Policy Alternation for Development

Implications for forms of presentation

Anthony Judge

This paper has stressed the limited value of various conventional modes of expression. These arguments necessarily apply also to papers of this kind. The question is whether it is possible to devise some means of by-passing the desperately slow learning cycle associated with research-education-policy formulation-implementation in a world in which the education gap is increasing rapidly. If the current crisis is to be taken seriously, people must acquire access to an appropriate response by some other means. The problems of doing so have been reviewed in earlier papers (27, 67, 68, 69).

The challenge is to make available something simple enough to be comprehensible and yet "seductive" enough to retain peoples involvement. On the other hand, if it is to be of any value at this time, it must also be sufficiently complex and coherent to encompass the complexity of a social reality in crisis, and yet empower people to act together to contain the crisis in such a way as to be transformed by the unique learning opportunity it constitutes. This is a tall order, for beyond the capability or ambition of conventional international programmes.

Under the circumstances it is appropriate to look at unconventional possibilities. One approach is through existing processes, penetrating all levels of society, which already hold most peoples attention, transform their awareness, and govern their actions. The challenge would then be whether it was possible to "code" onto these, as a king of "carrier", a second level of meaning. The "double meaning" should then offer a totally new set of insights suggesting new patterns of action. Some possibilities for this approach are:

  • (a) Popular music: This has however been tried already with peace songs and UNICEF concerts. Its weakness is that it is inherently a right-hemisphere approach focussed on specific messages.
  • (b) Spectator competitive sport The weakness here is the passive role adopted by the spectator. t also seems difficult to encode a rich new level of meaning onto games.
  • (c) Strip cartoons: The problem here lies in the constraints on their production, distribution, and use. Note however that the UN University and UNESCO are supporting Yona Friedman's innovative use of this medium (70).
  • (d) Rumour, scandal, and humour: Here the difficulty is in ensuring some coherence and forces to the pattern of meanings, despite the advantages of the speed of dissemination.
  • (e) Astrology and divination: These lend themselves to multiple levels of meaning within a coherent framework, but the difficulty lies in the settings in which they are used and their non-universality.
  • (f) Myth, legend and tales: These are traditional carriers for double meanings. (Note the current attempts to distribute Sufi tales.) The question is whether the world's pelblems could be readily coded into active myths in such a way as to engender appropriate responses. They suffer from the childhood contexts in which they are first heard and have lost significance in industrialised countries.
  • (g) Weather and ecology: The case for this substrate was argued in an earlier paper (69], although there the emphasis was placed on the generation of "maps". These obviously have the merit of being universal, rich and engendering active involvement. But as a carrier they are not sufficiently "seductive".
  • (h) Sex (and family life): Given the vital significance, described earlier, of the dynamic relationship between "opposites" or "incompatibles", there would seem to be a strong case for coding this onto the essential dynamism of courtship, sex and the restraints thereon. This is complex, "seductively" fascinating, universal, participative, and (directly or indirectly) a major preoccupation of most people who consequently have an extensive understanding of its many dimensions. It also has a productive dimension in the coherent pattern of value-loaded interpersonal relations it engenders through birth and bonding.The transformative power of sex (brought to light by Freud) is also well-recognized by the younger generations, possibly because of conservative attempts to regulate it. It has already acquired political significance through feminist concern for sexual and family politics. Sex thus has credibility (to coin a phrase) far in excess of any "international development programme". Note that sex has been used as a substrate for spiritual meanings in Trantric yoga, in Hindu temple sculpture, and less explicitly, in classic Persian poetry, and in many myths and symbol systems.

The merit of the last two possibilities is that they effectively involve coding the world problematique back onto the world and onto human beings, which would seem to be a conceptually elegant response to the problem of self-reflexiveness (12). There is also merit in relating a conscious pattern of significance to a substrate by which people are usually governed unconsciously. In Jungian terms this is an appropriate and fruitful form of marriage between conscious and unconscious elements. Humanity's inability to relate creatively to aspects of these unconscious elements (e.g. the environment and the reproductive instinct) severely aggravates the problematique (e.g. environmental degradation and the population explosion).

This approach therefore involves the simple pleasure of learning a new metaphor which would enchant, empower, explain and orient approaches to the problematique. But the metaphor is only new in that it has not been widely used before, despite the fact that everyone has access to it. The charm of it, as Bateson stated in concluding a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation, is that: "We are our own metaphor." (75, p. 304). Unfortunately we have over-identified with the metaphor and have been unable to see ourselves in perspective. [As a first experiment in the metaphorical use of sex, a forthcoming paper reinterprets a key locus in approaches to the world problematique, namely international meeting processes (71, 72).]