• Posted: Nov 06, 2013 14:16:43
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Very disturbing what happened to two French journalists this past weekend in Mali. Though warned by Malian authorities of danger, they proceeded to attempt interviewing Tuareg separatists, hoping to better understand their point of view. Following one such interview, they were kidnapped and almost immediately executed, their bullet riddled bodies left beside the road. What is disturbing is the response they got for their efforts. They were attempting to understand, to figure a way to include, recognize, and accommodate so that, in some manner, peace might replace violence and suffering for both the Tuareg and Malian people. What they got for their efforts was brutal death, though some say not by Tuareg hands, but by al-Qaida inspired Islamist infiltrators.
There is a school of thought that subjugation and restraint are the most efficient and sustaining ways to achieve peace for all concerned. The Syrian regime is attempting to use that method. So are the Taliban in Afghanistan. And by most indications, so are militant Islamists and the Christian right. The problem for such monolithic systems is that it is in the nature of individuals to seek differentiation from those around them. They may gather into groups with similar outlook, but even within those groups individuals seek to distinguish themselves. For instance, Tuareg separatists in Mali are attempting to break free of restraint imposed by greater Mali on their individuality as a people. And so it is with the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, with the Palestinians, with the Jews during WWII, with the Roma, with the Uighurs, with the Aborigines in Australia, and with the Tibetans. Even within the U.S., Blacks, Native Americans, and now Hispanics have been made to feel singled out, isolated, and persecuted as "unworthy" of full inclusion. So, what then is a system of government and economy that both allows for the differentiation of individuals and groups, yet preserves some type of accommodating and coordinating harmony amongst those differentiated individuals and groups? Is there one? Or, is continuously renewing, ever more brutally violent conflict inevitable?
Instead of going through a list of possible government and economic systems, or even of religions, let's start from a list of human needs. Let's start from the need for humans to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Let's then add the need for humans to work together, to cooperate and coordinate their activities for the sustainment and betterment of all. Finally, let's add the physical reality that whatever actions humans take, there are going to be consequences, some perhaps good, others provably bad. What kind of government/economic system might we devise that accommodates all three of those constraints?
Oddly, human pastimes might provide a better model for what we seek than any system that's been tried so far. Take, for instance, the image above. By category, by class, the image is a landscape. Landscape is a form within the world of art, a kind of game artists play. The form implies a set of rules that all landscape paintings or pictures must adhere to. Namely, the subject must primarily be land. It might include sky or water or even animals, birds, or evidence of people, but it must at base be about land. The rules offer constraint but they also offer extremely wide latitude for how one might play the landscape game and distinguish one's self as an individual artist. Literature and music also offer forms, little games to be played by both writers and musicians, like haiku, sonnet, and novel, string quartet, concerto, and opera, wherein artists might distinguish themselves as individuals, yet collectively participate in efforts to explore a given form. The world of sport offers forms too, like baseball and basketball, giant slalom and Formula 1. The point is, in each case, people have gotten together to set rules for themselves to follow in the pursuit of distinguishing individual or group achievement. In most cases, anyone willing to follow the rules may play. And in most cases, the consequences are both intended and constrained. People and animals are to stay safe from harm, and the integrity of the environment is to be preserved. Beyond that, individual fulfillment is the game, within the constraints of one's talent and resources for whatever gain one might achieve.
Now, would it be possible to design governments that act like the originators of art forms and sporting games? Could governments design forms within which its citizens might healthfully and profitably act out their lives? And might those forms be so well designed that the consequences for society as a whole are both sustaining and preserving of the environment? And might those forms be so open and inclusive and satisfying to pursue that no individual or group feels oppressed or excluded, nor feels the need to disrupt and destroy?
And now, so might you.
Certainly, within modern societies some forms of the type we've envisioned already exist. International trade agreements are one example. Central banks that control the means of exchange are another. Stock exchanges are yet another. The much maligned Obamacare in the U.S. is an attempt to set up a form for the financing and delivery of health services. The Food and Drug Administration is an attempt to ensure food and drug safety and efficacy. The licensing and setting of professional standards, as in the medical profession, is a kind of form. So is the licensing and testing of drivers, and the setting of standards for use of the roads. Building construction standards are a form. And so are democratic constitutions.
The problem with all these modern governmental forms is both their understandability and their effectiveness in meeting the constraints we have set for ourselves. In other words, to the average citizen their reasons for being are often obscured and they end up looking and acting like fortresses meant to protect a privileged class of people. Thus again, we have exclusion and repression, often followed by corruption and finally revolution. And few of these modern forms address our constraint that the environment be preserved.
No, we still have quite a bit of work to do to establish governments and economies that work effectively for all people and for the environment. May the simple elegance of sporting and artistic forms inspire all of us to something better, something that brings truly sustainable peace to our planet.
Sunday, October 20th, 2013
NIKON 1 V1
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