Interferences

2015 - 2017 In:

This series is a response to Federiga Mogherini’s question: How can the US and Europe lead the global transition from actual global disorder to a new global order based on cooperation and partnership instead of competition and confrontation?

If the US and Europe are to succeed in this endeavor, to address the ongoing crises in the Mediterranean, to guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, and to achieve agreements on law enforcement, intelligence, energy security, and climate policy, etc., they need to find new ways of working creatively with their interdependence.

Inspired by the importance of communication in the transnational arena (including networked communication via the Internet) to emerging forms of democracy, the series addresses the “interferences” in the transatlantic relationship that have sometimes hindered our efforts in the global arena, where our cooperation is vital.

In general we assume that our partnership is based on common interests, joint Western values, and a shared security system. In practice, we often seem to inhabit different spectrums, where the assumption of sharing the same frequency is met by a reality of “interferences”: self-perceptions and beliefs are in contrast with projections and interpretations of the other. These “interferences,” or “semantic divides,” whether owing to misunderstandings and misperceptions or to actual differences in interests and values, produce unnecessary tensions, breakdowns in communication (such as we saw in Copenhagen in 2010), and an overall weakening of democracy.

By shedding light on some of the interference patterns in the transatlantic relationship, we aim to explore a new context for understanding, based on shared awareness of our interdependence, out of which we can shape the future in a more intentional way.

While our project concerns itself with future possibilities, it is impossible to talk about future possibilities without attention to “conditions of possibility.” Why are our democratic institutions failing to deliver on such basic conditions as livelihood, food, security, peace, and freedom from external tyranny, much less an agreement on climate change? Why are we collectively creating results that nobody wants?

These are some of the questions addressed by MIT’s Otto Scharmer in his book Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. According to Scharmer, the tensions we are facing as a global community are manifestations of a gap between our individual (or national) ego-system consciousness and our collective eco-system reality. Our project thus addresses itself to this gap, and to overcoming it, with the aim of fostering greater convergence and collaboration across the Atlantic in fighting the pathologies that keep us re-enacting conditions that undermine human creativity and human flourishing.

The world has changed: it is more interconnected and interdependent, more complex and disorderly, than ever. The pace of social and cultural, political, technological, and economic change has been difficult for societies to absorb, and the effects, mostly owing to technological advances and reduced costs of transactions across borders, have been largely de-democratizing, at least at the level of the nation state. While globalization can also be construed as a benign force, facilitating the flow of information along with goods and services, to say nothing of the emergence of a “global civil society,” resisting forces of de-democratization will require working with our interdependence in order to create a system that works for everyone.

We are less concerned with the structural conditions of democracy than with the “preconditions” of democracy, by which we refer to the “consciousness” of the actors in the system. We are not of the opinion that conflict is inherently problematic and always something to be overcome; on the contrary, we believe it plays an essential role in social evolution and is vital to functioning democracy. It is our contention that a partnership based not on “shared values” but on “shared awareness” (of our interdependence) will prove more resilient in a multicultural world in which we cannot presume the universality of our western values, even within our own borders, as recent events in France have demonstrated, much less beyond them.