Interrelating Multiple Ways of Looking at a Crisis
It is extraordinary to note that the current period is witness to a singular way of looking at a crisis. In this case the challenge is the pandemic. The one way of looking that has emerged as an absolute global necessity is universal vaccination. Informed by “science”, every effort is now made to ensure that all authorities reinforce this modality and that any other way is depicted as ridiculous, if not dangerous — to be eradicated by any means possible.
The attitude is well exemplified by the TINA declaration of UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: There Is No Alternative, or that of the President of the USA (Bush: ‘You Are Either With Us, Or With the Terrorists’, Voice of America, 21 September 2011). Unfortunately there is no evidence whatsoever that “being right” offers a viable remedy to the challenges of global governance.
The pattern is the subject of a study by Edward de Bono (I Am Right, You Are Wrong: from this to the New Renaissance, 1968). Its alternative title is especially relevant to the quality of thinking only too evident with respect to the pandemic (From Rock Logic to Water Logic, 1968). The relegation of any alternative perspective to “wrong” could then be understood as a form of fundamental commitment to binary thinking in which the primary objective is to eradicate the other perspective. This is of course fundamental to the separation of “good” and “evil” cultivated by religions. It is echoed in the promotion of the “positive” at all costs — with a desperate effort to eliminate the “negative”, as argued by Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-sided: how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America, 2009).
The distinction is of course fundamental to engagement in warfare and is curiously echoed in many ball games with the objective of crushing the opponent triumphantly. There is little interest in 3-way or 4-way ball-games, for example (Destabilizing Multipolar Society through Binary Decision-making: alternatives to “2-stroke democracy” suggested by 4-sided ball games, 2016). The pattern is evident in the lack of interest in the strategic implications of 3-player chess.
This lack of competence plays out in the very limited capacity to deal with the messy dynamics of multiparty and multipolar power structures. There is seemingly always a fundamental commitment to reverting to the hegemony of the singular way — the “right” way — exemplified by the foreign policy commitment of the USA to full-spectrum dominance.
It is of course the case that there is a degree of recognition of the merits of diversity, as evident in biodiversity — but with extremely limited cognitive capacity to handle it. Perhaps, other than in gardening and the culinary arts? Tragically this plays out in the challenge of multiple ethnicities, races, languages, and faiths. The skills in that regard are limited and underappreciated. Is there really only one viable modality — especially from the perspective of any one such modality? How boring has humanity become?
The following is an exploration of some clues to appreciating and interrelating multiple ways of looking. It follows from previous explorations regarding “disparate” ways of thinking (Dynamics of N-fold Integration of Disparate Cognitive Modalities, 2021; Global Coherence by Interrelating Disparate Strategic Patterns Dynamically, 2019)
A specific inspiration is the much-cited poem of Wallace Stevens (Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, 1917) as is evident from its use by other poets, and discussed separately (Thirteen ways of apprehending blackbird song, 2014). As an enigma, any engagement with it (or with comment about it) is itself problematic. It effectively calls for a creative way of looking at “ways of looking” and the imaginative responses it might evoke — as is arguably the case with respect to the crises implied by the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.