Journal of

Stellar Peacemaking

©2006 Journal of Stellar Peacemaking

Vol.2 No. 3, 2007

 
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From Versailles to 9/11:
Hope for a Peaceful Future Through The Implementation of Cybernetics

Matt Borer M.S.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe

Every word spoken and action taken by the United States of America and it’s allies, as well as its perceived enemies, immediately following September 11, 2001 have had extensive ramifications, including changed principles and life contexts.  Gregory Bateson (1966) simplified this logic through the statement, “Life, it has been said, is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient evidence” (Bateson, 1991, p.136) and it is this premise that the researcher adopted in this examination of contextual history. A contention is that the pathway of post 9/11 events would have been very different than that of the Bush Administration if Bateson had been president of the USA during that period. While reviewing events that preceded the attacks on 9/11, as well as Batesonian literature, ideas, and philosophies, this article presents a rationale for this premise before it identifies a source of hope for peace. It describes evidence of the possibility for an alternative to destruction as a state response to structural violence and threats of terrorism that provokes.

Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupied no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate 'war, pestilence, and famine', than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun. Ulysses S. Grant  (1885).

 

How might a president of the United States of America interrupt the endless pattern of war and destruction that many nations have had, which history books normalize? Has cultural conflict manifested itself into a blueprint for humanity’s competitive destruction? Or, is it time to focus instead on the importance of cooperation and altruism, matters that were not widely understood as being part of evolution at the advent of Social Darwinism? Furthermore, should we maintain an understanding of human nature as competitive, rather than sustain ideals for peaceful societies, based on their capacities to understand and love (Bloomberg, 2000; Darwin, 1842; Young, 2002)? Is war the only way to resolve political, religious, cultural, or economic differences, and is anything actually resolved when the response is an act of defiance towards a specific ideology? Understanding the motivations behind these questions, as well as acts of terrorism, war, peace, and governmental policy related to these variables has been a question that has faced governmental leaders, scientists, and historians since the beginning of civilization. Throughout the ages, civilizations have been engrossed in a progressive change referred to as symmetrical schismogenesis in which for example; it is found that if the act of boasting is the cultural behavior in one group, and a rival group replies to this with their own boasting, a competitive situation may develop in which boasting leads to more boasting and so on (Watzlawick, Bavelas, & Jackson, 1967). Examples of this process are evident throughout history, continuing a circular pattern of aggression and war that to this day remains uninterrupted. Compiled, the Crusades in the 13th Century, the French and Indian War (Calhoun, 2007), the American Civil War (Dyson, 2004), the Six Day War (Gat, 2005), the Vietnam and Korean Wars (World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2001), and the ‘War on Terror’ in addition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Longino, 2007) are a fraction of the violent responses to conflict that have wrecked the lives of men, women, and children world-wide. Articles by Babik (2004), Moseley (2002), Tjosvold, Dean, Sun, and Haifa (2002), Uvin (2001) Goodhand and Hulme (1999), Cherry (1994), analyzed war in general terms, as well as specific instances such as conflicts in Rwanda, South Africa, wars in Twentieth Century Europe, in addition to China’s conflict-ridden histories. Yet, the world today is still constantly entrenched in struggle with no apparent way out. Is there any hope for change? Each war evidenced a continual pattern of diplomacy rejection, and circularly caused aggression. The worldwide community is no closer today than we were in Biblical times to solving this continual conundrum of political and cultural interaction that exacerbates the combative relationships between rivaling peoples, everywhere. Consequently, cybernetics, the analysis of communication patterns, can be useful in the quest to find alternatives to war.

Patterns of Thought and Communication

Recognizable in political conflicts, and other types, has been the pattern of circular aggression. One need only look at the conflict between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians who are continuously attempting to “one-up” the other in regards to a brutal show of force on both sides of the fight. With each act of competitive boasting comes an act of military aggression or force that continues the circular pattern of aggression.

 

Figure 1. Circular Aggression

           

 

Systemic thought, including cybernetics of cybernetics (Becvar, 2002), (Bateson, 1972), is an innovative paradigm shift from viewing interactions as a linear cause and effect interface, to one of a circular causality analysis of human communication and behavior.  In systemic thought,

 

A certain objective is given; to find ways and means for its realization requires the systems specialist (or team of specialists) to consider alternative solutions and to choose those promising optimization at maximum efficiency and minimal cost in a tremendously complex network of interactions.” (Bertalanffy,1975, p.4).

 

Within the introduction of systemic thought into the broader global conversation, lies a ray of light, or hope, that there is a chance for this intense circular pattern to find a new path towards peace and resolution. With this said, how can there be a change in policy and thinking from past engagements in global struggle and war between the USA and her perceived enemies? Among other roots of conflict, cultural differences between the USA’s society and that of the goals of Islamic fundamentalism have been highlighted. By acts of terrorism that not only altered politics and culture in the USA, they also redefined the nature of the relationships with and between allies, its citizens, and especially its perceived enemies.

While other theorists have taken a systemic viewpoint for analyzing cultural, as well as political and governmental relationships (Bucker, 2003; Kluver & Stoica, 2005), this researcher focused on the work of Gregory Bateson. Through the use of second-order cybernetics, or in layman’s terms, the science of observing systems, taking into account the observer’s influence on the system they are observing, Bateson outlined the problem formation and proposed a solution framework (Ray, 2007), which became an ideological imperative that he advanced throughout his career.

While working at the USA’s Office of Strategic Services from 1942-1945 as well as later in his career, Bateson wrote several significant articles on the topics of culture and governmental policy. These included “Some Systemic Approaches to the Study of Culture and Personality,” a “Comment on the Comparative Study of Culture and the Purposive Cultivation of Democratic Values,” and “Morale and National Character” (Bateson, 1942). He contributed to this body of work with the publication of “Psychology- in the War and After (part v11)” in 1944, as well as “The Pattern of an Armaments Race, parts 1 and 11, both in 1946, and “Atoms Nations and Cultures,” in 1947. While important to the scientific community, there is no evidence that any of these ideas were ever implemented by, or influential in, the governmental policy of USA, or that of any other nation.

Human behavior and motivation are in many ways a product of culture, and every generalization that is applied at a social level must be culturally congruent of the particular people with whom we are concerned (Bateson, 1944). Recognizing this concept provides a fluid lens with which cultures, nations, and individuals should all be analyzed and studied to understand motivational processes and political stances. It is also a statement that is of great importance to the survival of the modern world in relation to the conflicts between Western cultures and fundamentalist Islamic doctrine. While this statement appears to adhere to an either/or dichotomy, it actually lends itself to viewing political and cultural differences with a both/and paradigm. To generalize, one often observes a subject in an either/or perspective. However, Bateson’s contention on the assumption of human behavior is inclusive. It takes into account the nature of the cultural relationships that not only help to delineate a particular culture from one another, but also expresses the importance of context when applying such behavioral generalizations. It is important to view the world through a paradigm of multiple choices and realities, and to back any person, culture, or government into making either this choice or that choice eliminates hope and perspective for true diplomacy and connectivity. So how does this narrative facilitate a change in the pattern of international conflict?

Every word spoken and action taken by the USA and her allies, as well as her perceived enemies, immediately following the tragedies on 9/11 had ramifications that will continue to change the principles and associated contexts with which people live. The attacks on 9/11 constituted an opportunity in which the USA could change the world and the nature of it’s political, governmental, and even ecological perspective. However, some of the actions taken not only slowed the progression of cultural understanding, they increased the gap between the USA and those whose ideologies were in stark contrast to that of Western philosophy. President Bush promoted the extension of the post 9/11 contexts with his speech to congress on September 20, 2001. Along with the president’s description of conflict between western philosophy and fundamentalist Islamic doctrine, and he presented his policy plan with the words, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” (Bush, 2001). The plan presented an itinerary for war that has continued to the present date. With statements such as this, hope for peaceful conflict resolution seems like a distant ideal. But is the difficulty and complexity of human relationships and international diplomacy a reason not to search for alternatives to violence? The challenge of creating such alternatives in seemingly hopeless situations is an opportunity for those in charge of policy decisions to recognize the availability of differential dichotomies that may lead to hope.

Cultural understanding is the great divide that exists within the world, whether it is differences between communism and democracy, socialism and totalitarianism, or fanaticism versus apathy. All of these ideologies view themselves in a cultural context that for each group, is not only justifiable, it is a context with which to be viewed by others as well as a way to identify differences amongst ostensibly opposing ideological perspectives. The etiology of these sequences is expectably diverse and is in many ways related to Bateson’s explanation of what has been referred to as the double bind theory (Bateson, 1991). “The structure of all recursive systems is such that the examination of the symptoms only poor guesses at the roots or history of the “pathology” can be offered” (Bateson, 1991, p.147). An explanation of opposing ideological differences as opposing and competing cultures is a ‘poor guess’ focused on the historical roots of a‘pathology’ in the relations between cultures.

A conceptualization of cultural understanding includes a comprehensive analysis of how power is viewed within a culture, and who has it. As Bateson remarked during a lecture at a conference in June 1970 in honor of Don D. Jackson MD,

 

If you believe that there is such a thing as one-way power as distinct from round and round interaction, and if you seem to get it, then you will have the phenomenon called power corrupts. It corrupts not only the man who thinks he has it; it also corrupts those who think that he has it, who gives it to him (Ray, 2007 p.864).

 

This is a crucial factor experienced by families, institutions, world leaders and competing cultures.

A global backlash by a democratic country to external power is not inevitable. When a country’s leaders have the ideas, means, and political institutions that allow for stable and cooperative order, it can adjust to shifting asymmetries of power. The metaphor of a giant corporation that seeks foreign investors is useful for understanding a country’s potential diplomatic policies.  A nation is more likely to attract investors if it can demonstrate that it operates according to accepted accounting and fiduciary principles. The rule of equitable law and the institutions of justice and policymaking in a democracy are the political equivalent of corporate transparency and accountability. With a constitutional, rule-based and equity oriented democracy, outside states are more willing to work with a country—or, to return to the corporate metaphor, to invest in ongoing partnerships (Ikenberry, 2001).

For a president whose decisions have an international impact, systemic thought is of great importance while understanding and responding to international conflict.  The complex decisions, challenges, and negotiations that an elected official must navigate on a daily basis entail maximizing efficiency and minimizing cost (Bertalanffy, 1975). Gregory Bateson understood this complex set of interactions in human behavior, communication, and power. This author believes that Bateson’s thirst for continual knowledge and analysis would have made him a capable president of the USA, especially during the post 9/11 months. The world today might look very different politically, culturally, and conflictually, as well as in many other factors, if Bateson was the president on September 11, 2001. However, had he been alive at that time, Bateson would have never been eligible to run for president due to the fact that he was not a natural-born citizen of the USA.

Gregory Bateson was born into a family that had the prestige and importance of being associated with other influential families including the Darwins, Huxleys, Whiteheads, Haldanes, and the Hutchinsons. They were all upper-middle class families, self-satisfied, and devoted to intellectual life. The offspring of these families were expected to maintain the scientific influence that had been established by earlier generations, and this was especially true for the Batesons (Brockman, 1977). Gregory Bateson’s two brothers both died at a young age, one in World War I and the other a victim of suicide, leaving Gregory to be the only legacy to the Bateson tradition of science. Unsure of his professional career path, Gregory received his masters’ degree in social anthropology in 1926 to accompany his other degree in zoology. It is possible that the deaths of his brothers as well as the importance of the political landscape of the world at that time, including World War I and other international conflicts, compelled Bateson into working for the American government and contributing a strongly diverse perspective on issues such as the spreading of democracy, and the dangers of nuclear war.

 

In the event of an Allied victory, we shall I hope, not see a world in which one set of cultural patterns is ineffectually forced upon all other cultures and communities … Talk of democracy … sounds as though we proposed to set up Demo-Quislings in all non-democratic patches of the world … so also on an international level we ought to plan for differentiation, with acceptance and understanding of the differences (Bateson, 1927, reprinted in A Sacred Unity, p.33-34).

 

In the event of an Allied victory, we shall I hope, not see a world in which one set of cultural patterns is ineffectually forced upon all other cultures and communities … Talk of democracy … sounds as though we proposed to set up Demo-Quislings in all non-democratic patches of the world … so also on an international level we ought to plan for differentiation, with acceptance and understanding of the differences (Bateson, 1927, reprinted in A Sacred Unity, p.33-34).

The implication of specificity is a vital position that Bateson presented throughout his work. This idea pervades Bateson’s work and as he put it, “Civilization and its leaders are faced with a massive change in deep lying premises- a dose of what you call “culture learning” such as no previous culture has ever swallowed” (Jones, 1995, p.15). Bateson posited that the ecological specifications that civilizations must contend with in present day society, will ultimately force individuals to alter their thinking and presuppositions in regard to all things that humans try to control.

In a series of written conversations with his daughter Mary Catherine, Bateson discussed during 1948 his thought that formulating a plan or idea is the ideal way in which to cause disorder or confusion in a system because “they say what they hope will happen, and then I tell them it won’t happen because there are so many other things that might happen. And I know that it is more likely that one of the many things will happen and not one of the few” (Bateson, 1972, p.7).  This observation is important due to the relevance it has within the conversation about logical choices and the implications that a lack of awareness of alternatives may have. Although the idea of many possible outcomes seems sensible, the fact of the matter is that throughout history, cultures, religions, governments and even families have acted as though there was only one logical conclusion to very complex and potentially stressful problems. This is evident in almost every either/or dichotomy presented throughout history, from religious movements to racial and ethnic divisions.

Bateson achieved a great level of success in the field of anthropology with his discovery of symmetrical and complementary relationships. Bateson as described by Keeney in “Glimpses of Gregory Bateson” (1979) explains in a symmetrical relationship whatever one does; the other person tends to respond with similar behavior. Armament races and athletic competition are examples of symmetrical relationships. In contrast, a complementary relationship is where an individual’s differences complement the other member of the relationship, e.g. dominance and submission.

 

The possibilities of differentiation of groups are by no means infinite, but fall clearly into two categories … Symmetrical e.g., in the differentiation of moieties, clans, villages, and the nation of Europe … Complementary e.g., in the differentiation of social strata, classes, castes, age grades, and in some cases, the cultural differentiation between the sexes (Bateson, 1971, p.67).

 

The antithetical relationship between complementary and symmetrical themes is, important because they are ultimately the logical opposite of the other.

 

Complementary patterns of relationship are which the behavior patterns at one end of the relationship are different from, but fit in with the behavior patterns at the other end (domiance-submission etc.). In symmetrical patterns…people respond to what others are doing by themselves doing something similar (Bateson, 1972, p.97).

 

“The fathers have eaten bitter fruit and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Bateson, 1972, p. 481). This quote refers to the importance and unknown implications of current patterns of conflict on the future generations who have to dedicate their lives and policy to correcting the mistakes of their fathers. Bateson discusses this idea in several ways. The first example of this is on a more abstract mammalian level in that mammals in general, care little about specific episodes, but only are concerned with the patterns of their relationships. They are concerned with the patterns of relationships, with where they stand in love, hate, respect, dependency, trust, and similar abstractions, vis-à-vis someone else (Bateson, 1972). The second example of this quote rests in the understanding of how the events leading up to the Treaty of Versailles are continuing to affect the present generations of scientists, governments, cultures and even families. Bateson (1972) described the Treaty of Versailles as, “one of the greatest sellouts in the history of our civilization” (p.480).  He recognized that a significant point in history requires moments in which attitudes can change.

An anthropologist, in theory, often observes foreign societies and cultures, in order to define differences between the culture being studied, and other more familiar cultural settings. In the paper Morale and National Character (Bateson, 1942), Bateson took the position that although one may observe variation or commonality, when one is studying national character and context, the enterprise has to be the study of commonality, rather than differences (Bakan in Rieber, 1989)

 

It can be argued that not the people but rather the circumstances under which they live, differ from one community to another; that we have to deal with differences either in historical background or in current conditions, and that these factors are sufficient to account for all differences in behavior without our invoking any differences of character in the individuals concerned (Bateson, 1979, p. 89).

 

This argument is essential in understanding the shifting paradigm that Bateson injected into the social sciences. Essentially, humans are all the same, it is the context in which each is reared that results in the differences becoming profoundly pronounced. Acceptance of this idea has the potential to change the pattern of cultural interactions and understanding, worldwide.

Gregory Bateson grasped the diverse concepts of words such as “freedom,” “democracy,” and “government” within contextual frames, which were present even in some of his earliest works.  When discussing government in a paper published in 1947 titled “Atoms, Nations, and Cultures” Bateson explained, “When I use such a word as government, I want you to know that I am aware that “government” means something quite different to an Englishman from what it means to a Spaniard or an American” (p.47). He discussed the importance of values, and nationality in the statements

 

We are all members of nations, and the notion of nationality is built into almost every thing that we do … the idea of nationality cannot at present be expressed apart from the premise that nations will oppose each other, if necessary, by means of war …We must ask ourselves seriously what we value…Each culture will have it’s own specific way of appreciating that value (Bateson, 1947, p.48).

 

This notion of context with regard to separate cultures continues to be an inspiring conceptualization of the human condition, and if looked at within the present frame of global politics and relationships, it may have the potential for creating a completely new frame for interaction.

Gregory Bateson’s contribution to geo-political analysis appears to have been overlooked, with many of his thoughts having as much, if not more relevance today as ever. In a world that has been consumed with either the spread of democracy, or the rejection of democratic principles, Bateson provided valuable considerations for the approach to spreading democracy.  He claimed those tasked with the job of spreading democracy…

 

have probably not been awakened to the profound and systematic differences in character and conduct existing between one people and another; differences which arise out of the unique historical, economic, and cultural etc. background of each people, but which are expressed today in their everyday behavior (Bateson, 1944, p.308).

 

The danger lies in the ignorance or potential arrogance of a nation or group of nations to exert their specific ideals and forms of democracy, or any other value, on a society that shares virtually none of the governmental, economic, or even spiritual objectives.

 

Methodology

This research entailed hermeneutic analysis. According to Gadamer (1996), the task of hermeneutics is not to develop a procedure of understanding, but rather to clarify the interpretive conditions in which understanding takes place. Furthermore, Gadamer conceives of understanding as "assimilating what is said to the point that it becomes one's own" (1996, p.398). He explained:

 

One intends to understand the text itself. But this means that the interpreter's own thoughts too have gone into re-awakening the texts' meaning. In this the interpreter's own horizon is decisive, yet not as a personal standpoint that he maintains and reinforces, but more as an opinion and a possibility that one brings into play and puts at risk, and that helps one truly to make one's own what the text says" (Gadamer, 1996, p.388).

 

Might not hermeneutics, as philosophy and methodology of interpretation, be capable of offering a framework of justification for the value as data of clinical ‘texts’, and might hermeneutics not also provide a reliable instrument for the critique of propositions, conclusions and interpretations concerning the clinical encounter? (Hazzard et.al, 2000, p.127).

A political speech and anthropological discourse provided data for hermeneutical analysis. The September 20, 2001 speech by President Bush to a joint session of Congress, was without doubt, viewed very differently by not only Democrats and Republicans, but by all of the 9/11 victims’ families and the global community that would be affected by his “War on Terror”. Through the reading, listening to audio, and watching the video, the researcher has as Gadamer (1996) clarfied, “Truly make one’s own what the text says” (p.388).

Following analysis of communication, the researcher concluded that hope and peace are not only possible, but likely, if leaders adopt unconventional and thorough thinking as Gregory Bateson employed in response to cultural and political conflicts.

 

Self of the Researcher

In hermeneutical study the collection of data, analysis of the data, and interpretation of the data occurs simultaneously and subsequent philosophical propositions are based on these interpretations. With this said, the researcher becomes the main instrument for analyzing data, and it is important to present the researchers held biases, life experiences, and values which may significantly impact the study (Creswell, 1994).

The researcher is a 27 year old, engaged male who is pursuing a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. Although he was born in Canada, the researcher has been a citizen of the USA since May 2004. During his childhood, the researcher’s family moved several times due to his father’s job as a Jewish Communal fundraiser. After the researcher obtained in Florida an undergraduate degree in psychology and a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, he moved to Louisiana for his doctoral work.

The researcher is a contributing member of the Jewish community in Jacksonville, Florida where his fiancé currently lives. Growing up in a traditional Jewish household instilled the values of respect, understanding, acceptance, and as is said in Hebrew; “tikun olam”, meaning deeds of loving kindness. The researcher also has a strong connection with the State of Israel and considers it to be one of the most important issues when evaluating a political candidate in every election.

Theoretically the researcher has been profoundly influenced by the work of the Bateson group, especially Gregory Bateson and Paul Watzlawick. Clinically, the work and mentorship of Dr. Wendel Ray has awakened the researcher to the complexities of all interaction, and to embrace the idea that everyone is doing the best they know how given his or her context. The researcher has also been profoundly inspired by the presidency of William Clinton, especially through his international diplomacy and the way in which he provided a voice for those less fortunate worldwide. The continued contribution of Clinton in regards to AIDS in Africa and the fund raising efforts after the Tsunami in Asia, has inspired the researcher in many ways to view and help the world as a macro-level family.

In regards to September 11, 2001 and the course of history that has been affected ever since, the researcher has always felt strongly about his patriotism, and feels as though the USA needs to be a great uniter, rather than divider, in the world today. Having campaigned diligently for Al Gore in 2001, and voting for John Kerry in 2004, the researcher has a negative opinion of President George W. Bush. The researcher has opposed the war in Iraq and the lack of diplomacy within the Bush administration. This article was written with those feelings, and the researcher’s idea that the world can and must be viewed systemically rather then adopting the same linear lens that the many within the international community still adhere to today.

 

Implications for Hope

Bateson provided hope and stability through the use of theory and ideas. Theory was of the utmost importance, because theory is what drives change through the use of analyzing observable data. Haley spoke of Bateson’s influence in his statement,  “When we were struggling in the dark with unformed thoughts, Bateson offered us an expectation that we could work at our maximum ability, a confident attitude that a problem could be solved, and often an idea to solve it.” (Lipset, 1982, p.238).

Available theoretical tools and the balancing capabilities within the global community provide opportunities for a change from circular political interactions that result in violence. Careful leaders who think systemically in analysis of conflict provide hope for political peace. This is a time for hope, transformation, and for the voices of those looking for a new way forward to exercise their natural rights to make changes in not only each individual and family, but ultimately at the policy and macro-societal levels and governments. There is valid hope for a new and peaceful future for the worldwide community because we have the capability and means to manifest it.

 

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