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Thr Burning Mirror

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Alternative strategies were first used by Herman Kahn in the 1960s while Kahn was working for the Air Force. Kahn developed them to anticipate the actions of potential opponents. Pierre Wack, a planner at Royal Dutch/Shell, took the process from the military into business with the realization that business planners need to recognize hidden forces, present and acting in the world today. They need to uncover their own biases and assumptions in order to "reperceive" the future and be able to affect the mental maps of decision makers: a set of scenarios must focus on the futures and forces which are significant and meaningful to the decision makers. This process is not used to find the most probable future, but to make a sound strategic decision for all plausible futures.

Rather than predicting the specific events of the future, scenario planning is recognized more as a tool for thinking about the future. The test of a good scenario is not whether it portrays the future accurately but whether it enables a "strategic conversation." Strategic conversation is an ongoing process which brings together a deeper understanding of the external environment.

One of the foremost scenario planning organizations is the California-based Global Business Network. Peter Schwartz is one of its founders and his book The Art of the Long View is considered the classic in the field of scenario creation. The process of scenario building Schwartz describes in the book, includes hunting and gathering unorthodox information, identifying predetermined elements and driving forces, composing scenario plots and rehearsing the future.

Possible Scenarios

Schwartz's Art of the Long View lists key plots or paradigms around which scenarios might be built. These plots represent particular patterns which attrack scenarios. In effect, they are very similar to story genres and even to symbolic archetypes in that they are organizing forces more than defining structures.

Interestingly enough, the key plots are very similar to many of the areas we have discussed throughout this book and the paradigms of the previous section of this chapter. It is therefore worthwhile to briefly comment on them from a symbolic perspective to see the connection between symbolism and various scenarios. The first paragraph is Peter Schwartz's definition. Paragraphs after this first one represent our comments from a symbolic perspective.

1) Winner and Losers

Based on a concept of a limited world where resources are scarce. If one side wins, the other side must lose.

This is essentially Samuel Huntington's thesis in The Clash of Civilizations. The world is moving from a multi-polar to a bi-polar alignment between western and eastern cultures of Christianity and Islamic religion. This also represents the cyclic swing between dualities with the "winner" symbolized by the the dominance of masculine or feminine in culture. Cyclic theory proposes that all winners are eventually losers and all losers eventually winners.

2) Challenge and Response

This term is also found in the discipline of script-writing where it describes the type of adventure yarn where the hero is forced to face one test after another. After each ordeal, he emerges in some way changed by what he has been through. The American myth itself is built on such a notion of challenge and response.

This essentially is the symbolic duality paradigm for viewing popular culture. It views culture as a dramatic interplay similar to a movie. Within this scenario, sequence is important to remember in that the journey of the hero goes through a particular sequence. Things are not simply a back-and-forth challenge and response but rather a sequence within a dramatic structure moving towards climax and then a new story altogether.

3) Evolution

Evolutionary changes are biological by nature, involving a slow change of either growth or decline. Because they are so slow, they are hard to spot unless you're attuned to them. Technology is the most common example of the evolutionary plot. Other examples include the competitive dynamics of business and capitalism itself by its nature, follows an evolutionary plot.

This is really the linear as opposed to the cyclic view of history. Things proceed from unconscious unity towards conscious differentiation. It is centered around the paradigm of change rather than repetition. One of the great challenges to this theory, and perhaps the death nail to it, has been the end of the heliotropic myth that all progess was a procession from east to west. In a postmodern world, the words progress and evolution are under great attack. E.O. Wilson is attempting to bring the various disciplines under one umbrealla of evolutionary biology in his 1998 book Consilience.

4) Revolution

This is sudden, and usually unpredictable, changes. This category can include human made disasters, or natural disasters and even abrupt changes of public attitude.

This area encompasses events such as catastrophes which apparently randomly happen. From a symbolic perspective, there is no such thing as randomness or revolution in that there should be no dramatic change within cycles. Revolution may in effect be the label given when the cyclic nature cannot be seen. Culture may be moving into a new major cycle with the new millennium and the change from Pisces to Aquarius.

5) Cycles

We see this plot particularly clearly in the life of cities, where different areas go through cycles of decay and rejuvenation. It also occurs in economic matters: while the cyclical nature of market economics often occurs in other areas as well.

Obviously, one of the main arguments of our book and recognition that cycles have far greater application than to cities and their original application to economic cycles in the works of Schumpeter and Kondratieff. One of the things we have attempted to show is that application of cycles outside strictly economic areas to popular culture.

6) Infinite Possibility

The world can continue to expand and improve without any foreseeable obstacle. This is related to the cosmic "Big Bang" theory as well as current complexity theory and chaos theory.

Apart from scientific theories, it has been part of the dominant popular American mindset of the era of mass consumption from the 1940s through the 1970s. It also symbolically represented the period in world history before the final settling of America when there were still uncharted and unexplored regions of the world.

The concept is also symbolically linked to the idea of wilderness, somewhat of a foreign one to the postmodern mind. In the 50s and 60s, NASA and the Space Program briefly reactivated this paradigm by associating space with wilderness but while the space program continues (and grows) in the 90s, the collective interest of culture seems to have turned its gaze in another direction altogether no longer believing in infinite possibility.

7) The Lone Ranger

A plot with a romantic image based around the argument that the ordering principles of politics, trade, and technology cannot speak to our individuality. It features a lone individual or organization doing battle against a dominant individual or organization.

This is the dominance of the masculine archetype over the feminine, of consciousness over the unconscious, of segmentation over mass culture. Ultimately, everyone becomes their own symbolic "product" or "lone ranger" brand with little connection to the collective. This is the narcissism Christopher Lasch identified and addressed so eloquently in his The Culture of Narcissism. It is also one of the dualities of the American ideal which balances between freedom (liberty) and equality.

8) My Generation

This plot looks at the influence of culture on people's values particularly the culture of large generations of people.

This expresses the paradigm of the new generational theories being developed by Strauss and Howe in books like The Fourth Turning and Walker and Clurman of Yankelovich Partners in Rocking The Ages. It is also the subtle thesis of Born To Rebel by Frank Sulloway about family dynamics in that each family is really a miniature battlefield of generations. Family dynamics plays itself out by the clash of generations in the cultural arena.

9) Unbroken Line

When a trend emerges a growing trend will provoke a reaction which slowly changes the conditions of the original trend.
In ways, this is a restating of the thesis, antithesis and synthesis concepts of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels proposed in such works like the Communist Manifesto.

The Elusive Context

The territory of symbolism and the context of the world it represents lays both before and behind us ready for modern explorers to bring new tools and methods to its exploration. The collective unconscious theory of Carl Jung held great promise as a path towards this elusive context. But today, collective unconscious is at the center of a revisioning attack on Jungian psychology centering around the concept of hidden memory or cryptomnesia. The attack is based on recent work by scholars such as John Kerr and Richard Noll arguing that much of the key evidence for the existence of the collective unconscious is taken from work with psychotics and mediums during the early years of the development of psychoanalysis. The images these patients reported were from materials in the culture of the time they had seen and forgotten rather than from ancient documents and myths they could not possibably have seen.

Have all our theories and books given us a clearer definition of context or only served to create more confusion? Have the concepts of modern marketing and advertising with their sophisticated marketing research given us more insight into our segmented culture or only served to segment it more? How can we gain a clearer picture of our post-modern world?

Just as there is an industry built on revealing the context to us for a price, there are many who have a vested interest in disproving its existence altogether. Such as the powers that control culture and need for us to believe it is subject to rational and conscious rules and laws which need to be followed. It in the best interest of these groups or individuals that theories and beliefs in context are discredited and sweept back into the province of mysticism from where they emerged from.

The control of outside unconscious forces is a radical and anarchist concept to all in control of society unless they can lay claim to the exclusive key to deciphering context. For leaders charged with the control of society it is better that citizens believe in their omnipotence, even an evil omnipotence, than in their leaders' benign helplessness in the face of a universe dominated by chance or forces from without. They fear that old witch of chance often seen in Las Vegas, even when she is dressed up as lady luck.

Those in control have tried to stop the beliefs in context from rising to the level of cultural trends. But they will ultimately fail in their efforts because they swim against the current of that great river which carries the perennial belief in the contextual zeitgeist. The new agers and modern mystics have had little to do with its increasing popularity. They have merely jumped on a bandwagon they make money by claiming to understand. They understand it little more than the average person and much less than the artists of our culture.

The old witches from Jung's period of time have come around again in a new form today. The fin de siècle seances live on in the form of our ages new mediums and mystics. They now reappear as management consultants, think thank academics, new age gurus, seminar leaders, trend trackers and futurists. The dim candlelight parlor is replaced with the bright lights of television talk shows. The mean looking, heavyset Madame Blavatsky replaced by young men and women out of central casting. And the old symbolism of the zeitgeist which came via tarot card decks, Ouija boards and tables which rose in the air, now becomes the modern marketing macroenvironment of population demographics or brief fads, fashions and trends that come and go with the quickness of brief summer winds or the career of the singing group known as the Spice Girls.

There is much truth to the old saying there is "nothing new under the sun." Nothing really disappears but rather reappears in new forms, in new clothing. And so it is with symbols which never disappear. They are only abandoned by a culture caught in a cyclic trance of content. They are still all around but the need is to look up and without rather than down and in to see them. They wait patiently in the limelight shadows away from the centerstage of culture where the magicians of consciousness work their spell of focus over the masses.

In the article "Wotan" from Civilization in Transition (1936), Jung likened symbols to "riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them" but which the water "can find again at any time." He observed that "An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to the old bed."

The post-modern world seems to be drowning in a "flood" of information leading only towards confusion rather than understanding and wisdom. But while the "water of life" has spilled over the banks of the "old watercourse" it is still there, patiently waiting for the flood waters to fall and the "water of life" to find the pattern once again.

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