All posts by Said E. Dawlabani

President & CEO of The MEMEnomics Group

What Can Evolution and Spiral Dynamics Tell us About the Coronavirus?

By Said E. Dawlabani

Published by Medium on March 29, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 has rendered many human development models inadequate if not entirely obsolete, and the models I’ve been using for the last two decades have not been spared. I’m one of several practitioners of Spiral Dynamics and Spiral Dynamics Integral, and today, we are all playing Monday morning quarterback trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong on the developmental spiral. Although much of our analysis is true, it is also partial. The two theoretical frameworks Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory have been known for decades as “the theories that explain everything”, but today they seem to fall short on providing a sufficient answer to the only question the world is asking: How do we explain the audacity of the Coronavirus and how do we stop it.

Deliberations in our communities have varied along the entire spectrum of values on the Spiral and across all quadrants, states and stages of the Integral model. Philosophical and spiritual discussions seem to be very popular, as one expects when catastrophic systems failure takes place. The archetypal nature of the devil, the shadow and the unconscious played central roles in opening minds to larger possibilities and comforted some frayed nerves. These types of discussions remind us of the frailty of human existence and our persistent failure to understand ourselves at the molecular, cosmic and Holonic levels of being.

This virus has done the impossible; it has heightened the righteousness of every value system that has existed since the dawn of humanity. Blame is being assigned at every level of development. We project our fears and blame the archaic First and Second levels of human and cultural development in China. We blame its spread on the absence of effective leadership in countries with egocentric leaders who are in the Third level of development. We get angry at the continued erosion of governmental powers and the absence of emergency medical planning in the Fourth level of development. People in the politically correct Sixth level shame us all for not seeing this as a collective problem for all of humanity to deal with. But, very little of our attention has turned towards those who bare much of the responsibility in getting us here. Those are the so-called Masters of the Universe, the blind believers in Neoliberal economics, the bankers and the power brokers who run a globally ravenous economy driven by a narrow and dangerous view of the Fifth level of cultural and human development. In short, these are the world leaders who minimize the dangers of pandemic diseases and other existential threats through their reductionist views on everything other than the power of money.

What I have described in the paragraph above are the values of a subsistent humanity that is limited to the first six levels of development on the Spiral. This is known as the First Tier of values. Healthy development of an individual or a culture usually alternates between individualistic psychological systems that thrive on competition and collective psychological systems that thrive on community and cooperation. The problem with the First Tier is that each level sees the world according to it’s own stage of development and resists the integration of other levels and their worldview. The higher this resistance is on the Spiral, the more the imbalance that effects personal and cultural development. In extreme cases, resistance can lead the entire Spiral to become arrested and beholden to the narrow values of one particular expression of a specific value system.

Today, that arrested expression is being defined by neoliberal economic policies and the blind global pursuit of wealth. We have all become subservient to a globalized capitalist system that is a grotesque outcropping of the modern values of the Enlightenment, the Fifth level on the Spiral, a highly individualistic value system empowered by high intelligence and the ability to manipulate the entire First Tier with little regard to community and cooperation. It ensnares you into the bowels of darkness whether you like it or not. It infects your mind and makes you think that competition in the pursuit of money matters above all else in life. It mutes the risk reported by top global scientists and epidemiologists about how dangerous the COVID virus was in 2007. It does so not by finding a vaccine, but by repressing the epidemiology research hoping the danger goes away on its own, or just long enough to maximize profits and exit the stage before it all comes crashing down. These are the individualistic competitive values at their worst and, as I argue in my work, they have overstayed their developmental welcome by a few decades as they have arrested the evolutionary movement up the Spiral and repressed all the communal psychological systems rendering the entire world vulnerable to everything that falls outside the pursuit of money and individual power.

It is at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, our initial ascend to the individualistic/competitive Fifth level of development that we made the fateful decision to tame nature instead of working with it. With the dawn of modern science, philosophy, politics and economics, we became our own Gods empowered by our reductionist minds that see the entire Cosmos through the lens of the telescope and the basic building blocks of life and disease through the ocular lens of a microscope. Five Billion years of evolutionary intelligence got quantified through carbon dating only to be shelved away and forgotten. Today, every time Nature’s evolutionary impulse presents us with a challenge, or a disease our instinct is to fight it and to tame it through the innocuous lens of science that often excludes the deeper ecology in which we live and breathe. We dismiss all non-microbial causes that ail the body, the mind, the soul, the culture and the planet. We empower big pharmaceutical companies to create blockbuster drugs for diseases that they anticipate as a result of our poor diets and hectic lifestyles while reducing public funding for research on viruses and vaccines. By continuing to pursue prosperity while ignoring other matters, we have burdened the planet and triggered what scientist believe is the Sixth Extinction, and unlike the five extinctions before it, this one is of our own making.

I have dedicated the last fifteen years of my life to exposing the fallacy of global development based on the narrow definition of modern wealth at the cost of moral and ecological decay. I have preached all over the world to those who would listen about the dangers of economic policies that place financial success as the thing that matters the most while repressing all the other important things that matter just as much. In 2013 I created a platform for economic development the exalts the virtues of the Seventh level of values that sees the importance of integrating the virtues of all of humanity on a conscious trajectory that makes the world a better place. In 2018 I began to work on defining a world economy based on the virtues of the Eighth and highest level of human values, the values of a world that is ecologically aligned, highly conscious and regenerative by nature. A world that, by virtue of its existence aims to restore Mother Nature’s various ecosystems and brings humanity back into the fold of being one with nature not apart from it.

I could go on about all the great things these development models can provide to the world, but I won’t. I won’t because today, I feel the collective pain of our humanity and our failure to become what we can be. I can longer ignore the existential threat that we have created for ourselves, and because of that, I find the theories that explain everything, failing to explain much of anything.

For weeks I’ve been asking myself: where does the Coronavirus fit on the Spiral or the Integral model? After researching writings on exogenous phenomena of this nature in both models and no convincing answers came, I thought, maybe the answer lies in the black void, the undefined and unarticulated black circular mass that is at the center of the Spiral and the Quadrants. This is the eye of the evolutionary impulse that began when single cell life form started billions of years ago. This required the expansion of my focus way beyond anything our models have articulated. This was a study of life that existed before we stood on our hind legs and proclaimed to all of existence “I am man!” Our developmental models labeled it the Prime Directive, which is a reference to evolutionary journey of all life forms that existed before the First level — the Beige system appeared 100,000 years ago. It is life that for 5 Billion years relied on the totality of cosmic evolutionary forces outside the influence of the human mind.

It is in the study of comparative evolutionary theories that I found some answers to my inquiry. Darwin’s theory of evolution explains 3.5 Billion years of life as an unyielding competition. It began with bacteria and single cell organisms that worked their way up the evolutionary ladder to mammals and Homo sapiens. The underlying theme in Darwinian theory is that evolution is determined by competition and through natural selection, random mutations and pure accidents, the fittest life forms survive and move on to perpetuate life in its next evolutionary form. The problem with that, as evolutionary biologist Bruce Lipton points out, is that when it comes to predicting the shape of the next evolutionary stage Darwinian theory says that because of the “random” claims in the theory, it is simply impossible to know.

It is in the work of evolutionary biologists like Bruce Lipton and Elisabet Sahtouris that I found more convincing answers for 3.5 billions years of evolution that we have dismissed since the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. Both Lipton and Sahtouris believe that the game of evolution is more about cooperation than competition, and that it’s the balance between competition and cooperation that makes evolution possible. This is much like the oscillating movement of the Spiral, which led me to believe in the fractal nature of existence that includes one of the smallest fractals in all existence; our presence on the planet as defined by our developmental models.

Lipton describes the evolution of life along these lines: It took bacteria billions of years to evolve into a single cell organism. It took the single cell ameba 1.5 billion years to perfect being a single cell organism and when it reached the limits of it’s membrane, evolution stopped. To evolve to the next stage, single amebae (individuals) joined with other ameba to form simple colonies (community). Simple colonies became integrated colonies (intelligence of the collaborative whole) that share their intelligence through membrane awareness. This more complex community of organisms in turn grew to its limits before it began to form the next level organism (switching back to a higher complexity individualistic evolutionary system). This process continued through billions of years in leaps and jumps that define evolutionary biology. Lipton believes that humanity today is at the critical juncture where we can no longer evolve as individuals and that the next stage of evolution for us is a return to community where we identify not as individual humans, but as an intelligent, fully integrated organism called humanity.

To a culture driven by physical scientific evidence, Lipton’s assertion seems to be coming from the realms of spirituality and science fiction not from real science. To that, I say it is high time that we integrate all of our scientific knowledge back into the mysteries of life that fall outside the limits of today’s conventional scientific methods.

To bring this back full circle to the place of the Coronavirus in the evolution of life, there is a hypothesis in evolutionary biology called the “Virus first hypothesis” which basically says bacteria and viruses existed for billions of years before they differentiated themselves into single cell organisms that gave life to everything around us.

The Coronavirus cannot be about the failure of one value system or a specific culture. This is about the Universe reaching out from 5 billion years of evolution to remind us of our origins. We have repeatedly ignored messages from less threatening, defenseless sources about the damage we are causing to the totality of life that emerged since the universe came into existence. We became the most complex virus that was quietly killing everything around us. Yes, the Sixth Extinction is underway, and the Coronavirus became the necessary messenger to warm us of the dangers of our own ignorance. Our ignorance lies in our obsession to compete instead of cooperate with each other and with nature. Our ignorance is in our refusal to respect all forms life. Our ignorance lies in our persistence to quantify only that which is in our narrow worldview and call that science.

In the largest fractal of all fractals, at the center of the biggest spiral is the largest void, the one that existed long before we emerged as a species. It is an integral part of the largest evolutionary prime directive, and if we were to pinpoint the start of the biggest evolutionary journey, it points to viruses, the source of life before we determined what life was under the microscope.

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Why Trump Will Win Reelection and What to do to Stop it

 

By Said E. Dawlabani                                                                                                     Published in Medium January 25, 2020                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo credit: Foreign Policy 

I had several chances to nap in the middle of the day this week. Not because I needed the rest, but because I was bored to death listening to the Democrats make their case in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The Democratic Party remains under the delusion that the law matters to the GOP in its current state. They and one half of the US population have made the case of “he broke the law” a million times since Trump was elected in 2016. Three years have passed and still, the Dems and their supporters refuse to accept the new reality that we live in a Post-Truth world where very little matters and truth is no longer the domain of the virtuous. This is a new era where the law, just like many of the abstract concepts entrusted to a democracy, has become just another alternative narrative to those who support Trump. Based on what has happened since Trump’s election, the GOP under his rein is on the fast track to have the entire US government and its Constitution subverted and its responsibilities handed over to the Russians, to thugs, and to bankers and the private sector.

 

The disappearance of the pillars that upheld the ethos of human decency weren’t just limited to truth. Today, the Digital Age has given the world a million alternative narratives for every virtue we had taken for granted. What chances does a 233-year old paper called the US Constitution have in the face of this deluge of insolence that has tribalized and polarized the world? Neither Plato nor the founding fathers ever anticipated these existential challenges to a fragile construct called democracy. To see this drastic change in the collective values of the US, one only needs to go back 47 years. Just think of Nixon’s impeachment when he famously defended himself with the phrase “I’m not a crook” and when evidence began to pile up against that argument, he resigned. Compare that to Trump’s actions that challenge the very foundation of a constitutional republic. It is as if he’s saying “I’m the biggest crook. What are you going to do about it?” So far, no one has been able to do anything about it. Today, Trump remains the most powerful corrupt man in the world.

Trump is not presidential; he is a transactional narcissist with evil intentions. In 2016 his base of support included people whose values are dominated by a free market narrative. To them nothing else mattered other than the virtues of making money, and Trump delivered on his promise to them. He passed a tax reform law that punished liberal states by taking away many of the tax deductions they enjoyed and rewarded real estate developers like himself with new tax saving incentives. This is transactional narcissism at it’s best with the added bonus of punishing his enemies, half of the American people. He lowered corporate tax rates and, just like a thug ignoring established rules, he intimidated the Fed into lowering interest rates. Today with low unemployment and a stock market that has gone up more than 10,000 points, Trump by virtue of his adolescent economic policies has ensnared a far greater segment of the US population into his net of insolence.

Today, as the Democrats continue to pursue the noble virtues of enforcing the law of the land, they continue to miss the big picture, the one that is blinking in bright neon lights 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it’s blinking the words “Only Money Matters.” They still think that they can offset the appeal of money and a good economy by exalting the virtues of decency and responsible citizenship. To an increasing number of people the idea that Trump broke laws no longer wins against the argument that “my stock portfolio has doubled in value since he became president.” Money has subversed virtue. The so-called swing voter who was on the fence on the morality issue with Trump is no longer there. He has fallen into the Trump camp fully intoxicated with the spoils of the free market. He had overcome the moral conundrum of right and wrong. Today, more and more American believe that their net worth is far more important than their moral worth. It is a place of depraved decay for which we will all pay a high price. It is also a place where the Trump administration is hard at work luring more Americans into its dark and evil web that will surely affect the outcome of the 2020 election. Today the Trump Administration is preparing to roll out another tax cut. This one will target the middle class and will probably be passed into law as early as when the Senate exonerates him, but no later than a few weeks after the Democrats pick their presidential nominee.

While the Democrats proclaim to be progressive politicians, they haven’t progressed beyond traditional remedies for problems that are existential in nature. Yes, Trump is an existential threat to democracy and that means the Democrats must look beyond the impeachment, call it a distraction, and find different tactics to save the republic. What will matter in this election is money, and if the democrats are going to have a chance at the presidency in 2020, they must hit Trump and the GOP where it counts. This is not an issue of which candidate raises the most funds for the presidential campaign. Trump will win that competition hands down. The Democrats will not win on moral appeal alone. What they need to do is to start thinking in structural terms in order to pull this existential threat to democracy from its roots. They must think of the economy. No Republican or swing voter is going to vote for a democrat who will surely roll back  tax cuts and introduce new taxes and regulations that will bring an end to a record bull market. The majority of voters who have a reasonable net worth or those who are approaching retirement and have concerns about their 401K are not going to vote for either Sanders or Warren. These are the two candidates who know what structural reforms the capitalist system needs, and Trump knows exactly how to spread fear about them being in power.

The stock market gave legitimacy to Trump and it must be the stock market that takes that legitimacy away. I will argue that if democracy is going to be saved, then the Democrats must do everything in their power to cause the stock market to collapse. It is long overdue for a correction, and the Democrats must see to it that the correction happens before the 2020 elections. They, of course don’t have the power to do that themselves, but they can call on their liberal Billionaire investor friends to begin to systemically short all markets beginning in the summer of 2020. Yes, it might be immoral or even illegal, but illegal and immoral, thanks to Donald J. Trump have been legitimized, optimized, monetized and glorified. These are desperate times, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Remember the bright neon sign shining on the hill. If we want other things to matter, then money is the narcotic that preventing those other things, including the US Constitution from mattering.

This will be the ultimate test of Progressive values under this historic existential threat. It will test the likes of George Soros and Jeff Bezos and the thousand other CEOs and hedge fund managers who claim to be Progressives. I doubt that this level of courage even exists anymore, but it is what has become necessary. What the Democrats and their supporters must understand is that this is no longer a fight between the left and the right side of the political spectrum. It is a fight for the very soul of democracy without which no stock markets and no amount of money matter.

 

 

 

 

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The Business Roundtable, The Most Powerful CEOs and the Legacy of Milton Friedman

Six years ago I ruffled some feathers at a conference organized by the friends of Milton Freidman of the Chicago School of Economics. Friedman is the father of Monetarism, an economic ideology that has taken the world by storm. It has elevated neo-liberal economics and politics to the stratosphere and is now responsible for most of the instability that world economies are grappling with: Record government and private sector debt, bubble economies everywhere, and dangerously high balance sheets of the world’s top central banks. It delegitimized the very function of central banking and contributed to social instability and the greatest wealth gap in modern US history.

If you live in capitalist society, the best way to understand Friedman’s philosophy is by substituting the words “only money matters” for everything that ails you personally. If your wife leaves you, only money matters, you get a better-looking trophy wife right out of a catalog. If your dog dies, only money matters, you buy a more expensive dog. If government takes too much of your paycheck, only money matters, you kill government institutions, or you buy its politicians.  Focusing solely on the power of money and the overuse of monetary policy as prescribed by Freidman -as foolish as it seemed- became the dominant thinking in the world’s leading universities and at its most valued corporation.

The controversy at that conference started when I criticized Freidman for leading corporate America to believe that the sole purpose of a publically traded corporation is to serve the stockholder. Repeat after me, only money matters. Several people walked out of the room when I introduced the stakeholder model that’s at the heart of the MEMEnomics Corporate Sustainability Platform. You can call it Other Things Matter More. This is a model that serves the 5 P’s for Sustainability in the MEMEnomics-Spiral Dynamics framework: Purpose, Profit, People, Planet, and Process. A modified version of Don Beck’s original conception has been adopted by the Conscious Capitalism Movement, which continues to be informed by the Spiral Dynamics model till this day.

Friedman’s ideas represented a legitimate way for businesses to abandon all other virtues that fall under corporate social responsibility and pursue the sole goal of making money. So much so, that in 1978 the Business Roundtable which is made up of the most powerful CEOs on the planet, adopted Friedman’s guidelines as its end-all be-all source for corporate governance. So, why is this relevant today? In 40 plus years, the Business Roundtable has rarely deviated from supporting what they call shareholder primacy – until a few days ago.

On August 19, 2019 the Business Roundtable, in a major shift in focus announced that it’s moving away from the stockholder model and embracing a commitment to stakeholders such as employees and suppliers. The signatories to this statement are the who’s who of the most powerful corporations in the world, from Apple’s Tim Cook, to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and heads of every Pharmaceutical and Oil Company on the planet and everything in between. (Click here to read the full statement and see the list of signatories)

Does this new statement of corporate purpose reverse the damage that monetarism has caused over the last 4 decades? Since 1978, nothing has been more important for the American corporation than preserving shareholder value. Capitalism became a simple mathematical equation. On one side was management hiding behind this fallacy of efficiency for the sake of the shareholder and on the other was the worker fighting the uphill battle to keep his job. The working class that built American cities and factories and those who supplied them became a variable in an equation that needed to be reduced to as close to zero as possible.

Fighting for the shareholder became a blood sport. This wasn’t a fiduciary responsibility like it’s supposed to be. To attract this rare industrial butcher talent, CEOs were offered a generous amount stock and their compensation was tied directly to the price of that stock. The brightest Friedman clones had taken over corporate America and its financial markets and they immediately went to work. They increased the price of the economic pie instead of creating a bigger pie because only money mattered. Jobs were outsourced, streamlined and offshored because only money mattered. Businesses, large and small were securitized, monetized, and downsized, because only money mattered. Jobs, unions and workers disappeared and you guessed it because only money mattered. Then as this whole house of cards was crashing down in 2008, instead of seeing the fallacy of an economy based on Monetarism our clueless politicians finished the job of debauching whatever value was left of our currency by making money available at 6 times the normal liquidity.

The Business Roundtable’s new declaration from a few days ago is like a statement made by a habitual criminal in court proclaiming innocence and vowing to change his ways. It reminds me of the movie series The Purge where, in a dystopian America, mayhem, anarchy, and murder are condoned for one night out of a year and where reality looks a lot different the morning after.  Well, corporate America has been purging its stakeholders for four decades in favor of those who became the 1%. They have systemically murdered any sense of loyalty they have for Main Street America. Now, They are realizing that the purging is reaching an ugly end and that a new and threatening dawn is on the horizon.

These powerful CEOs are looking to mitigate the damage caused by the rise of a new economic era that doesn’t fit their narrative for business as usual. It’s driven by those who haven’t drunk the shareholder Kool-Aid. They see the anger of the Millennials who witnessed their parents’ jobs being downsized then outsourced to places where slave labor increased shareholder value. They don’t understand why this new generation would rather “share” than “own.” They spend billions on consumer research but they won’t bother to look inward to examine their own conscious and sense of patriotic duty. What they do see is a new breed of politicians who are ready to put an end to the fallacy of an economy based entirely on money and stockholder value.

When only money matters, unending greed becomes the only virtue. When that virtue defines corporate values and culture for over four decades, the behavior becomes the norm. Jeff Bezos is a man who’s company put tens of thousands of stakeholder mom and pop shops out of business. When he says he supports the new stakeholder model, I have my doubt about corporate America being in touch with the stakeholder. If my work with evolutionary values over the last two decades tells me anything, it’s this: corporate America has become the habitual criminal in the court of public opinion, and with all it’s arrogance and desperation it’s asking us to believe that it’s ready to voluntarily go on the straight and narrow path. What it hasn’t noticed is that the judge and jury have changed. The pendulum is swinging the other way. It’s empowered by a culture with higher values and a new breed of politicians who see the deep damage that Milton Friedman has caused to the cultural fabric of America and the world.

 

 

 

 

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