Diplomacy or Clash of Civilisations?
I’ve taken note of a recent spate of articles bemoaning not just the breakdown of traditions of diplomacy, but the apparent devaluation of diplomacy itself. The most recent statement on this comes from Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, retiring operations chief of the Canadian Armed Forces (“Retiring Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare says the world needs more diplomacy“, CBC).
We may assume that this devaluation of diplomacy in favour of “the gloves come off” and “the clash of civilisations” is another symptom of the disintegration and breakdown of the mental-rational structure of consciousness at our “end of history”, and that it is also another pernicious aspect of “the new normal”.
I probably don’t need to even mention the consequences of that. Those of us who prefer peace to war must contend with more violent natures who would prefer the very opposite. This is where the nihilism of our times could have the very worst of consequences.
Nonetheless, it is also a disturbing aspect of much popular culture, too. And if we sometimes complain of the excess of violence in popular media, it is because we have come to prefer “action” to diplomacy and dialogue. One of the things I found most disturbing about that despicable fascistic film “The 300” was the scene where the Spartan king Leonidas murders the Persian ambassador, and does so in the name of “reason” (!) Few seemed to even notice the self-contradiction in the act and its justification — barbarism in the name of “reason”.
We call “virtue” in ourselves what we call “vice” and the vicious in the other. Hence the “normalisation of the double-standard” as part of the “new normal”. Under such circumstances, dialogue and diplomacy become devalued. Either the speaker or the listener, or both, are at fault. Where there is neither sincerity nor credibility in the content of our speech, nor any integrity of our words and our acts, then we dishonour and devalue. And we call that, instead, pretense, disingenuous, hypocritical, or just a lack of integrity. “Peace, peace” is on everybody’s lips, but the imagination of violence is in their hearts.
The very lack of correspondence between speech and action (or the mind and the heart, in other words) is the very essence of self-contradiction and the normalisation of the double-standard (but also double-think, double-talk, double-bind). And we can name it for what it is — dis-integration of the whole man. And for that reason we can conclude, also, that the essence of the “new normal” is nihilism.
Therefore, those of us who work for a new integration of consciousness appropriate for the Global Era must contend with reactionary and often violent elements of all kinds that work in the opposite direction — the cynical, the nihilistic, the decadent symptoms of sickness and disintegration who often come clothed in the attire of “principles” and wearing the mask of noble and virtuous (even humanitarian) causes even as the imagination of the heart schemes to debase and devalue those same principles and values.
That is, in essence, what Eric Kahler means by “the breakdown of the human form” in his book The Tower and the Abyss — the “individual” become, in reality, divided or disintegrate — divided, Jekyll-and-Hyde like, between “ego” and “self”, between “conscious” and “unconscious”, between “heart” and “mind”, between “ideal” and “real”, and so on and so forth, and whose acts do not correspond to his speech. The unreasonable is the inauthentic, the ungenuine, the insincere.
Sincerity. That’s a value that should be at the heart of diplomacy. The word means, in origin, “against decay”. Sincerity is the unity — the integrity — of heart and mind, in other words. We sign our letters “Sincerely yours” to assure our listener that our heart and our minds are in accord, and that we are fully engaged — the whole man and woman — in the struggle against decay and disintegration. Sincerity is, perhaps, our chiefest weapon against the desolation of nihilism, and it must contend with its contradiction — what we call today “cynicism”.
This “cynicism” is the contemporary devaluation of diplomacy. But, in broader terms, it is a symptom of the “breakdown of the human form” (Kahler) of “the devaluation of values” (Nietzsche) or the loss of the inner integrity and coherence of the mental-rational structure of consciousness (Gebser) — the dissociation of the mind and the heart is insincerity, and that is how we should understand what Jean Gebser means when he speaks of “the loss of the vital centre”, or when Yeats wrote of the drowning of “the ceremony of innocence” by the blood-dimmed tide in The Second Coming.
More to the point, when Rosenstock-Huessy writes of “the synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries” as the goal and aim of any new social philosophy, he is also speaking of what should be the aim of all authentic diplomacy. “Synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries,” which is waging peace, against “the clash of civilisations” and the rule of unreason.
If diplomacy is being devalued, dishonoured, and debased by cynicism and insincerity, this can have nothing but evil consequences.