Monday, April 23, 2012

Trimemetic Turbulence

The most recent US jobs report confirms the long-term lassitude in job formation that has characterized the now almost four-year economic downturn.  While the official unemployment rate drifted down a tenth of a point to 8.2%, new job creation was a trifling 120,000 for March.  (Economists generally assert that we would need to add jobs at a monthly rate of 300,000 to return employment to what it was at the beginning of the recession.)  More alarming, the labor force participation rate—the percentage of adults in the market of employment—continues its slow decline; it stands at 63.8%, down from 65.7% in January of 2009.

Additionally, the real unemployment rate, which accounts for people out of work plus those with part-time jobs who prefer to be in fulltime work, is 14.5%—down from its high point of 17.2% in October of 2009, but still a daunting number.

Also in recent news, the Eurozone is on alert again after Spain’s latest bond offering yielded disappointing results.  After the auction, the International Monetary Fund warned that Spain is facing “severe” challenges.  Italy’s labor unions are challenging the technician government of Mario Monti’s determination to open up that country’s restrictive employment laws.  And Greece’s technician prime minister called snap elections for May 6; polls show plunging support for the two main parties.  Nickolas Sarkozy came in second in the first round of voting and is in danger of losing the French presidency to Socialist François Hollande in the May run-off.

Walter Russell Mead, perspicacious as always, noted last week that

for what it’s worth, the world economy is beginning to look a little shaky again. The two problems: Europe has papered over its euro difficulties but hasn’t solved anything, and China is reaching the limits of its old development model without having found a way to shift to something new.
Although we have no evidence that Professor Mead has read “Three Blind Memes,” he accurately identifies the unprecedented dynamics at play in the Right Hand Quadrants of today’s global political economy.
The danger is greater because the US is in the middle of its transformation from a blue model, industrial economy to something postindustrial that we don’t yet understand. The interaction of Asian, European, Latin American and Anglosphere economies also confounds policy makers. We’ve never had anything quite like the global economy in view today, with its mix of huge surplus and titanic deficit economies, with its fiat money and globally integrated financial markets. The experts and pundits stroke their chins very convincingly on TV, but neither they nor anybody else really grasps either the big picture or all the moving parts that make up the world economy today.
When I wrote “Three Blind Memes” back in 2004 (with an update in 2009), I was applying an AQAL analysis to the world situation.  The salient issue, I asserted, was the unprecedented dominance of huge numbers of humans and societies by three distinctly different First Tier waves of consciousness.  It had been difficult enough for the previous five hundred years when Amber and Orange were duking it out for dominance; the introduction of Green into the mix transformed the dynamics in ways we still have difficulty assessing.

This is in part because of the relative immaturity of Green as a stable wave.  Wilber’s great insights from his integral post-metaphysics that the levels of consciousness are structured as probability waves helps us understand the chaotic behavior of Green in this its first half-century of mass manifestation.  Its current majoritarian variant, Boomeritis, is essentially the result of the extreme youth of this newly-emerging Kosmic habit.  It simply hasn’t had enough time and usage to manifest predictable characteristics and worldviews as reliable as the earlier waves.

Wilber explains his notions of the levels of consciousness as Kosmic habits in his 2002 on-line postings from Kosmic Karma and Creativity:
This means, for example, that all of the waves up to today's leading edge of evolution (which in humans roughly means, up to around the green wave) have been inherited as morphogenetic grooves and contextual fields. They originally emerged in part as creative novelty at evolution's leading edge, but then were laid down as Kosmic habits and thus form part of the building blocks of future occasions.
The older the meme, of course, the more fixed a Kosmic habit it has become. Thus, the basic features of beige, or the sensorimotor wave, are similar the world over: all humans, without exception, require food, water, warmth, shelter. Purple has been around for at least 30,000 years; red for at least 10,000 years; [amber], for around 3,000 years—so, relatively speaking, there is very little wiggle room left in their deep features: they have become morphogenetic groves of intense habitual patterns almost impossible to break (even though originally they emerged in part as creative freedom). Orange is only 300 years old, but most of its forms seem to have settled in. Green, on the other hand, is only around 30 years old (on any sort of collective scale), so green has a fair amount of wiggle room left in its structure; it is not yet a fully settled habit. The leading-edge today is around [turquoise], which means that any of you who are pioneering integral ideas and practices are actually creating the Kosmic habits that future generations will inherit, even as future generations continue to move beyond [turquoise].
It seems apparent to me that the “wiggle room” in Green is a problem unto its own self, because the narcissism embedded in Boomeritis enmeshes with that in Amber and Orange in such a way as to offer no hope of transcendence and healing.  The seeming intractability of the “50-50” state of American politics is Exhibit A of this gridlock.

While I give Wilber great credit for stepping out of his study to launch public institutions for framing the integral inquiry, it doesn’t seem likely that these “salons,” as he refers to them, will or even could actually birth an authentic Second Tier wave.  Rather, we might look back at them, much as he looks back to the French and English salons of the eighteenth century, as places where the emerging integral structure started receiving names for and analysis of what was manifesting among any number of people.

Let us simply acknowledge that those longing so passionately for the Second Tier to manifest—we can call them the “hope and change crowd”—are jolly eddies in the chaos that is in full roar at the present.

Make no mistake about it: we are helplessly caught in world historic currents of such turbulence and energy that probably the best we can do for the time being is surrender to it while keeping alert for the eventual emergence of levees and islands of stability.

At the same time we can prepare to encounter these banks and islands by conscious inquiry into the tetradimensional nature of reality as we find it here and now, and be willing to hold lightly our conclusions.

I participated this past weekend in a conference call hosted by a group of people associated with the Integral Leadership Collaborative, “the world’s first online learning community dedicated to the practice of Integral Leadership.”  This call was the first of a series of dialogues to “bring the integral community together, and kick start the movement.”

I found the call both entertaining and illuminating.  The main host was Brett Thomas, “an active leader in the integral movement.”  He managed the digital switchboard, cuing speakers and moving participants into small group discussions.  According to Thomas, at the height of the call there were 212 people from around the world. 

After about a half hour of introductory business, Ken Wilber came on the line and talked a bit about the purpose of the call and the invitation to join the “integral movement”—although I give Wilber credit for openly questioning whether the label “movement” is an appropriate signifier for the struggle of Second Tier waves to emerge as a mass phenomenon. 

Faithful readers know of my skepticism about claims made by Wilber and others about the dimension of this emergence.  Surely I have seen no evidence of the claims of “2% of the world’s population” moving into the transpersonal; that would mean over 136 million people have the center of gravity of their consciousness at Turquoise.  Or even if the claim is scaled back to the advanced sector, that would still comprise almost 22 million individuals.  Or, just to focus on California, I should be able to meet some 750,000 fellow citizens living here out of Turquoise.

Hmmm.  I have been involved in many communities based on the intentions or desires to be open to the presence of Spirit or to Second Tier awareness, and I think I know a handful of people that seem to operate out of transegoic, Second Tier consciousness.  Where are all those other people hiding?

So, color me unconvinced about the imminence and the scale of Second Tier emergence.

Still, there is no denying that something is happening, and that that something is happening at a time of trimetetic turbulence suggests the possibility of real transformation among larger and larger numbers of people.  The global transformation we are experiencing is identifiably similar to that during which Orange emerged from Amber—a process that took several centuries to find a political economic home from which to keep it relatively secure and stable.  The current transformation will probably take far less time to consolidate as a wave with similarly predictable probabilities—although it may be the emergence of Green rather than Turquoise that in the fullness of time will have been underway during this period.

This makes sense because of Green’s relative youth as a wave.  Boomeritis still pervades too many with this center of gravity.  The tendency among those attracted to the integral work to conflate Green with Second Tier is an impediment to clarity about the ways Green (and beyond) could actually be working to attract the junior stages towards transcendence.

I suggested in my breakout group that among the key action steps people drawn to exploring “integral” can take is to promote Shadow work at all levels.  As I have argued in earlier posts, integrating Shadow material appears to be essential to permanent transcendence into the Second Tier.  Without healing the pathologies that occurred in especially the prepersonal stages, those that disappeared into the Shadow, individuation remains incomplete.  Complete transcendence of the ego—access to the transpersonal realms—cannot occur as long as the personal ego itself remains only partially developed.

Wilber’s assertion that the central problem of the world today is the necessity for greater emergence and consolidation of healthy individual egos should probably be the starting point for all analysis and discussion of the contribution of the integrally-informed.

The insertion of Green, even in its Boomeritis version, into the Amber-Orange conflict offers the possibility of greater compassion and embrace.  People attracted to the promise of the integral expression need to wrestle with healing Boomeritis’ narcissism so that genuine and healthy Green can emerge in significant numbers.  The sooner Green can settle down into its potential as a probability wave, the sooner its authentic sensitivity can call Orange forth toward it. 

At the same time, those of us at healthy Green find ourselves inexorably drawn toward the Great Leap into the Second Tier.  But until we apply Green’s abundant compassion toward the tough work of Shadow integration, the transcendence will remain a tantalizing possibility.

And all of this has to occur in a world roiling from the travails in the Right Hand quadrants as the leading edge of the global political economy moves deeper into the Information Age.  So many of our challenges are a direct result of this shift, as many of us try to defend the old ways from collapse while others push the new economy with wild abandon. 

I think it’s difficult for us collectively to deal with what appears to be expanding chaos.  We have no models from the future, as it were, upon which to depend for guidance.  Instead we are cursed with only our past experience upon which to draw conclusions and from which to devise plans of action.  Worse, even when we have powerful insights about new and better ways of dealing with the emerging world, we are immediately beset by doubts about their viability.

This is why turning to small groups makes sense.  In these groups—or salons, if you prefer—we can test out various theories, insights, and conclusions based on experience with others of like passion.  We won’t do this to create a movement or to generate Second Tier consciousness; Spirit has that work well in hand.

We’ll do it to accelerate our own awareness, for when we look into the highly polished mirror of our friends and colleagues with great curiosity and commitment to refrain from judgment, we will start to encounter our Shadows, and on the other side of that startling and scary activity we will come to know the gift we are each bringing to the work.

And once we are conscious of these gifts in willing accountability for their being given to our chosen group, true acceleration becomes a real possibility.

The trimetetic turbulence will be with us for a long time, but the good news is that we will never experience quadrimemetic wars, for the next wave of consciousness has no ax to grind with anything or anyone in the First Tier.

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