From: Mark Stahlman
Date: 10.22.01

Antipodal Analysis

Imagine a distant time when some people noticed that a piece of floating rock pointed somewhere. Eventually, they noticed that all similar floating rocks seemed to point in the same direction. Let's say that they called this floating-rock pointing-direction North. Over time, this North began to take on very important qualities, becoming more and more significant, more and more great. Yes, over time, these people came to worship the great and magnificent North.

Imagine that some other people also noticed that pieces of floating rock all pointed in the same direction. Only these floating rocks didn't point towards the North; they pointed towards the South. And, overtime, these people came to worship the magnificent and great South. To them, nothing could be imagined to be more essential to their very survival than the marvelous South.

Then, wandering, as all people tend to wander, these groups devoted to the North and those groups committed to the South met each other.

No, it wasn't pretty. Yes, it was war.

However fanciful to our sensibility this might seem, this sort of conflict surely isn't unimaginable.

Not understanding that North and South are merely antipodes of a common "environmental field" ­ as we so surely understand ­ these people-from-a-distant-time wouldn't have grasped that they were both committed to the same environment. Earth. They wouldn't have comprehended that they were all dependent on both the North and the South . . . neither of which could exist without the other.

How does this relate to the Edge question, "What Now?"

Consider the possibility that we are now struggling to overcome our own lifetime's "War of The Antipodes."

"Modernism" and "Anti-modernism." Our antipodes. Our war.

Both originated (over and over) at the same times and in the same places. Both are completely dependent on the same environment, the same "field."

As demonstrated by the "Fundamentalism Project," we live in a world of "fundamentalisms" which share a great deal in common, starting with the arresting observation that they are all newly organized social phenomenon.

These "fundamentalisms" (or "anti-modernisms") simply couldn't exist without their corresponding "modernisms." Likewise, the other way around. As with all antipodes, their mutual interdependence is essential. Radically essential.

Yes, I did say "overcoming" a few paragraphs ago.

For, it would seem that just as antipodal analysis directs our attention away from the antipodes themselves to their common field, this re direction frees us to ask the question, "What is happening to the underlying field and how is that reflected in the activities at the antipodes?"

For, if the field is undergoing radical transformation and if the earth (or the ground) upon which these antipodes mutually depend is undergoing a revolution, then we might expect to observe some activity, even some disturbances at the antipodes.

Osama Bin Laden. Al Queda. Eqyptian Islamic Jihad. These are a group of type-related antipodes and, apparently, they are very upset. Very disturbed.

I am suggesting that this disturbance reflects their sense that they finished . . . that their relevance as antipodes is about to collapse.

I am further suggesting that they are indeed finished and that this is a reflection of changes in their underlying field.

"Anti-modernism" and "Modernism" alike . . . no longer relevant. Both no longer important. Both upset. Both disturbed. Both obsolete antipodes.

(Indeed, John Brockman's entire "Third Culture" project could be partially understood as an attempt to address disturbances in the "modernist" antipode.)

So, what now for all those who have committed themselves to one or the other (or some combination) of these (or other) antipodes?

What's a "Modernist" to do? What's an "Anti-modernist" to do? What is any "Antipodist" to do?

Go to war like those good Antipodists who were once committed to the South and the North, in distant times?

Yes, to be sure, this is exactly what many of them will do.

But, I suspect that some others understand that, like the North and the South of yore, it is what all antipodes depend upon — in common — that is much more important than the antipodes themselves . . . particularly in times of great antipodal instability.

And, if, as I'm suggesting, we are already living in a new environmental field, perhaps we should devote some serious attention to this new ground while we struggle to discard the obsolete antipodes to which we had previously committed our lives.

That is, if we wish to answer the burning question, "What Now?"

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