Review: Homeland Earth

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Edgar Morin and Anne Brigitte Kern

5.0 out of 5 stars Six Star Keeper – Joins Durant, Fuller, Ackoff,July 1, 2012

This is a PHENOMENAL book, a joint effort by Edgar Moron, whose life's work includes Method: Towards a Study of Humankind, Vol. 1: The Nature of Nature (American University Studies Series, No. 5, Philosophy, Vol. 3). Today I am ordering Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future (Education on the Move). The translators Sean M. Kelly and Roger LaPointe merit recognition — this is as fine a translation of a complex mind's work as I have ever encountered.

I donated my entire library to George Mason University when I joined the United Nations in 2010 (little realizing the depth of the corruption I would encounter — and soon leave in the same year). Among all my books, I kept back three: Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition, Lessons of History 1ST Edition, and Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure. This book joins that august group.

If I were president of a university, these four books would be required reading, along perhaps with High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them and Designing a World That Works for All: How the Youth of the World are Creating Real-World Solutions for the UN Millenium Development Goals and Beyond.

Since Look Inside the Book is not provided for this extraordinary work, I will list the 9 chapter here (each with over ten sub-titles not listed here):

PROLOGUE: The History of History
1. The Planetary Era
2. Citizens of the Earth
3. The Earth in Crisis
4. Our Earth-Centered Goals
5. Impossible Realism
6. Anthropolitics
7. The Reform in Thinking
8. The Gospel of Doom
CONCLUSION: Homeland Earth

The Series Editor's Forward is a very good addition to the book. Here is the first sentence:

QUOTE (ix): Edgar Morin has written that, in a world with an ever-increasing creation and transmission of new data, new information, and nwe events, one of the main problems facing humanity is the way in which we organize [or rather do not] knowledge.

The translator's preface, signed by Sean M. Kelly in Ottawa in 1998 is a superb overview of the work of a lifetime as well as the work in the book.

The first few chapters are extraordinarily concise, integrated, holistic, and coherent summaries of monstrous spans of history. If anyone could synthesize and summarize the thirteen volume The Story of Civilization (11 Volume Set) or even the single value Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, it is this pair of authors.

I regret now giving away my copy of E. O. Wilson's Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. In chapter 3 the authors begin addressing first order earth problems, and particularly the global economic disorder and the commoditization of everything. Lionel Tiger would agree, The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System. E. O. Wilson set out to answer the question: “why do the sciences need the humanities?”

Here is a core quote from this great work that sets the stage for the last half of the book:

QUOTE (48): It is the relation to the noneconomic that is missing in the science of economics. The latter is a science whose mathematization and formalization are increasingly rigorous and sophisticated, but those qualities involve the failings of an abstraction that cuts itself off from its social, cultural, and political context.

While the author gives economists too much credit–most have no idea what a whole systems model is, what “true cost” economics really means, or how to begin exploring the interactions among the political-legal, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, techno-demographic, and natural-geographic (my first analytic model, in 1976)–his core point, decades ahead of the rest of us–is that holistic thinking is the sine qua non for any form of serious deliberation. The Native Americans knew this — the indigenous knew this (a tale well told in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus) — we in the West have so corrupted our thinking that we have failed to understand the true cost of our corruption. This reminds me of another great book along these lines, Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West.

The next big idea in this book is the underdevelopment of the idea of development. Apart from the raw fact that Western political and economic corruption guts all concepts of development today — see Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict as well as Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail (BK Currents (Paperback)) among many others — the plain fact is that stove-piped bureaucracies–I now think of Weberian theory as a cancerous curse — do great damage with the best of intentions, all corruption not-withstanding.

The third big idea deal with both the urgency of maintaining diversity while also embracing unity, and in addition points to the youth and the rebellion of youth as the key indicator of failed civilization. Here we go beyond the relatively tame counter-culture movements, such as described in Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House, and more in keeping with the US 1960's, the Arab Spring, and the narrow now lost potential of Occupy in November 2011.

I certainly wish I could be a master of French or see all of this author's works translated properly into English. Rarely have I encountered a mind this deep and this broad. He easily is a peer if not outrageously beyond Buckminster Fuller, Russell Ackoff, and the rest of us modern holistics.

The final half of the book deals with the calamity of our mechanistic and fragmented thinking, including the globalization of technoscience [he does not touch on the deep corruption spanning all scientific disciplines, particularly in agriculture, energy, and health].

The fourth big idea revolves around the reality that is there is no “single” great problem facing Earth OTHER THAN the polycrisis (all crises and challenges together, inter-mingled, unaddressable in isolation), that it is this polycrisis that is our number one problem, and from this the author then migrates to the urgency of restoring, enhancing, healing, evolving, and extending our way of thinking about thinking.

QUOTE (77): The life-and-death struggle of the planet is not simply the sum of traditional conflicts of all against each, plus the various kinds of crisis, plus the emergence of new problems without a solution. It is a totality that feeds on conflictual, crisical, and problematical ingredients, a totality that envelops, outstrips, and feeds them in return. This totality contains the problem of problems: the inability of the world to become a world, the inability of humanity to become humanity.

The rest of the book is ENGROSSING. I am keeping this book, not donating it to the local library as has become my custom.

Core concepts include metadevelopment, the civilizing of civilization, the deep importance of EDUCATED democracy (in other words, real participatory democracy, not the sham that exists everywhere except the cantons of Switzerland), the vital role played by autonomous individuals interacting to solve complex problems that cannot be micro-managed by what we now know to be unethical and largely unintelligent elites.

QUOTE (93): The change of scale brought about by developing economic globalization has de facto rendered the powers of the nation-state outdated. Furthermore, the nation-state is unable to protect cultural identities which, being provincial, act in self-defense, precisely by asking for state power to be curtailed.

There are others talking about the need to route around government, to devise new forms of hybrid governance, and I continue to focus on the urgency of creating multinational, multiagency, multidiscipliary, multidomain information-sharing and sense-making (M4IS2) among the eight communities of information: academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit. We are all on to something here: INTELLIGENCE with INTEGRITY.

Here is how the authors put these thoughts:

QUOTE (94): A new geopolitics is called for, one not built around the interests of nations and empires, but one off-center and subject to associative dictates, one capable of setting up cooperative linkages between zones rather than strategic and economic zones of influence. This politics will be implemented only if many approaches are made to converge.

Other concepts in closing: the enormity of contrary forces, the impossible possible, anthropolitics, getting politics OUT of everything–end micro-management, restore what Kirkpatrick Sale calls Human Scale, three kinds of time, false rationality — the last two chapters of this book are sheer joy for anyone who cares to actually think.

I close with a quote that is not quite at the end, but nicely sums up the conflicts that have engaged me these past twenty years. The US Government lacks intelligence buts pays $80 billion a year for the pretense of intelligence; the US Government lacks integrity, but borrows a trillion a year to keep the myths going, always passing the buck to the future. This sickens me.

QUOTE (128): Intelligence that is fragmented, compartmentalized, mechanistic, disjunctive, and reductionist breaks the complexity of the world into disjointed pieces, splits up problems, separates that which is linked together, and renders unidimensional the multidimensional. It is an intelligence that is at once myopic, color-blind, and without perspective; more often than not it ends up blind.

And there we are. This is a SENSATIONAL book, published in 1999, it will be relevant for a century into the future. My own offering, a commissioned chapter on “The Craft of Intelligence,” is easily found online.

ALL LINKS, not just the ten that Amazon “allows” are live at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Semper Fidelis,
Robert David Steele

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