Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Following a discussion with a colleague, I have been asked to expand upon the concept underlying the word in the title. Since it's my own invention, I suppose I shall. Feel free to mock it if you will, although I think it's a neat way to describe the way ideas interact - or not as the case may be.

What is a Credosphere? Very simply, it's a way to describe an area of belief, or an area where a common set of beliefs and ideals exist. Credospheres cover a multitude of different ideas, yet what they have in common is this idea of faith and belief. In other words, they do not deal with things that are solid facts, but rather with those things that people consider to be true. They can exist on several different levels:
1) Personal - our self-belief and view of ourselves;
2) Familial/clan - the idea that our family is 'normal' and others are somehow 'abnormal' (or even vice versa;
3) Social, tribal and work groups - the idea that my team is better than your team, or my workplace is somehow superior to another;
4) national/linguistic - my country/language is 'better';
5) supranational - the idea of the EU, or Western Europe, for example;
6) Political - one party represents this particular set of ideas, etc;
7) Religious - hence my originally calling the concept a credosphere in the first place;
and others.
I decided that it is best described as a sphere because of the way each area interacts, or not, with others. At the centre of each credosphere, belief is at its most strong, and is less likely to 'believe' in an alternative; At the edges, where credospheres meet, mingle and interact, the core belief of any given credosphere is more dilute, and more open to change, interpretation and challenge. Where Credospheres have heavy areas of overlap, there is an essential confusion where belief systems clash.
Let me give some examples. Linguistic credospheres are easy to describe. Someone who lives in the middle of a monlingual environment is less likely to learn a foreign language, simple because they are (geographically) distant from the target language, plus they are likely not to actually need it. That belief is likely to be shored up by this perceived fact. British people are well-known for their reluctance to learn foreign languages, partly because of our geographic isolation, but also because we believe that if we go anywhere in the world, we will find someone who speaks English. That, or we will be understood by talking loudly and slowly. However, someone who lives on the border of two countries, let's say for example the Alsace, is more likely to speak the languages of both regions, or a hybrid. There's a given belief that the knowledge of two languages is inherently 'good'.
Another obvious example is of course religion - let's use Islam. The way Islam is practised in Saudi Arabia, its nominal centre, and the way it operates on its idealogical margins - in Turkey, for example - is significantly different. The fact that Turkey borders the 'Christian' west suggests that it is influenced by it - for better or worse, I leave to you to decide, although I personally dislike both labels.
Using Turkey in another example, it has been trying to join the EU for years. The EU is best seen as a concept as much as an enormous, lumbering over-bureaucraticised dinosaur; After all, you have to believe in the project before you join it. And so Turkey has had a hankering for the European project these past few decades. Yet now, after rebuff after rebuff while other countries jump the queue, it is now beginning to look to the Credosphere of the East - not necessarily the world of Islam, but the Grand Turkish Project of connecting all the Turkic Republics that stretch all the way to the gates of China.
And what happens when credospheres collide? Well to take the UK as an example, you end up with a crisis of identity. Can you tell me what it means to be English? No, and I wouldn't be surprised. Can you tell me what it means to be Scottish? Probably, but if your answer is essentially 'Not being the southern bastards next door', then there's an essential void in the description of your belief. Being 'English', as a concept, is remarkably difficult to determine; It has nothing to do, nowadays, with George Orwell's famous essay. And if you come from a family that originally emigrated from the West Indies, or from Pakistan, or even from just over the border, then how do you define yourself? How do you believe? What do you believe, in terms of nationality, religion, which music or sport is the 'best'? The clash of ideas and beliefs is inevitable, because there are so many opinions whirling around as to which concepts are 'good' and which 'bad'. 'Good' and 'bad' are entirely subjective, and I am tempted to dismiss them all under the epithet 'wrong', although that of course is totally unfair.
This is just an outline in brief - and one I will probably come back to. As I said at the beginning, this is just a way to describe how people believe a certain set of things, and how that creates an impetus to create a 'common area'; It is not meant to be a hypothesis, merely a tool.

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