The recent rise of protectionism and nationalism in the Western World has presented progressive thought leaders with one of the greatest challenges in almost a century. We continue to struggle to make sense out of the current reversal in our journey towards human progress. And, sadly (or arrogantly), we continue to shape our views and our emotional well being through the same lenses and by the same metrics that never saw this coming. What has been left out of the debate, and in my opinion, is the main contributing factor to our continued anguish, is that we’ve forgotten how fragile our western construct of thought has been. Or, how vulnerable it is to a Black Swan event that can shake our faith in the very foundation of what we believe.
In the value systems framework, the current Western center of gravity for cultural values is associated directly with 4th and 5th levels of psycho-social development. This modern expression began after the Spanish Inquisition. The values of this era continue to shape Western culture today and are about the macro-memetics of the 4th level value system. They’re about building the right institutions and excluding the wrong ones and other random un-quantifiable cultural expressions that fall into the dark side of this black-or-white dichotomy. It is that dark side that in our subconscious that could no longer be repressed that is now coming to the surface.
With the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment came the macro-memetics of the 5th level system. This stage of psycho-social development seeks to uncover the secrets of the universe through quantification, research and mathematical analysis. It excludes what is not rationally quantifiable and measurable, and everything that fell outside the processing capacities of the grey matter between our ears. This also became repressed in our subconscious giving us further confidence that the dark side of conscious actions mattered not. This too is now coming to the surface.
Together these two levels of development gave us the wonders of Western Civilization. They gave us Measurement: Time, Space and Mathematics. They gave us the visual arts, music, and painting. They gave us business and bureaucracy, science, modern medicine and technologies that have become indispensable to our modern, efficient and hectic lives. But all this came at a cost. We seem to have forgotten what it is to be human outside the quantifiable world.
The perfect description of this world comes from one of my favorite writers in the piece below. Ironically it’s called the “Perfect World”. Kahlil Gibran supposedly wrote this after he was invited to recite some of his poetry at Harvard University, the most refined institution that upholds the virtues of the 4th and 5th level systems. After his recital he was humiliated and ridiculed for using a style called “free verse”, something that fell outside the quantifiable measure of Harvard at the time.
As you read this and consider the evolution of poetry over the last 100 years, do what I did. Look within you to see if it’s not those same measures that have arrested our evolution and closed us off in our own safe world. A world that makes darkness out of the immeasurable, the un-quantifiable and the non-scientific. Maybe you’d add the spiritual and the metaphysical to all that defies measurement.
God of lost souls, thou who are lost amongst the gods, hear me: Gentle Destiny that watchest over us, mad, wandering spirits, hear me: I dwell in the midst of a perfect race, I the most imperfect. I, a human chaos, a nebula of confused elements, I move amongst finished worlds—peoples of complete laws and pure order, whose thoughts are assorted, whose dreams are arranged, and whose visions are enrolled and registered. Their virtues, O God, are measured, their sins are weighed, and even the countless things that pass in the dim twilight of neither sin nor virtue are recorded and catalogued. Here days and night are divided into seasons of conduct and governed by rules of blameless accuracy.
To eat, to drink, to sleep, to cover one’s nudity, and then to be weary in due time.
To work, to play, to sing, to dance, and then to lie still when the clock strikes the hour.
To think thus, to feel thus much, and then to cease thinking and feeling when a certain star rises above yonder horizon.
To rob a neighbour with a smile, to bestow gifts with a graceful wave of the hand, to praise prudently, to blame cautiously, to destroy a sound with a word, to burn a body with a breath, and then to wash the hands when the day’s work is done.
To love according to an established order, to entertain one’s best self in a preconceived manner, to worship the gods becomingly, to intrigue the devils artfully—and then to forget all as though memory were dead.
To fancy with a motive, to contemplate with consideration, to be happy sweetly, to suffer nobly—and then to empty the cup so that tomorrow may fill it again.
All these things, O God, are conceived with forethought, born with determination, nursed with exactness, governed by rules, directed by reason, and then slain and buried after a prescribed method. And even their silent graves that lie within the human soul are marked and numbered.
It is a perfect world, a world of consummate excellence, a world of supreme wonders, the ripest fruit in God’s garden, the master-thought of the universe.
But why should I be here, O God, I a green seed of unfulfilled passion, a mad tempest that seeketh neither east nor west, a bewildered fragment from a burnt planet?
Why am I here, O God of lost souls, thou who art lost amongst the gods?
I will remember 2016 for the times I outraged people when I said the biggest danger facing the world today is a flaw inherent in our most advanced stages of development. This affliction festers under the surface of Western countries that are centered in or moving into the Egalitarian Green Value system. While most of the virtues of Green seek harmony and the restoration of our ecology, its Achilles’ heel lies in its inability to see the murderous intent and the supersized ego of the Red system. Red is hell-bent on destruction if it doesn’t get its way. It stands tall and makes statements like “after me the deluge”, or “I alone can fix it’. Through field applications, we have seen not only the blind spot that Green has for Red, but its defense of it when it victimizes it and blames its misery on the current system of establishment rules. Today, much of the Western world is suffering from Green fatigue, and, sadly we still refuse to acknowledge our blindness to a Red menace that is taking hold of the world and placing it on a very dangerous path.
When it comes to Red, the Green pattern of thinking goes something like this: If choking societal rules and Global standards of behavior were removed, Red will stop its killing and other insolent behavior and express itself fully so we can all live in peace and harmony. After all, it’s all about unrestrained non-judgmental self-expression according to the Green worldview. It is in that view that I find the biggest danger facing the Western World today. In my opinion it is the primary reason why Western cultures are moving to the right. Green Egalitarian ego that sees no value system hierarchy is like a blind virus that destroys all Second Tier efforts and prevents cultural emergence at the highest levels possible.
The danger from Red is no longer a perceived threat. It has worked its way into the White House and made the world more vulnerable in part due to President Obama’s naïve Green underpinnings. One of the hallmarks of his legacy is his policies that wound down the US’s role as an interventionist world power. After the disastrous Bush policies, Liberals around the world hailed this as a new and evolved era in world diplomacy. So much so Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 barely 10 months into the job. This would’ve been a global evolutionary trajectory if the entire world was centered in both the strategic-scientific Orange system and the egalitarian-humanitarian Green system, but alas, Green sees no hierarchy and no evil. Like the Europeans who granted him the award, the President understood that no more world police meant that competing powers around the world have the right to self-expression regardless what stage of development they were in and whether that stage poses a danger to world security. Military might was associated with our savage past and on to the Post American Century we marched. Dialogue and (perceived) mutual respect replaced sanctions and military threats. The signal to Red was clear: the US will no longer stop you from whatever savage activity you want to initiate.
Green mistakenly sees Blue as a foreboding and rigid hierarchy and a hurdle that unfairly stops Red. It doesn’t realize that more than 40% of the world lives under RED Life Conditions and that Blue is their next and most important stage of development. That is the power of institutions that form the cornerstone of modern culture, not the individual Red ego that leaves it vulnerable to destruction. Transition from Red to Blue has historically been the toughest transition in human history. Green doesn’t grasp that when you dialogue with Red and dangerously closed theocracies (False Blue) like Iran, the big stick, a militarized inspection task force, the Sixth Fleet, and a formidable military have to remain the ominous specter watching Red’s every move. These are the necessary conduits that keep Red on the straight and narrow path towards Blue. With Red, you can’t threaten with consequences, you promise punishment and the immediate delivery on that promise. You arrest Mullahs who prevent you from preforming inspections. You bomb Russian columns if they don’t heed the warning before they invade sovereign countries. Yes you have to be that tough with Red or the consequences will be frightening.
In the absence of a big stick, Red leadership will immediately move to fill the vacuum created by Blue. It has a strong detector that immediately sniffs out weak Blue and propels it into action knowing there will be very little consequences. It acts impulsively without worrying about having to deal with the punishment. Immediate gratification, muscle flexing and acts of heroism are what matters. When the consequences come they are dealt with not through corrective evolutionary actions but with more coercive, Blue-busting lawlessness.
It is no secret that the biggest Red threat to world security today is Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Before you begin to angrily color him in higher value systems, pose the same questions that Dr. Graves posed to his subjects to determine their true value system center of gravity (COG). Ask WHY? Find that person’s most visible actions and the reason for taking them and you will quickly come to the answer. Mr. Putin’s COG is Red and all the other intelligences he possesses are in service of his Red system.
Putin’s quick and brazen invasion of Crimea was the first defiant act in the face of a NATO shifting to Green. After the invasion President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry were quick to label his actions in terms like: “this is not 21st century behavior”. Then economic sanctions were imposed on the Russian people in the hope that Putin changes. Well, the Russian economy tanked, and Putin became more popular. His support for defying NATO has increased. He found kinship with other murderous Reds like Assad who also has a good detector for weak Blue and knows the US in its Post American Century will be nothing more than a punching bag for Red of all shapes and sizes.
Green doesn’t understand that the verbal reprimand given to Putin is a sign of weakness. It doesn’t understand that people like him Assad and the Ayatollah’s of Iran do not value the lives and the civil liberties of the people they govern as much as Green thinks. Sanctions are nothing but a hurdle to overcome through any means possible. Global Blue changing to Green means the disappearance of rules to them, especially when it shows signs of weakness.
Red never forgets and it will always look for revenge. The greater the channels and the resources, the deeper the damage will be. In addition to helping Assad flex his bloody muscles against his own people, Putin is taking his own revenge on Chechen Muslims who occupy the highest ranks in ISIS. He hasn’t forgotten 2004, the worst domestic terrorism attack in Russian history by separatists Muslim Chechens. Is the destruction of the entire city of Aleppo enough revenge for Red? Is a quarter of a million dead Syrians a fair price to pay to erase an ugly memory of insolence the Syrian people had nothing to do with?
We shouldn’t ponder these foreign policy questions too long, because Putin’s Red made it all the way into the White House and made things exponentially more dangerous. Driven by “never forgetting” and “seeking revenge” Putin set his eyes on someone from the old guard when it comes to US foreign policy, Hillary Clinton. Obama’s sanctions against Russia were never enough for her, which put her squarely in Putin’s crosshairs. Like the kinship he found with Assad, Putin found kinship with Trump. It was a venture to crush their common enemy regardless of cost because a Trump win will give both men unimaginable spoils.
While a divided America continues to fight over whether or not the Russian hacking effected the election, we are forgetting something far bigger. The undermining of American democracy by a foreign power. Why has this issue been trampled over by both parties? Why is this cyber Pearl Harbor not causing bipartisan anger and street demonstrations against the evils of Russia? Why aren’t countermeasures being put in place to cripple Russian hacking once and forever? The answer is quite simple. To the Liberals President Obama’s statement “I told Putin to knock it off” is enough. It is as laughable to Putin as the President’s previous statement about Red not being a 21st century behavior.
The Republicans on the other hand had all but acknowledged the party’s disarray in the Presidential election. In the party’s downshift to oblivion they have become Red obstructionists in Congress and were getting ready to perform another autopsy that will help them see the light when Trump The Redeemer appeared. There will be no further inward reflection for the Republican Party. It seems that it will stabilize at a COG of RED-to-outdated Blue with a special orientation towards corporate interest. Russian meddling didn’t just give Trump the Presidency; it gave the Republican Party a new lease on life. For that, Putin gets a free pass.
Speaking softly without the big stick has become a symptom of the disease that plagues the Democratic Party and allows for dangerous politicians like Trump and Putin to rise.
How long would Red leadership around the world continue to rise? Well, if the Trump-Putin ego flexing doesn’t get us into World War III the answer might lie in how quickly Liberals own their own Red and accept the notion that blind disregard to the developmental hierarchy is far more dangerous that the biggest thing Red can deliver.
The coming four years will give us an unprecedented opportunity to see if the Democratic Party can evolve. Not necessarily into Second Tier, but enough to realize that in a world that moves forward, its ideologies have become outdated. Blind Egalitarianism without accountability gives us Trump and the Tea Party. The new Democrats need to be as angry as Senator Elizabeth Warren. They need to see through the entire First Tier and articulate the corrosive effects of the values of the last 40 years when only money mattered. This will be an uphill battle that requires the meticulous building of a new Blue system that regulates smartly while awakening Orange’s conscious side that cares for its greater community and the planet, but above all, it needs to let Green know that it’s blindness to Red will no longer be tolerated.
This post is in response to a Ken Wilber interview by Raquel Torrant that took place in October 2016, and the reaction of the integral community after the election of Donald Trump.
The more I read about Wilber’s perspective on so called Second Tier, the more I realize that Integral Theory is mostly philosophical/Intellectual and out of touch with political, economic and social reality. Its elitist views are rarely applied to solve problems in a First Tier world. The only exception, of course is if we believe that individual advancement and shadow work are ways to save the world from impending cataclysms. To me those pursuits are representatives of a very narrow and unhealthy expression of both the Orange and Green systems of the First Tier. Because of their thin, elitist, and personal growth focused nature they can easily become closed systems that only embolden the very shadow they’re trying to come to terms with. Well, it seems that the shadow of most of the integral movement has broken and it’s manifesting in very unflattering ways. The universe couldn’t have picked a more befitting event than the election of Donald Trump to show how un-integral the movement is.
My assessment could be somewhat subjective and I must say that I was shocked by Trump’s election for a few days. While I have since regained my stratified Spiral view of the American electorate and refrained from engaging in polarizing conversations, I have not seen the same coming from the integral community, or my blindly liberal-progressive friends. If they were really centered in Second Tier values, we wouldn’t be experiencing the visceral anger and hate coming from so many online integral groups worldwide. What has helped me regain my perspective is the reminder of what was instilled in me over the last 15 years, that it’s always about Value Systems.
My primary gripe with Wilber’s followers is what they were taught about Second Tier values, and more specifically how vastly different they perceive the Yellow system than the original Spiral Dynamics theory does. Wilber has naively overlooked the important work that the Seventh Level of development has to do in aligning the healthy expressions of all the systems in First Tier. Yes, systemic Second Tier consciousness is not going to appear magically, nor would it appear by us passively waiting for more people to become Second Tier thinkers. We have to role up our sleeves now and fix the damage that the First Tier systems have done to our planet. This is half of the mandate of the Beck-Graves Yellow system that rarely appears in integral consciousness.
The work is not just environmental or psychological. It’s cultural, political, and economic. We have to design healthy habitats for tribal Purple in rural America, for egocentric Red gangs in inner cities, for nationalistic and patriotic Blue in white suburban America, and enterprising and scientific Orange and humanitarian and egalitarian Green in big cities and urban locales.
The problem with integral practitioners is that they have relegated this entire Gravesian conception to a “values line”, which again shows the closed system views of the elite and explains their post-election suffering and dysfunction. To solve problem in the age of Trump, followers of Integral Theory have to acquire a deep understanding of an essential part of the Gravesian model called Life Conditions. To put it in language integralists understand, we call it the functional quadrant. It implies that you start in the trenches where dynamic change is taking place. You study the challenges facing people at every level of development mentioned above. Then you begin to design solutions commensurate with that particular level of development. This is what was meant by “transcend and include” that is at the heart of both frameworks. Sadly, it seems that the integral crusade has unconsciously moved into a psychology of “transcend and ignore.” That’s where the healing begins, not with the integral community suddenly realizing their shortcomings and begin to hastily consult the Gravesian model to get a quick intellectual fix that will be relegated again to a “line” on an elitist and out of touch model for development.