Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Immediate Challenge: Healthy Green

Andrew Cohen, in the summer 2006 issue of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, wrote that

[t]o consciously evolve is to surrender unconditionally to the truth that there is no other and at the same time to accept responsibility for what that means in an evolving universe—a cosmos that is slowly but surely becoming aware of itself through you and me. one without a second is simultaneously awakening to itself as it develops, as it evolves, and it is that one, as you and me, alone, that can now begin to take responsibility for endeavoring to consciously create its own future.
At the leading edge of this consciousness evolution, which is basically at the Green mature rational egoic wave, what is necessary for us to assume responsibility for how this evolution occurs? I assert that what we must focus on is consolidation of healthy Green, for that will lead almost immediately into the transpersonal waves and the integral embrace.

We face this developmental challenge even as Green must deal with assaults from its two junior stages. As I wrote in the “Three Blind Memes” series below, the world is enjoying an unprecedented collision of three powerful First Tier memes: Amber premodern (which can also be understood as the preconventional, traditional, mythic/membership, rule/role stage), Orange modern (conventional, rational/egoic, scientific), and Green postmodern (postconventional. vision/logic, sensitive self).

Amber, as the oldest member of this triad, arose as part of the shift in the human social and economic structures from hunter/gatherer to agriculture, some 13,000 years ago.

Orange first appeared as an identifiable feature during the so-called Axial Age around 600 BCE, but did not manifest in significant numbers until after the Italian Renaissance in the fourteenth century CE.

Green first appeared around the turn of the nineteenth century, but showed up in sufficient numbers only in the 1960s.

One of the characteristics of this evolutionary trend is the accelerating rate of new memetic emergence. It took Amber around 40,000 years to emerge from the previous Red magic wave, but it took Orange less that 13,000 years to arise from Amber. And Green required less than half a millennium to appear.

On the other hand, assessing the impact of this trimemetic geometry requires us to account for the fact that Green is so new that it simply has not had the time to settle into what Wilber calls an identifiable “Kosmic habit” with a high degree of probability that it will manifest in a predictable way. Its “boundaries” are still very porous and blurred, and its structure is pliable.

Memetic Pathologies

Wilber has pointed out that all the waves of consciousness have both healthy and pathological expressions. Transcending any one wave generally requires that one has translated—i.e., lived into fairly completely—that wave in a healthy manner along enough lines of development to become open to the Kosmic pull of transcendence into the next level.

Although we can identify stunted versions of Amber, it has flourished long enough (thirteen millennia) to have developed a remarkably stable and consistent probability wave. The Amber “center of gravity” tends to pull deviations back toward itself, and we thus can expect that in almost all instances people operating out of Amber, both individually and collectively, will manifest predictable behaviors and awareness. Pathologies that develop as deviations from this dependable pattern also act to demonstrate Amber’s contours.

Orange, being much younger, still has a significant pathological version that Wilber calls the “Mean Orange Meme (MOM)”: the tendency to reduce all the quadrants to externals by downplaying or rejecting the internals. Wilber also calls this the “Flatland” fallacy. Even though the major contribution of Orange was the differentiation of perspectives into the Four Quadrants, an unexamined reliance on empiricism leads to the rejection of the interior quadrants and the grotesque assertion that what is real is only what can be measured—overlooking the role of the measurer himself!

In fact, the dominance of the MOM in much of western culture helped stimulate the emergence of Green. The manic drive to reduce our reality to externals has led to the creation of consumerist culture, where all human activity is about the production and consumption of external items without regard to any effects these might have on the emotions, the mind, or the soul of either individuals or society.

The MOM’s tendency to treat all reality as objective empirical data also diffuses holistic systems analysis, since the effects of the interactions of interdependent groups of phenomena are not always easy to measure. So even while Orange was facilitating the development of the Industrial Age with all its attendant benefits to individual human life, it was also blind to the long-term effects of the application of various by-products (such as toxic chemicals) in industrial processes to the general environment and thus their inimical effects on those very benefits.

The individual version of the Orange pathology is extreme linearity of thinking and rejection of spiritual values, unlike healthy Orange which gravitates toward what Jung called individuation. In Abraham Maslow’s model, this manifests as the self-actualized individual. The person applies reason in his inner inquiry as well as in his scientific examination of the cosmos.

As Wilber points out, if the Red magic/animistic wave is egocentric (“I am the center of the world”), and the Amber mythic/membership is ethnocentric (“my tribe is the center of the world”), then healthy Orange rational/egoic is the beginning of worldcentric awareness (“I am an autonomous part of the world”). A person’s recognition of her individual sovereignty comes simultaneously with her awareness that she has choice about her relationship with the world from which she is separate.

Green’s Contribution

Green’s distinction from and improvement upon Orange is its mature individualized-egoic realization that humanity comprises billions of equally autonomous personal egos (“I am equally an autonomous part of the world with everyone else”), and that no metric can be found in Reason to privilege one over any other. It expands Orange’s focus on the individual to initialize an awareness of humanity as a group. It is the mature version of worldcentric consciousness, and as the highest wave in the First Tier, it is the doorway to what Wilber calls the “kosmocentric” (“the Kosmos and I are one”).

Green seeks to raise all humans to the equally highest level possible. It applies the rationality of its embedded Orange consciousness to the challenge and asks the questions Orange cannot yet recognize. If, for instance, modern science has developed the technology to produce enough food to feed all humanity, why are so many still starving—and why are so many obese? If it has developed a sophisticated understanding of chemical reactions and effects on human health, why do we still permit so much pollution of our skies and water? If it has demonstrated the relative physical and psychological equality of men and women—as well as between members of various races and sexual orientations—why hasn’t it resulted in political economic equality for all people?

These kinds of questions drive Orange nuts, because they infer structures that in Orange’s emphasis upon individuation it simply does not see. They demand a nonlinearity that Orange’s development to the “formal operations” level has not yet made possible. Thus Green represents the postformal development into what Wilber calls “early vision/logic,” the capacity to “range over multiple perspectives and differing domains of knowledge, seeing the interconnections, relationships and analogies between systems of knowledge, and integrate these seemingly disparate systems” (Jeff Meyerhoff). Green’s commitment to diversity and relativity arises from its new-found ability to acknowledge these differing perspectives as existing independently from its own. Its penchant for multiculturalism is a product of the validation of the fact of this variety.

In the Lower Right, Green is now able to discern systems and the impact of any one system on others, if not on them all. Just as the individual in whom Green is opening up now recognizes the mutual autonomy of all individuals, so too does he recognize the mutual autonomy of discrete systems of social organization. Thus arises a rudimentary understanding of holism, the sense that all parts operate interdependently in a global system.

So although we can identify as tendencies the characteristics of Green as differentiated from Orange, we must remember that these are only probabilities. As Wilber has shown in his work on postintegral metaphysics, the levels of consciousness are not “given.” They are generated out of the experience of the previous levels and at the same time are shaped by the specific inputs of the newly arising wave.


This tender youth of Green is the main reason why its current majoritarian expression, the variant Wilber calls “Boomeritis,” or the “Mean Green Meme (MGM),” appears rather more pathological than robust. Much of Green’s explicit worldview has been shaped by several crucial experiences that have helped funnel its structure into the Boomeritis variant.

The first is the school of criticism now known as poststructuralism. Starting as a method of literary criticism, poststructuralism sought to illuminate assumptions embedded in the cultural hypotheses that appear in our literature. Philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault examined one of the fundamental elements of thought: the universal existence of opposites. We understand one thing basically only as it contrasts to its opposite. We know day only because we also know its converse; would we even consider the notion of “day” if “night” never appeared?

They then noted the tendency of our culture to favor one of the pair of opposites over its reverse: male over female; day over night; white over black; etc. They suggested that, since none of these terms have meaning except in the context of their opposite, there is no reason to support one over that opposite other than personal (or cultural) preference. They therefore suggested that one can derive a greater field of meaning from a text when one collapses the implied preference and looks at it afresh. If I know that I am unconsciously favoring “day” over “night” when reading, say The Odyssey, I can find new meaning in the text if I “deconstruct” that preference and now read it with that new awareness.

This poststructuralist insight came right as the Baby Boom generation found itself matriculating at colleges and universities in historically unprecedented numbers. It quickly expanded from a focus on literature into a rough sort of philosophical approach that was fed by the second crucial impact on the formation of the Mean Green Meme: the radical rebellion against our parents’ generation sparked by the futility of the Vietnam War.

In this instance a number of ironies come into play, primarily the fact that America’s industrial might had reached an apex in the 1950s, producing a level of surplus value that provided its citizens an unparalleled standard of living. This wealth not only allowed our parents to raise this huge generation at a level of comfort no other generation had ever known, but to also provide this group of youth access to a post high school education. Perhaps if we weren’t subject to the draft, or if either side had won a swift victory in Southeast Asia, we might not have had our consciousness raised about the issues of the Cold War and kept relatively quiet. Perhaps.

But history unfolded as it did, and our generation awoke to possibilities that our parents and grandparents could only dream of—even as their work, genius, and sacrifices helped provide them.

The combination of our rebellion against Orange political economic structures and the insights of the poststructuralists resulted in the Boomeritis worldview. From its base in academia, both in the United States and in Western Europe, Boomeritis Green spread into the European socialist parties, the American Democratic Party, and the labor movement on both continents. (The latter was fueled by the impact that the new postindustrial economy was having, after the mid 1960s, upon production, distribution, and employment first in the American, and then not long after in the European, political economy.)

The gift of Green—its insistence upon liberating each individual from the restricted institutions and assumptions of modern Orange industrial societies—led it to build upon the successes of the American Civil Rights movement by giving rise first to the women’s liberation movement, and then an entire range of other “group rights” campaigns.

The method of Boomeritis—its myopic (and hierarchical) demand to eliminate all social, political, economic, and cultural hierarchies in the name of freedom—not only rode roughshod over nuance but produced the very dictatorship of assumption it was assailing in Orange. In particular its rejection of reason necessarily promoted emotion as the proper basis for decision-making, thereby setting up an unavoidable clash with the still majority operating from the rational/egoic conventional Orange meme. And because it is a First-Tier wave, Green could make no room for accommodating Orange; the reverse being also true, we have found ourselves in an infuriating and frustrating memetic civil war. (See “Three Blind Memes: The First Tier Food Fight” below for a more detailed analysis of this situation.)

The Instability of Green

Ultimately it would be a mistake to dwell too much on the goofiness of Boomeritis Green, because Green is inherently a very unstable meme. Over the fullness of time I believe it may actually disappear as a distinct wave, and be absorbed into Orange so that we will have “low” Orange and “high” Orange. For now, its very freshness means that, as a memetic probability wave, a significant range of structural elements will be present. But given that it is actually the highest and most mature form of individual egoic consciousness, it will ultimately have to access and be informed by reason; the emotional foundation of Boomeritis, like a house build on a sand dune, simply cannot last.

But the real basis of Green’s instability is that what currently distinguishes it from Orange leads directly to the Second Tier.

How long can I remain in the consciousness that we are all equally autonomous rational/egoic individuals before the question of our interdependence and intersubjectivity comes to the fore? The willingness to give up Orange’s “me against the world” framework sooner or later leads from “me” to “us” consciousness—which launches right into Second Tier awareness. As soon as self-identity transcends the personal self, our attachment to the individual body/mind as “who we really are” loosens, and we begin to identify with greater and greater realms of being.

This is the beginning of kosmocentric consciousness: the body/mind is merely the vessel or expression of the Kosmos’ self-knowledge. As I see my “self” in the collective, consciousness makes “the momentous leap” from the group of all the waves of consciousness necessary to make a human being into the group of those necessary to make a world and ultimately a universe.

Green necessarily paves the way with its recognition that all humans participate in the same awareness and its conviction that the world works best when each of us is free to experience this for ourselves without arbitrary repression. This “sensitive self” thrilled by this new insight, cannot accept this as a mere cognitive insight but must act upon it. It is this engagement with the challenge of liberating billions of individual egos from any and all oppressions that puts us right up against the obstacles both internal and external. Thus translation through mature Green will, for most people, be of limited duration, for we will be unwilling simply to see what is possible without seeking to make it manifest.

© Unity Politics

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