Philosophy Psychology

Global Conflict: Time to Grow Up

Peace is a presence of conspicuous by its absence.

While it may be low-hanging fruit and all references to it may be quite akin to stating the bleeding obvious, there is a distinct lack of unity in the world: wars, political dissonance, conflict, sabre-rattling and a thousand different flavours of internecine anger or paranoid fear. What might be somewhat less obvious in such an observation of manifest disunity is that this apparently ubiquitous and yawning abyss in what might otherwise be the living tapestry of shared human experience is not what it at first appears to be. There is a very real sense in which the dissonant and very often dissociative or alienating lack of unity is actually the unity, peace and Global harmony we could (and should) seek, if only we were able to see it with eyes and minds that were fully open, or as open as we might ever make them.

Taking the low-hanging fruit of such a starkly obvious disunity and fermenting it, distilling it into the fine spirit of detente and peaceful dialogue or cooperative metamorphosis is not impossible. Consider that this omnipresent vacuum of unity does not represent the inevitability of decay, disorder or of global socioeconomic or political systems self-propagation through entropy into catastrophe and desolation. The vacuum and void at the distributed center of (all) our global systems represents an implicit incompleteness and openness that, while it is quite native to the natural order and flow of information and energy around us, only ever and truly becomes disastrous as a consequence of the failure of human cognition, communication and culture to accommodate this uncloseable circle within its conceptual vocabularies.

We find ourselves inhabiting a shared enigma that, mischievously and in some ways problematically, inhabits us. All of our languages and grammars of behavioural expectation or the causality (and teleology) driven facets of reflexively self-defining psychological and cognitive aspirations towards wholeness, completeness and certainty lead us to instinctively cast out the possibility of personal or tribal incoherence, inconsistency and ambiguity. The enigma here is that in directly and dismissively or even inadvertently disregarding the foundational and irreducible incompleteness and openness of ourselves and the natural systems of which we are part, we actually ensure that the human world remains incomplete, volatile, fragile and profoundly prone to decay and disorder.

The admission of personal or collective insecurity or fragility has been cast as something of a mortal sin in most cultural vocabularies. We possess intuitions regarding the nature and presence of self-identity and the cultural mirrors or hyper-extensions of those selves that are grounded in somewhat illusory axioms and tautological logics of a certainty displaced into the alleged self-evidence of history. In fact, observe how the majority of adversarial claims and contexts are built upon the shifting sands of historical self-identity and aspirations to define and control the narratives regarding, and putative significance of, precisely these retrospective fictions. Things have certainly happened in the past and these things have also most certainy shaped the present but take careful note thatthere is no one, singular or definitive way to render those pasts – it is merely that those that ascribe to and celebrate a certainty or existential anchor of assured self-identity appear to be the ones that most rapidly and assuredly percolate into ascendance. This itself is a reflection, again, of a reflexive insecurity that projects, asserts and expects to find some form of closure and boundary or border within, as and from one’s own self through which to understand difference and identity.

If it is not already obvious to you that the beating heart of the overwhelming troubles of our world – as ideology, politics and all both good and bad that these things create – is a deep and troubled psychological entanglement, stop for a moment to consider it. Beyond being purely psychological as a consequence of cognition or (even) biological necessity, there is a deeper and simpler – yet complex – abstraction here. We might quite readily represent the sum total of all conflicts and futile bickering as being little more than the persistent neuroses of a civilisation that is unable (or – in many case unwilling) to step beyond the self-organisational symmetries and emergent complexities of anachronistic patterns of behaviour which may once have been valid but are now clung to because we assume they are correct or inflate some kind of normative and conventional ways of life and being. The underlying suggestion here is that these mystifying and seemingly intractable obsessions of our species with largely fictional past glories by and through which we only ever seem to generate future catastrophes – these are the human filter and interpretation of an endemic, global and irreducible emptiness and existential vacuum that, in asserting the certainty and self-enclosed logics we are prone to, only ever cause dissonance and disaster.

It is, further, of the nature of any neurosis worth its weight in regret to endlessly reproduce the conditions by which its own sustainable continuity and environmental tenure are assured. Pick a conflict, any conflict, and observe how it is exactly the forms of self-definition and psychological or cultural identity that are reinforced and validated through belligerence that are reproduced by that fighting, disagreement, argument and partisan turbulence. This itself is a rabbit-hole that could be abseiled down for many years and as much evidence or validation for the position as anyone could ever require to be satisfied as to the truth of my assertions could be gathered, collated, refined and presented to a world that would only very likely immediately dismiss the revelations about itself as unnecessary or trivial. You can understand this disavowal of core fragility and insecurity as a recurring pattern in the dismissal of substantive engagements with Global disunity as the nature of the problem we all face here – it is the game that plays itself by rules it invents and in its own hollow tautologies of self-validation, can barely if ever see anything beyond the shallows in which it paddles.

The saving grace of any and all aspirations towards engendering intelligent engagement with global conflict is that from a contemporary perspective, disunity and globally-distributed psychological or cultural discontinuity represent something deeper and more profound than the relatively simple human troubles, tragedies and confusion we know it as. The distributed vacuum of unity is a manifestation of a deeper logical principle of holistic, global systems self-containment and that which is only ever instanced as a presence of absence. The fact is that while we human beings may never be, beyond the grandiose aspirations of self-inflected ego that we all seem to so endless suffer under, clever enough to fully understand the manifest complexity of our world – it is precisely in the orientation and bias of our endeavour towards it that we discover that it is not a thing that can ever be fully understood and that by reflexive necessity we ourselves must always and ever be incomplete, less than perfect and eminently, intractably insecure. Should we choose to embrace our insecurities as foundational and cast aside all hope for self-knowledge? This is a false dichotomy – it is only ever through the endlessly-extensible systems of knowledge and self-knowledge that we cultivate meaning or purpose. Time to grow up, I think, but so few (as so many) are prepared to do it.

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