Serres and Copenhagen Reflections

This is an interesting post from the Centre for Civic Governance based in Vancouver, BC. The context is a reflection on Haiti and Copenhagen - in particular the relatively unrealized potential of the global gathering. Serres is quoted in the context of a metaphor of battling giants:

I am reminded of a metaphor coined by the French philosopher Michel Serres. In his book The Natural Contract, Serres describes a clash of two giants, their swords flashing in combat, spectators all around, everyone urging on their champion. Combatants and spectators alike, however, pay no attention to the ground on which they are standing. It is quicksand, and all are sinking out of sight.

Serres' ecological metaphor characterizes the fractious, decades-long, global negotiation process. For the spectator/activists, it is time (to use another metaphor) to change the channel. The energies being expended in spectacular swordplay are needed elsewhere, in doing the real work. To talk about that entails a much bigger conversation, and much greater possibilities.

The creation of metaphors - deeply layered and always changing - is a hallmark of Serres's style and approach to learning, research, and explanation. A related metaphor that I find myself using in organizational settings where change is being discussed is the idea of what is safe and what is risky (foolish vs. wise). If you are on a ship that is sinking, it may feel safe to hold on to it rather than to let go and contrive a floating raft with which to launch out into the broiling sea. But holding on to a sinking vessel is more dangerous than creating another option while time remains, despite us feeling that the established vessel is really more safe.