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.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What Is "Integral"?

Over the course of the past two years I have begun paddling to more islands in the integral archipelago.  It started with conversations with Jeff Salzman at the Integral Institute’s Daily Evolver, morphed into a year-long dialogue with Layman Pascal on integral politics on the Institute’s web site, went on to a reconnection with my old Log Cabin colleague Rich Tafel, now a senior fellow at Steve McIntosh’s Institute for Cultural Evolution, and finally leading to a handful of Facebook pages dedicated to various integral expressions.

I have been highly critical of a lot of stuff that I have read in many of these encounters, much of it based on my sense that there is a lack of intellectual and spiritual rigor in so much of what we are moved to say and communicate.  Now I don’t like being critical—and I choose to notice the arrogance that much of my response seems to come from—mostly because I fancy myself a lover not a fighter.  Still, something within compels me to keep diving ever deeper into this transpersonal realm, and to share what I discover with other inhabitants of the archipelago.

One source of discord might be a disagreement on exactly what “integral” is.  If we all mean slightly different things, then we fail to have a useful dialogue if at the same time we assume that we have a common meaning for the word.  We simply talk past one another and, if we’re not careful, assume something’s wrong with that other guy who just won’t get what I’m saying when in fact he’s thinking something slightly different.

The main sources of divergence seem to be from various Wilberians and Gravesians seeking to interpret Wilber's and Graves' work.  It’s too bad Wilber went whole hog into Spiral Dynamics and then abruptly pulled back and recast the color scheme.  Further complicating the picture was Don Beck’s development of Spiral Dynamics Integral and the break with Christopher Cowan.  Also, since Spiral Dynamics concentrates on the vMemes, or the values line of development, it is not strictly speaking an integral model, which of course Beck sought to address with SDi.

Further aggravating the situation is the complication offered by the various iterations of Wilber’s map-making, of which at least five have been identified by Wilber.  From Sex, Ecology, Spirituality through Integral Psychology, Wilber has offered slightly differing versions of the stages of the spectrum of consciousness, aka the Spiral.  It was his adoption of Graves’ notion of “the momentous leap” from the personal to the transpersonal waves that introduced much of the variance of understanding among the integralites of what exactly lay on the far side of the leap.

Indeed, he originally adopted the term “integral” from Jean Gebser’s classifications of the waves of collective consciousness extensively chronicled in The Ever Present Origin.  Gebser called the inchoate transrational emergence he detected back in the 1930s the “integral/aperspectival” wave.  By that he meant that, contra the rational (orange) individuation stage which was characterized by the development of inner space that permitted self-reflection (individual self-conceptualization) and thus recognition of perspective itself, the awareness of perspective-taking as an activity of being was now arising among humans.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Reaping the Whirlwind

Some commentators have noted the obvious connection between the massacre in Paris last Friday and the lunacies on American college campuses that the MSM can no longer ignore.

Most do not get the underlying evolutionary dynamics producing these particular effects and so have no idea about what’s really going on, much less about what an appropriate and effective response might look like.

I wrote about these dynamics in this blog nine years ago after the violent “protests” erupted in various corners of Dar al-Islam (the Muslim world) when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten dared to publish satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It was, I asserted, a useful example of a battlefront of the trimemetic war that has become the salient feature of human evolution since the mass emergence of green fifty years ago. This war is a clash of “three blind memes”—amber, orange, and green—that dominate human consciousness today, and struggle against and among one another in ways totally unprecedented in human history.

(I call these memes “blind” because, as Wilber has noted, they are first tier structures and as such blindly assume that their perspectives are absolute and thus that anything to the contrary is a threat to be suppressed.) 

Never before have we experienced the co-existence of millions of people whose center-of-gravity of consciousness resides in three distinct waves, all of which are powerfully antagonistic toward each other. This is perhaps simple enough to grasp, but subtler currents are in play that make it much more difficult for most of us to appreciate the complexity of what is unfolding.

It is a product of Wilber’s last great original insight laid out in his work on integral post-metaphysics about the nature of memetic structure. It is, he theorized, more of a LH probability wave than a RH concrete configuration; the longer people operate within a particular structure, the more likely its manifestation will be predictably within a definitive range of characteristics.

Thus amber, which we have been working out of for at least twelve millennia, is the most predictable and stable of the three. Orange, only half a millennium old, is far less stable, and green, only a half a century old, is still all over the place. Since the Integral Model posits that each emerging wave transcends and includes all earlier waves, the degree of stability of these earlier waves will significantly influence how quickly the newer waves will solidify into predictable patterns and thus in turn become susceptible of the next transcendence.  Conversely, the more stable the structure, the more influence it has on later emergent waves.

What has become clear to me as I’ve dug deeper into my interior is how relatively unstable orange still is, and how this falling-short-of-maturity so powerfully impacts green.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Comments on Steve McIntosh's Paper on Modernizing Islam

The Institute for Cultural Evolution (ICE) and its co-founder Steve McIntosh have just released a new white paper entitled “Fostering Evolution in Islamic Culture,” and have requested comments.

The purpose of the paper is to propose a method for Western societies to address the challenge the “difficult and dire problem” of “the ongoing rise of radical Islamism” we have been witnessing since the end of the Cold War.  The underlying assumption of the paper derives from ICE’s “aim to create significant forward movement in the evolution of the American political landscape, and apply this new ‘evolutionary’ perspective to the developmental challenges of a complex, globalizing world.”  ICE believes that it is possible to “positively influence the evolution of American culture in realistic and measurable ways” by “applying groundbreaking insights taken from Integral philosophy, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, and the social sciences to help create significant forward movement in the evolution of the American cultural and political landscape.”

Now, apparently, not content with this demanding undertaking, we are invited to apply this same thinking to “Muslim culture” as the beginning of a remedy to the problem of radical Islamism.

I truly love and appreciate these efforts to uncover what, if anything, can be done to consciously expand consciousness on a mass basis.  Having studied this for some time, my own conclusion is “not at this time,” but what do I know?

Still, I find many flaws in the ICE proposition and its analyses, and this particular paper has its share.  Perhaps its author might be willing to consider them. 

Where to begin?

The paper makes regular reference to “traditional Islamic culture” as if that is a uniform system encompassing the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.  But this is, at best, a misnomer, for many distinct cultures with their own peculiar history, political economy, and customs embrace Islam, from Arabic, Turkish, Egyptian, and Persian to Kazakh, Afghani, Punjabi, Indonesian, and many others.  While they all have Islam in common, they also are all centered in amber consciousness, which, as I will point out, is the actual issue.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Le massacre Charlie Hebdo: a Second Tier Perspective

I am working with the hypothesis that humanity as a whole has been in a state of civil war since the emergence of the orange wave of consciousness as a mass meme five hundred years or so ago.  (For a survey of this period and how the emergence first of orange and then of green has contributed to today’s intermemetic turbulence, see my essay “Three Blind Memes.”)

The key is Wilber’s insight that first tier waves presume that their perspective is the absolute truth; by definition they are not capable of embracing other perspectives.  Therefore these other perspectives, regardless of their actual interrelationship, are at best sources of suspicion and at worst causes of warfare.  Evolution is neither smooth nor linear.  New waves emerge from earlier stages as discontinuities, doing seeming violence to the established order of those older memes.  These disturbances are “built in” to the fabric of evolution, so that what most humans romantically long for as peace—a state of nonviolent equanimity—never seems to materialize.

History records how emergence is never simple, peaceful, or swift.  At least in the first tier the novel features characterizing a new wave make it radically different from that which gave birth to it; thus to the older wave it appears foreign and threatening.  The two co-exist in the same Kosmic space but remain suspicious of each other.  The principle of “transcend and include” means that the newer wave cannot attack the previous wave without doing damage to itself, but the reverse is not true.  Thus while orange has struggled to find its Kosmic groove since its emergence as a mass meme 500 years ago, amber has had the stability from which to oppose orange’s trajectory.

Similarly green faces the twin hostility of both amber and orange, although amber barely notices green, for neutralizing orange will automatically neutralize green.  Orange is the only of the Big Three first tier waves required to fight a two-front war: defending amber’s resistance while attacking green’s drive to transcendence.  Indeed, as the Charlie Hebdo massacre implies, amber and green find common purpose in boxing in orange.