Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Commemorating 9/11: Integral Politics

September 11, 2009 2 comments

As a way to commemorate this sad and tragic day in world history, i thought i would take a moment to compile some of the more provocative and politically-oriented audio, video, and written materials from Integral Life. It is my hope that the knowledge and insight gleaned from this content can help each of us hold the impossible heartbreak of the world’s pain in our open and tender hearts, offering our most compassionate blessings to every man, woman, and child who continues to struggle under the weight of our brutally fragmented world.

Note: I’ve decided to make many of these pieces available for free for the very first time, so that you can feel free to share and circulate them however you wish.


A Tale of Four Americas

Corey W. deVos & Clint Fuhs

A Tale of Four Americas takes a look at the political dynamics and cultural perspectives that influence every part of the Republican and Democratic parties. It explores the ideological divides that exist within each party, and offers a simple map to help make sense of these seemingly conflicting beliefs.

Integral Trans-Partisan Politics

Ken Wilber, written by Corey W. deVos

Ken Wilber discusses the many problems facing the emergence of a genuinely Integral “Third-Way” political party, most notably the issue of developmental elitism, and offers a remarkably simple-but-effective definition of the political Left and Right.

The Deconstruction of the World Trade Center

Ken Wilber

In this fascinating footnote to the book Boomeritis, written in 2002, Ken discussions the many sorts of reactions people had to the tragedy of 9/11, while also presenting a theoretical framework within which a genuinely Integral approach to politics and governance might emerge.

Politics in the 21st Century

Jim Garrison & Ken Wilber, written by Corey W. deVos

In this fascinating 3-part dialogue between Ken Wilber and chairman and president of the State of the World Forum Jim Garrison, the topics range from the increasingly dangerous crises happening around the globe to America’s transition from republic to empire to the ability for Integral consciousness to face the precarious challenges of the 21st century head on.

Is an Integral World Federation Possible?

Ken Wilber

Here Ken discusses the work that is being done by Integral Institute, Integral Life, and Jim Garrison’s State of the World Forum to help move toward a genuine integral “World Federation” government—one capable of meeting the complex and tightly-interconnected nature of our 21st-century problems with the clarity, compassion, and decisiveness they require.

The Integral-Political Imperative

James S. Turner & Ken Wilber, written by Corey W. deVos

In this three-part series, James Turner, a founding pioneer in Integral forms of law, politics, and federal regulation talks with Ken about his days with Ralph Nader, 18th-century American political history, the essential ingredients of an Integral approach to politics, and the meaning of “trans-partisan” politics.

One Person, One Vote—One Catch

Ken Wilber

Here Ken discusses the dangers of “one person, one vote” approaches to democracy. If we consider the fact that people grow through three major stages of development—ego-centric, ethno-centric, and world-centric—and then try to get a sense of where the majority of the people current exists, we find that nearly 70% of the world’s population remains at an ethno-centric stage or lower. Democracy is inherently a world-centric system of governance, and “one person, one vote” an ideal way to enact the democratic process. But if the majority of the voters have not themselves achieved a world-centric level of consciousness, it begins to fall apart pretty quickly, with effects as broad as Kansas banning the teaching of evolution to the democratic election of Hamas in Palestine—even the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (aka the Nazis) came into power through a plurality election in 1933. Although one does not garner a tremendous amount of popularity criticizing the “one person, one vote” ethic, without a sophisticated understanding of how this system of governance actually plays itself out in the real world, and without finding some way to limit the influence of pre-rational beliefs and mob-rule, democracy can actually become the last best hope for fascism in the 21st century.

Spiral Dynamics and the Palestine/Israel Conflict

Don Beck & Jeff Salzman

Here Don offers an intimate glimpse into his own life and career. He discusses the current phase of his work: traveling the world and applying Spiral Dynamics to various geo-political “hotspots” all over the planet. He offers his own ideas about healthy models of society, the crucial distinction between stages of consciousness and the contents of those stages, and the importance of preserving many of the early stages of development that are so often seen as primitive and obsolete. He then goes into considerable depth around the specifics of the Palestine-Israel conflict, describing the needs and problems on both sides of the divide, his hands-on involvement with both nations, and the remarkable receptivity with which his work has been met. At a time when tensions in the Middle East can seem so hopelessly combustible, it is encouraging to see Integral seeds being planted in such surprisingly fertile soil, offering us all a much-needed exhale as we wait to see how evolution will continue playing itself out in this difficult region of the world.

The Middle East: Leveling the Laws of the Land

Ken Wilber

In this video, Ken is asked about one of the most difficult and pressing issues of our time: the violence in the Middle East. How can the West help influence the overall growth of the Middle East, from renegade states to civil societies? Do democratic solutions have any chance of helping a region which, to quote Winston Churchill, “continues to produce more history than it can possibly digest”?

Is the Future Spinning Out of Control?

Ken Wilber

“Is everything spinning out of control?” asked an Associated Press article in Summer 2008. Between rising flood waters in the Midwest, drowning polar bears in the far North, skyrocketing gas prices, plummeting home values, and endless wars on multiple fronts, the future does not seem to be living up to its promise—a promise envisioned since the détente of the Cold War and the proclamation of George H.W. Bush’s “New World Order.” From an Integral altitude, what can we make of the future?


The Integral (R)evolution

September 10, 2009 3 comments

At this very moment, there is something of a revolution occurring around the world, sweeping through almost every facet of the human condition–psychological, spiritual, cultural, political, technological, ecological, etc.  All the old and partial approaches to reality are being questioned, and new and more integral responses are being explored, laying the foundation for an entirely new era in human civilization.

It is not the first revolution the world has ever seen, and it will certainly not be the last. But it is the first that does not insist that everyone adopt a new philosophy, a new worldview, or a new monolithic way of being—even while new philosophies, new worldviews, and new ways of being are constantly laid down as we speak.  It is a revolution that fully embraces us wherever we may be in our own development and allows us to be who we already are—even while it points out all those aspects of our lives where we still need to grow.

Welcome to the Integral Revolution, history’s response to the observation that “problems cannot be solved from the same level of thinking that created them.” We’ve been handed an entirely new set of problems and complexities that would have been unimaginable just fifty years ago, bringing us ever closer to fulfilling our limitless potential as conscious and compassionate human beings, slowly bootstrapping our way to infinity.

When contemplating the possible shapes and sounds of our newly emerging revolution, it is useful to track the similarities and differences it may have with other cultural and spiritual transformations in our past—most notably the postmodern revolution of the 1960’s. The sixties, of course, were the inevitable result of a perfect storm of social and cultural currents.  Our hearts and minds were being expanded in two directions at once: we were growing as a culture vertically into an entirely new stage of consciousness (postmodernism/pluralism), as well as horizontally through states of consciousness (spiritual, altered, etc.).

Vertical development is the natural evolutionary response to the rise of new complexities in our lives, pushing the human species through archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral waves of consciousness, and onward toward a greater and greater sense of human dignity.  In this succession of values and worldviews, the sixties became a staging platform for the newly emerging pluralistic stage of development, as seen in the rise of postmodernism as an intellectual and artistic framework, an explosion of pluralistic values emerging around the world, a rapidly accelerating media industry that seemed to make the world smaller and smaller by the moment, the urgency of civil rights and racial desegregation, a newfound curiosity and empowerment around human sexuality, etc.

At the same time that we were just beginning to explore a whole new vertical stage of consciousness, another major force of transformation began to sweep through culture.  The sixties became a test-tube for experimentation with various spiritual and psychedelic states of consciousness, catalyzed by the sudden appearance of two extremely powerful methods of state-change: a massive influx of Eastern spirituality and mystical thought, as well as the introduction of psychedelic drugs—both of which placed major emphasis upon the importance of raw, direct experience of reality.

The confluence of these two powerful currents of human development made for one of the most fascinating and colorful revolutions in recent history, forever changing how we relate to the world, to our culture, and to ourselves.

It is easy to wax quixotic about the sixties, forgetting that it was a period of time littered with its own tragedies, heartbreaks, and casualties—after all, the hippie movement was itself book-ended by a number of devastating assassinations, and one can only wonder what would have become of the counterculture had it not been so crippled when its greatest leaders were murdered in the prime of their influence.  On the other hand, it can also be easy to dismiss the psychedelic sixties altogether as naïve, excessive, narcissistic, intellectually effete—and ultimately doomed to collapse under the tremendous weight of pragmatic reality.  But regardless of how we relate to the social and cultural zeitgeist of the sixties, entire generations of X’ers and Y’ers have since felt as if they’ve somehow missed the boat entirely.  We feel as though we standing in the glorious, gluttonous Technicolor shadow of our parents, wondering to ourselves if the time for our own revolution will ever actually come.

Well make no mistake about it: the time has come. Though it is no longer merely a revolution of the mind (ours is a revolution of the “body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature”) and though it is still in its very early stages of emergence (with a long way to go before it reaches any sort of “tipping point”), its influence is already beginning to sweep across the world.  It is happening right now at this very second.  The very same currents of growth and development that set the initial stage for the sixties revolution—vertical and horizontal growth through stages and states of consciousness—have begun to flow together once again, creating an upswell of consciousness, care, and creative novelty that has not been seen in decades.  Our revolution approaches; all we can do is hope that our soundtrack will be as cool as theirs was.

During the sixites, we were almost entirely subject to these two mighty currents of evolution, unable to differentiate or even discern the forces that were dramatically shaping our minds and our hearts. But now we have a map—one of the most significant differences between the new revolution and the old—that can actually help make sense of the chaotic territory of human potential.  And not just any map; it’s a map that shows us where exactly we are at any given point in relation to the full totality of the natural and spiritual world.  A map which, for those casualties of addiction who became irrevocably lost in the psychedelic wilderness of their minds, could have been immensely useful fifty years ago.

It might be fair to say that the worldwide transformation promised by the sixties counterculture was largely stillborn, its momentum permanently hamstrung by political assassinations and various forms of cultural fallout. But evolution has continued surging on nonetheless, pumping, pulsing, and pushing humanity into the horizon of tomorrow’s possibilities.

The Integral Revolution is one that is based upon principles of compassion, clarity, and inclusiveness—principles that also defined the sixties revolution in many ways, though they did not have the sophisticated tools and methodologies that we currently have, nor the complexities of today’s world and the capacity for integral thought that arises alongside them.  Although we do not yet know what shape our own revolution will take, when it will hit critical mass, and how exactly it will transform our lives and our world, we do know that it is happening only because of pioneers like you, dedicating your lives toward deepening and enriching our humanity and divinity alike.

A willingness to step beyond our personal and cultural points of view while remaining true to our own unique perspective; to sanctify the common ground between different sciences and different spiritual traditions while fully honoring and celebrating the differences between them; to hold all the contradictions and paradoxes of knowledge gently in one hand while cutting through the confusion and fragmentation with the other—these are precisely the sorts of qualities that define Integral Revolution. Shouting William Stern’s slogan from the mountaintop like a 21st-century battle-cry—Unitas Multiplex!—we find unity within the heart of diversity, forged deep in the furnace of purpose.

The Integral Revolution: the result of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable subject.


Integral Trans-Partisan Politics

Climate, Culture, and Conciousness: Growing Green

Redefining the Relationships Between Men and Women

Iran: Evolution, Revolution, or Regression?

Here Be Dragons. Part 2: MGM + MSM = Faux News(peak)

August 24, 2009 2 comments

In case you forgot your secret integral decoder ring:

MGM = the “Mean Green Meme”
MSM = Mainstream Media
Faux News = the brutal disembowelment of journalistic integrity

Brent Simpson has written a great followup to his discussion about conspiracy theory over on Integral Life, and i thought i would post my latest response here.

Brent, you are doing an exquisite job with this, allowing yourself access to so many perspectives–even those teetering precariously on the fringe–while keeping your own approach as grounded as possible, which can be very difficult to do when dealing with this sort of material.  Keep up the great work; you have obviously hit on a topic that i am rabidly fascinated with.

I think that as long as we can keep just a few parameters in mind, this conversation can go a long way toward identifying some of the major obstacles that stand in the path of implementing any of our visions of an “Integral World Federation”  And i personally agree that there is no greater obstacle to this newly-emerging potential than the power elite.

Just a few things i like to keep in mind:

– One of the greatest weaknesses in conspiracy theory is the temptation to wrap over-simplified mythologies around extremely complex realities, often framing the struggle as one between classic conceptions of good vs. evil, oppressed vs. oppressor, Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader.  Most conspiracy theory does not take into account the full range of human motivation, even among the power elite themselves.

– Conversely, many conspiracy theorists prefer needlessly complex and convoluted narratives over more straight-forward interpretations, in desperate need of an appointment at Occam’s Barber Shop.  (See, for example, the supposed “moon landing hoax” conspiracies. Much simpler to just go there and simply cover up what you found, than it is to hoax the whole damn thing ^_^)

– A great preponderance of conspiracy theory is fueled by green anti-modernist sentiments, which often undermine both their perceptions and conclusions about life in the 21st century.  These are the people who use the internet to protest anti-globalization, or who fancy themselves revolutionaries because they wear Che Guevera t-shirts that were actually made in China.  It’s important for us to find a way to have a conversation about the New World Order set in a worldview that frames our growth toward globalization in a positive light.  Which brings us to….

– Eros, baby.  Not even the power elite can escape its grasp.  Whether they know it or not, they are part of the story of our mutual becoming, just as much as anyone else.  And they are playing their role precisely as they should be, creating exactly the sort of evolutionary tension we need to propel ourselves to the next level of self-organization.

I have a few comments about the examples you cite of conspiracy within military, economic, industrial, and entertainment complexes, which is exactly where you would want to begin when trying to determine the influence of the power elite on American (and, by effect, global) society.  But unfortunately, i don’t have as much time to respond as i would like, so i will just touch on one piece i have been thinking about lately, which is around the corporate-controlled mainstream media and the 24-hour news cycle.

The other night Chuck Todd was on Bill Maher’s show, and he was expressing his own consternation that he has to share the arena of “media” (i think he was specifically referring to “journalism”) with people like Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, who make a career out of distorting truth, fabricating reality, and espousing traditional values rather than offering an objective view of the facts and allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions.  A couple decades ago, these people would have never have even been invited to the grown-up table on Thanksgiving.  But now, it seems, you can use something like Fox News to carpet bomb American society with partial truths and propaganda, leaving it to the other networks to clean up the mess, while knowing that the lies will “stick” with enough of the pre-rational fringe to disrupt our most important media cycles.  This is why when you turn on the TV hoping for a reasonable debate about health care, one that presents the facts on both sides of the argument in a cool and rational way, but instead find images of gun-toting protesters, hanging effigies of congressmen, and posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache (which i imagine must be hideously insulting to holocaust survivors and their decendants…).

Many people point the finger at Rupert Murdoch, and consider him a direct conspirator behind the artificially-stoked culture wars that are preventing any real solutions from being surfaced.  But i think he is just playing his role as a capitalist, following the money wherever it takes him.  Our current journalistic malaise is not (solely) due to corporate conspiracy to keep us down by keeping us dumb, but is an inevitable result of liberal media itself, coupled with the exponential growth of information technology.  Having only three network channels to choose from forced us into a sort of journalistic objectivity, and someone like Walter Cronkite was able to report across ideological lines and be heard by multiple values at once.

But as communications technology continued to accelerate, our viewing options continued to increase, and postmodernist criticism of objectivity itself continued to saturate academia,the entire milieu of journalism began to change right before our eyes until we found ourselves exactly where we are–a plurality of news sources, each uniquely customized to various values propositions up and down the spectrum of development, each catering to its own (usually mutually exclusive) audience demographic.  As a result, it is now almost completely impossible to send a single message to all of America–or for a single lie to be debunked for all of America–a reality that many politicians have already begun using to their advantage (I’m looking at you, Palin…).

I don’t actually think all of this unfolded according to some secret Illuminati plan, as the technologies involved (especially the internet) were largely disruptive technologies–meaning they were innovations no one could have really seen coming, with consequences no one could have fully predicted.  But it did create fresh and fertile soil for corporate opportunism, especially as the expansion of news media became more and more dependent upon Neilson ratings and advertising sponsorships.

Of course, news media now has way too much span for way too little depth, and has already begun collapsing under its own weight.  Journalism is beginning to eat itself–anchormen are being replaced by entertainers, journalists replaced by commentators, and investigative reporters replaced by stay-at-home bloggers.  We no longer report facts, we report values.  We no longer search for objective truth, we search for ways to reinforce the things we already believe.  As a result, the power elite now has an entirely new place to hide their skeletons: right in plain sight for all to see (and none to notice).

Anyway, i think it is a delicious twist of irony that the only reason that people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck can find a spotlight in the mainstream media is because of the high-minded pluralistic values that have emerged in the past 50 years, which has simultaneously raised the bar for journalistic sophistication, while almost entirely deconstructing our collective need for journalistic objectivity (or even integrity).

“There is no objective truth, just endless interpretations of truth. And no single interpretation can be any better or any worse than any other interpretation.  Therefore, there is no essential difference between Sean Hannity’s truth and Rachel Maddow’s truth.” -Extreme Postmodern Strawman

“Take your aperspectival nihilism and shove it up your mean green ass.” -Extreme Integral Strawman


Here Be Dragons: Conspiracy Theory and the Power Elite

Here Be Dragons: Conspiracy Theory and the Power Elite

August 21, 2009 8 comments

Someone recently posted a blog in the Integral Life community titled “Perhaps There is a Big Elephant in the Integral Room,” in which Brent Simpson asks:

“Over the last few months I have come across Alex Jones. His views to say the least are radical. He is positing that the government (at the highest levels)… is already non-left/right (Something Wilber pushes for & I believe could be wonderfully powerful if just people run the show). Jones’ view is that however, the left/right paradigm is a hoax it is used as a means to rile people into partisan thought. Where in reality the control is really coming from banking elite. Wacky right? I agree… it sounds/is far out. But, the far out-ness of it does not on its own negate its possibility of truth. As truth claims must be empirically looked into right?

Here’s the scary thing… he in my view provides some real suggestive evidence that there may well be some real truths to what he has to say. The stuff is far out no doubt… but it requires personal inquiry to ascertain if such important info is or isn’t true.

Look for yourself: &”

Brian Oconnell responded by saying:

“Too much reality might make Integral’s and Ken’s Vision have to be revised. The LR would look much different with the truths your pointing to…. Integral thinks it has a grasp of the LR. But does not understanding banking 101. Integral needs a LR awakening and quick before the Elite blob takes over Integral hopes.”

Here was my response.

As a life-long enthusiast of conspiracy theory, i’ve kept an eye on everything from Alex Jones to the Masons, to the Bilderbergers, and all the way to glass domes on the moon, structures on Mars, ancient astronauts, and various forms of (occasionally illicit) extraterrestrial liaison.  Not only is it wildly entertaining to wrap interesting mythologies around the complexity of modern life, it’s also a great way to remind myself of everything i don’t know—and i personally think that it is extremely important for even our best maps of reality to acknowledge the mind boggling mystery at the periphery of understanding, dark seas of incomprehension scribed with warnings that plainly read: “Here Be Dragons.”

The problem with most conspiracy theory is that, when followed through to the end with a critical eye, any particular theory ends up appearing hopelessly naive.  However, it is equally naive to think that, in a world with as dramatically imbalanced a distribution of wealth as ours, there are no conspiracy theories at all.  American and European history has been decidedly influenced by a plethora of secret societies, each with its own sphere of influence, control, and power.  Let’s be clear—those with the most wealth and power will almost always manipulate the system so they can maintain that power.  And they use tactics that have been in play since at least the Roman Empire—even the Babylonian, if you listen to Alex Jones.  But, outside the world of comic books and caped crusaders (the Guild of Calamitous Intent notwithstanding), it is hard to imagine any single room of people powerful enough (or competent enough with their power) to successfully manipulate and control the thoughts and values of over six billion individual agents around the world.

Conspiracies certainly exist, but no prison is strong enough to confine Eros.

Much of the confusion, i believe, is due to an unnecessary personification of the “nexus-agency” of the lower right quadrant—e.g. Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”—there is a very real “intelligence” to the LR quadrant, a self-organizing force that we have begun to intuit, but have found difficult to account for (at least before Ken Wilber’s four-quadrant map made it explicit)—and while looking for some way to “ground” this LR intelligence in the real world, we naturally project it onto the power elite.  After all, if there anyone who could influence the political, industrial, military, and entertainment worlds, it would certainly be the top .0001% of the wealthiest people in the world.  But to think that any of them would be capable of subverting more than 500 years of individual liberty, enslaving the free-thinkers of the world under some sort of monolithic New World Order aegis of global totalitarianism (as Alex Jones suggests) is hopelessly naive, and radically overestimates our own sway on the forces of evolution in this lonely pocket of the galaxy.

It reminds me of my favorite argument against those who believe the Bush administration was responsible for 9/11*—do you really think that those responsible for the FEMA, Guantanamo Bay, and Iraqi WMD fiascos could really carry out an operation as incomprehensibly complex as a 9/11 coverup?**

As to Brian’s comment that “the LR would look much different with the truths you’re pointing to”—would it really?  Isn’t this thirst for wealth and power pretty much covered by the “Red” stage of development?  And isn’t it made pretty explicit that any level of cognition can be hijacked by ego-centric values, and that these power-hungry values can even be dressed up (double-speak style) with the language of pretty much any other stage of values?  While i agree that the integral treatment of political science has remained highly abstract and conceptual, and its real-world implementation needs to take into account the fact that the power elite and the developmental elite seem to share almost no overlap whatsoever, i don’t think our distribution of wealth and power does anything to “break” the integral model.  I also think it can accommodate the concept of “esoteric” and “exoteric” power dynamics as they exist today and throughout history, which is what most political conspiracy theory concerns itself with.

Again, i think it is foolish to believe any given conspiracy theory, on it’s own merit.  The truth is too big, too complex, and most likely too compartmentalized for even the conspirators themselves to fully understand.  And it is easy to become seduced by the sorts of generalizations people like Alex Jones throw around so easily, such as the idea that distinctions between the American Right and Left are mere Illuminati illusions—one only needs to look at the deeply-embedded culture wars of America to see that, on an ideological level, the Left and the Right represent some very real distinctions of modern political thought.  That is, even if the American political system has been manipulated on a structural level by the power elite, it is still inhabited by a plurality of different perspectives—some red, some amber, some orange, some green, some teal, and some turquoise.  Some valuing individualist libertarianism, some collectivist socialism.  Some emphasizing interior values, some emphasizing exterior conditions.  Some socially liberal, some socially conservative; some fiscally liberal, some fiscally conservative.  Again, although i agree that the integral community still needs to find more pragmatic interpretations of real-world power dynamics, we already have all the conceptual tools we need to do so—we just need to continue unfolding the map and unpacking some of these insights.

Personally, i have noticed that i have grown far less interested in conspiracies of imprisonment, and more interested in conspiracies of jailbreak—that is, if any one of the thousands of possible conspiracies was actually true, it would be extraterrestrial contact that would have the potential of radically reconfiguring our integral maps.  Nothing would stretch our definitions of the word “integral” more than interplanetary contact.  Just a couple weeks ago at Ken’s loft, he said something along the lines of “right now in history, we have the biggest opportunity we will ever have to integrate all the world’s knowledge and to get a real sense of the universal—until we make extraterrestrial contact, when we will have to compare our integrated world-truth with all the other integrated world-truths that are out there.”  But we don’t even need to be so visionary—i think that even finding a single microorganism in the seas of Europa would be enough to galvanize a massive upswell of human consciousness, as we would have a new symbolic “other” by which to contrast a new global sense of “us.”

You can almost smell the pot fumes with this sort of dorm-room philosophizing ^_^

* Which is an entirely different group of people than those who believe the Bush administration wasn’t directly responsible for executing the 9/11 attacks, but knew it was going to happen and allowed it to, precipitated by Cheney’s confession that we “need” a “new Pearl Harbor”—which i find to be a far more believable accusation.

** Just so i don’t come off as a typical liberal Bush-basher (though it can sometimes seem like shooting whales in a barrel) i will say in self-defense that i am horribly disappointed that the media has been ignoring the admirable success of his AIDS work in Africa, as it’s been recently estimated that his actions are responsible for saving the lives of over one million people.  It was a shining diamond in the eight-year rough that should receive far more acknowledgment than it does.  For some reason i doubt very much that Dick Cheney was closely involved in that one.  (Yes, i am a typical liberal Cheney basher.)

Categories: Politics Tags: ,

Iran: Evolution, Revolution, or Regression?

August 4, 2009 2 comments

(Note: this was originally written on June 22, 2009.)

Iran, a nation that has spent the last century struggling to make its way into the modern world, now finds itself beset on all sides by massive internal and external pressures.  An enormous amount of civil unrest has been ignited during the recent 2009 presidential election, a response to apparent voter fraud that has crippled one of the few stable modern structures found in present-day Iran.  A maelstrom of cultural, political, economic, religious, and historic forces conspire to turn one of history’s proudest and most colorful cultures into a volatile powder-keg in the 21st century—and if we have learned anything at all from these past 10 days, it is simply that a fuse has now been lit.  What happens next is almost anyone’s guess—will Iran find a way to evolve its own political systems?  Will it retain its currently theocratic status quo?  Or will the country begin to fall apart altogether?

Iran is home to one the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, stretching more than 7000 years into the dawn of pre-history, with a profound heritage of Persian philosophy, art, science, mathematics, literature, and astronomy—a heritage that in many ways forms the cornerstone of Islamic civilization.  Geographically, Iran is located at the outer tip of the “Fertile Crescent,” a swath of rich soil that also cuts through present-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, and Turkey.  Often referred to as the “Cradle of Civilization,” it is a region where both writing and the wheel were first discovered, and represents the geographic origin point from which all of human society has descended.  Iran shares this legacy as the Womb of the World—a womb that is again suffering violent contractions, shaking the foundations of civilization and rattling our very notions of freedom, justice, and human dignity.

This shaking of the foundations has yielded an interesting effect: it is as if a massive earthquake has struck, exposing the geological strata of consciousness and culture in the process.  And here is where an Integral analysis of the Iranian conflict is truly paramount: in order to fully understand what is going on, we must identify these psychological and cultural strata as separate layers of cultural and psychological development, and recognize that at the heart of the Iranian struggle lies the very same conflict experienced by all industrialized nations around the world—the painful and typically bloodstained transition from traditional to modern values.

Integral theory suggests a wide spectrum of conscious and cultural development, a synthesis of more than 50 years of collective research from the world’s foremost thinkers in the fields of psychology, anthropology, social sciences, etc.  There is an evolutionary arc that guides our interior growth through increasing waves of morality, complexity, and shared worldviews—ranging from archaic, to magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral levels of development, and beyond.  Philosopher Ken Wilber has designed an elaborate color-coded system to track these major stages of growth, which you will find summarized at the bottom of this page.

While this sort of 50,000-foot view of human development is essential to our understanding of current and historic realities in Iran, we cannot allow ourselves to become lost in such generalized abstraction.  Like a finely crafted quilt, it is best to admire each individual square and the overall pattern tying the squares together—that is, while the conflict between traditional and modern forces is universal to sufficiently-advanced societies, the particulars of those conflicts vary greatly among different cultures, different geopolitical locations, and different points in history.  The American Civil War, the French Revolution, the Spanish Inquisition, the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire, and the current strife in Iran—all of these share the very same inherent source of conflict (the developmental divide between traditional and modern stages development), but have all played themselves out very differently according to the needs, conditions, and technologies of the time.  We must explore those details of the Iranian struggle that are truly unique to this region and this era, demonstrating how the rubber of Integral theory can hit the road of real-life emergence.

Although we certainly hope to see Iran blossom into a legitimate modern civilization, bringing the mighty Persian empire into a new era of historic significance, it must be a distinctly Iranian form of modernization, rather than being forced upon them by the Western world.  If recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything at all, it is that modern democracy cannot be simply exported and imposed upon foreign peoples—it must arise organically from within its own historic context, the result of a developmental tipping-point of modern and moderate voices coming to the forefront of society.  It is not enough to spout the platitudes of Western liberalism to foreign societies who do not share our history, nor to hope that the iconic struggles of the American forefathers will hold any resonance whatsoever in distant lands. They must discover and express these things for themselves, find their own unique embodiment of the rational wisdom found in Thomas Jefferson’s famous quip: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Originally published on Integral Life – Iran: Evolution, Revolution, or Regression? (w/ Steve McIntosh, Jeff Salzman, and Robb Smith)

Categories: Politics Tags: ,

Integral Trans-Partisan Politics

August 4, 2009 6 comments

While surveying the current American political landscape, it can be easy to feel as though the country is divided into two radically opposing populations: the Left and the Right. When watching the speeches, interviews, and debates on either side of the fence, there is such an incredible difference between the tone, rhetoric, and messages coming from the two major political parties that many pundits have commented that it is as though we live in two utterly different Americas, with very little overlap between the two. But the truth is, we do not live in two Americas, but in a single America composed of at least four or five different sets of values, all crammed together into a two-party political system that is becoming increasingly incapable of representing these wildly different perspectives. Many are beginning to recognize this systemic inadequacy and are searching for a genuinely Integral “Third Way” politics—a new way to break free from the restrictions of such rigidly calcified party lines, transcending both sides of the partisan divide, including the very best of both parties, without resorting to the effete compromise of mere centrism that has been typical of the political “Third Way” to date.

In order to fully understand and appreciate the different sets of values and beliefs that make up the flesh and bones of America, we must allow ourselves to step back and take a developmental view of American culture—one which can make sense of the full spectrum of perspectives that are currently at play in the political arena, while also being able to account for America’s rich political history, as the oldest functioning democracy in the world.

The premise of this sort of developmental view is simple: people evolve. As people evolve, they move through a particular sequence of stages, a sequence that has been long studied by Western psychologists and has been found to be essentially universal to every culture in the world. Taking a developmental view accounts for the “multiple intelligences” every human being possesses, including cognitive development and intelligence, values and beliefs, charisma and interpersonal skills, etc. There is a long list of these different sorts of intelligences, each growing along its own particular developmental track, but there is enough congruence in their overall development that we can begin to take a meta-view of our growth and development by using a very simple concept known as “Altitude.” Altitude is essentially a barometer of overall human growth, which uses the color spectrum to denote several major stages of development—each of which has slowly evolved over the course of human history, though still very much at play in today’s world:

Magenta (egocentric, magic): Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or “square one” for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.

Red (ego- to ethnocentric, egoic): The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where “might makes right,” where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an “other.” Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.

Amber (ethnocentric, mythic): The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of “might makes right,” amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to “my” group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to “fit in.” Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red. Culturally, amber worldviews can be seen in fundamentalism (my God is right no matter what); extreme patriotism (my country is right no matter what); and ethnocentrism (my people are right no matter what).

Orange (worldcentric, rational): The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one’s religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that “truth is not delivered; it is discovered,” spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.

Green (worldcentric, pluralistic): The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths (“All men are created equal”), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class….” Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism.

The green worldview’s multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today’s intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters… not to mention another “lost” generation of students.

Teal (worldcentric to “kosmocentric,” integral): The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions.

Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.

Turquoise (“kosmocentric,” integral): Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).

We can begin to see how the two major political parties have largely become amalgams of several of these stages. In the early history of politics—during the French Revolution—the Right was largely comprised of Amber traditionalists, while the Left were mostly Orange modernists. But over 200 years later, the world has become considerably more complex, having experienced the emergence of an entirely new stage of political consciousness: namely Green pluralism, otherwise known as post-modernism, during the mid 20th century. As such, Republicans now typically represent both Amber traditional values and “Wall Street” or “Ayn Rand” Orange values, while Democrats represent both Orange and Green forms of liberalism—two very different modes of liberalism that have thus far been extremely difficult for the Democratic party to unify.

If we truly want to begin creating some form of Integral “Third Way” politics, it is going to depend entirely upon leaders who have themselves achieved “2nd-tier” values, as it is only from the teal and turquoise stages of development that we can authentically honor and incorporate the entire spectrum of development. To put it another way, we need a form of “enlightened leadership” to enact decisions unfettered by partisan politics, for the benefit of the whole, rather than pandering to the few.

There is no sense in parsing words—what we are talking about here is a very real sort of elitism, a developmental elitism in which leaders more evolved than the majority of the populace are elected to office, for exactly that reason. Of course, it is an “elitism to which everyone is invited,” meaning that anyone can continue to evolve to the highest reaches of human potential, despite the fact that so few do. But merely mentioning the word “elitism” puts us on very dangerous ground in today’s political atmosphere, in which voters seem more interested in electing leaders they can “have a beer with” than ones with the moral, intellectual, and perspectival sophistication required to heal the tremendous cultural schisms that exist in America, and in the rest of the world.

Considering this spectrum of human development, it can be easy for liberals to assert that their values are “higher” or “more evolved” than those of typical conservatives—and in certain ways, they would be right. However, one of the fatal flaws of “1st-tier” stages is the complete inability to include the values of other 1st-tier stages, which makes liberals arguably more developed than most conservatives, but equally partial in their own values. As any genuine “Third Way” politics seeks to incorporate the very best of both parties, it must be inherently integral by nature, as only Integral consciousness can recognize the significance of development itself—and it is only by fully acknowledging human development, and accounting for the entire spectrum of consciousness in our conceptions of the world, that we can begin pulling together the many fundamental contributions that both the American Right and Left have made to the world.

Everyone knows about the difference between Democrat and Republican, Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative. But as ubiquitous as these distinctions are, there have been a multitude of theoretical explanations as to what drives this split, many of which fall apart upon closer inspection.  An Integral approach to politics suggests a very simple dualism at play: camps on the political Left attribute the fundamental cause of human suffering to external causes, whereas camps on the political Right attribute the fundamental cause of human suffering to internal causes.

For example, why are people homeless? Left: because they are downtrodden, they lack opportunities, they are victims of the system—all external forces. Right: because they have no work ethic, they have no family/religious values, no internalized sense of shame—all internal forces. Of course, you can be an internalist or externalist at different altitudes of development, and historically these have changed over time, as we’ve already seen. But what hasn’t changed throughout it all? You guessed it: Right is still internalist, and Left is still externalist. And if we hope to have any sort of comprehensive approach to politics and the problems of the world, it is absolutely essential that we include the revelations of both, without limiting ourselves to the tyranny of either.


A Tale of Four Americas
by Clint Fuhs and Corey W. deVos

A Tale of Four Americas takes a look at the political dynamics and cultural perspectives that influence every part of the Republican and Democratic parties.  It explores the ideological divides that exist within each party, and offers a simple map to help make sense of these seemingly conflicting beliefs.