Patriots Vs. Globalists

In his recent address to the U.N. Assembly, president Trump predicted that the future belongs to Patriots and not Globalists. Irrespective of whether one agrees with Mr. Trump or not, one cannot deny the growing schism between the two groups. The mistrust, acrimony and hostility between the two groups has been steadily increasing  and this binary has become a significant determinant of political agenda, all over the world. Even every day life and social/professional engagements are being increasingly impacted by this binary.

There are several ways in which one can look at this binary. In this piece I have explored it through the EUM Lens ( Existential Universe Mapper) The framework posits six simultaneous and interactive Universes which reside within each individual/collective. Each of these Universes is a composite set of needs, values, behavioral propensities, world-view etc. Interested readers may like to visit eumlens.in for a more detailed understanding of EUM.

Of the six Universe, the two which have a direct bearing on the Patriot- Globalist binary are UBP (Universe of Belonging and Protection) and UMI (Universe of Meaningfulness and Intimacy) A brief description of the two Universes follows-

1. Universe of Belonging & Protection (UBP)

This is the part of us that wishes to belong to a safe haven where we feel secure and protected.  Its primary orientation is towards familiarity, predictability, harmony, and strong bonding/identification with our own kith and kin.

It enables us to have trust and faith in our people, abide by the established norms and customs, and experience a sense of pride in our heritage.  It gives us a strong sense of “oneness” with the group(s) we belong to, and enables us to accept all its positives as also its angularities.

When this orientation is subdued, it leaves us feeling rootless and not having a sense of “home”.  On the other hand, when this orientation is excessive in us, it generates a fear of the unknown, mistrust of “outsiders”, and fear of disturbance. Consequently, we become closed to new experience/learning and hence become somewhat like a “frog in the well”.

2. Universe of Meaningfulness and Intimacy (UMI)

This is the part of us that wishes for and works towards a utopian world where everyone can live in peace and harmony. Its primary orientation is towards meaningfulness, intimacy, compassion, empathy and respect for others irrespective of their clan and creed. It enables us to feel one with the larger human context, transcend the preoccupations of ourselves/our subgroup(s), and dream collectively for a world that ensures a higher level of well-being for all. It also helps us to accept others and ourselves at a human level beyond issues of class, category, ethnicity, etc.

When this orientation is subdued we experience ourselves as self-absorbed, devoid of empathy and compassion, over consumptive, dry and alone. On the other hand, when it is excessive, we become impractical and are unable to accept that strife is as important for human existence as is harmony. Consequently, our tolerance for anything that disrupts our idyllic scenario becomes low and we wish to either ignore it or suppress it.

Nature of the binary

As can be seen, there are several commonalities between these two Universes- both emphasize our relationship orientation and human values. Simultaneously, there are significant divergences. Whereas UBP lays emphasis on, commitment to one’s kith and kin, anchorage in one’s heritage and inward gaze; UMI is more inclusive, has a wider perspective, and goes beyond one’s own system of belonging. Thus, from a UMI lens, UBP appears as clannish, closed and regressive. Similarly, from a UBP lens, UMI appears as rootless, disrespectful of heritage and unmindful of the immediate belonging system.

It is this conflict which is playing out in the binary of Patriots and Globalists. While the Patriots appeal to our UBP instincts, the Globalists focus on the UMI.  Thus, to the patriots, Globalists appear like self-seeking anti-national people, just as to the Globalists, Patriots appear regressive and intolerant. It is tempting to equate this binary with other related binaries such as left wing- right wing, liberals- conservatives, modern- traditional etc. While there are obvious overlaps, the intricacies and nuances are quite different. Unlike others it is not an ideological binary- it relates to different imperatives of being human.  This is most apparent in the political sphere. Voters who had traditionally supported left leaning liberal parties have deserted them, not just because of ideological reasons, but perhaps due to the voice of UBP within them.

Why Now ?

Why has this conflict between UBP and UMI become so pronounced in the modern day world ? I suspect, this is primarily due to the neglect of UBP and its consequent backlash. We seem to have deluded ourselves into believing that UBP is mundane and lower order state of being.  We take pride in being liberal, progressive, inclusive as also strong, autonomous and self-reliant. Any  acknowledgement of our UBP needs makes us feel small and vulnerable, and consequently we either suppress them or fulfill them insidiously.

A denial or suppression of UBP does not make it go away, instead it casts its shadows and manifests itself in a variety of ways. Some of the associated processes are-

  1. The unfulfilled UBP needs get channelized through parochial/nationalistic jingoism. Some time back, I came across a study which found that many of  the extremist group draw their membership and support base from migrant workers, particularly from villages to small towns. While the religion, language, region based ideological agenda carries some traction, the primary pull is to experience a sense of belonging and giving expression to the angst arising out of intense loneliness and a sense of meaningless.
  2. At the macro level, groups which are less privileged, become the primary holders of UBP, whereas the more privileged groups tend to define themselves in UMI terms. For example, one would find a clear demarcation in the kind of collective issues that they take part in. The privileged sections are more likely to be a part of candle marches on issues such as human rights, gender relations, freedom of expression, individual liberty etc. On the other hand, the less privileged groups are more likely to participate in religious processions, or morchas for protection of local language, regional preoccupations, reservations and cultural insensitivity.
  3. The UBP needs and predispositions of the privileged group get expressed and fulfilled in an insidious manner.  Since they have sufficient “elbow room” it is possible for them to pursue their UBP needs without directly acknowledging them or taking responsibility for the consequences- prevalence of nepotism being a stark example of this phenomenon. Similarly, one can continue to hold on to the belief that one is fair and inclusive, and simultaneously hold on to unacknowledged biases and prejudices or racist paranoia and even  act from them   in a subtle manner. Thus their claims to a higher UMI orientation rarely carries credibility and is seen primarily as “lip service”. In the eyes of the less privileged groups, they become self- centered people who merely want to protect their vested interests in the status quo, have little concern for others and merely use high sounding words to deflect the more pressing down to earth issues.
  4. The repressed UBP orientation of the privileged groups also gets channelized through hyper concern with issues of national security and mistrust of minorities. A clear manifestation of this process is the growing  popularity of TV channels and serials which rely on jingoistic rhetoric, even among people who regard themselves as liberal,broadminded and free of racial/religious prejudice.

The cumulative result of these processes is a highly explosive situation. On one hand, we have the increasing frustration on account of unmet UBP needs, and on the other a growing cynicism in respect of UMI claims. The Patriots seek to channelize the frustration and cynicism through appealing to our jingoistic instinct, whereas the Globalists either pretend that they do not exist or regard them as illegitimate. The growing schism between the two, only pushes each group towards a more extreme position.

Gracing the interdependence

I believe, the essential issue that we need to look at is our engagement with our UBP orientation. This has both individual and systemic implications. Increasingly, I find organizations operating from the belief that dealing with the UBP needs of their members, will compromise performance standards and become a hindrance in their pursuit of meritocracy. Similarly, many individuals believes that it would be “unprofessional” and “regressive”of them to bring in their UBP orientation, except in limited familial settings.

These are legitimate concerns. Indeed, UBP has its problems and down side, and UMI appears more liberating, progressive and evolved. However, what gets overlooked is that without the base of UBP, UMI is hollow and unsustainable. The two must co-exist. As Gandhi had said ” I want my house to have a solid foundation, just as I want it to have many doors and windows”

The patriots focus on the foundation, while the Globalists are concerned with doors and windows. The irony is that doors and windows, cannot exist without a foundation, just as without the openness of the doors and windows, the foundation is nothing but a tombstone. Thus, like all binaries, the Patriot- Globalist divide is a false binary. You cannot be a Globalist without being a patriot, and without the wider and inclusive perspective of the Globalist, Patriotism is nothing but self-destructive jingoism.

One of my significant learning from my engagement with the EUM framework is that when any two  human imperatives get locked in an adversarial relationship, they push each other to the extreme. This leads to mutually exclusive binaries, where both  see the other as a threat and work towards its exclusion. This creates a counter reaction and the binary is further reinforced. This is what seems to be happening between Patriots and Globalists. The more one side shrieks, the more virulent is the response from the other side, pushing each other to untenable positions. Thus, increasingly patriotism is being defined as compulsive glorification of heritage and tradition, refusal to engage with the dysfunctional features of the context and blind support for authority. Similarly,  globalism is being defined as preoccupation with the dysfunctional features  of one’s heritage, insensitivity to the distinctive features of one’s context,  and compulsive criticism of authority.

The only way this binary can be transcended is by gracing the interdependence of the two. This would entail a recognition by the Patriots that without the fresh breeze which the Globalists bring, they would suffocate themselves to death. Similarly, for the Globalists to acknowledge that without the anchorage provided by the Patriots, they would get blown away into nothingness. In EUM terms, UBP and UMI have no choice but to co-exist.

 

 

 

 

 

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Paradox of Frameworks

I have a very ambivalent relationship with frameworks- I love them because they help me to think cogently but simultaneously, I hate them because they restrict the free-flow of my thoughts and feelings.Feeling/ Thinking is a fluid process on which structure can be imposed only “post-facto” Undoubtedly, there is some connection between the “chain of thoughts” but the possibilities are so many that no one can predict as to the direction in which this river of thoughts and feelings will flow. The experience of a “falling apple”, made Newton ask a certain question which led him to the path of discovering the principle of gravity. There is no particular reason for him to have traversed that path, instead he could well have speculated about the taste of the apple or its nutritional value or the different colours,shapes and sizes in which they come or even what would have happened if the apple had fallen on his head and injured him etc. etc. The possibilities are endless and the connections between any two thoughts can only be in hindsight.

It is here that frameworks play an important role. They channelise the thought process, put them into a pre-fixed structure and enable us to make some sense out of them. However, this structuring extracts a heavy price. It requires us to ignore (or at least put aside) all such feelings and thoughts which do not fit into the pre-fixed structure. For example, if one is thinking about the issue of “gender relations” using the binary framework of Men and Women, then it becomes necessary to exclude all thoughts about people who do not fit into this binary.This is most evident when people use simplistic frames like good-bad, beautiful-ugly, success-failure, right-left, liberal-conservative, selfish-altruistic, introverted-extroverted etc. The more rigidly a person holds the framework, the more he/she is forced to “exclude”. For example  a person who has very rigid ideas about “good” and “bad” will end up excluding everything which is “grey” as compared to the person whose framework is more nuanced.

However, no matter how complex and nuanced a framework may be, it will necessary exclude something and whenever we engage with the excluded phenomenon ,we will be confronted with a paradox. To understand this, we need to understand the nature of paradox.

Paradox is one of the most misunderstood and misused  terms in general discourse. Often we mistake it as any contrary/contradictory pull. For example if I say that I want to be at home and at work at the same time, then this phenomenon is NOT a paradox, it is merely a presence of two conflicting desires. Paradox arises when a logically drawn conclusion from a premise, contradicts the premise itself. A simple example of a paradox is the assertion “I always tell lies”. The difficulty with this assertion is that if it is true, then the person is telling a lie and hence it is necessarily untrue. In other words, a paradoxical assertion has to be “false” in order to be “true” and vice versa.Similarly, a paradoxical injunction can only be followed by disregarding it. When a parent tells a child “don’t listen to me”, then a parent is giving a paradoxical injunction to the child. The child is being asked to “listen” to the parent in order to “not listen”.

Normally, such paradoxes do not create much difficulty for us because we take it for granted that the assertion or injunction is not to be applied to itself. In the examples given above the statement “I always tell lies”  – if not applied to itself ,becomes a simple confession of a compulsive lier. Similarly the parental injunction for “not listening” is simply asking the child to develop his/her own thinking. The difficulty  arises when the  assertion/injunction is applied to itself.  In paradox theory, this  is called  “self-referrence” i.e. when an assertion or injunction is applied to itself. For those who are interested in this subject may like to see my paper   “Beyond The Law Of Contradictions” available here. For the limited purpose of this piece, it is enough to note that the paradox arises  from this phenomenon of “self-referrence”

The paradox becomes apparent whenever a framework (i.e. structure of ideas) is applied to itself. Can an insane person see his own insanity?  In order to do this, the person will necessary have to step out of his/her insanity. The same is applicable in virtually all spheres. An introverted person must be able to step out of his/her introversion in order to recognise it and similarly an extroverted person can see his/her extraversion only by turning the gaze inwards. Take the example of Defence Mechanisms- a very powerful and useful framework for understanding human behaviour. So long as the person is caught in a defence mechanism, it can not become visible to the individual. The moment a memory or an impulse is repressed, it becomes inaccessible to the individual and hence an assertion like “I have repressed something” is self-contradictory or paradoxical.

Thus, the meaningfulness of any framework rests on our ability to stand apart from it. However, the framework by its very nature prevents us from this side-stepping. The framework becomes a sentry of sorts which screens our thoughts and feelings and views their admissibility from its own unique lens. Thus, if an individual is using a framework which looks at organisations as purposive instruments then he/she can only engage with thoughts which pertain to efficiency, productivity, output, skills, competencies etc. All feelings and thoughts about human sensitivity,ambience,  ecology, etc. must be blocked as potential distractions and irrelevant to the matter at hand. The only way in which these thoughts and feelings can find an entry is through questioning the assumption on which the framework is built, which in the case cited above would be – Is organisation only a purposive instrument of performance? If this question is not asked then all endeavours  of humanising the organisation will paradoxically become instruments of further dehumanising as can be seen in expressions like human resources, human inventory, human assets etc. whereby the human being is reduced to being a “commodity”.

Similarly if one tries to fit the phenomenon of “intimacy” in a framework of introversion-extraversion, one will  constantly be running in circles. In intimacy there is a deep connect both with the Self and the Other- it can neither be regarded as introverted nor extraverted. Even if one regards introversion and extraversion as two poles of a continuum, with a large middle ground, it still can not explain intimacy. Intimacy does not happen in any middle ground- it is a state wherein both introversion and extraversion are intense and mutually dependent upon each other. In a sense one is deeply connecting with oneself through connecting with the other and vice versa. Hence in order to engage with intimacy, one has to go to a higher/deeper level wherein introversion and extraversion can be held in simultaneity rather than as two poles of a continuum. This is not to suggest that the framework of introversion and extraversion is of any less value, but only that like all frameworks it stands on some basic foundations (in this case, a clear separation between “inside” and “outside”) and any attempt to engage with phenomenon which go beyond the limits set by its foundations will necessarily create a paradox.

This is in line with the theory of paradox which stipulates that no paradox can be resolved/dissolved at the level in which it arises. In order to address a paradox meaningfully, one needs to move to a higher/deeper level of enquiry. In case of Frameworks, this deeper level refers to the philosophical underpinnings of the framework.

Interestingly, we are living in times when our reliance on frameworks in virtually all spheres of life is increasing exponentially. Be it our personal lives or professional, we are inundated by frameworks like diet charts, exercise regimes, child-rearing practices, competency mapping, bench marking, balanced score cards etc. etc. Simultaneously  our patience and  willingness to understand  the underlying assumptions of these frameworks is coming down. Consequently the only criteria by which we can assess any framework is its relative popularity and acceptance in the market place and the only understanding that we have of any framework is what can be quickly gathered through Google and Wikipedia. The motto of our life seems to be “Why waste time in thinking? Just Google it and act”It is therefore not surprising that today in the name of frameworks what we have are mere fads- which come and possess us for a little while and are then replaced by another set of fads. This is an inevitable consequence of the all too prevalent aversion towards philosophy in our times. Nearly a century ago, Aldous Huxley had painted the picture of a “Brave New World” which will only be driven by technology and in which Philosophy will have no place. It seems we are proving him right.

Frameworks are extremely useful provided they are used for stimulating our thinking and organising our thought process. Paradoxically, if we become their captives they can also become the biggest stumbling block to our thinking and hence defeat their own purpose. Perhaps instead of looking at frameworks as “providers of answers”,  if we engage with them as  stimuli for questioning and deeper understanding, we can forge a more meaningful relationship with them.