Simpol and the global justice movement

By John Bunzl, Simpol Founder.

I was thinking this morning that it might perhaps be helpful to give my ‘take’ on why Simpol, so far at least, hasn’t penetrated the thinking of the wider global justice movement. I make the following observations in the hope that, by elucidating what’s going on, supporters of Simpol will be encouraged and emboldened.

Whenever Simpol is brought to the attention of global justice activists or organisations, we have to be aware of what is actually going on.

For as the structuralists such as Foucault and others have shown, social groups and movements – the global justice movement included – are held together by subconcious structures of thought, permitted ways of thinking, or “rules of discourse”; rules that are so fundamental, so deeply assumed, that the group’s or movement’s members are not even aware of them. As philosopher, Ken Wilber points out, “Any social group, as a group, operates with some sort of regulating principles or patterns (explicit or implicit) that hold the group together and give it some sort of cohesion… Even a pluralistic group is held together by a majority adoption of pluralistic principles or attitudes..”.

For the global justice movement, one of its key rules or “regulating principles”, it seems to me, is the assumption that politicians and individual governments have the power to deliver on the movement’s demand of a just and sustainable world; a demand that can and will be met, the movement assumes, if only the movement shouts loudly enough; if only it pushes the government relentlessly enough. In other words, one of the movement’s key regulating principles or assumptions is that individual governments have the necessary power to deliver. For if they didn’t, there’d hardly be any point pushing them.

This, then, is the rule or assumption that Simpol breaches, because Simpol fundamentally questions the idea that governments have that power, and it shows that the phenomenon of desctructive international competition strongly suggests that they don’t have it. For, by showing how governments are caught in a vicious circle of competing destructively with one another in a way that comprehensively prevents them from delivering substantively on the movement’s demands, the movement’s key assumption is shown to be substantially false; that is, its golden rule, its raison d’etre, is transgressed, breached.

Indeed, to accept the validity of destructive international competition is to accept that the government doesn’t have the power to substantively meet the movement’s demands. Moreover, it is to accept that the whole idea that the government is to blame and can be pushed to act using present methods, is partial, incomplete and inadequate.

If the global justice movment were to accept this, in other words, it would require a complete re-framing of its worldview. It would mean the abandonment of the nation-centric belief in the power of individual governments and the espousal of the world-centric realisation that only some form of global, co-ordinated action can suffice. Included in the acceptance of government impotence, moreover, would be the scary yet fundamental need to take responsibility for leading governments towards a co-operative solution that, because they are too busy competing with each other, governments are unable to find by themselves.

What we have to understand, then, is that Simpol and the phenomenon of destructive international competition represent a fundamental threat to the global justice movement’s existing worldview. Not surprisingly, any mention of it is usually ignored or denied because, as Wilber goes on to point out, “If anything threatens the ligitimacy or “life” of the group… then group members experience that breach as what Berger calls nihilation – as a painful, frightening, or death-like experience. The group then seeks to evade and/or repair the damage to its collective identities, values, properties, or agencies using what Berger calls therapia, or therapies to restore its cohesion boundaries.”

That’s why you’ll find, if you mention Simpol and destructive international competition to global justice organisations or to those strongly identified with its present modes of action, that the therapia you’ll most likely receive is to be ignored, presumably in the hope that destructive international competition, and you, will somehow go away.

But will it go away? The longer government inaction continues, and the more the evidence mounts that this inaction is caused by destructive international competition, the more the global justice movement will have to reconsider its most basic assumptions. But only time, of course, will tell.

For the moment, destructive international competition continues, sadly, to be generally denied, ignored, down-played or, at least, treated with considerable suspicion by the movement, despite the fact that evidence of its validity and primacy grows daily. In effect, destructive international competition, or anyone advocating it, is treated as an “outsider”. Because the painful death-like feeling of nihilation that it inevitably provokes is, unsurprisingly, not welcome. It is resisted. It is painful to the movement because it spells, potentially, the death (i.e. the negation and subsequent integration) of its partial and incomplete worldview within a new, higher, more complete, more encompassing one.

The dilemma, then, is that to progress to the new paradigm we all know to be necessary, present assumptions and rules of discourse must, by definition, be breached before a new, higher, more encompassing set can take their place. And whoever or whatever does the breaching is treated as an outsider or “outlaw”. “Outsiders are..,” as Wilber notes, ” ‘outlaws’, which threaten the existence of the social cohesion patterns necessary for individual and group existence”.

No one likes to breach, to cause pain or, least of all, to be an outsider. But the dilemma, I’m afraid, is that we won’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. So, break them sensitively and with care – but always realise: it must be done.


2 thoughts on “Simpol and the global justice movement

  1. I do think that perhaps progress is being made in the right direction with this, albeit painfully slowly. The global financial crisis and the ongoing threat of climate change have, I think reframed the debate in a more global context.

    I think that, more and more, we will see people recognising the importance of the Simultaneous policy approach.

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