), a physical presence (territories and buildings), boundaries (what's in and out), ways of managing money (or energy in the broader sense), a name, even declaring values and missions, with which we 'identify' ourselves.

We create organizations anthropomorphically because is what we know. In fact, the list of elements is not too dissimilar to how biologists describe essential elements of life.

As a direct consequence, they will also mirror all our most primal conflicts in their own collective behaviour:

  • Inferior versus superior thinking conflicts: What gives me the greatest changes of survival?
    • inferior: Survival, territorial, rigid -'reptilian thinking'; fight or fright response; repetition of patterns.
    • superior: full brain -emotional+rational-; collaboration; innovation and creativity.
      This is also related to our use of power and freedom, how much we use power ourselves and how much we surrender. This will be influenced by our primal hierarchy conflicts with our parents (overcoming the 'child status', the 'becoming' of self, etc.).
  • Left versus right conflict: How do I make decisions? (also female versus male, logic versus values, holistic thinking versus detailed analysis, etc).
Again, because we, individuals fear survival, the organizations to which we belong-as a collective entity- will too and will create defense mechanisms to protect their existence.
A nice example -which I chose just because they explained what had happened with words that are in line with this explanation- is the negative vote of women bishops in the Synoid of 2012 of the Anglican Church. In this case, not reaching consensus was a threat to the institution. 'Holding the church together' as expressed in the blog was a survival decision and not a decision based on values or logic, which fortunately came a couple of years later on with the eventual approval. The same is happening now in 2014 with the Catholic Church Synod that will debate family issues. Cardinal Kasper has described that some cardinals fear there will be a domino effect and that everything will collapse.

So organisations, that are entities we create collectively, feel fear through our collective fear. I fear that if the organisation collapse, I'll die too. The funny part is... that most of the times, we don't.

How much of the individual survives in a group

Throughout history, civilization has been driving 'superior' survival tactics, such as collaboration and innovation. It was only through these superior tactics that mankind could deal with their biggest threats and embark in bigger quests -as killing big animals-, therefore entering in a positive loop of evolution. In fact, there is no doubt that it was only through this collaboration and innovation that clean water and vaccines were made available widely and are responsible for the biggest improvements in human survival and longevity.   A very nice talk about this is given by Robert Wright with his  non-zero-sum theory (win-win). 

However many people working together does not mean they are collaborating in a way that respect each others individuality. And this debate is all over the place right now in every single conflict that is somehow debating the nature of unions. Of course United Kingdom is the best example as it is debating at the same time its role in the European Union, while Scotland is about to have a “yes/no” vote for independence. I am surprised however how little these two subjects have been related by the media and debated together in a more generic way. Not even Nigel Farage -who raised a critic voice about the weakening of the democratic system in Europe through pulling power away from people- engaged positively with the Scottish case, which is based on similar grounds.

Whose wish is it?” is in my opinion the key question to think about when a Union is taking an action. If it is truly a collective wish, it is a collaboration. When it is the wish of one made true by the strength (the libido) of all then, there is domination. In this case the leading force in the union becomes a 'devouring mother' -the one that feeds from the libido she steals from the children, depriving them of expressing their own identity-. Many fairy tales are based around this conflict, normally through the figure of the witch or the step-mother (representing the bad mother). In Europe, particularly after the Euro crisis, it was not at all uncommon to hear news saying things such as "these new developments in Greece are not what Angela Merkel wants". Even more, most presidential campaigns in France, particularly Hollande's, were based on an anti-Merkel rethoric, they spoke about her dominion -in fiscal policy- and the need to stand our ground in front of her/Berlin (funny enough, the bear, another mother symbol). 

There are a couple of points here. Even in domination, all (surviving) parts have been 'rewarded' at a survival level (eg not accepting this, it'll mean death to me). In every hierarchical structure there is a surrender of power and an acceptance to limit our own freedom. But of course, this seeds resentment in both parts involved (it has also a high cost for the dominating force) that sooner or later will be expressed.

But going back to the emergent structure point, this hierarchy issues exist because we are still in the process of individuation (separating from our mother discourse, discovering and expressing our own identity and reclaiming the power we had surrendered in fear and from the external discipline and law imposed by the father rule). I still find it quite ironic the fact that due obedience is normally not a legal argument of innocence as everyone is expected to act on its own moral ground, but in the case of Edward Snowden, it's also very clear how difficult is to act on due disobedience (freedom to disobey).

Unions of individuals

The other point is that expressing everyone's wishes efficiently and 'democratically' is a challenge. The whole of the Star Wars series goes around this (the senate of the Republic not being able to agree, allowing the rise of the Empire). True collaboration, the one that respects individuality requires many things... that we all know ourselves, that we are able to feed ourselves by our own libido and that we recognise and relate to the other with trust and empathy. There are many people talking about empathy -for example the whole of the Pink Floyd work (through Roger Waters lyrics) goes around this theme.

Left and right (feminine versus masculine, creation and purpose, etc) conflicts are becoming increasingly visible, particularly in the context of the evolving role of women in society, but also with the renewed debate of role of the state (feminine) versus the private sector (masculine), with the crisis of capitalism and so on.

The trickle up effect

We are living with these conflicts everyday in our lives and as a result they emerge at collective level.
For real change to happen, it will have to occur at every level, starting at the individual. Self knowledge can give new insights to our own behaviour as individuals as, ultimately, whenever we find ways to resolve these conflicts ourselves (our own fear, our own tolerance, our own freedom, our own exercise of power etc) we'll be contributing to the collective improvement. 

Self knowledge needs to go beyond the conscious level and explore the shadow -what we don't see, 'The Dark side of the moon'-, with all the light and darkness that comes with it. Engaging in recognising and naming our own bunch of emotions, ideas, blurred images and memories with words. The "verb" is our personal organizing principle. The architect of our consciousness and the architect of our relationships. What it is said, is. What was never said -good or bad- by ourselves or by the world waits in the shadow the moment we dare to look and even more, to name, to see, to integrate, to resolve.

AB - Feb 2013, re-edited Sep 2014

Robert Wright: the logic of non-zero sum progress. Ted talks

Jeremy Rifkin: The Empathic Civilisation

Steven Pinker: Language as a window into human nature. RSAnimate

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