Saturday, February 4, 2017

Green’s Failure as “the Leading Edge”: Some Comments on Wilber’s “Trump and a Post-Truth World”

I’m happy to welcome Ken Wilber back to the resistance to the postmodernist, Boomeritis green worldview that has generated such nasty and revolting behavior among so many otherwise decent and civilized people in the Advanced Sector.

In his recently published “Trump and a Post-Truth World,” Wilber surgically dissects the contradictions, pomposities, and insecurities that riddle almost every Boomeritis green analysis of and policy prescription for today’s lawfully chaotic world.

This is particularly welcome as it seemed that, with his post-Wyatt Earp emphases on “integral spirituality” and “the fourth turning,” he had withdrawn his sharp insights into what his own model revealed about our political economy, thereby leaving the field of integral political analysis to the very Boomeritis green perspectives he knows and now has pronounced to be a spiritual and cultural dead end.
What virtually all of the above [Trump] voters had in common was ressentiment—they resented the cultural elite, whether in government or universities or “on the coasts,” and they wanted, if “revenge” is the wrong word, it’s not far off.  But there was, I am suggesting, another and very strong, hidden current in all of this, and that was the antagonistic reaction and turning away evidenced by a leading-edge that had gone deeply sour and dysfunctional, and wasn’t even serving the 25 percent of the population that were themselves at green.  The deeply self-contradictory nature of “there-is-no-truth” green had collapsed the very leading-edge of evolution itself, had jammed it, had derailed it, and in a bruised, confused, but inherently wisdom-driven series of moves, evolution was backing up, regrouping, and looking for ways to move forward.  This included activating an amber-ethnocentric wave that had always been present and very powerful, but that had, for the most part, been denied direct control of society starting around a century or so ago (as orange and then green stepped in).
As I’ll indicate below, while I think much in his analysis of the amber and orange wave is weak or incomplete, his critique of the Boomeritis variant of green is dead-on, including his recapitulation of a potentially strong and vibrant “healthy”—or, as I prefer, “mature”—version of the actual and necessary postmodern green which is struggling to survive suffocation by the Boomeritis believers.


Diagnosing the Postmodernist Madness


Wilber, when he’s set his mind to it, has been consistent in his critique of this very immature version of green since the 1995 publication of Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, and emphatically in the 1997 release of The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Trumpet Shall Sound

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
—I Corinthians 15:52

Integralites have spilled gallons of ink (literally and figuratively) on the Donald Trump phenomenon; I am no exception (although my spillage is perhaps somewhat more modest in quantity).  Last summer I penned “Integral Trump, or the Center Cannot Hold” in an attempt to apply an integral lens to this weird, unsettling, and unexpected dynamic.  At the time I was less interested in Mr. Trump the human being and more in both what he had tapped into in the United States and how that fit into an obvious global dynamic that includes the election of Narendra Modi as Indian prime minister, the depredations of ISIL and Bashar al-Assad, Brexit, the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the reconsolidation of dictatorships in Russia and China, and other political disruptions.  Further, I was and am most interested in answering the question, what then must we (integralites) do?

Additionally, I have been skeptical about attempts to “colorize” political leaders, starting with Ken Wilber’s boasts that Al Gore and Bill Clinton were reading his works and leading up to current integralite labeling of people like Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, or Bernie Sanders as “integral leaders.”  It is unclear to me how, without a rigorous analysis of our own wishes and beliefs, we can avoid projecting onto folks like these our own worldviews.  I took a close look at this phenomenon during the last American presidential election when Boulderite Terry Patten claimed Mr. Obama “the best hope we have for more integral politics and policies” in urging all of us to vote for his re-election.

There is also the evergreen assumption among many integralites that waves of consciousness, including this first transpersonal one, generate a particular and specific political economic policy perspective, a belief rife with the mythic amber worldview that integralites have presumably transcended, included, and integrated.

Until someone demonstrates otherwise, I will continue to insist that levels of consciousness are not political platforms.  I tend to agree with Ken Wilber’s long-held assertion that “left” and “right” are types—the fifth element of the Integral Model.  That means that within each level folks can skew “liberal” and “conservative” and remain consistent with the contours of each stage of consciousness.  Even in Spiral Dynamics, an integral model I find inadequate for understanding the evolutionary phenomenon, many caution against the tendency to assign specifics to the SD levels. 

We can demonstrate this by making the case that Donald Trump and many of his faction offer a non-left Boomeritis green perspective, rather than the orange (or earlier) version that most integralites presume.


Friday, December 23, 2016

The Fake News Head Fake

We only need pay attention to find ever-present examples of how a particular narrative about the way things are dominates our culture.  One can hope that the latest fad in the MSM clerisy of swooning over the sudden appearance of alleged “fake news” might help us all consider the question of how we help create our culture with our mass delusions and blind spots. 

Since the development of in the Advanced Sector mass media with the widespread affordability of the radio after World War I, we created the possibility of inculcating specific memes of taste, belief, and prejudice as “mainstream” currents of the culture.  This was grafted onto and reflective of the existing methods of mass communication based upon newspapers and pamphleteering, which were by and large generated by very specific political economic interests. 

The concurrent rise of dictatorships left and right allowed for the sharpening of these emerging mass media into an instrument of general propaganda, creating a blueprint for mass manipulation available to any amoral enough to take advantage of it.  So powerful was this invention that George Orwell famously wrote of how it might be applied much more aggressively in times when technology might make a monopoly feasible even in the democratic West. 

Even those on the Left note from time to time that—at least until the appearance of the worldwide web—almost all news outlets—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television—were commercial ventures, governed by the laws of financial survival.  Those that became, in the way of these things, the flag ships of the mainstream media, were well-positioned to become monopoly instruments capable of dictating not only tastes and fashions, but political and cultural beliefs more generally.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Transcend and Exclude: the Postmodern U-Turn

Ken Wilber has argued, and I completely agree with him, that humanity’s current task is the extension and maturing of the orange, modern, individualistic wave of consciousness.  Globally, only around 20% of us have our “center of gravity” in orange, although the contributions of those at orange have radically altered all of us for the better in the past 200 years.  And, as I have explored previously, we have yet to fully integrate the earlier waves so that even our current occupation of/by orange has a long way to go to operational maturity among a critical mass of us.

This challenge is complicated by the emergence of green in a very immature and reactionary version he calls, appropriately, “Boomeritis.”  The mass appearance of green as a wave distinct from orange can be dated to the 1960s, even as we can see expressions of it showing up in the mid-nineteenth century.

The discontinuity from orange that green has generated is that individual identity (the gift of orange) is the birthright of every human being, no exceptions, and thus no one person or group can be privileged over another.  In the long run, for green to mature into a separate and superior wave with probabilistic characteristics that transcend and include all the inferior waves, it will have to demonstrate and express this embrace consistently.

To date, the Boomeritis version of green which appears to predominate in Europe and the United States does not yet transcend and include, much less integrate, the earlier stages.  Indeed, in its left-wing postmodernist expression, it explicitly rejects the rational domain which, as a necessary condition for individual identity, was a categorical advance over amber.  This transcend-and-exclude dynamic has all kinds of impacts on our current situation, most of them (apparently) leading away from the expansion of consciousness.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Integral Trump, or, the Center Cannot Hold

"But I have no power to make other men see the truth . . .”—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
We are progressing deeper into a most dangerous period of human history, a period whose beginnings we can trace to the years between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party in 1991.  Elements of human social, cultural, and political economic development—dynamics of the Trimemetic War—are splintering and diverging in ways too numerous, subtle, and unprecedented to properly keep track of.

I originally sketched out the contours of the Trimemetic War ten years ago in a series of essays entitled “Three Blind Memes,” where I wrote:
Let us look at our world today. Green is struggling to emerge and replace Orange in the advanced sector. Given the intensity of the civil war between them, it is perhaps not surprising that Green has yet to prevail. Still, in two generations it has secured a solid foothold. Orange is struggling to emerge and replace Amber is two critical areas of the world, China and India, as well as in lesser economic powerhouses like Russia, South Africa, Brazil, and the nations of Eastern Europe. We see Amber tribal states like Iran and Pakistan, where Orange has only a tentative presence, seeking the benefit of its technology by developing nuclear power with its potential for conversion to weaponry.
Written after 9/11 but before the collapse of the housing bubble with all the attendant collateral damage in 2008, we simply note that the centrifugal forces driving disintegration of the modern political economic institutions of the post-World War II era are accelerating.

They are accelerating in great part for two principle reasons: first, on a daily basis the dynamics of our Information Age political economy introduce exponentially greater disrupters of previously reliable structures and containers; and second, the “hole in the soul” of the Advanced Sector introduced when modernity split from our premodern, tribal past remains grievously aching and raw, its unhealed pain in our collective subconscious demanding more and more of us even as we seem increasingly powerless to respond effectively.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Opportunity in Trimemetic Chaos

Self-described “atheistic libertarian” Brendan O’Neill, editor of the British e-magazine Spiked Online, has written an important article entitled “The Crisis of Character,” which looks at the progress of the postmodernist campaign to hollow out the advances in human evolution achieved by Western civilization.  The attack on modernity has many fathers going back to the rages of François-Noël “Gracchus” Babeuf during the French Revolution, but this particular viciousness was created and promoted by the embittered clerisy at the Frankfurt School and its promulgation of “critical theory.”

The signal contribution of the orange modern stage of Kosmic evolution is the liberation of the individual from the tribe.  The critical importance of this to the spectrum of consciousness seems to elude many integralites.  Only the individual, confident in his self-identity as such, can prepare the way for transcendence into the transpersonal, second tier stages where identity shifts to a much more comprehensive collective such as humanity as a whole.  This development can only occur when the individual is free to release his self-identity, and this can only occur once we fully occupy our discrete autonomous self.

I have written elsewhere about how underdeveloped the structure of this stage of evolution remains in both LH quadrants.  As Ken Wilber has noted, integral postmetaphysics suggests that the stages of consciousness behave as probability waves of interiority; the more we occupy and work them, the higher the likelihood that they will conform to predictable patterns.  All the prepersonal stages up to orange have been around for millennia and therefore present relatively stable structures.

Orange, Wilber’s “rational/egoic” stage, is only five hundred years old as a mass phenomenon of development.  Further, it is the center of gravity of consciousness for only 20% of humanity.  Even among the 20% the evidence strongly suggests that we still have quite a way to go before orange displays the same stability as the prepersonal stages.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Evergreen Sustainability of Utopia

If the evidence of the origin and nature of the Great Enrichment is so compelling—indeed, we in the Advanced Sector enjoy its historically unprecedented benefits every day—why then does its antithesis, socialism, continue to compel such widespread allegiance that many of us seek to dismantle the American system that is its highest expression?
 
I asked this of the eminent author and economist Deirdre McCloskey at a recent public forum in London, and somewhat to my surprise she admitted she could not answer the question.

And yet McCloskey is perhaps better prepared to do so than any living economist that I’ve encountered, now that Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are no longer with us.

She prominently established the foundation for a satisfactory answer to this important question in the first two books of her soon-to-be-completed Bourgeois Era trilogy.  Particularly in the second book, Bourgeois Dignity, she demolishes every theory of the right and the left about the factors that created this massive shift in the trajectory of human political economy, and points out that it occurred because of a singular change in the collective inner consciousness of human beings in Holland and England during the seventeenth century.

Now, McCloskey doesn’t actually say “singular shift in the collective inner consciousness”; what she does assert is that there was a discernible and decisive shift in the rhetoric of social value. 

. . . three centuries ago in places like Holland and England the talk and thought about the middle class began to alter.  Ordinary conversation about innovation and markets became more approving.  The high theorists were emboldened to rethink their prejudice against the bourgeoisie, a prejudice by then millennia old.  . . . The North Sea talk at length radically altered the local economy and politics and rhetoric.  In northwestern Europe around 1700 the general opinion shifted in favor of the bourgeoisie, and especially in favor of its marketing and innovating.  The shift was sudden as these things go.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a great shift occurred in what Alexis de Tocqueville called “habits of the mind”—or more exactly, habits of the lip.  People stopped sneering at market innovativeness and other bourgeois virtues exercised far from the traditional places of honor in the Basilica of St. Peter or the Palace of Versailles or the gory ground of the First Battle of Breitenfeld.[1]

It’s a shame that, in the very beginning of her insightful argument, she pulls back from examining the habits of the mind whose transformation resulted in those “habits of the lip.”  Rhetoric, after all, is a product of inner consciousness and perspective.  Talk is the crystallization of thought seeking social viability.  That people “stopped sneering” happened for a reason, and McCloskey’s argument would be more deeply served by examining and applying that reason.