Policy Alternation for Development

Developing a new "meta-answer"

Anthony Judge

If "an answer" is sought for the current global condition, and one is urgently needed, it would seem that great care is required to avoid falling into the trap of formulating answers whose nature forces them to compete in the unending, and essentially inhumane, "gladiatorial combats" of the "answer arena", in an effort to attract the temporary support of fickle "spectators" partly inspired by novelty. This does not mean looking for a semi-secret answer only meaningful to those initiated into a particular elite group (cf. world modellers) with its own limited information base. The answer must be of a different nature, but at the same time widely comprehensible. It should not attempt to accumulate glory by direct combat in the answer arena. It should rather redefine the significance of that arena and the answers which emerge temporarily victorious there.

In effect humanity already possesses a single, universal "meta-answer". That is the one which defines the present nature of the answer arena. It is the mind-set which perceives that arena as the place on which differences should be settled and effectively legitimates the processes which currently occur therein. This legitimation is obviously neither fully conscious nor explicit. It is derived from the instinctually felt "appropriateness" of similar "stamping ground" processes in the time of early man. These were shared with pack animals. This essentially instinctual meta-answer has, for specific and limited purposes, been partially modernised and given respectability. That is in the concept of the global "marketplace" for exchange of goods and services and the various "international assemblies" for exchange of views ("marketplaces for ideas"). But these are but a thin disguise for an arena which remains essentially primitive, in which most other differences are "settled", and as a result of which pack allegiances are redefined. Everybody participates actively or passively in these processes whereby movements of opinion arise and "world opinion" is formed and modified. They appeal to the "fickle instinctual spectator" in each of us. The challenge would seem to be to find a way of placing this current meta-answer in a new light, not so much by combatting it on its own terms, but rather by offering a more "seductive" (in Attali's sense) alternative. The difficulty is to avoid the temptation of defining this meta-answer as an answer and thus ending up in the current trap. But at the same time, if it is to be of any relevance, the meta-answer should do more than simply provide a context for the emergence of better answers.