I am happy to say the vast majority of people I’ve met throughout my 73 years have been pretty good sorts. It has led me to believe people to be essentially good, which in turn, has raised the question: If people are essentially good, why do they do so many terrible things?
One need go no further than one’s local Member of Parliament. I have met a number of politicians, and with only one exception I can think of, they struck me as intelligent, well-intentioned women and men with high ideals and worthwhile intentions. Yet put them in the halls of Parliament House, and the ideals seem to evaporate, apparently along with their moral fibre, intelligence and compassion.
Those attributes required for a successful and harmonious nation are well-known and proven; a compassionate and hospitable society with justice and equal opportunity for all, respect for the individual, minimisation of the gap between haves and have-nots, tolerance of difference, good and free education, widely available and affordable health care, security for the aged, protection for the environment, etc.
Compare this to that which our politicians have given us: a rapidly widening gap between rich and poor with a huge percentage of the wealth of the country in the hands of a few; a failure of the nation to play its role as citizen of a world increasingly desperate for control of green house gases, protection of endangered species, peace, elimination of hunger and poverty and provision of homes for refugees; its politicians more focused on getting re-elected than serving the nation and playing on fears which, in turn, evoke racism, jingoism and xenophobia.
Ask any individual to do something obviously evil and he or she will very likely refuse, even if offered money to do. For example, if a refugee made himself or herself known to a typical Aussie, and asked for help with accommodation or a job or food, 9 (and probably more) out of 10 would go out of their way to help or else find someone who could help. Yet, as a group we lock up refugees (including their children) in concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island for an indefinite time, subjecting them to physical, mental and emotional deprivation and abuse.
Ask individuals if they would adjust their life-styles in order to protect their environment or to pay more tax so as to improve healthcare and education, and most reply in the affirmative, yet as a nation those same people elect governments which promise to lower taxes, support a private education system for the privileged and promote the mining and export of coal.
I don’t mean to pick on Australia. People have ever been so everywhere. I am sure very few individuals would have killed a neighbour who was accused of being a witch in Salem, Massachusetts, but put few of them together, and they would have a bonfire going in minutes. Ask a Mississippi man to hang a black man in the early 20th century for nothing more than asking a white girl on date, and very few would do it, but round up a few more, put hoods over their heads so they remain anonymous, and a KKK lynch mob is born.
You would have had a hard time finding a German in the 1930s who would be willing to kill a Jewish neighbour, yet as a group they participated in the murder of six million. This story has had many similar instalments over centuries of ‘ethnic cleansing, each one demonstrating the submergence of people’s goodness under a tide of mob rule.
It seems clear that groups have no conscience, no moral code, no accountability. This should not be a surprise, for groups have no compassion, no empathy; they only exist for themselves. There is only one guiding principle by which groups function: to maintain themselves. They are the constituents of that which St. Paul called “principalities and powers.” Even the church, as an institution falls, into this category.
The only right and good way for each of us is to never give oneself to a group, even to a church; certainly not to a political party, a tribe or even a nation; never to an ethnic group or race or gender identity or belief system. Yes, participate in all of these groups if you wish, and use them intelligently, but never give oneself to them. We belong to God and to God alone, and no group, even family, has a prior claim upon one.
“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (William Shakespeare)
As oft has proven to be the case, the Bard was spot-on, for to be true to oneself is to be true to the One to whom one belongs.
Below you will find an article by Ken Wilbur that might go some way toward explaining the Trump phenomenon in terms of the evolution of human consciousness, and also the apparent popularity of extreme right-wing politicians such as Pauline Hanson.Basically, Wilbur is saying that, with the evolution of postmodernism, humanity has gone down a dead-end street; therefore, we have had to regress a bit in order to move on.Whether or not he is altogether correct, I find the explanation better than most to explain the emergence of (to my mind) a rather primitive mindset, typified by the supporters of Donald Trump, among otherwise developed peoples around the world. I think that you will have noticed the increased polarisation occurring over the last 40-50 years, particularly in politics and religion.Polarisation occurs because people take too narrow a view, so Wilbur is looking for a more expansive, and hence liberating, view to which more people will be able to subscribe.I found it fascinating, and thus recommend it to you; it is worth the considerable brain energy required to read it.
For those who do not regularly read philosophical tracts, I have added an appendix at the end, including a glossary, that may help you through the ‘philosopher-speak’. It may help if you look at this first, particularly the ‘colour’ stages of the evolution of human consciousness used in Integral Theory, since Wilbur refers to them often. I have also taken the liberty to rewrite some of Wilbur’s more obscure sentences. My apologies to him, if in doing so, I have over-simplified his ideas.
Trump and a Post-Truth World:
An Evolutionary Self-Correction
by Ken Wilbur
PART 1: AN OVERVIEW
We are seeing an evolutionary self-correcting adjustment in process.
The leading edge of our current state of cultural evolution is known as the green wave; ‘green’ meaning the basic stage of human development known to various developmental models as pluralistic, postmodern, relativistic, individualistic, beginning self-actualisation, human-bond, multicultural, etc., and generically referred to as “postmodern.”It has been so for the last 40-50 years.This is the growing edge of culture, i.e. the ‘growing tip’ of human society.It seeks out areas that are the most appropriate, most complex, most inclusive, and most conscious forms that are possible at a particular time and point of evolution.
The previous leading edge stage was termed ‘orange’, known in various models as modern, rational, reason, formal operational, achievement, accomplishment, merit, profit, progress and conscientious.Green began to overtake orange in the 60s with a series of, by and large, healthy and very appropriate (i.e. evolutionarily positive) forms: the massive civil rights movement, the worldwide environmental movement, the rise of personal and professional feminism, anti-hate crime, a heightened sensitivity to any and all forms of social oppression of virtually any minority, and centrally, the understanding of the crucial role of ‘context’ in any knowledge claims and the desire to be as ‘inclusive’ as possible.
The entire revolution of the sixties was driven primarily by this stage of development (in 1959, 3 percent of the population was at green; in 1979, close to 20 percent of the population was)—and these events truly changed the world irrevocably. The Beatles (otherwise sacrosanct in my view) summarized the whole move (and movement) with one of their songs: “All you need is love” (i.e., total inclusion rules!)
But as the decades unfolded, green increasingly began veering into extreme, maladroit, dysfunctional, even clearly unhealthy, forms. Its broadminded pluralism slipped into a rampant and runaway relativism (collapsing into nihilism), and the notion that all truth is contextualised (i.e. gains meaning from its cultural context) slid into the notion that there is no real universal truth at all, there are only shifting cultural interpretations (which eventually slid into a widespread narcissism: the rejection of all moral and religious beliefs, often leading to meaninglessness or the belief that nothing in the world has a real existence).
Postmodernism has reached such an extreme point that what passes for ‘truth’ is seen as a cultural fashion, and is almost always advanced by one oppressive force or another (racism, sexism, eurocentrism, patriarchy, capitalism, consumerism, greed, environmental exploitation).It posits the utter, absolutely unique, and absolutely equal value of each and every human being, often including animals (egalitarianism). If there was one line that summarised the gist of virtually all postmodern writers (Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Bourdieu, Lacan, de Man, Fish, etc.) is that “there is no truth.” [my bold]
Truth, rather, is a cultural construction, and what anybody actually called ‘truth’ was simply what some culture somewhere had managed to convince its members was truth, but there is no actually existing, given, real thing called ‘truth’ that is simply sitting around and awaiting discovery, any more than there is a single universally correct hem length which it is clothes designers’ job to discover.
Knowledge is not given, but is constructed (created, built, fabricated); there is nothing but history, and therefore, what any culture takes as ‘true’ today will dramatically shift tomorrow; there is no universal moral framework—what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me—and neither of those claims can be challenged on any grounds that do not amount to oppression. The same is true for value: no value is superior to another (another version of egalitarianism); and if any truth or value is claimed to be universal, or claimed to be true and valuable for all, the claim is actually nothing but disguised power, attempting to force all people everywhere to adopt the same truth and values of the promoter (with the ultimate aim of enslavement and oppression). It is therefore the job of every individual today to fight all of the authoritarian truths handed to them from yesterday, and to be totally, radically autonomous (as well as not entertain any truths themselves that could or should be forced on anybody else, allowing everybody their own radical autonomy as well—in short, to not entertain anything called ‘truth’ at all, which now was seen as always being a power-grab). You simply deconstruct every single truth and value you find (which, again, usually slid into nihilism and its tag-team member from postmodern hell, narcissism). In short, the aperspectival madness of ‘there is no truth’ left; nothing but nihilism and narcissism as motivating forces.
The ‘catch-22’ here was that postmodernism itself did not actually believe a single one of those ideas. That is, the postmodernists themselves violated their own tenets constantly in their own writing, and they did so consistently and often. As soon as someone advanced something as a ‘truth,’ it immediately contradicted their own notion that there is no truth. Unfortunately, for the postmodernists, every one of its summary statements given in the previous paragraph was aggressively maintained to be true for all people, in all places, at all times—no exceptions. Their entire theory itself is a very Big Picture about why all Big Pictures are wrong; a very extensive meta-narrative about why all meta-narratives are oppressive. They most definitely and strongly believe that it is universally true that there is no universal truth. They believe all knowledge is context-bound except for that knowledge which is always and everywhere trans-contextually true. They believe all knowledge is interpretive, except for theirs, which is solidly given and accurately describes conditions everywhere. They believe their view itself is utterly superior in a world where they also believe absolutely nothing is superior. Oops (:
(Wilbur calls this “aperspectival madness,” because the belief that there is no truth, that no perspective has universal validity (the “aperspectival” part), when pushed to extremes, as postmodernism was about to do, resulted in massive self-contradictions and ultimate incoherency (the “madness” part). And when ‘aperspectival madness’ infects the leading edge of evolution, evolution’s capacity for self-direction and self-organisation collapses.)
It’s widely acknowledged that postmodernism as a philosophy is now dead; and books are everywhere starting to appear that are written about “What comes next?” (with no clear winner yet, but the trend is toward more evolutionary and more systemic, more integral, views). But in academia and the universities, it is a long, slow death, and most teachers still teach some version of postmodernism and its aperspectival madness even if they have many deep doubts themselves. (But it’s telling that virtually every major developmental model in existence contains, beyond the stage generally known as ‘pluralistic,’ has at least a stage or two variously called ‘integrated,’ ‘systemic,’ ‘integral,’ or some such, all of which overcome the limitations of a collapsed pluralism through a higher level wholeness and unity, thus returning to a genuine ‘order out of chaos.’ Right now, only about 5 percent of the population is at any of these integral stages, but the evidence is that this is clearly where tomorrow’s evolution eventually will go, if it can survive the present transition.)
Summing up the problem: And thus postmodernism, as a widespread leading edge viewpoint, slid into its extreme forms (e.g., not just that all knowledge is context-bound, but that all knowledge is nothing but shifting contexts; or not just that all knowledge is co-created with the knower and various intrinsic, subsisting features of the known, but that all knowledge is nothing but a fabricated social construction driven only by power). When not just that all individuals have the right to choose their own values (as long as they don’t harm others), but that hence there is nothing universal (or held in common) by any values at all, we are led straight to axiological nihilism; i.e., there are no believable, real values anywhere. And when all truth is a cultural fiction, then there simply is no truth at all, i.e. epistemic and ontic nihilism. And when there are no binding moral norms anywhere, there’s only normative nihilism. Nihilism upon nihilism upon nihilism—“there was no depth anywhere, only surface, surface, surface.” And finally, when there are no binding guidelines for individual behaviour, the individual has only his or her own self-promoting wants and desires to answer to; in short, narcissism. And that is why the most influential postmodern elites ended up embracing, explicitly or implicitly, that tag team from postmodern hell: nihilism and narcissism—in short, aperspectival madness: the culture of post-truth.
There were many responses to this aperspectival madness (as a blanket, background, morphogenetic, leading edge field, there were few areas in society that were not directly affected) and we will explore many of them in this overview. But the major driver behind all of them, the ultimate causative agent, was that the leading edge of evolution itself had begun failing badly, obviously and often. When the leading edge has no idea where it’s going, then naturally it doesn’t know where to go at all. When no direction is true (because there is no truth), then no direction can be favoured, and thus no direction is taken; the process just comes to a screeching halt, it jams, it collapses.
Nihilism and narcissism are not traits that any leading edge can actually operate with. And thus, if it’s infected with them, it indeed simply ceases to function. Seeped in aperspectival madness, it stalls, and then begins a series of regressive moves, shifting back to a time and configuration when it was essentially operating adequately as a true leading edge. And this regression is one of the primary factors we see now operating worldwide. And the primary and central cause of all of this is a failure of the green leading edge to be able to lead at all. Nihilism and narcissism brings evolution to a traffic-jam halt. This is a self-regulating and necessary move, as the evolutionary current itself steps back, reassess, and reconfigures, a move that often includes various degrees of temporary regression, or retracing its footsteps to find the point of beginning collapse and then reconfigure from there.
Even insentient material systems have an inherent drive to self-organisation. When physical systems get pushed ‘far from equilibrium,’ they escape this chaos by leaping into a higher level state of organised order, as when water that is chaotically rushing down the drain suddenly leaps into a perfect downward swirling whirlpool, referred to simply as ‘order out of chaos.’ If nonliving matter inherently possesses this drive to self-organisation and order out of chaos, living systems certainly do—and that definitely includes evolution; a drive that philosophers often call ‘Eros,’ an inherent dynamic toward greater and greater wholeness, unity, complexity, and consciousness. But this ‘order out of chaos’ is exactly what the green leading edge began failing to do. If anything, it was producing more ‘chaos out of chaos.’ It had no idea of what true order was to begin with; all such ‘meta-narratives’ were completely and aggressively deconstructed. Because nothing was true at all, there could be no true order, either, and hence no preferable direction forward. And so, as the leading edge of evolution collapsed in a performative contradiction, lost in aperspectival madness, evolution itself temporarily slammed shut, and began various moves, including a regressive stepping back and searching for a sturdier point where a true self-organising process could be set in motion once again.
What previous stages are available for this regression? To answer this question, we need a brief summary of the overall developmental spectrum to date (the following overview is the result of a meta-analysis of over 100 different developmental models, giving the most common features of all of them [see Wilber, Integral Psychology]; those familiar with Integral Theory can fast forward through this, or simply read this as a refresher; and those new to the concept can take it as a short introduction to one of the most profound and enduring discoveries of the twentieth century, accepted by experts everywhere who have fully studied the enormous amount of evidence):Brief Developmental Overview
The earliest stages are together known as ‘egocentric’ because individuals at this stage cannot yet take the role of other or clearly see the world through somebody else’s eyes, nor ‘walk a mile in my shoes.’ The earliest human societies (and here we are talking the actual original indigenous populations, close to a half million years ago, and not any indigenous population the way that it exists in today’s world, where it has continued to evolve), were tribal (and tribally egocentric), with an ecological carrying capacity of around 40 people. Thinking is usually imbued with fantasy (or ‘preoperational cognition’), and is often called ‘magic’ (as in voodoo, where if you make a doll representing a real person and stick a pin in the doll, the real person is ‘magically’ hurt; if you perform a rain dance, nature is forced to rain); identity is indeed egocentric. When tribes ran into each other (which in many places originally was rare), it wasn’t clear how they should interact, since the major form of relationship that was clearly understood was blood or kinship relations, and the tribes weren’t related; often there was instead war, or the taking of the other tribe as slaves (about 15 percent of original tribes had slavery, and warfare was common).
As evolutionary unfolding continued, through various intermediate stages, a major milestone was the emergence of a more complex cognitive capacity, which developmental genius Jean Gebser called ‘mythic’ (Piaget’s ‘concrete operational,’ or what James Fowler called a concrete ‘mythic-literal,’ which drove most forms of fundamentalist religion that almost everywhere arose at that time. A Christian version of mythic-literal, for example, believes every word of the Bible is literally and absolutely true, the word of God himself, so that Moses really did part the Red Sea, Christ really was born of a biological virgin, and so on). Here it was understood that human beings simply did not possess magic or miraculous power in any real sense (the more often that humans actually tried magic, the more often they found that it failed), but magic was too appealing to be totally surrendered all at once. Rather, it was transferred to a whole host of supernatural beings—gods and goddesses and elemental spirits—and those beings could do magic. What’s more, they would do it on your behalf if you knew how to correctly approach them; and thus magic power shifted from the self to various mythic god figures (and hence the transformation from the ‘magic’ epoch to the great ‘mythic’ epoch, starting around 10,000 BCE).This stage, with its more complex cognitive capacity, also was able, for the first time, to clearly and extensively ‘take the role of other,’ and thus its primary identity could switch from the self or me only to a group (or groups)—not just a self-contained tribe but a megatribe, an empire of dozens or even hundreds of tribes, a nation, a particular religion embracing millions, a political party, and so on—its identity expanded from egocentric to ethnocentric (based on race, colour, sex, creed, etc.).
This stage, anchored in being identified with one special group as opposed to all others, has a very strong ‘us versus them’ mentality. Usually, its own group is seen as, and deeply believed to be, special, select, the chosen people, even divine, identified by God himself as the one and only truly sanctified group in the world; all the others are infidels, apostates, nonbelievers, even demonic, and are usually bound for hell or unending reincarnations. And especially historically, when this ethnocentric stage first emerged, it was not a sin to kill infidels. In fact, as a complete ‘other,’ they have no soul, and thus killing them is not only okay, it is often recommended, since it will return them to their one true God that they have so ignorantly denied in this life. The general attitude of this stage, by any number of different names, is jihad or holy war. The correct approach to a nonbeliever is, in order of increasing severity, to convince them, convert them, torture them, or kill them; but letting them alone in their mistaken beliefs is ungodly and to be avoided at all costs. The expanded capacity of this stage (including the shift from egocentric to ethnocentric awareness, leading to the formation of very large super-tribes bound by a common belief, set of rules and laws, religion, and/or authority) leads to many tribes being bound together into multi-group groups, often resulting in various massive empires of one form or another; thus the age of classic traditional civilisations and the founding of the Great (Mythic) Religions was upon us. Slavery, war, and torture reached their zenith; some 80-90 percent of cultures East and West during this ethnocentric mythic age had slavery, as one favoured group or mega-group had its way with other human beings (and the Great Religions likewise promised salvation, but only if you believed their version of Spirit and adopted their path to ‘liberation’; they are, after all, the chosen people with the one and only true God).
(This ‘amber’ stage began in transitional forms, such as ‘magic-mythic’ or red stage ‘warrior”’cultures, around 10,000 BCE; and the rise of the great mythic-membership civilisations themselves started around 32,000 BCE and peaked around 1400 CE. In today’s world, the child is born at various very early magic or ‘archaic’ and egocentric stages, which dominate ages 1-3, transitioning with magic-mythic around ages 4-8, and then ethnocentric mythic proper emerging roughly from ages 6-11, with several substages.
Adults can remain ‘stuck’ or ‘fixated’ at any of those earlier stages or substages. Indeed, research by Robert Kegan, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, shows that 3 out of 5—or 60 percent—of Americans remain at ethnocentric (amber) or lower stages. (If you think this ethnocentric stage, with its tendencies toward racism, sexism/patriarchy, misogyny, megatribal dominance, oppression, and fundamentalist religion, sounds a bit like hardcore far-Right Republicans, and that it starts to push into recognised Trump territory, you’d be right.)
As evolution continued, there eventually emerged the capacity to take a third-person perspective (or the capacity to think in global, relatively objective and ‘universal’ ways), and not just in second-person modes. This was a stunning advance, and it began to appear in a culture-wide fashion with the Renaissance and came to a fruition with the Enlightenment (which, like all stages, had positive and negative aspects; this expansion of identity to a larger, more inclusive, less oppressive form was very positive).
This ‘orange’ stage marked the emergence of the period generally known as ‘modernity,’ and among many other things, it meant the explosion on the scene of what would become known as the ‘modern sciences’: modern chemistry, modern physics, modern astronomy, modern biology, and so forth. All in all, those sciences would add around three decades to the average lifespan worldwide, generate a global free market economy, bolster the birth of the nationstate, end most infectious diseases that had regularly killed half the population everywhere, and plop a person on the moon. This evolutionary stage also meant that identity could expand from ethnocentric (‘my-special-group’” identity) to world-centric (or ‘all-groups’ or ‘all-humans’ identity, which strove to treat all people, not just a special group, fairly regardless of race, color, sex, or creed).
This was a staggering shift in values from ethnocentric group-centred to world-centric all-humans-centred; and for this reason, in a one-hundred year time period (roughly 1770-1870), slavery was outlawed in every single world-centric modern rational society on the face of the planet; the first time anywhere in human history that this had happened (and this turns out to be a key fact to remember).
This stage is variously known as reason, rational, formal operational, achievement, accomplishment, merit, progress, conscientious, and marks the beginning of the world-centric stages—all of which Integral Metatheory generically calls ‘orange.’
Most Americans, even if their centre of gravity remains at one of the earlier stages, reach the capacity to at least think from this orange stage. This world-centric rational possibility emerges today during adolescence, though, again, whether someone actually embraces this stage or not as a central identity varies considerably. Most, although not all, people reach at least a mythic-ethnocentric stage of central identity development (about 60 percent, we saw) yet beyond that, things begin to diverge considerably.
This rational-modern mode was the leading edge of evolution until, as we noted at the beginning of this piece, the sixties, when the next higher stage beyond the modern stage, namely, the ‘postmodern’, began to emerge on a significant scale. Indeed, the leading edge of orange rational/business/scientific materialism was beginning to fail as an adequate leading edge. It had reduced all knowledge to ‘it knowledge,’ or objectivistic-materialistic-industrialised methodology, and of the profound trinity of ‘the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,’ it had thoroughly ditched the Good and the Beautiful (a catastrophe known as the ‘disenchantment of the world’ and the ‘disqualified universe,’ as it reduced almost everything to nothing but realities acknowledged by the science of sensorimotor physics). It had an inherent belief in world-centric morality; or the idea that all people have intrinsic worth, regardless of race, colour, sex, or creed, and that economically and socially everybody deservers an equal opportunity. Worth, in general, can also be keyed to demonstrated merit, but it had been undercutting those beliefs consistently with its rabid tendency to positivism. And disastrously, it had created systems of social existence which, although they themselves embraced world-centric morality, allowed ethnocentric and even egocentric stages to hijack them (and many scientific/capitalistic businesses began to do just that, with rampant greed and cutthroat competition through a ‘social Darwinism’).
But this postmodern stage, Integral Metatheory’s ‘green’, brought a fourth-person perspective into significant existence, which had the capacity to reflect on, and critically analyse, these third-person ‘global’ productions, and this is where green postmodernism (so named because it came after, and reflected on, the products of modernism) decided that this rational-modern mentality had, in too many ways, veered off course in destructive and counterproductive ways. And thus the civil rights movement, the worldwide environmental movement (which became larger than any political party anywhere on the planet), personal and professional feminism, the sustainability movement (in business and elsewhere) became ‘the many gifts of green.’
And yet, in the course of this, driven largely (if often unknowingly) by arcane arguments in academia, the originally healthy pluralistic postmodernism increasingly became an extreme, overblown, self-contradictory, utterly dysfunctional relativism, which soon collapsed almost entirely into nihilism and narcissism. It’s the nature of the leading edge stage that its values, although they are only directly embraced by the stage itself, nonetheless tend to permeate or seep through the culture at large. (For example, when the leading edge was orange rational world-centric, whose world-centric or ‘all-humans-treated-equally’ values inherently included an antislavery stance, the Civil War was fought in America in order to end slavery, and over a million white boys died in the fight to end black enslavement. Yet not much more than 10 percent of the population was actually at the orange stage, but this value had seeped throughout the culture of the North, and many were willing to die for it, as many were in the French and American revolutions, which marked an orange democratic ‘will happen whether the permeating value happens to be really good or really goofy. A really goofy seepage is what late, dysfunctional, unhealthy green gave the world culture; namely, ‘there is no truth.’ This post-truth attitude began seeping throughout the entire culture, and in many ways, it stuck – globally, seriously, and in a way that caught orange (and healthy green itself) completely off guard (and they still have, basically, no idea where it came from and no idea how to fix it, thanks to a decapitated leading edge that itself was the actual source of the problem).
We’ll come back to our post-truth culture, and its multiple catastrophes, but right now, let me finish with the basic major milestones of human development to date, because although green is today’s major leading edge stage (with around 20-25% of the population), there is nonetheless a yet higher stage, which we briefly mentioned, that has begun to emerge in an as yet small number of individuals. Beginning two or three decades ago, researchers began to notice the emergence of a stage that, in its actual contours, was very confusing. Each major stage to date had a common characteristic: each thought that its truth and values were the only real truth and values in existence, and all the others were misguided, infantile, goofy, or just plain wrong. But this new stage had a radically new quality: it believed that all the previous stages had some sort of significance, that they all were important, and that they all must be included in any approach that hoped to be comprehensive, inclusive, and truly integrated. For this reason, it was usually called things like ‘integrated,’ ‘systemic’, ‘integral’, and so on. But it marked a staggeringly new and radically different type of evolutionary stage altogether, unique in the entire history of humanity. Clare Graves, a pioneering developmentalist, called it “cataclysmic” and a “monumental leap of meaning.” As noted, around 5 percent of the population has reached this stage in our ongoing unfolding (and we’ll have more to say about it in a moment).
The Birth of a Post-Truth Culture
Back to the post-truth culture that a collapsed green had left us with. The promoters of Brexit openly admitted that they had pushed ideas that they fully knew were not ‘true’, but they did so ‘because there really are no facts,’ and what really counts is ‘that we truly believe this’ (as one of them tellingly noted, “I’ve read my Lacan—it’s whoever controls the narrative that counts”—Lacan being a leading postmodernist). In other words, narcissism is the deciding factor: what I want to be true is true in a post-truth culture. Trump doesn’t even try to hide this; he factually lies with gleeful abandon. Reporter Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, stated that “Trump lives and thrives in a fact-free environment. No president, including Richard Nixon, has been so ignorant of fact and disdains fact in the way this president-elect does.”
While Trump was campaigning, there were newspapers that actually kept count of the number of factual lies he had spoken day by day. “Yesterday, it was 17 lies. Today, it was 15 lies.” And yet polls consistently showed that people felt Trump was ‘more truthful’ than Hillary Clinton (who, no matter how much of an atmosphere of ‘corruption’ followed her, as many believed, she never set out explicitly and blatantly to lie, or certainly nowhere nearly as much as Trump). But people had already made the transition from ‘factual truth’ to ‘what I say is truth,’ and Trump said his ‘truth’ with much more conviction and passion than Hillary could muster, and thus, in a no-truth culture, Trump is the ‘more truthful.’
In a culture of nihilism, in an atmosphere of aperspectival madness, where there is no real truth, truth becomes whatever I most fervently desire; narcissism is the key determinant in a sea of nihilism. (Note that the Boomers – the children of the sixties – were often called the ‘Me generation’ and a ‘culture of Narcissism.’ And, compared to previous generations, this tended to be very true. But as Boomers themselves began taking over education in this country, and significantly shifting it so that it emphasised, first and foremost, a movement not of ‘teaching truth’, because there is no truth, but instead promoted ‘self-esteem.’ And what they discovered, as a Time magazine cover story reported, is that promoting self-esteem, without anchoring it in actual accomplishments, simply ends up increasing narcissism. Indeed, the recent graduating class scored higher on amounts of narcissism than any class since testing began: some 2 to 3 times higher than their Boomer ‘Me generation’ parents! A narcissistic emphasis on ‘special me’ had already seeped into the culture at large. Among many other items, we would see the emergence of the ‘selfie’ culture, which notoriously and easily altered, even photoshopped, individual truth, and whose social media began promoting ‘pleasing lies’ and ‘reassuring falsehoods.’)
Meanwhile, the leading edge green cultural elites – upper-level liberal government, virtually all university teachers (in the humanities), technology innovators, human services professions, most media, entertainment, and most highly liberal thought leaders – had continued to push into green pluralism/relativism: ‘what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me’, all largely with intentions of pure gold, but shot through with an inherently self-contradictory stance with its profound limitations (if all truth is just truth for me and truth for you, then there is no ‘truth for us’ – or collective, universal, cohering truths – and hence, in this atmosphere of aperspectival madness, the stage was set for massively fragmented culture, which the silo boxes and echo chambers of social media were beginning to almost exclusively promote and enhance).
Now green itself is a world-centric stage. Although it gets theoretically confused about anything being ‘world-centric’ (or ‘universal’) – namely, it thinks that all such moves are oppressive and power-driven – we’ve seen that green postmodernism itself deeply believes that what it is saying is true for all people. It doesn’t apply to just one group or another (‘ethnocentric’), it applies to all groups, all humans (‘world-centric’).
But under its own confusion of aperspectival madness, where you cannot criticise any particular value (since all are egalitarian), this allows individuals to actively slide into, even regress to, ethnocentric stances. And thus the postmodern-created social media online began regressing into decidedly ethnocentric-leaning groups. The original intent of the internet was for a global, free, unified humanity, unleashed from oppression, information ownership, power structures, and isolating trends in general. The net was proclaimed a single grand ‘global brain,’ open to, and actively embracing, all. The problem is, though the brain was global (or a single infrastructure network), the minds using it were not. As Douglas Rushkoff has pointed out, the very nature of the digital environment itself tends toward either/or types of decisions (either 1 or 0, click here or click there, choose this or choose that). And the anonymity and personality-hiding nature of online exchange allowed regressive tendencies of aggression, narcissism, hatred, and innumerable passionate ethnocentric beliefs (sexist, racist, xenophobic, religious zealots, political bigots). With no ‘truth’ available to challenge any such moves, they exploded. The entire online experience collapsed from one of unity, open-natured expanse, and worldwide integration, into one of siloed, boxed, separatist, mean-spirited ethnocentric drives. And these poured out of our smartphones 24/7 and into the culture at large.
A New and Alarming Legitimation Crisis
The problem very quickly became what Integral Metatheory calls a ‘legitimation crisis,’ which it defines as a mismatch between Lower-Left (or cultural) beliefs and the Lower-Right systems (or actual background realities, such as the techno-economic base). The cultural belief was that everybody is created equal, that all people have a perfect and equal right to full personal empowerment, that nobody is intrinsically superior to others (beliefs that flourished with green). Yet the overwhelming reality was increasingly one of a stark and rapidly growing inequality, whether it be in terms of income and overall worth, property ownership, employment opportunity, healthcare access or life satisfaction issues. The culture was constantly telling us one thing, and the realities of society were consistently failing to deliver it; the culture was lying. This was a deep and serious legitimation crisis; a culture that is lying to its members simply cannot move forward for long. And if a culture has ‘no truth,’ it has no idea when it’s lying – and thus it naturally lies as many times as it accidentally tells the truth, and hence faster than you can say ‘deconstruction,’ – it’s in the midst of a legitimation crisis.
When it came to unemployment and wealth inequality, leading-edge technology also was not helping. (Not to mention the fact that capital itself, as Piketty had pointed out, was inherently biased toward favouring the rich and excluding the poor.) The green ‘Information Age’ believed that all knowledge is equal, should be totally free, and totally uncensored. It was common to say that the net interpreted censorship as a system failure and routed around it. But search engines did not prioritize knowledge in terms of truth, or inclusivity, or any value, or any depth, or any indexing system at all, just in terms of popularity and most used. Truth played no role in it. Facebook (which finally admitted that it posted many ‘false news’ stories on its platform, which many claimed help Trump to win, and did so simply because its algorithms weren’t created to check for truth, just the user’s narcissistic desires) is now faced, along with every other online news outlet, with the necessity to create algorithms that detect, and bracket, ‘false news’ items, which is going to be much harder than is imagined given a background of ‘no truth’ to work from.
In terms of searching in a sea of aperspectival madness not for truth or goodness or beauty, and especially for bypassing ‘truth’ entirely and looking just for narcissistic popularity, Google has recently been slammed with exactly that charge, and those screaming ‘J’accuse!’ are rightly and massively alarmed. Carole Cadwalladr, in a recent Guardian article, pointed out that Google’s search algorithms reflect virtually nothing but the popularity of the most-responded to sites for the search enquiry. There is nothing that checks whether any of the recommendations are actually true (or good or beautiful or unifying or integrating or any other value, and express only the aperspectival madness of ‘no truth to be favoured’). Cadwalladr was particularly alarmed when she typed in “Are Jews…” and before she could finish, Google’s search engines had provided the most likely responses, one of which was “Are Jews evil?” Curious, she hit that entry, and was taken to the authoritative Google page of the 10 most common and popular answers, 9 of 10 of which said, in effect, “Yes, definitely, Jews are evil.” Genuinely surprised and alarmed, she states, “Google is knowledge. It’s where you go to find things out. And evil Jews are just the start of it. There are also evil women. This is what I type: ‘are women’. And Google offers me just two choices, the first of which is ‘Are women evil?’ I press return. Yes, they are. Every one of the 10 results ‘confirms’ that they are, including the top one, from a site which is boxed out and highlighted: ‘Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her…. Women don’t love men, they love what they can do for them.’”With her disbelief and alarm growing, she continues, “Next I type: ‘are Muslims’. And Google suggests I should ask: ‘Are Muslims bad?’ And here’s what I find out: yes, they are. That’s what the top result says and six of the others. Google offers me two new searches and I go for the first, ‘Islam is bad for society.’ In the next list of suggestions, I’m offered: ‘Islam must be destroyed.’”
Here’s her response: Google is search. It’s the verb, to Google. It’s what we all do, all the time, whenever we want to know anything. We Google it. The site handles at least 63,000 searches a second, 5.5 billion a day. Its mission as a company, the one-line overview that has informed the company since its foundation and is still the banner headline on its corporate website today, is to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. It strives to give you the best, most relevant results. Jews are evil. Women are evil. Muslims need to be eradicated. And Hitler? Do you want to know about Hitler? Let’s Google it. ‘Was Hitler bad?’ I type. And here’s Google’s top result: ‘10 Reasons Why Hitler Was One of theGood Guys’. I click on the link: ‘He never wanted to kill any Jews’; ‘he cared about conditions for Jews in the work camps’…. Eight out of the other 10 search results agree. Google is most definitely not “organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.” It is disorganising the world’s information in an atmosphere of aperspectival madness, taking diversity to such an extreme that all views have an egalitarian and perfectly equal claim to validity. It is a leading edge that is deeply discombobulated.
Genuinely concerned, Cadwalladr contacted Danny Sullivan, founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com. “He [Sullivan] has been recommended to me by several academics as one of the most knowledgeable experts on search. Am I just being naïve, I ask him? Should I have known this was out there? ‘No, you’re not being naïve,’ he says. ‘This is awful. Google is doing a horrible, horrible job of delivering answers here.’ He’s surprised, too. He types ‘are women’ into his own computer. ‘Good lord! That answer at the top. It’s a featured result. It’s called a ‘direct answer.’ This is supposed to be indisputable. It’s Google’s highest endorsement.’ That ‘every women has some degree of prostitute in her?’ ‘Yes. This is Google’s algorithm going terribly wrong.’” And it’s going ‘terribly wrong’ because today’s leading edge has virtually no idea of what ‘genuinely right’ could possibly mean. The Guardian highlights the overall piece by pointing out that it doesn’t just demonstrate this with Google, but also Facebook and, indeed, the general internet culture itself: “The internet echo chamber satiates our appetite for pleasant lies and reassuring falsehoods and has become the defining challenge of the 21st century.”
How could an item become the ‘defining issue’ of our century without virtually every university in the world spewing out postmodern poststructuralist nostrums centring on the idea that ‘truth’ itself is the single greatest oppressive force in the history of humankind? (Seriously.) Originated by the green leading edge in academia, this aperspectival madness of ‘no truth’ leapt out of the universities, and morphed into an enormous variety of different forms, from direct ‘no-truth claims, to rabid egalitarianism, to excessive censoring of free speech and unhampered knowledge acquisition, to extreme political correctness (that forced the best comedians to refuse to perform at colleges any more, since the audiences ‘lacked all sense of humour’: you’re allowed to laugh at nothing in a ‘no value is better’ world, even though that value itself is held to be better), to far-left political agendas that in effect ‘equalised poverty,’ to egalitarian ‘no judgment’ attitudes that refused to see any ‘higher’ or ‘better’ views at all (even though its own view was judged ‘higher’ and ‘better’ than any other), to modes of entertainment that everywhere eulogised egalitarian flatland, to a denial of all growth hierarchies by confusing them with dominator hierarchies (which effectively crushed all routes to actual growth in any systems anywhere), to the media’s sense of egalitarian ‘fairness’ that ended up trying to give equal time to every possible, no matter how factually idiotic, alternative viewpoint (such as Holocaust deniers), to echo chambered social media where ‘pleasant lies’ and ‘reassuring falsehoods’ were the standard currency. It saturated the leading edge of evolution itself, throwing it into a performative contradiction and a widespread, explicit or implicit, aperspectival madness which was soon driven by nihilism and narcissism and a whole post-truth culture, which even invaded the internet and bent it profoundly, and that brokenness perfused the entire information grid of the overall culture itself; exactly the type of profound and extensive impact you expect a leading edge (healthy or unhealthy) to have. It has indeed become the defining issue of our century, because not a single other issue can be directly and effectively addressed if there is no compass point of accessible truth to guide action in the first place.
PART II: THE TERRITORY
No Truth and No Jobs: ‘Ressentiment’
The essentially green Information Age began, with its Artificial Intelligence, to mimic how human beings think, and as such, it began producing robots that could perform many of the types of work that human beings usually did. These started out as simple manual labor jobs – inventory storage, online orders, welding, assembly line work, and such – but has increasingly been moving into more and more complex jobs, including most financial investing, payroll accounting, news copy, middle management tasks, and soon, truck driving and all driving jobs, as well as medical diagnoses and nursing chores, even surgeries. One think tank estimated that 50 percent of present-day jobs would be taken by robots by the year 2050, and one even estimated 47 percent of jobs by as soon as 2020. That’s a destruction of fully half of today’s jobs, and there’s no AI analyst alive that doesn’t think that’s just the beginning.
In the meantime, over the past three to four decades, the median income has remained the same, whereas the average income has significantly increased, which means that those individuals at the top of the pay scale (the so-called ‘1 percent’) are making a fortune, while most of the rest of the population stagnates or even loses ground. This is another abject failure of the leading edge to do what any leading edge is supposed to do, which is to effectively lead, not stagnate, a culture. (It looks like, as AI continues its inexorable advance, that within perhaps one hundred years, virtually all human work will be robotised. This is actually a terrific, near utopian result. After all, work has been taken as an inevitable curse on humans ever since day one. It has always been viewed as the necessary evil that all humans were egregiously condemned to suffer, and hence, in many cases, we find things like slavery, or the attempt to outsource the evil task. And now it looks like technology will finally end that evil once and for all. But the period of actually getting to the point, where virtually one hundred percent of the population is free of work, will be a time of enormous pain for billions of people, as countless people lose their jobs with nothing to support them. This is why Silicon Valley, which is, whether it admits it or not, working as fast as it can to put as many people out of work as soon as possible, takes it as a matter of uncontested faith that something like a guaranteed basic income for everybody will soon be put in place, and, indeed, it is almost certainly a necessary program. We’ll return to this.)
In the meantime, the leading edge of both green ‘no-truth’ and techno-economic ‘no-job’ had created a seething, quietly furious, and enormously large amount of what Nietzsche called ‘ressentiment’—which is French for ‘resentment.’ Nietzsche meant it specifically for the type of nasty, angry, and mean-spirited attitude that tends to go with egalitarian beliefs (because in reality, there are almost always ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ realities; not everything is or can be merely ‘equal,’ and green resents this mightily, and often responds with a nasty and vindictive attitude, which Integral theorists call ‘the mean green meme’). But the notion of ‘ressentiment’ applies in general to the resentment that began to increasingly stem from the severe legitimation crisis that began to soak the culture (which itself was, indeed, due primarily to a broken green). Everywhere you are told that you are fully equal and deserve immediate and complete empowerment, yet everywhere you are denied the means to actually achieve it. You suffocate, you react, and you get very, very angry.
Leading edge green, in the meantime, had taken to pursuing what looked like oppression anywhere it could find it, and with regard to virtually any minority. This goal is undoubtedly noble and very worthwhile, but it was taken by a zealous, and now dysfunctional, green to absurd extremes, in a way that its opponents derisively called ‘political correctness.’ This has become such a hotpoint button that the political divide has now become between those who see themselves as social justice advocates – pursuing oppression anywhere, looking for ‘triggers,’ ‘micro-aggression,’ and creating ‘safe spaces’ – versus those who see themselves as against an out-of-control political correctness, and standing behind the First Amendment of free speech and against what they see as hypersensitive liberal do-gooders who are destroying the very capacity for the free pursuit of ideas and open knowledge. (My stance is that both of them are partially true, as I’ll explain.)
But the extremes of political correctness really were extreme. There was a full-fledged sit-in at UCLA because a professor had actually corrected the spelling and grammar on a graduate level exam, and the students angrily claimed it created an ‘atmosphere of fear.’ Well, certainly when there is no truth, then forcing your version of spelling on somebody is an oppressive power drive. In one feminist meeting, after the first speaker was given a round of applause, one woman reported that the applause gave her anxiety, and so the group voted to stop applauding for the rest of the conference.
These are simply cases of a person’s hypersensitivity being taken to extremes, and instead of seeing such persons as themselves perhaps suffering from an emotional problem, they are labeled ‘victim’, and then it’s everybody else’s job to cater to their narcissistic whims. Again, nihilism and narcissism have no place in the leading edge if it is to be able to function at all. But it had gotten so bad on college campuses that many of the most gifted comedians of the time simply stopped doing campus shows entirely, including true geniuses like Chris Rock (one of the funniest person in America) and Jerry Seinfeld (the most successful TV comedian in history). They said that college campuses have “no sense of humour at all”; you can make fun of virtually nothing (given a hypersensitive egalitarianism), and so they were not even doing it anymore. When gifted comedians can no longer even comment on a situation, something has gone very, very wrong. Extreme political correctness was simply aperspectival madness gone emotionally berserk.
So we’ve seen just a few of the ways that the green leading edge of cultural evolution itself had become derailed, had become significantly dysfunctional and unhealthy, had been blindsided by a performative contradiction resulting in an epidemic aperspectival madness. And under such circumstances, evolution finds it’s necessary to take certain self-correcting moves. These moves will not obviously appear as necessary correctives; they might indeed appear alarming. But the only thing more alarming would be for evolution to try and move forward on the basis of an already badly broken leading edge. The disasters would simply increase. Green, as a leading edge, had collapsed; and evolution itself had no choice but to take up a broadly ‘anti-green’ atmosphere as it tried to self-correct the damage. And the one thing that was true of Donald Trump, more than any other single characteristic that defined him (more than his sexism, more than his racism, more than his xenophobia), is that every word out of his mouth was anti-green.
Stages of Development and Political Parties
This means that Trump’s anti-green rhetoric could have resonated with and activated, in general, one (or more) of the three main pre-green stages: it could have activated orange world-centric (achievement, merit, progress, excellence, profit); it could have activated amber ethnocentric (racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, hyper-terrorist sensitive, homophobic, hyperbolic patriotic); or it could have activated red egocentric (pre-conventional, self-serving, self-promoting, narcissistic).
Now before we discuss which of those it actually did activate, let’s trace how the main political parties line up in terms of those major stages of human development. There are numerous different variables that go into whether one is conservative/traditional or liberal/progressive. But in the most simplistic terms (and focusing just on levels), the liberal party was born with the Western Enlightenment, when the ‘Left’ was named simply because it sat on the lefthand seats in the French parliament. What it represented, and what made it a basically new political movement in history, was the newly emergent orange, rational, world-centric, meritocratic, post-mythic, progressive level of development. This newly emergent Left movement was in favour of equal rights and justice for all people, the abolition of slavery, the end of epidemic religious beliefs (Voltaire’s battle cry of the Enlightenment: “Remember the cruelties!”, referring to the intense cruelties inflicted by the church on millions of people, all in the name of a loving God. The Left generally supported the end of premodern mythic religion and its replacement by modern rational science.), major support for individual rights and free speech, and a government that followed suit, with the end of monarchy itself and the beginning of democratic forms of governance.
On the other side of the aisle, the old, traditional, ‘Right’ political party that it was against believed, indeed, in the already existing traditional, conventional society and what had worked for it, including its form of governance and its strongly held traditional religious beliefs, as well as a social structure including monarchy, aristocratic upper classes, serfs, and slaves, all set in a patriarchal and deeply mythic-religious foundation. For the next three hundred years, these two major political belief systems vied for control (Whigs and Tories, Democrats and Republicans, etc.).
Then, starting in the sixties, as we have seen, a fundamentally different stage of development began to emerge, and this new stage created a significantly different type of political belief. It was the emergence of green, and this political view was aggressively devoted to ending all remaining oppression of any marginalised group; it was hugely invested in protecting the environment against any and all threats (as such, it often stood in conflict with the business-and-profit orientation of the previous orange modern/capitalist stage); it backed all forms of feminism (orange had supported and originally created feminism, but green took to it zealously, along with any other anti-oppression movements, from the Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ rights); it was in favour of curtailing the free speech of individuals if it harmed any minority group. Both orange and green were world-centric, but apart from that, their interests differed in many profound and significant ways.
The addition of a new and fundamental stage of human development threw each of the two major political parties into a significant degree of internal turmoil. The progressive Left, precisely because it was progressive, or tended to follow new evolutionary unfoldings, was now divided between its original, foundational values of the Enlightenment – individual rights and freedom; universal values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the separation of church and state; emphasis on individual free speech and individual freedom in general – versus the novel values of newly emerging green, which included overall, an emphasis on green’s ‘equality’ above and over orange’s ‘freedom,’ and thus an emphasis on group rights and a curtailing of individual rights if they in any way threatened to marginalise or even offend any minority group (a direct challenge to the First Amendment and a willingness to limit free speech if it seemed to hurt the feelings of any group); an emphasis on ‘earth equality’ and environmental protections (even if it might hurt the freedom of humans); actively promoting marginalised groups over similarly qualified others (sometimes including actual quotas, but at the least an affirmative action). These two sets of values were vaguely in the same world-centric ballpark, but when it came to specifics, they were often night and day; and from that point onward, the Left (and the Democratic Party) was involved in an internal fight for which of these two major value sets (modern orange versus postmodern green) would actually determine policy. It is still a battle that is perfectly obvious to anybody who looks through this lens.
But the same thing, a notch down, was happening with the Right (and the Republicans). Their foundational base had always been amber; and thus they had more ethnocentric beliefs than progressives. Rightly or wrongly, they were seen to be more racist, more sexist, more hyper-patriotic and nationalistic, more patriarchal, more militaristic, more xenophobic, more homophobic, and much more religiously fundamentalist or ‘mythic-literal’, and they themselves often openly championed such values. But with the shift upward of evolution itself, which had added a new level, the leading edge of the Right also notched up a stage. As the Left had added a green branch to its orange foundation, the Right added an orange branch to its amber foundation. This new group on the Right was often called ‘Wall Street Republicans’ (reflecting its embrace of orange progress, achievement, and profit) and hence it aggressively embraced many values that once were embraced solely by the Enlightenment or ‘old’ liberals (for their ‘newness’ they were sometimes called ‘neoconservatives’ or just ‘neocons’). This political movement was zealously in favour of big business and anything that would help it and its orange profits; fought for world-centric individual rights against ethno-centric-favouring group ‘liberal’ moves; disliked government enormously (because it was too often run by liberals pushing green egalitarian rights and massive social entitlements); and supported free speech against political correctness with a passion edging into libertarianism. The Republican Party, like the Democratic, split into two major camps, reflecting the overall path of evolution itself: in this case, the ‘base’ or ‘old’ Right (with a strong amber ethnocentric) and the ‘new Right’ (with an orange business-profit-individual rights world-centric).
When it came to employment, it definitely turned out that, whether it was orange or green Democrat, they weren’t as in favour of business as the Republican (orange or amber). More granularly, reflecting their actual levels, the orange wing of both Democrat and Republican usually supported Wall Street, while the green wing of liberals opposed it, often with more socialistic anticapitalist anti-orange agendas. Traditionally, when it came to an actual division between business management and business labourers, the Democrats (favouring the world-centric ‘masses’) had supported employees and unions against management. But with the ongoing failure of the leading edge, the typical worker did not feel supported by the Democrats at all, and especially the lower-level employee went substantially for Trump. He actually pitched to that group, and did so in a very ethnocentric fashion: he would protect jobs at home, punish companies that went abroad, heavily tax products coming in from overseas companies, and “make America great again”: hyper-patriotic, ethnocentric, amber to the core.
As has often been noted, some 70 percent of whites with only a high school or lower education voted for Trump. Cementing his appeal to ethnocentric, some 60 percent of white voters in general went for Trump, including an astonishing 53 percent of white women (a higher percentage of white women than any Republican nominee in recent memory, and not just ‘lower education’: 45 percent of all college-educated white women voted Trump). On the mythic-literal side of ethnocentric, or the ‘evangelicals’, over 80 percent of those voters chose Trump (and this especially shows how beliefs trumped facts, because there was precious little religious about Trump, but the whole point here is how these background stages of worldview development have a hidden but enormously powerful hand in all this). Another 80 percent of the voters who defined themselves as ‘angry’ went Trump, and not just the lower education or lower income vote. In fact, the median income of a Trump voter was $71,000.
In short, of that 60 percent of the population that is amber or lower, the vast majority of them seem to have gone for Trump, and in a stunning fashion. Many of them acknowledged that he was ‘unqualified’ (60 percent), that he mistreated women (55percent), even that he was unstable (45 percent). And yet a majority of all of those voted for him anyway, showing the power of belief-dominated drives.
The Reverberating Anti-Green Morphic Field
What virtually all of the above voters had in common was ressentiment; they resented the cultural elite, whether in government or universities or ‘on the coasts,’ and they wanted, if ‘revenge’ is the wrong word, it’s not far off. But there was, I am suggesting, another and very strong, hidden current in all of this, and that was the antagonistic reaction and turning away evidenced by a leading edge that had gone deeply sour and dysfunctional, and wasn’t even serving the 25 percent of the population that were themselves at green. The deeply self-contradictory nature of ‘there-is-no-truth’ green had collapsed the very leading edge of evolution itself, had jammed it, had derailed it, and in a bruised, confused, but inherently wisdom-driven series of moves, evolution was backing up, regrouping, and looking for ways to move forward. This included activating an amber ethnocentric wave that had always been present and very powerful, but that had, for the most part, been denied direct control of society starting around a century or so ago (as orange and then green stepped in).When a Republican had been placed in power, which was relatively often, it was usually an orange-leaning Republican (with mandatory amber ethnocentric sub-beliefs, but talking world-centric language).
But Trump, like no politician in anybody’s memory, directly hit the amber nerve. He literally and deliberately spoke in amber ethnocentric terms: thinly veiled (if veiled at all) racist, sexist, openly patriarchal, uber-nationalistic, jingoistic, and on and on in ways that literally had critics’ mouths dropped wide open. People simply could not believe the stuff coming out of Trump, especially since they could not see the complete traffic jam lying up ahead at the leading edge, where direction had collapsed completely in a rampant case of aperspectival madness that had reverberated all the way down the entire spectrum of development. Again, it wasn’t just that Trump was ethnocentric, it was that his every move was deeply anti-green, and Trump’s own anti-green current caught the powerful anti-green wave radiating from the leading edge itself.
Trump’s anti-green impulse runs serious, far, and vast (though he consciously is aware of none of this). Whether his proposals are red or amber or orange, they are always also anti-green. And that is the one thing they all have in common, whether they are red, amber, or orange; they are all energised in part by this anti-green self-correcting drive of evolution in search of a functional and self-organising way forward (and a way that allows each of these stages an actual participation in the overall national dialogue, and doesn’t aggressively deny and ridicule any of them as being merely deplorable). As we’ll explore in a moment, amber was activated because it needed to find a way to be integrated into a larger society in a way that has been denied it for a very long time. Any specifically amber moves themselves are not directly part of the overall self-correcting drive of evolution, but the activation of amber itself most definitely is, and its voice desperately needs to be heard. It needs to be ‘transcended,’ most certainly, but it also—the lesson here—needs to be ‘included’ if evolution is to return to its general functional and self-organising drive of ‘transcend and include.’ That is the secret, hidden, but very real drive that Trump unconsciously rode to a victory that, because its primary driver was completely unseen, was a total shock to both camps and to every major pollster anywhere.
Trump is so boisterously amber ethnocentric in so many ways, this will force the present green leading edge into one of two major reactions: it will simply double down on its present hatred, revulsion, and open ridicule of amber (aimed at Trump and followers); or it will pause, realise that its own hatred and ridicule of amber has profoundly contributed to amber’s angry, virulent, hateful resentment of elites everywhere, and hence realise that it must in some ways attempt to understand, include, even compassionately embrace that large portion of the population who green is in fact supposed to be leading, not despising. If it takes the former route, then the overarching anti-green atmosphere will simply energise amber to force its way into the mainstream, ethnocentric power drives and all, with an increasing series of disasters inevitably following. If it takes the latter route, it will be aligning itself with the self-corrective drive of evolution itself as it looks for a more inclusive and comprehensive base platform from which to again take up its leading edge role of self-organisation through self-transcendence, or transcending and truly including. (More about this in a moment.)
In the meantime, Trump is being driven not only by his red egocentric/narcissism, not only his amber ethnocentrism (especially noticeable), and not only by his occasional orange world-centrism, but always also by this overarching morphogenetic anti-green field. Trump intends to virtually eliminate a good number of environment regulations; his selection of Scott Pruit as head of the Environmental Protection Agency already has every environmental organisation in the world completely alarmed (i.e., anti-green). He intends to increase military spending enormously (anti-green). He will severely limit immigration, with particular emphasis on Mexicans and Muslims (anti-green). He will lower taxes, including on the very wealthy (anti-green). He will roll back an estimated 60-70 percent of business regulations (anti-green). He will devastate foreign trade agreements, and cut into any international unification project around (anti-green). Whatever else those are, they are a massive kick in the face of green.
Thus, although Trump’s main constituency is that 60 percent of America (rich or poor, educated or not) whose basic centre of gravity is ethnocentric amber, even when he activates standard orange/business/achievement/profit currents, it’s usually through the dismantling of some rule or regulation that the green leading edge has previously put in place. Trump is intentionally anti-political correctness. His “make America great again” is to be accomplished by basically undoing most of the items that a leading edge green government has put into place, as it looked to ‘help’ or ‘protect’ individuals, but also primarily put in place to ‘deconstruct’ divisive boundaries wherever they existed; thus, undo trade agreements that attempted to draw in large portions of the world by making it easier to commercially cross American boundaries; undo immigration regulations that were trying to lower the boundaries to any immigrants (Hillary’s ideas on dramatically opening immigration were particularly galling to Trump); attempt to make it harder on terrorists by strengthening the borders that we do have. In every direction, it’s rolling back the loosening of borders that a leading edge green had actively deconstructed.
Obama was criticised, even by his supporters, for tending to a lack a certain ‘firmness,’ especially in his foreign policy, such as his desire to have NASA promote pro-Muslim efforts and his possibly too lenient stance with Iran; in short, a bit of his own deep green tendencies showing their aperspectival madness, a lack of directiveness or ‘firmness.’All of these green moves were aggressively condemned by Trump.
Now I’m not saying that what Trump is doing is right. What he is doing is basically ethnocentric, and has to be judged itself in exactly that light. But I am saying that the reason he is doing much of what he is doing is concomitantly driven by a background anti-green morphogenetic field, which has been created as the green leading edge drowned in a swamp of aperspectival madness, and hence failed significantly to be a genuine leading edge; it failed to provide any leading direction at all (but rather just a deconstruction of things already in place), since in losing all ‘truth’ it lost all compass points, which eventually led to a necessary self-correcting drive of stepping back, refurbishing, and reorganising in an attempt to create a truly self-organising dynamic which will allow it to move forward once again. It’s as if you bit into an apple and hit a rusty nail and chipped your leading edge incisor; the one thing you don’t do is keep biting.
Thus, whether he was activating red egocentric, or amber ethnocentric, or orange world-centric, he was always also anti-green. And the anti-green current (acting in a preconscious fashion in the dynamics of ongoing cultural evolution) would allow these stages to find their station energised by something Trump was doing. It’s an astonishing amalgamation; indeed, one that many analysts claim is unique in all of American politics. Never had an ‘anti’ stance reached out and energised so many stages, because never before had the leading edge so blatantly failed to lead. And the overall metadrive in all of this is to find a way that all of these previous stages can actually be heard, and truly seen, and more effectively and compassionately integrated into the larger currents of a cultural evolution in a way that green (with its aggressively deconstructive aperspectival madness) has profoundly failed to do.
The Stages and Dimensions Activated by Trump’s Current Actions
Whether Trump was activating red, amber, or orange (with amber ethnocentric being central), there were many other currents that combined with that general anti-green dynamic to select how each wave that was activated by Trump was indeed activated (that is, factors not only from different levels but also from different quadrants, different lines, and different states are involved in this). Business factors almost always interacted with those currents that concerned orange economic factors in general, and the widespread sense that Trump was a businessman tended to make some business people feel attracted to him (and it certainly attracted unemployed workers who felt Trump would ‘bring back jobs’). Others, of course, tended to point out that Trump had failed in business many more times than he had succeeded. But either way, Trump is the first President in American history who has essentially no experience in politics and is not a lawyer, but comes almost solely from a business background. (So that the way he conducted business is likely the way he will conduct government, which doesn’t make too many people feel comfortable.)
It is the ethnocentric crowd that, in addition to being the primary level of attraction, has perhaps the most number of other variables working in favour of their activation: their race, their sex, technological currents, governmental drivers, economic factors, cultural resentment. Trump’s success has most often been attributed to a great while male underclass. While that is only one factor, and a big one, it is nevertheless only part of the overall picture. But it’s true that this class has been stereotyped in especially nasty ways by the elite, primarily by the green leading edge. They are everything that Hillary Clinton meant when she tellingly called Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables.” This group is viewed as the single, great, rednecked, oafish, uneducated, gigantic instigator of oppression of all minorities. This large white lower class somehow has oppressed and disenfranchised AfricanAmericans, women, gays and lesbians, ‘real’ foreigners (like Mexicans, not like the Irish or Germans), and they are said to loathe and hate anybody not of their race, sex, blood, origins, or creed. We’ll address whether that is true or not in a moment, but it is true that this ‘underclass’ (white, male, lower education, lower class, rural) group did indeed vote for Trump in a big way.
The massive resentment that they had developed, the anger at being looked at by the leading elites as ‘deplorables’ (which the elite most certainly did), was a festering sore spot which Trump’s every anti-green salvo tended to soothe mightily. They loved Trump for this, and even with many of them feeling he was ‘unqualified,’ ‘misogynistic,’ or even ‘unstable,’ they voted for him en masse. Nothing, no matter how embarrassing (which Trump committed in outlandish ways almost daily, each seemingly worse than its predecessor, right up to the staggeringly adolescent and criminal “grab them by the pussy” videotape), none of it fundamentally mattered, because Trump was spouting a heartfelt, anti-green, ‘truthful’ sentiment, and this crowd truly loved him for it. Decades of being treated as white trash, with all of its ressentiment, were being washed away with every idiocy, and they simply could not get enough. And as for energising the red egocentric crowd, well, that more or less speaks for itself. As Lovejoy drily commented, “There is no human stupidity that has not found its champion,” and narcissists everywhere found in Trump a resounding champion.
The Primary Cause and Cure of Oppression
So, let’s briefly touch on this issue of oppression, the complete ending of which is perhaps green’s strongest central goal. Although the ideal itself is totally commendable (and happens to be one I fully support), the problem comes when a flatland aperspectival madness attempts to understand the source, cause, and cure of oppression itself. And you can just guess, right from the start, that this is not going to have a happy ending.
Green will typically look at history, for example, and whenever it finds a society in which there is a widespread lack of green values, it assumes that these green values would normally and naturally be present were it not for the fact that they have been maliciously oppressed by the dominator hierarchies found in that society. All individuals would possess world-centric green values of pluralism, radical egalitarianism, and total equality, except for the oppressive controlling powers that crushed those values wherever they appeared. Looking at history carefully, green found a lack of these values going all the way back to day one, and thus the assumption was made that a massively oppressive force (or group of them) was present from the start of humankind’s life on this planet, and these oppressive forces are still operating everywhere today, and thus green’s job of ending discrimination, marginalisation, misogyny, homophobia, and endless varieties of enslavement is an ongoing, difficult, yet desperately urgent chore, and is mightily resisted by the powers that be at every turn.
The existence of strong and widespread oppressive forces cannot be doubted. The problem comes in the claim to know what their source and cause is. For green postmodernism, the cause of the lack of world-centric green values in any culture is due to an aggressive and intensively active repressive and oppressive force (usually the male sex; or a particular race, white in most parts of the world, coupled with a rampant colonialism and/or due to a particular creed, usually religious fundamentalism of one sort or another; or various prejudices against gays, against women, against whatever minority that is oppressed). In short, lack of green values (egalitarian, group freedom, gender equality, human care and sensitivity) is due to a presence of oppression. Lack of green = presence of oppression. This lack goes all the way back to day one, and thus various strong oppressive currents have been present from day one, and continue now in alarmingly widespread ways.
The major problem with that view taken by itself is that it completely overlooks the central role of growth, development, and evolution. We’ve already seen that human moral identity grows and develops from egocentric (red) to ethnocentric (amber) to world-centric (orange then green) to integral (turquoise; and this is true individually as well as collectively/historically). Thus, the main reason that slavery was present, say, 2000 years ago, is not because there was an oppressive force preventing world-centric freedom, but that a world-centric notion of freedom had not even emerged yet anywhere on the planet. It wasn’t present and then oppressed, as green imagines, it simply had not yet emerged in the first place; there was nothing to oppress. This is why, as only one example, all of the world’s great religions, who otherwise teach love and compassion and treating all beings kindly, nonetheless, precisely because they were created during the great ethnocentric Mythic Age of traditional civilisation, had no extensive and widespread conception of the fundamental world-centric freedom of human beings, or the belief that all humans, regardless of race, sex, color, or creed, were born equal. Thus not one of them strenuously objected to the fact that a very large portion of their own population were slaves.
Athens and Greek society, vaunted home of democracy, had 1 out of 3 of their people who were slaves, and no major complaint on a culture-wide scale. Nor was there a widespread culturally effective complaint from Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism, et al. It wasn’t until the emergence of the world-centric Age of Reason that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” actually came into existence, emerging evolutionarily, and thus started to be believed by the average and typical member of that culture. The War between the States, fought in part because of that realisation, was unthinkable a thousand years earlier, it just would have made no sense.
So slavery, first invented and practiced by black men on black men in Africa, and then found basically everywhere, among yellow men on yellow men, and red on red, and all the way back to the earliest tribes themselves, (as we saw, 15 percent of indigenous tribes practiced slavery, and they did so because world-centric morality had not yet emerged on a wide scale) is not primarily due to the presence of an oppressive force but to the absence of a higher development. Oppression is not in any way its primary cause, and if it is treated as if it were, then the ‘cures’ that are enforced will never, never actually work, because the real cause has gone undetected and thus continues to exist and operate under the surface (the real cause being not the presence of oppression but the lack of development).
So in this particular regard, it is not true that lack of green equals presence of oppression; it is that lack of green equals lack of development. People are not in any way born with green values; those values are rather the product of 5 or 6 major stages of human development, and prior to their actual emergence, they don’t exist anywhere that they could actually be oppressed in the first place. This is true across the board: race, sex, creed, gender. Remember feminist Carol Gilligan’s stages of female moral development. She found that all women grow and evolve morally through four major stages: from a selfish stage (where the woman cares only for herself – our egocentric), to a care stage (where the woman extends care to her chosen group – our ethnocentric), to a universal care stage (where the woman cares for all groups, for all humans – our world-centric), to integrated (where the woman integrates both masculine and feminine modes in herself – our integral). Only at the world-centric stage of universal care would the woman begin to find something like oppression or marginalisation truly objectionable; otherwise, it’s just the hand you’re dealt. There is no universal objection to oppression until that universal stage itself, and thus this objection is not something that is present from the beginning and subsequently squashed, but something that is not present from the start but must emerge as growth and development continues.
But if we think that green values should be found universally, and their lack unerringly indicates an oppressive force, then we will see nothing but victims everywhere (simply because green is one of the very highest stages of development yet to emerge, and all the previous stages by definition lack green, and if that lack always misguidedly means oppression, then all of those stages are mistakenly viewed as oppressed ‘victims’, and thus the numbers of oppressed victims absolutely explodes). And our cure for this will not be to instigate factors that will help with growth and development, but to punish and criminalise those at the lower stages of development who are acting in oppressive ways. But, as we saw earlier with dominator hierarchies and growth holarchies, only at egocentric selfish and ethnocentric care stages will I want to oppress and hold others down to begin with. But when world-centric green sees such actions, it assumes that an oppressor somewhere is attempting to oppress free and equal world-centric conditions, and this gets the entire dynamic backwards.
Put differently, oppressive actions and drives are inherent in the lower stages of development. (As we saw, dominator hierarchies are inherent at the lower stages of growth hierarchies, and they vanish at the higher stages of growth hierarchies. It’s not that higher stages are incapable of malevolent or oppressive actions; they are not. But they are not inherently oppressive, oppressive as part of their intrinsic structure; when such behaviour occurs in higher stages, it is due to idiosyncratic shadow issues, and has to be dealt with on a case by case basis; its frequency, in any event, is vastly less than at egocentric/ethnocentric. In short, the primary cure for dominator hierarchies is to move to the higher stages of growth hierarchies.) A lower, pre-world-centric stage of development will step all over world-centric values if it can, not because it is trying to specifically oppress those values, but because it does not yet possess those values itself and has no understanding of their value, goodness, or desirability.
The cure for this is to move development forward, not to criminalize earlier stages (which is like calling age 5 a disease and outlawing it). It is certainly the case that a society can choose to pass laws against any behaviour that has the effect of oppressing other beings, and there is every reason to do so. But when it comes to the cause of that behavior, in addition to factors that come from every quadrant, including economic factors, technological factors, and brain physiology, it is mandatory that interior dimensions also be fully taken into account, including ethical development and moral development, or the various levels and stages of actual growth. To simply see intentional ‘oppressors’ and their ‘victims’ everywhere is to totally misdiagnose, and thus mistreat, the illness.
Hence, as for that ‘basket of deplorables,’ to the extent that they are genuinely at amber, ethnocentric, premodern stages of development, they are uncomfortable with world-centric values (orange and green), not because they fully see them and loathe them, but because they do not (and cannot) see them in the first place. As Kegan puts it, such values are ‘over their heads.’ This truly is not meant in a judgmental fashion, but simply as an explanatory and descriptive narrative; because the cure here involves, not hating them and ‘deploring’ them and criminalising them (unless their behaviour in itself warrants such), but to reach out and compassionately include them in the ongoing national dialogue and ongoing cultural normative development. which is precisely what the green leading edge (including its Hilary champions) have actively refused to do for at least four or five decades now.
And here’s its performative contradiction. Green officially will perceive nobody as fundamentally ‘lower’ or ‘needing to actually grow,’ because to suggest that any group truly needs to increase its developmental depth, implying that some levels are ‘better’ or ‘higher’ than others. is to be guilty, in a world of aperspectival madness and extreme political correctness, of being ‘racist; or ;sexist; or some horrible crime against humanity. No stance is recognised as superior to any other, and there certainly is no such thing as a ‘higher; or ‘better’ stance. (Although, when you think about it, just how are you going to get to truly ‘higher; and ;more inclusive; stances such as green claims to idolise if you don’t develop them?) Green itself is the product of five or six major developmental stages, but it allows this development for nobody, and even to suggest such is totally anathema; a colossal and massive failure, due to aperspectival madness, of the leading edge.
And yet, as we are starting to see, although green will not allow the existence of any ‘higher’ or ‘better’ views, it still deeply feels that its own views are definitely ‘higher’ and ‘better’; and to the extent that its views are in fact representing, for example, world-centric over ethnocentric views, they are indeed higher and better (precisely because they are more inclusive and less domineering and oppressive)! But this is exactly what green cannot officially admit or acknowledge, hence its being caught in a performative contradiction and collapsing as a conscious and functional leading edge.
And more to the point, when this developmental increase in capacity for inclusiveness, care, and compassion is not officially acknowledged, then it seeps out in disguised and often disgusted ways (because you keep intuiting the existence of these factual realities, even if your worldview tries to deny them, so they force their way into awareness, twisted as they might be). Green gets so infuriated at its own self-contradictory stance (even to think that your egalitarian view is a better way to view things is to contradict egalitarianism right at the start; your view that there are no better views is itself the belief in a better view), you end up blurting out your conclusion in malevolent, even vicious ways (“they’re all deplorables!”). We’ll come back to this central issue, and its cure, in Part III.
So when it comes to oppressive and domineering forces, the problem that green slams into is that it officially looks at all individuals in an egalitarian fashion, which means, it simply looks at their exteriors, at their behaviour, and wants each and every person to be free of judgment, ranking, oppression, domination, coercion, or control by any others. Now, unfortunately, what it does not do is take into account the interior realities of each of those individuals, and see which of those individuals are actually in favour of that goal of equality. Because as it turns out, the majority of individuals are not in favour of that world-centric goal. Individuals at crimson archaic and red magic and amber mythic—in short, egocentric and ethnocentric—do not want everybody to be treated equally, to be treated the same. Rather, they want their special group to have special privileges, because they deserve it; they are the ‘chosen people’!And if they are in power at all, they will see to it that their group gets the bulk of the available goods. They will often do so by instigating all manner of coercive and domineering controls, either racist, or sexist, or privileged-group favouring, or minority group devaluing, or allocating the means of production to the favoured few, or reserving the bulk of the production capacity to the favoured group.
And all of those coercive exterior moves are largely driven by an interior level of development that is at ethnocentric or lower. Somebody at world-centric or higher, on the other hand, will be inherently against any and all such unfair coercive actions, and historically these were the individuals who led or joined various liberation movements that have resulted in a present-day world where equal rights are unfathomably beyond what any previous epochs of human evolution managed to achieve, or even conceive.
But green (as well as orange in this case, or wherever interior realities are ignored or denied and exteriors alone are deemed to be ‘really real’) looks at the oppressive actions of the above individuals, and simply attempts to outlaw, criminalise, or behaviourally interrupt those actions. It has no understanding of the actual source and cause of those ethnocentric actions in the first place; no real understanding of the cause of the oppression to begin with. And thus, even though culture’s centre of gravity has moved upward over the millennia from magic egocentric and mythic ethnocentric waves into genuine world-centric orange and green capacities, everybody is still born at square one and must begin their growth and development from there, and they can stop at any of those 6 to 8 stages! And thus cultures everywhere continue to possess individuals at, for example, deeply ethnocentric stages of development, and those individuals possess deeply oppressive, coercive, and domineering impulses. And thus, among innumerable other items, some 300 years since slavery was outlawed, over 50 million people each year are trafficked.
Human beings are not born at a world-centric level of morality, values, or drives; they are not born democratically enthused. They develop to those levels after five or six major stages of development, and by no means everybody makes it. As we’ve seen, some 60 percent of this culture (and some 70 percent of the world’s population) remains at amber ethnocentric (or lower). Every time somebody is making love they are making little Nazis and KKKers to be. The root of such oppressive forces are not caused by exteriors; they are caused by interiors that hijack exteriors to express and manifest their deeply ethnocentric interior world views, and unless and until those interiors are fully understood and addressed through, among many other things, a deliberately developmental education, then that green ideal of a truly free and equal society will come nowhere near being realised.
At the same time, green’s fundamental background belief – its profound aperspectival madness, a demand that all values be seen as ‘equal’ and a categorical refusal to ‘judge’ or ‘rank’ any value system as ‘better’ or ‘higher’ – doesn’t allow it to even recognise the grand developmental scale of increasing inclusiveness and increasing care, and decreasing oppression and decreasing domination; a reality that would actually allow it to help guide a culture into truly world-centric and integral levels of reality, where a genuinely free and equal society could actually come into existence. Green has this correct (and very high) goal, but it doesn’t have a single path that actually works, or truly addresses the real barriers to its fervently desired ideals. And as it increasingly turned its aperspectival madness on more and more areas, deconstructing more and more aspects of reality, it eventually turned its deconstructive view on its own existence, dissolved any reason to believe anything it had to say, and thoroughly collapsed as a functioning leading edge of evolution. Welcome to a post-truth world. And hence the question: Where do we go from here?
PART IIITHE IMMEDIATE FUTURE
Where Do We Go From Here?
So the crucial issue at this time is: what do we do next? How can evolution, which has taken a deliberate pause in its ongoing dynamics in order to refurbish its foundations much more adequately and accurately, move forward from what appears on the surface to be such a complete meltdown (most visibly, but by no means solely, represented by Trump’s election)?
There are steps that need to be taken at every major level of development. But we are here examining the major driver of this meltdown, which is the deconstructive collapse of the green leading edge in a self-corrective readjustment attempting to find a sturdier base for an ongoing self-organisation through self-transcendence.
With regard to the dysfunctional green leading edge itself, the actual primary source of the problem (in addition to thousands of secondary sources), there are two major possible ways forward, each of which has some hope for alleviating the traffic jam at the leading edge. The first is the more likely and the less effective, and that involves the healing of the broken and dysfunctional green leading edge itself; a move by green, on green, aimed at self-healing and self-correction.
Amber and orange are each doing more or less what they are supposed to be doing, operating within the (often grave) limitations of their own level (although both are also suffering from excessive intrusion by a broken green, and that categorically needs to be remedied as part of the green healing). But green, we have seen, has gone off the deep end. In its intense aperspectival madness, it has heightened and inflamed its own madness and inflicted that illness on every area of society that it possibly can. The primary symptom of this is a widespread negative judgment and condemnation of anything amber and orange (anything not green). Green shows no understanding of how and why each of those levels of being and awareness is a necessary stage in a human’s overall growth and development; a person arrives at green itself only because they have first developed through amber and then orange… and then green. No amber, no orange, then no green. You see the suicidal insanity of green hating amber and orange?
But for green, these two large blocks (which are usually mushed together, since green has no conception of individual stages of development) are the great source of the oppressive forces that are turning green people everywhere into ‘victims,’ and for which everything from an aggressive political correctness, to criminalising every ‘micro-aggression’ imaginable, to turning every square inch of the country into an ethnocentric-enhancing ‘safe space,’ to confusing necessary differentiation with oppression and hence trying to crush it out of existence (i.e., green feels that any ‘differences’ that are recognised between any groups automatically become the source of discrimination and oppression, and thus no differences should be acknowledged in the first place, they are only ‘social constructions’ anyway. And it’s true, some are; but some aren’t, and this move only imagines more victims everywhere. Green doesn’t blame the victim, but it too often creates them).
The sane action in response to a Trump presidency is exactly an opening between, and a deliberately more friendly embrace between, each of the major stages of development found in all adults. This is a call for a genuine ‘inclusion,’ not green’s version of ‘inclusion,’ which is to aggressively exclude everything not green (which is seen as a deplorable). Green wants to be inclusive; it theoretically condemns all marginalisation; some of its advocates even call it “the integral culture.” But green, in fact hates, orange, and it hates amber, and it doubly hates second- tier (turquoise) integral (because integral reintroduces healthy versions of all the things that green fought against, including a healthy growth or actualisation holarchy which green considers the core of domination, because it thoroughly confuses dominator hierarchies with growth hierarchies; a discovery made and corrected by integral).But right now we are considering the possibility that green can itself heal and reconfigure, and thus resume its role as a truly leading leading edge of evolution (a healing that will almost certainly include many truly integral ideas, but without actually transforming directly to second-tier integral itself, which is the second option we will examine in a moment).
The well-known pollster Frank Luntz said, “This [Trump win] is a wakeup call for everyone at every level of government. Governors, Senators, mayors; all of them need to have a retreat where they can work together to bring about peace in the populace. Importantly, this isn’t about government officials reconciling with one another, which in itself is needed. Rather, it is about their facilitating their constituencies to reconcile with one another. It’s about bringing people together, bridging our divides, and binding our wounds. That’s what real leadership is about.”
Indeed, in addition to defining an effective education, a primary area of what a leading edge does is to provide actual leadership. Especially in a world of aperspectival madness (where there is no truth and thus no actual basis for any genuine leadership at all), it can be leadership alone (countering the prevailing go-nowhere currents) that provides an actual way forward. Real leadership stares into the face of a no-truth, no-direction, no-values world, and says, “It is simply not true that there is no truth; there is most definitely truth, and it lies in this direction.” and it is so radiantly genuine and attractive as it provides a believable path into an uncertain future, that it galvanises vast numbers to follow it forward.
And at this point in evolution and development, that leadership, in order to be truly effective and based on a genuine reality, must take into account the ‘true but partial’ truths of postmodernism itself (as it also must do with traditionalism and modernism), but it must do so in their moderate, effective, originally non-extreme and noncontradictory forms, which originally included genuinely effective means of increasing perspectives and decreasing marginalisation. Indeed, and to expand this point across the board, green can truly heal only by deeply befriending the now widely fragmented value systems (especially the three primary ones—amber, orange, and green itself but in a now healthy form—because these all are at present angrily involved in culture wars gone totally nuclear). Only with such a fundamentally compassionate outreach that sincerely embraces each of those, with a genuine goodwill in place of deep loathing, can green truly heal and thus can the leading edge once again genuinely begin to function as a real guidance system for effective self-organisation.Much more on that as we proceed.
But let me at this point provide a very brief sidebar on a quick sketch of how the three central theoretical tenets of postmodernism, namely, contextualism, constructivism, and aperspectivism can, and indeed should, be fully embraced, as a central part of the present dysfunctional green’s healing and its return to a more healthy and functional stance. Each one started as an important ‘true but partial’ concept and was then taken to extremes and directly contributed to the performative contradiction that landed us with aperspectival madness and its tag-team of nihilism and narcissism: I will provide a quick overview of how each of those can be relocated in their more moderate, effective, noncontradictory, and ‘true but partial’ forms. The point is that, as a part of the overall requirement of green to compassionately embrace each of the major stages of human development (amber, orange, and green), it must start with its own green values, but values that simply must be cleansed of their extreme, self-contradictory, viciously deconstructive forms. And it will have to do this before it can effectively move on to embracing the amber and orange systems previously so utterly despised by an unhealthy green. So after a quick academic tour of this issue, we’ll move directly into stating what this means in plain English.
First, very briefly:
–contextualism: all truth is indeed context-dependent (but some contexts are themselves universal, and thus universal truth does in fact exist; the very fact that all truth is contextual is itself a universal context! Stop treating all cross-cultural realities as oppressive and start looking for the many common patterns that connect, thus also pointing to ways out of an otherwise increasingly fragmented and broken world).
–constructivism: all truth is not merely given, it is indeed co-constructed (but a co-construction that includes what Wilfrid Sellars, the most successful critic of the ‘myth of the given’, the myth that the world of facts simply exists on its own and by itself, awaiting discovery by all and sundry, nonetheless acknowledges the ‘intrinsic features’ of the world, which provide universalising grounding and are the ‘co’ part of the ‘co-construction’ of knowledge. In short, the ‘social construction of reality’ does not mean ‘there is no real truth,’ but it does mean the nature and contexts of the knower are an intrinsic part of the knowing process; and further, and most importantly, it opens us to the incredibly sophisticated state of the world when each different genealogical level of development will ‘co-construct’ a different world, something that demands the inclusion of all developmental world views in any comprehensive knowledge quest. And the general takeaway here is: try and make your co-created world, and thus your leadership, stem from the highest level of development that you can, because each higher level contains, not ‘no truth’ but ‘more truth,’ since each higher stage transcends and includes its predecessors).
–aperspectivism: there are no ahistorical, pre-given, privileged perspectives anywhere, which is the true part of aperspectivism (and the ‘partial’ part is that, each new level of development has been shown to increase the number of perspectives that awareness can take, from a first-person perspective of red, to a second-person perspective of amber, to a third-person perspective of orange, to a fourth-person perspective of green, to a fifth-person perspective of early integral, to a sixth-person perspective of late integral, and higher. Each of these stages ‘transcends and includes’ its predecessor, which is the generic drive or Eros of evolution itself, the drive to self-organisation through self-transcendence. Thus, paraphrasing Hegel, no perspective is privileged because each new emergent stage of evolution produces greater and greater perspective capacity; hence, each stage is adequate, each higher stage is more adequate: each stage is true, but each higher stage is ‘more true,’ or contains more perspectives that themselves disclose more truths. This again is why the virtues of a genealogical or evolutionary/developmental view so powerfully offer answers to the aperspectival madness of a chaotic green postmodernism. Thus the ‘true but partial’ truths of postmodernism cannot be denied and hence, like every previous stage, they must be ‘included’, even as we also dramatically ‘transcend; them in yet higher integral development of ever greater and more inclusive perspectives).
Dominator Hierarchies and Growth Hierarchies
Okay, back to the real world. One of the simplest points here is that for green to move from its extreme, dysfunctional, unhealthy and pathological condition to a state of healthy, vibrant, true leading edge capacities, it is absolutely central that green heal its catastrophic confusion between dominator hierarchies and actualisation hierarchies. Actualisation (or growth) hierarchies are not exclusive and domineering, they are inclusive and integrating. With each of the levels of a dominator hierarchy, the higher the level, the more it can oppress and dominate (as with the caste system, or criminal organisations like the Mafia). With growth hierarchies (or ‘holarchies’), it’s exactly the opposite. In a growth holarchy, the whole of each level becomes an included part of the whole of the next higher level, just as, in evolution, a whole quark becomes part of an atom, a whole atom becomes part of a molecule, a whole molecule becomes part of a cell, a whole cell becomes part of an organism, and so on. Each level is a whole/part, what Koestler called a ‘holon.’ The ever-increasing inclusiveness—genuine inclusiveness—of holons and holarchies demonstrates a direction that is grounded in nature and that has been operative from the first moment of the Big Bang forward, a direction of self-organisation through self-transcendence that is the primary drive of evolution itself.
Another way to say ‘transcend and include’ is ‘differentiate and integrate.’ Each stage of development differentiates the previous stage, and then integrates those newly emergents parts into a higher-level order. Thus, a single-cell zygote first splits into 2 cells, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32, etc. differentiated cells, and after those are introduced, they are integrated into inclusive systems – a nervous system, a muscular system, a digestive system, and so on – all of which are integrated in the overall organism. Each stage of this growth process goes beyond (or transcends) the previous stage but also includes or enfolds it, and it does so by differentiating and integrating it.
Green’s accomplishment was, by introducing a 4th-person perspective that could reflect on, and hence criticise, the 3rd-person systems of orange, it began to differentiate those orange monolithic, static, non-permeable systems, producing, not a single given world system, but a rich multicultural display of an almost limitless variety of differentiated systems. That was the ‘true’ part. The ‘partial’ part was that, while it could differentiate these systems, it could not yet integrate them (and their newly created parts). It saw nothing but a riot of cultural differentiation, and since no holarchy or truly increasing inclusivity or integration could be seen, it simply imagined that all of them were absolutely equal; hence, its ‘egalitarianism,’ which really represented its incapacity to find the deeper (or higher) patterns that connect: the integrating holarchies that tied together the various world systems and indeed allowed and facilitated their interactions in the first place.
We saw that, of course, green really didn’t believe this idea, since it definitely felt that its view of this situation was much better than any view that did not see it this way. Its view was superior in a world where nothing was supposed to be superior; so much for ‘egalitarianism.’ But it couldn’t officially acknowledge that its own view was higher than, for example, orange modern, because it officially denied all hierarchies, not just dominator hierarchies, but growth hierarchies as well; hence its performative contradiction of directly expressing a hierarchical view while simultaneously denying all hierarchical views. But it would only be with the ‘monumental leap; to integral 2nd tier(turquoise) that actualisation holarchies became a standard and recognised part of the ‘intrinsic features’ of the real world.
But even green (that is, healthy green) can drop its confusion of these actualisation holarchies with all the truly nasty dominator hierarchies. It is precisely by unnecessarily denying holarchical depth that green has no concept of direction: no perspective is more inclusive than another, and so no truth is available at all. And with that, the leading edge collapsed entirely, viciously crashed by a performative contradiction that landed it in aperspectival madness, which then oversaw a world becoming more and more slightly mad. But introducing growth holarchies in literally all areas where real growth and development is occurring (which is most of them) would allow green to take up, once again, some actual conception of what direction means: not only a horizontal increase in aptitudes for all, but a vertical increase in altitude for all.
And there is a truly simple reason that the introduction of growth holarchies is so crucial for any effective path forward. Green is rightly concerned with dominator hierarchies. But research makes it unbelievably clear that the only people who engage in dominator hierarchies are those who are at the very lowest levels of growth hierarchies. Only someone at Gilligan’s selfish (egocentric) or special-group care (ethnocentric) will even want to dominate and oppress in the first place. And correlatively, those who criticise and reject dominator hierarchies (and historically fought for their destruction) are those at the truly higher levels of growth hierarchies (orange, green, and integral). At Gilligan’s universal care (or world-centric), you care for ALL people, regardless of race, colour, sex, or creed (even more so at integral). Thus, when green rejects all hierarchies (dominator and growth), it manages to accurately spot the problem but also, in the very same step, to completely destroy the cure.This is a cultural disaster of the first magnitude, blame for which lies squarely on broken green’s doorstep.
Thus we have one of the greatest, most widespread, most damaging disasters handed us by aperspectival madness. When green in general (social warriors, marginalisation liberators, feminists of most varieties, overall liberalism, NGOs everywhere), stormed into any area and began an aggressive ‘down with all hierarchy’, many cases of cultural oppression were, at least to begin with, upended and deconstructed, along with every truly effective means to rebuild the oppressed area. By killing all growth holarchies, it killed all growth. (It removed the morphogenetic background of increasing interior growth and development, and was left with nothing but a vacuous assertion of ‘specialness’ for all the marginalised groups). But simply asserting, over and over, that ‘I am special, I am special,’ does precisely nothing to end the real source of the oppression force; another catastrophic failure of the leading edge.
And it was by no means, in any way, that it was just the marginalised groups that needed to have the means of truly transformative growth processes made available to them; it was the entire oppressive force drivers that especially needed to be exposed to effective means to open themselves to continued growth from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric to integral (via any of literally hundreds of growth techniques, exercises, and practices demonstrated to accelerate interior growth and evolution). Instead of approaching the actual source of the oppressive drive—the interior (or Left-Hand) dimensions of arrested development—green attacked the symptoms, the exterior (or Right-Hand) behaviour of the oppressors, which does nothing to uproot the real problem, but simply sends it underground to morph and regenerate and pop up elsewhere. (Clearly, any truly effective approach will attack oppression as it manifests in all 4 quadrants, as well as all levels—i.e., AQAL. But to utterly leave out half of the conditions, and the most important half at that, the very source and cause of the interior drive itself, is again to express a profoundly failed leading edge.)
One of the paradoxical reasons that it is so important that our culture at large understand the general basics of a developmental view is that such an understanding would allow people to see the general limits of just how much they will be able to agree with each other in the first place. All 1st-tier stages (crimson, magenta, red, amber, orange, and green), as we saw, think that their truth and values are the only genuinely real and important truth and values. That is not likely to ever change fundamentally (it hasn’t for the last hundred thousand years that it’s been in existence). But the degree to which those beliefs are held, and the aggression that is invested in such a belief, can indeed be softened, opened, dosed with a bit of kindness and compassion, and the example for this must come from the leading edge. That’s one of the things that a leading edge does (while being the ‘highest’ level of evolution at that point, it leads all levels), it provides a direction that can energise the population at large, and failing that, it simply fails to lead. But that is exactly one of the problems that the collapse of green ended up generating: all other values were not met with an open compassion but were aggressively ‘deconstructed’ and decommissioned and tossed in the ‘basket of deplorables,’ and anyone who continued to believe them was subjected to harsh, vocal, and unrelenting ridicule. The ‘culture wars’ (which, by the way, are exactly the battle between amber, orange, and green; between traditional mythic religion, modern science and business, and postmodern multiculturalism), under green ‘leadership,’ went nuclear. What green was teaching this culture, by example, were sophisticated ways to despise and deconstruct those who disagreed with you; they aren’t just wrong, they are the source of every major force of oppression, injustice, slavery, and worse. You do not want to embrace them with kindness and understanding, you literally want to deconstruct them; while you yourself flounder in aperspectival madness, cackling loudly with each new victory helping move others to an equal infestation by aperspectival insanity. What so desperately needs to be understood, from a developmental and evolutionary perspective, is that each major stage of development becomes a possible station in life for those who stop there, and there is nothing that can be done about that, except make sure that all the means of further development are made as widely available as possible (a core task of the leading edge), and just as importantly, making room in the society for individuals who are at each station of life (red, amber, orange, green, or integral), and douse the whole affair with outrageous amounts of loving kindness, and do so by example.
What Green Must Learn in Order to Be a Genuine LeadingEdge
There have actually been a moderate, but noticeable, number of green voices that seem to genuinely have gotten the central message. I’ve heard many staunch green individuals say that the primary lesson they got from this election was not how much they hated Trump and despised his followers, but that they had to reach out to this huge group of people who put Trump in office; that they had spent their adult lives basically looking down on them, making fun of them and ridiculing them, and what was required instead was to genuinely and truly understand them, to include them in the dialogue, to open themselves to seeing the world from their point of view, to make room for them in their world. And this indeed is exactly the type of genuine healing that embraces the self-correction that evolution is looking for. The leading edge cannot lead if it despises those whom it is supposed to lead. It cannot go forward one more step if it has no idea of what a true ‘forward’ means (which it doesn’t if it has no belief in ‘truth’ itself). It cannot move into a greater tomorrow if it denies ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ (growth holarchies) altogether, and instead simply sees all values as absolutely equal (which we saw it doesn’t really believe anyway, because it definitely believes its values are superior). What it needs to understand is that the capacity to embrace its green values is itself the product of several stages of development or a growth holarchy, and hence, even if it just wants to see more green get produced, then it categorically must get behind that genealogy or growth holarchy as a truly valid and ‘true’ way to move forward in a pluralistic postmodern world.
This path forward would also involve cleaning the invasion of extreme and broken green elements into all of the other 1st-tier stages (red, amber, orange, and green itself). At green, the whole ‘aperspectival madness’ disease has to be rethought and rejected in its many forms. As we just saw in our little academic sidebar, it’s true that all knowledge is context-bound, but some contexts are universal, and thus some knowledge is, too. And it’s true that all knowledge is constructed, but it is co-constructed with subsisting intrinsic factors in the actual world, and thus is not just a ‘fabrication’; and it’s true that no perspective is privileged (which actually means that the more perspectives that you include, the more adequate and more accurate your map becomes). Technologically, the Information Age all too soon became infected with aperspectival madness itself, and, as we saw, it stopped having algorithms that selected for the Good, or the True, or the Beautiful, and instead simply fed back one’s own narcissistic tendencies. As Time magazine put it, “The Internet’s personality has changed. Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now the web is a sociopath with Asperger’s. If you need help improving your upload speeds, it’s eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself. Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority, and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.” This has gotten so bad it often invites regression beyond ethnocentric to deeply egocentric and narcissistic enthusiasms (and ‘narcissism’ does not mean a healthy and proud self-opinion, it means valuing and promoting oneself at the expense of all others).
The utterly free flow of, and access to, all information is a noble ideal. But it’s just that, a value, an ideal, and in addition to a background free flow of data, indexing capacities that are ‘envalued’, that deal with items like degree of depth, expanse of perspectives (and thus ‘amount’ of truth), developmental holarchies, and other envalued judgments, need to be as available as supposedly ‘value-free’ systems. We saw that Google primarily searches information based on its popularity, so that the information retrieved simply reflects the prejudices of the most number of people. Even an option to search for ‘least popular’ in addition to the default ‘most popular’ would be a start. But the ways that the online world actually embeds and transmits very extensive, and very limited, value systems need to be increasingly addressed. When Douglas Rushkoff can write a book entitled Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, you know something’s deeply wrong.
In addition to green simply taking care of itself and truly healing its extremist, deconstructive, nasty-edged, aperspectival madness (by, for instance, expressing its three main tenets in more moderate and healthy forms; or distinguishing between dominator hierarchies and growth holarchies, and thus actually finding a direction to establish a real leadership), what measures are examples of how a broken green can repair its invasive damage of the lower stages?
As for orange economics, although the analyses of this would take a book or two to be complete (as it would with any of these levels), we might start with the economic notion of a guaranteed annual income. As we noted, technologically the world is moving toward a truly utopian, but real work-free situation, where everybody would, one way or another, be guaranteed to receive all the (material) basics of a life well lived. The sooner that happens, the better, but this will actually take considerable reworking of both economic theories and economic practices. This is so because, in part, a fundamental problem of most present day economic theories is that they still essentially reflect the scientific materialism of the 18th and 19th centuries when they were first created. In short, they only track exterior material money and wealth, not also interior consciousness and culture. The problem with money is that it can buy almost any material or physical items, but it can buy virtually nothing of consciousness, love, care, compassion, intelligence, values, meaning, purpose, vision, motivation, spirituality, emotional goods, mental ideas. Thus, when the GDP is calculated, which is often taken as an indicator of the overall success of individual lives, not a single one of those really important items is taken into account at all, not even remotely. There is now a growing and vocal discontent that points out that present economic indexes don’t include things like caregiving or parenting or family/relational realities or any sort of life values at all (which is really just the beginning of an integral inventory of what they don’t include). When we decide that society will provide essentially all of the items required for a full life (and we have theories and models and statistics that begin to track all of those elements), exactly what elements will those be? A broken green is the last wave you want trying to answer that.
And as human lifespan reaches, and then significantly bypasses, the century mark, what will humans do when they don’t have to work? This is something that every culture is going to have to answer in a truly effective way, or face true disaster. My point again is that aperspectival madness is exactly what you don’t want in charge of finding those answers. (My own view, which I first put forth in Boomeritis, is that, after humans are provided all the material goods that they want, what is left for them to want, especially when they start living for a century or two? What could they possibly do with all that time? And the answer is, turn their exploration from the mere exterior world into the vast worlds of interior and virtually unlimited horizons, tasting all of the goods in the inner domains. That is, any society that will be able to effectively deal with people living hundreds of years, will have to make knowledge of the many interior levels and states of consciousness available, so that people can begin to pursue the incredibly vast and massively different interior worlds provided by the almost limitless vistas of the higher states and stages of being and awareness, and the staggeringly rich increase that they bring in consciousness, bliss, awareness, love, compassion, joy and happiness. These generally begin with the territory of an integral view (which we’ll discuss in a moment), but they could start to be made available by a healthy and open green.
In any event, a small technical item that orange business could use right now is the easing of the massive number of regulations that a hypersensitive green has put into place. Small businesses in particular are failing in record numbers, as green’s attempts to prevent employee ‘victims’ has virtually paralysed much of a healthy business operating capacity. This is just a general example of what we’re talking about overall here, which is the difference between healthy green care, and hypersensitive green obsession, which, in attempting to remove all suffering from all life conditions, effectively removes the conditions themselves; and, as an unintended consequence, ends up increasing suffering, sometimes enormously (to green’s colossal confusion).
This giving more awareness to the downsides of a hypersensitivity run amok certainly applies to extreme political correctness. The orange drive of free speech versus the green drive of equality has come out with too much ‘transcend’ and not enough ‘include’. Individual free speech and wide-open knowledge acquisition has been sunk in favour of group rights and an overall equality that doesn’t transcend and include freedom, but transcends and trashes it, transcends and denies it, transcends and even criminalises it. The cure for this? Well, this is so obvious I’ll just give one example: this problem will have been adequately addressed when the great comedians of our time are again willing to play college campuses. The same goes for micro-aggression, triggers, and safe spaces; they should be allowed to exist only if they can directly face a freed comedy.
As for the effect of green’s aperspectival madness on amber ethnocentric stages: this is the level that truly requires a conscious intention on the part of green if green wishes at all to heal its nastiness (what Integral theorists, we saw, call ‘the mean green meme’), and become fit, once again, to actually be the leading edge. This requires, not agreeing with amber, not acting on amber, not accepting all of amber’s actions, but genuinely reaching out in human understanding, compassion, and kindness, while still holding any amber ethnocentric actions that violate world-centric wellbeing as being open to sanctions of one variety or another. But this does involve a genuine softening of the widespread view that they are intrinsically ‘deplorable’ (which might be admissible if this were an active choice, but it isn’t: one does not choose one’s stage of development or its characteristics; these simply come with the territory of that stage itself, and they will persist, whether you like them or not, until that stage passes. The most we do in a ‘judgmental’ fashion, using developmentally discriminating wisdom, is to make all means of growth as available as possible, while still sanctioning any overt behaviour (racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic) coming directly from such ethnocentric stages. But this does not include judging somebody who is actually at an ethnocentric stage as if they voluntarily and gleefully chose those traits as a deliberate moral choice. At most, we can truly feel deep compassion for someone living within the unbelievably constricting, suffocating, and suffering-inducing stages that these are. From an integral view, compassion is the only judgmental attitude we’re allowed; the only one.
But it is precisely a lack of compassion, care, and understanding that broken green avidly displayed (in academia, media, entertainment, and liberal politics); and more than any other single item, this mean-green-meme attitude is what lead to the huge reservoir of ressentiment that led to Trump’s previously unimaginable win. (A full 81 percent of those who described themselves as ‘angry’ voted for Trump. 8 out of 10!)
Finally, as we said, much of egocentric speaks for itself. I’ll simply add the idea that I introduced with the notion of ‘boomeritis.’ I pointed out that although the Boomers were indeed known as the ‘Me generation’ and the ‘culture of Narcissism,’ it wasn’t just a generation of kids characterised by narcissism per se. Rather, it was a very high level of development that was infected with a very low level of development. It was green pluralism infected with red narcissism/egocentrism. It was a condition, marked primarily by the Boomer generation, hence its name the ‘Me generation,’ but it is not a condition by any means confined to the Boomers. This is the result of an extensive ‘pre/ post fallacy.’ This fallacy occurs because both PRE-conventional realities (such as egocentrism) and POST-conventional realities (such as autonomy and individualism) are both fully NONconventional, and thus they are easily and often confused and equated. Either pre-conventional realities are elevated to post-conventional truths (so that narcissistic and egocentric stances are taken to be very high expressions of fully autonomous individuality), or else post-conventional realities are reduced to pre-conventional childish modes (so that nonconformist, post-conventional individuals are charged with being narcissistic and self-promoting). ‘Boomeritis’ is a variety of the former, or elevationism, where, precisely due to the pluralistic/relativistic stance of aperspectival madness, all stances were taken to be equally acceptable, and thus a very low narcissism could hide out in a very high autonomous individualism. We see examples of this, for instance, in some of the Viet Nam war protests. In one Berkeley protest, the students claimed in one voice that their objections to the war were based on universal moral principles, i.e. the war was morally wrong, and thus it should be protested against, and yet tests of the moral development of the protesters showed that, while a few of them were indeed at universal post-conventional stages of moral development, a large majority of them, over 70 percent, were actually at the pre-conventional, egocentric stages of moral development. They didn’t want the war, not because it was morally wrong, but because ‘nobody tells me what to do!’; and that is boomeritis. It was a culture of narcissism, but a narcissism hiding out in very highly developed ideals. It wasn’t just red; it was green infected with red.
We saw what this narcissistic underbelly has done to culture ever since green became the leading edge, and already its pathological dimensions were starting to dysfunctionally deconstruct anything in its path. Education, in particular, was hit hard by this undercurrent of narcissism, and it hasn’t really functioned well ever since. And it’s not just its extreme versions (such as getting rid of grades altogether and giving everybody a gold star; instances of kids getting accepted at colleges who literally cannot read), it’s that it pandemically affected education at all levels. The whole ‘self-esteem’ education movement is a classic example, resulting in a graduating class that expressed more degrees of narcissism than any class since testing was begun. But green’s belief, that because no values are really real, all value are equally true (or equally false), creates a pathological aperspectival madness that simply must be healed, and a discriminating wisdom reintroduced.
Given that green is the present (ersatz) leading edge, with some 25 percent of the population, its fairly large numbers make it at least a possible candidate for making this change itself, given that it is now widely self-conscious that something is very, very wrong with what it has been doing (and Trump’s election has cemented this suspicion; for every green that simply blames and hates Trump, another green starts to ask what it has itself done to help bring this about). The realisation is slowly dawning that elite urban green, not just ethnocentric rural amber, drove Trump into office; a dynamic virtually nobody saw, hence the shock everywhere at Trump’s election; a dynamic that green has a profoundly difficult time understanding, or rather, admitting.
Here’s just one example of this slowly but widely-growing realisation of green’s complicity in the election of an amber ethnocentric Trump, and an indication that the self-correcting drive of evolution is indeed kicking in. In an online article by African-American Jeremy Flood (cofounder of At the Margins), entitled “The Revolution Must Be Felt,” after emphasising that Trump’s election was the victory of an ethnocentric current, Flood very perceptively confesses,
“But in the very same vein, we [liberals] must acknowledge the way in which we refer to Trump’s base, the way we emphasise his support from the ‘non-college-educated,’ the way we approach the premise of rural white America generally, relies on that very same prejudicial inference. Our hatred for these people is at its very essence, classism. This cannot be stressed enough. Contempt for white ruralites is built into the fabric of the modern liberal lexicon. We set them up as a vessel of every oppressive construct university liberalism has aimed to dismantle [i.e., the single great cause of all forms of oppression]—from fundamentalist religion, to sine qua non nationalism, to a general distrust in science, we’ve sculpted these people into a caricature of barbarian ignorance. And then when we come knocking for votes, we expect them not to have noticed. In taking these people’s votes for granted while unabashedly airing our hostility, we pushed them ever closer to the precipice, and then watched in shock as they jumped.”
Exactly one of the points I’ve been making. Flood continues, “And if our own classism prevents us from caring about the emotional needs of those we derided as deplorable, we are not really progressives.” He explains:
“Do you disagree with the substance of this narrative? Are you aching to insert how [their] views are misleading, the byproduct of sexism, unfair media attention, and double standards? Me too. It doesn’t matter. That was the narrative that we sold to millions of people. And they told us what they thought of it. We lost Michigan. We lost Pennsylvania. We lost Ohio. The razed waste of Union land. How did we get here?
How indeed? Says Flood,
“Pundits can argue forever about whether economic or racial anxiety triggered the detonation. But here is the bottom line: the Leftfailed [his bold]. We failed not because we didn’t have the facts on our side, not because our policies weren’t better for the working class, not because the redneck sods of the Trumpian horde were too racist to see reason. The left failed because the story they were selling wasn’t strong enough to overcome these not-at-all-new resentments [his italics].”
Ressentiment, indeed. Flood notes that
“Solidarity is a story. It’s composed of our actions and our authenticity. It’s about collective [world-centric] identity and collective struggle. We are not ‘stronger together’ when half of us are ‘deplorable.’ We embraced an academic, impersonal style of politics [postmodern, poststructuralist], and through our tone and narrative, the Democratic party came to embody exactly the kind of elitist hierarchy it was built to overcome.”
Right on the money. And as we’ve seen, one of the primary reasons that this comes about is that, whenever we deny growth hierarchies, then automatically, unavoidably, and by default, we strengthen dominator hierarchies. Without a countervailing current tilting and trending us toward our highest world-centric and integral possibilities, we slide into our lowest common denominators, our egocentric and ethnocentric drives. And when originally world-centric notions regress to ethnocentric displays, they take on the flavour of all amber-stage productions: an absolutistic, fundamentalist, ‘one-true-way’ attitude, and we buy into it with a religious fervour that takes no prisoners. We have seen this happen with science itself as it slid into amber scientific materialism and reductionistic scientism; with feminism as, for many, it slid into an absolutistic religion, the slightest disagreement with which was viewed as deeply demonic; we saw it with Marxism as it slid into a de facto zealot religion for millions (while religion may or may not be the opiate of the masses, Marxism became the opiate of the intellectuals); and we’ve seen it with many political ideologies, even those coming from orange or green, when latched onto with an unquestioning fervour and absolutistic enthusiasm, slid into their lowest ethnocentric and even egocentric displays, with disaster a short step away. When that happens, then this slide from growth holarchies into dominator hierarchies is deeply unavoidable and catastrophic, coming from the leading edge itself. No wonder evolution imploded.
While several previously dysfunctional greens, such as Mr. Flood himself, are starting to realise the hand they played in the vast tide of resentment that landed Trump in office, few of them, as yet, fully grasp the need for growth holarchies to actually reverse the trend. The denial of hierarchy in general is an inherent feature of the pluralistic/ relativistic wave; it simply recoils in horror at the very thought that some stances could be ‘higher’ or ‘better’ or ‘more valuable’ than others. Any such ‘judging’ and ‘ranking’ is viewed as the very core of all oppression and injustice and wicked power drive. Graves felt that because green is the highest of the 1st tier stages, and because nested hierarchies or holarchies are widely reintroduced as an intrinsic feature of all 2nd tier integral stages, then green has an inbuilt hypersensitivity to all hierarchies, so it will approach these newly introduced hierarchies with appropriate care and caution as it arrives at integral. Since dominator hierarchies truly are the source of much, if not all, social oppression and injustice, green needs to learn to be on guard for any judging, ranking, or valuing tendencies, and is motivated to undo them wherever they are found.
But that view in its unthinking and extreme form is just an initial, reflex, knee-jerk reaction on green’s part, and green doesn’t really believe it all by itself, as we have seen. The only way green can arrive at the thought that, for example, value judgments are bad, is to make a whole series of value judgements about it. Likewise, green has a ranking system that ranks no-ranking as better and more valuable than ranking, and that is itself most certainly a ranking. It has a very strong hierarchy, or value judgment/ranking, that puts hierarchies on its bottom levels and puts ‘no hierarchy’ on its top levels. It believes, as we have previously summarised, that its view is definitely superior in a world where nothing is supposed to be superior. That’s not ‘no judgement’; that’s a very definite and fervently embraced judgment!
So what green needs to learn to do, after it gets over its initial and not-well-thought-out reaction against all hierarchies and all value judgments entirely, is to realise that it is even able to reach that conclusion in the first place, because it has its own version of value judgments and hierarchical attitudes; these are impossible to avoid. Thus, instead of pretending to get rid of judgments and rankings and hierarchies altogether, which it can’t really do anyway and which is why it keeps expressing its own versions of these, it needs to distinguish between what is a good, true, real, and ethical form of hierarchical judgment, which green tends to possess (compared to earlier stages) versus what is a corrupt, dominating, oppressive, and unjust form of hierarchies (which the lower stages inherently possess). And doing that, it comes straight to the distinction between actualisation (or growth) hierarchies versus dominator (or oppressive) hierarchies. And growth holarchies have the profound advantage of themselves following directly a real genealogy, a real evolutionary current, a real developmental process that unfolds in some 6 to 8 major stages of increasingly inclusive, increasingly loving, increasingly caring, increasingly whole and conscious and complex (and increasingly less domineering, less oppressive, less unjust) forms, and which we summarise as the ever-expanding growth from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric to integral.
Using these growth holarchies, a healthy green can see immediately that these were in fact the actual basis of its original judgments and original rankings; that these growth hierarchies are what it actually had in mind when it condemned dominator hierarchies. It didn’t mean to stop making all judgments entirely; green itself was making judgments left and right. It meant to stop making racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, and similarly prejudiced judgements (that is, stop making ethnocentric judgments), and to start making judgments that were world-centric, all-embracing, and truly inclusive: those judgments you are most definitely supposed to make! And those judgments are based on the growth hierarchy that we need to move from ethnocentric (and lower) to world-centric (and higher) if we are to reach and express our own truest potentials. So stop making ethnocentric judgments and rankings and hierarchies, and start making world-centric/integral judgments and rankings and hierarchies. Ah, now it all fits!
Furthermore, realising this, green is likewise immediately released from its endless performative contradictions. To give merely one major example: it’s released from its unending claims that it is universally true that there is no universal truth. Now what green really means by this is, because all truth has a historical dimension (which itself is a universal truth), and because in the past what was taken as ‘truth’ was often a partial, prejudiced, and bigoted ‘truth’ that marginalised and oppressed various groups, then we want to be aware of this nasty possibility, and therefore we are going to point these factors out, and when we do so, we mean that they apply to all cultures, at all times, in all places. And thus, what we are really saying is that here are some universal world-centric truths that will help us combat and prevent ethnocentric and oppressive truths. Presented in that light, then all of green’s rankings and value judgments on the horrors of ethnocentric truth can pour forth, in a fully noncontradictory and truthful fashion. And it is indeed expressing universal truths when it does so; truths that become available at the green level and express perspectives that are enacted and manifest at that level for the first time. Because green is coming from a very high level of growth hierarchy, it can condemn and criticise the dominator hierarchies that sprung out at lower levels.
That is the overall realisation: growth holarchies are how we overcome dominator hierarchies. This is central to green’s healing its fractured, broken, ersatz elitist, and de facto oppressive slide into its own disastrous and self-contradictory forms of absolutistic and fundamentalist ideology. And thus it is able to return to its genuine functional role as a truly leading leading edge, marshalling a collective humanity’s self-organisation through self-transcendence.
So the process of a broken green fundamentally healing on its own level and returning to its central and much more healthy ‘true but partial’ tenets is one possibility for a way forward. This depends, first, on green’s releasing its perverse hostility to virtually every previous stage of development that came before it; not deplorable, but compassionately empathised. And second, but more difficult, is to realise that the actual and true basis of its ‘negative’ judgment about the previous stages is that all previous stages are indeed less inclusive, less embracing, less complex and less conscious than is green in its healthy forms (because they are all lower levels of growth and inclusiveness). And this is most certainly true, and is grounded in an authentic genealogy; a true evolutionary unfolding. But the healthy, correct, just reaction to such realities is an attitude of outreach, of embrace, of compassion and care. Each higher stage, green in this case, inherently ‘transcends and includes’ its predecessors. But despising them, loathing them, actually hating them is to transcend and repress, transcend and exclude, transcend and ridicule, at which point one’s right and capacity to be a genuine leading edge is forfeited, which green most certainly has done.
Working against the possibility of a green self-healing is the fact that green itself, in whatever form, is an actual stage of development; it’s a worldview; and in that sense, it operates like a paradigm. And the thing about paradigms is that, whether functional or dysfunctional, they are notoriously hard to get rid of. Max Planck (creator of the notion of a ‘quantum’ of energy, thus ushering in the quantum mechanics revolution) is credited with being the first to notice that, paraphrasing, “Old paradigms die when the believers in old paradigms die”, which I summarised as, “The knowledge quest proceeds funeral by funeral.” The point is that, put bluntly, ‘boomeritis’ might die only when the Boomers die. But seeing the millennials adopting many of these notions, sometimes in even more extreme forms, it doesn’t look like death is anywhere near strong enough to get rid of a really bad thing.
But for green to move forward and begin actions that would lead to its genuine self-healing, the two steps that I summarised above (drop its reactive hatred and hostility to all previous value levels, and do so by adopting growth holarchies that inherently combat dominator hierarchies) are both mandatory, in my opinion. But my sense is that the first step will be much easier, and that, indeed, that first step has already begun in many cases. But the second step is a huge one for green, and it will likely be that we simply have to move on to the second major possibility for humanity moving forward if this second step is to be widely implemented.
I’ll come back to my thoughts on exactly which way that is most likely to go. But first let’s go ahead and explore that second major possibility of an effective response to a Trump presidency (and why it is really there).
Another Way Forward: Truly Integral
The other possibility that would work to help the present self-correcting dynamic of evolution actually get some traction would be to introduce not a healthy green (although that would always help), but to directly introduce a turquoise integral-stage leading edge. This will happen, come what may, at some future point. But there is no reason some aspects of it cannot start to take hold now. The reason this would be so effective is that while green can push itself and strive to be more open, understanding, and compassionate toward all previous levels (which now exist as stations of life in society), the integral stage does this automatically, inherently, and in a much deeper, more authentic fashion. We saw that the integral stage is the first developmental stage in all of history that feels that every previous stage has a great deal of importance and significance. It does not necessarily agree with them, but it fully accepts and embraces them (though not their limitations). If nothing else, each previous stage is indeed a stage in an overall human development, and no stage can be skipped or bypassed. Loathing previous stages is deeply, deeply suicidal. The integral stage thinks that each previous stage is important, while each previous stage itself thinks that only it is important.
That is why an Integral approach (capitalised when it means a specific theory and practice) would almost automatically end the disasters of an aperspectival madness, and restore the leading edge’s capacity to actually lead. This, after all, is exactly what the self-correcting move of evolution itself is attempting to introduce. And anybody adopting an Integral stance would be riding the very leading edge of evolution itself, with all of its goodness, truth, and beauty.
The other major advantage of an integral leading edge is that it would create an enormously powerful downward-acting morphic field that would exert a strong pressure on green to heal its fragmented and broken ways. Although this would not in itself directly cure each and every green defect, which can be done only with green’s own actions and cooperation, it would nonetheless introduce a powerful regenerative field that would compensate for green’s malfunctions and in many cases would indeed help green to directly heal them. In general, then, this second way forward would tend to include within it much of the first way forward, transcending and including it in an altogether more embracing fashion; with an ideal way forward including a good deal of both.
This is just one of the things that an integral leading edge would accomplish. But the stunningly far-reaching effects of a truly integral leading edge is something that we of today can barely fathom, and for the simple reason that humanity has never, at any point, had anything like this in its entire history. Never have we had a leading edge that truly embraced and included every previous stage. We have no precedents for this whatsoever; we have no idea what this might be like. It is so dramatically different than any previous situation that it almost falls into the category of science fiction. But we saw that when around 10 percent of the population reaches the same level as that of the leading edge itself, then there is a ‘tipping point’ reached, and the generic qualities of the leading edge tend to seep into or permeate the entire culture. We already have around 5 percent that is already at integral, and it might reach 10 percent within a decade or two. At that time, there would be a transformative shift in the interior domains the likes of which humanity has never seen. The true inclusiveness, which forward-thinking social and political theorists have long idolised as near utopian, would in fact become a very real possibility for humanity for the first time in its entire history. This will be happening at about the same time that we reach something resembling a technological Singularity, and together, they would propel the world into a transformative event the likes of which has never been remotely seen before. This will be in direct opposition to many of the present-day degenerative, degrading, divisive, devolving currents that are the product of both an abundance of lower stages, which, among other items, drive terrorism, social injustices such as trafficking, global warming, and environmental degradation, and are headed by a leading edge that has disastrously derailed. These are truly dangerous times. This is why the beginning of a truly Integral Age will arrive not a moment too soon. I could go on endlessly here, but I’ll simply leave this tantalising possibility for your imagination. I will point out that this integral stage, because it has already started to emerge in full force around the world, has, among a huge number of other things, created entire theories that originate at this newly emergent level, with Integral Metatheory, which I represent, being one of the most effective, with over 60 human disciplines that have already been fully reinterpreted through an Integral lens, giving items such as Integral Business, Integral Medicine, Integral Art, Integral History, Integral Economics, Integral Education, Integral Politics, and so on, with each one of them much more effective and inclusive).
But one of our central points, with either major way forward, is essentially the same, which I’ll briefly summarise: the green postmodern leading edge of evolution itself has, for several decades, degenerated into its extreme, pathological, and dysfunctional forms. As such, it is literally incapable of effectively acting as a real leading edge. Its fundamental belief that ‘there is no truth’ and its basic essential attitude of ‘aperspectival madness’ cannot, in any fashion, actually lead, actually choose a course of action that is positive, healthy, effective, and truly evolutionary. With all growth hierarchies denied and deconstructed, evolution has no real way to grow, has no way forward at all, and thus nothing but dominator hierarchies are seen everywhere, effectively reducing any individual you want to a victim. The leading edge has collapsed; it is now a few-billion-persons (or so) massive car crash, a huge traffic jam at the very edge of evolution itself, sabotaging virtually every move that evolution seeks to take. Evolution itself finds its own headlights shining beams of nihilism, which can actually see nothing, or narcissism, which can see only itself. Under this often malicious leadership (the mean-green-meme), the earlier levels and stages of development have themselves begun to haemorrhage, sliding into their own forms of pathological dysfunction. And this isn’t just happening in one or two countries, it is happening around the world.
This culturally divisive and fragmenting force has joined with various systemic forces, such as a technological drive toward divisive, echo-chambered, and siloed individuals, and an interior drive toward increasingly narcissistic displays. With no overriding drives to cohesion, unity, or self-organisation in a truly effective and available fashion, there is an almost historically unprecedented regression. Evolution, in a decided move of self-correction, has paused and is in the process of backing up a few paces, regrouping, and reconstituting itself for a healthier, more unified, more functional continuation. What virtually all of these regroupings have as a primary driver is a profound anti-green dynamic acting as a morphic field radiating from the broken leading edge itself.
Donald Trump, more than any other single factor, has (unknown to himself, or virtually anybody else, for that matter) ridden these anti-green forces to a massively surprising Presidential victory. As previous stages became, in various ways and to various degrees, activated by Trump, whether orange, amber, or red, they all shared one thing, the anti-green dynamic (a dynamic that because it was not recognised in any significant way, made Trump’s victory a stunning and unbelievable surprise to virtually everybody). And, although Trump himself will do little to actually address the details of this, as each of these stages works to redress the imbalances inflicted on it by an extreme green and its aperspectival madness, the overall effects of these recent events can indeed turn out to be quite healthy, allowing evolution to generally self-correct, adopt a leading-edge that can actually lead, and thus allow evolution itself to continue its ongoing march of ‘transcend and include,’ a self-organisation through self-transcendence.
The Likely Future
In order for this to happen, not only do the various earlier stages (red, amber, and orange) need to throw off the deconstructed shambles inflicted on each by an unhealthy green, but green itself has to heal, has to become truly functional again, has to reject its nihilism and narcissism, has to let go of its aperspectival madness, has to learn the difference between dominator hierarchies and growth holarchies, and introduce a developmental-based discriminating wisdom, in order for evolution to again start moving forward in a truly self-organising and self-transcending way.
The one other option, slightly different, is for evolution to leapfrog to an integral stage of unfolding as its new leading edge, which would inherently perform all of the tasks now required of a regenerated green. This leap-frogging would not constitute skipping a stage, which is not possible, but it would mean building a higher stage on a diseased predecessor, which lands it with a handicap right from the start. The integral attitude, however, is designed to effectively spot and route around such roadblocks, and this we would expect to see.
The most likely course of action, however, is some mixture of both. That’s not a copout, it’s a precise prediction. Green simply cannot function, not even on its own level, if it continues in its extreme, mean-green-meme (vindictively seeing ‘deplorables’ everywhere), hypersensitive, over-the-top politically correct, dysfunctional, and pathological form in which it now exists. Its inherent contradictions are increasingly being seen and felt, and ways to work around them are being explored that incorporate the partial truths of green but not their extreme and pathological absolutisms. We’ve already seen that one of the immediate effects of Trump’s election is that a significant number of green individuals, instead of simply bemoaning and reviling Trump and his many supporters, have begun instead to realise that they themselves must begin doing the one thing they previously despised: they have to try to reach out, to understand, to include in the dialogue, and to extend the courtesy of a rudimentary amount of compassion, care, even love, to the whole basket of deplorables. This embodies an understanding on green’s part that green itself might indeed have directly contributed to the anger, resentment, sometimes hatred that the core of Trump’s supporters expressed. Yes, many of Trump’s voters were clearly and deeply amber ethnocentric. But all-too-often it was green’s reviling, ridiculing, despising, and vengeful attitude that directly contributed to turning typical amber into a seething, deeply resentful, angry and even hateful cauldron of truly vicious amber. Thus, as we noted, it is broken green, not just amber, that drove Trump into office; a dynamic that virtually nobody saw, hence the universal shock at the election results, and the deep, deep difficulty that green has in understanding its own complicity.
But that ‘anti-green’ message is starting to get across to many greens themselves, and hence the anti-green morphic field is having its intended effect, which is the overall drive toward a softening and more inclusive embrace, across the spectrum, of each stage of development, an embrace evidenced to some degree by each of the stages themselves, but an embrace lived in an exemplary fashion by the leading edge itself, if it is to really lead.
That lessening of green’s pervasive hostility and vindictiveness toward all previous stages of development is what we identified as ‘step one’ in the requisite self-healing of green. There is at least a decent likelihood that this will, and to some degree already has, begun to happen. On the other hand, ‘step two’, the realisation that growth holarchies provide the actual basis of the value judgments that green is already making, and that these growth holarchies also are the only truly effective means to displace the dominator hierarchies that green correctly ranks on the bottom of the list of social desirables, is a bit less likely to occur at the green level itself, but will most likely depend upon the transformation to integral 2nd tier. My strong suspicion, therefore, is that green will perform a good deal of step one on its own, and that this will have a very positive effect on culture at large. And conversely, to the extent that at least this first step is not taken, then the self-corrective drive of evolution will continue to push, and push, and push into existing affairs, driving more Trump-like ‘disasters’ as evolution redoubles its efforts to force its way through these recalcitrant obstructions.
But step two will likely be taken at this time only by integral communities themselves, and otherwise will await the growth of 10 percent of the population which would initiate a tipping point and propel the integral stage into being the next higher leading edge, with altogether stunning repercussions.
Contributing to this growth and increase in truly inclusive awareness, and under the drive to discover ‘what’s next’ after postmodernism, various Integral theories and metatheories are increasingly gaining ground, and wherever they do, they automatically correct the green dysfunctions that they unearth. Little by little, in other words, an Integral awareness is helping to embody an evolutionary self-correction in its very actions.
It is this Integral view that I wish to recommend to any who are ready for such. It deliberately and self-consciously embraces every perspective that it encounters (literally), and thus not only provides the balm for a world gone slightly mad with fragmented, siloed, broken shards and slivers of reality, but can bring together not just various people but various approaches to truth itself, resulting in truly comprehensive and integral overviews of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. It is grounded in the newly emergent, most inclusive, most unified, and most embracing stages of development and evolution yet to emerge, which transcend and include every single previous stage, thus insuring real comprehensiveness, and are not based merely on an idea (as is, say, pragmatism), but are grounded in the actual territory of a level of development of being and awareness itself (namely, the integral stage/s). This provides a means for us Showing Up (in all of our dimensions of being); Growing Up (in all our levels of development and lines of development); Waking Up (to all of our states of consciousness, including those called Enlightenment, Awakening, Metamorphosis, Moksha, Satori, the Great Liberation); and Cleaning Up (our shadow elements driving epidemic emotional diseases). In embracing all of yesterday, it opens us to all of tomorrow. And it will provide a leading edge of evolution the likes of which humanity has literally never seen before.
This is indeed the next, authentic and genuine leading edge, and it has already begun its inevitable emergence. It carries with it the inexorable drive to ‘transcend and include’ literally all of the previous stages of development and the stations of life that they now inhabit, but minus the inherent rancor that each of them, on its own, feels for the others. Humankind has never had a leading edge like this at any previous point in history. It is indeed ‘cataclysmic,’ ‘a monumental leap in meaning,’ and it is here for each of us to embrace and express should we so desire. And it is the one, sure, and certain balm, if authentically inhabited, for the isolating, regressive, repressive, mean-spirited, and fragmenting state in which the world now finds itself rapidly drowning.
Seeing this bigger picture, this Integral overview, allows us to escape the suffocating suffering of focusing solely on a Trump win. Conversely, feeling nothing but despair at Trump’s victory is to fail to see the larger currents at work in this situation. Understanding this election, as well as similar events now occurring all over the world, as a manifestation of a self-correcting drive of evolution itself, as it routes around a broken leading-edge green and attempts to restore the capacity of its leading-edge to actually lead, while also seriously starting to give birth to the next higher leading edge of integral itself, this gives us a glimmer of real hope in an otherwise desperately gloomy situation.
In the deepest parts of our own being, each of us is directly one with this evolutionary current, this Eros, this Spirit-in-action, radiant to infinity and luminous to eternity, radically full in its overflowing overabundance and excessive in its good graces, wildly crashing off the heavens and irrupting from the underworlds, and embracing each and all in its limitless love and care. And the only ones who should be allowed to work politically for a greater tomorrow, and who should thus work, and those who truly understand that it is not necessary to do so; who see the utter fullness of the Great Perfection in each and every moment of existence, and who nonetheless work to trim-tab (or adjust through leadership) the manifestation of more and more and more of the Good and the True and the Beautiful, right here and right now in this gloriously manifest universe, moment to moment to ever-present moment, knowing full well that this entire world is nothing but the dream of an infinite Spirit, yet each and every one of us is directly this very Spirit itself, dreaming the world of our own amazement.
And we can try endlessly and tirelessly to fix this dream…. or we can simply wake up.
Or, and this is the true and ultimate secret, we can discover the integral embrace that actually does both, thus totally freeing us (by ending the dream) and completely fulfilling us (by fixing it), miraculously performed fully together in one and the same instant, now to now to endlessly now…
Bob’s comment:Didn’t Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, et al say all this with much less verbiage?
Aperspective – Having no point perspective or point of reference.The prefix ‘a’ is a negative, eg. ‘non’.‘Aperspectival madness’ refers to the chaotic condition that arises when one has no reference point to make sense of a perception.
Epistemic – Having to do with knowledge
The term holarchy’was originally coined by Arthur Koestler (1967).
He referred to a special type of hierarchical organisation made of individual holons.
Holons are parts of a bigger system and individual ‘wholes’ at the same time.
Observed from ‘lower’ levels – a holon will look like a whole, while observed from ‘higher’ levels – it will look like a part.
Unlike hierarchies, holarchies are created by ‘bottom-up’ processes.
Here, interactions between holons at a ‘low’ level define the next ‘higher’ level, etc.
E.g. atoms develop chemical bonds with one another to create molecules we can describe as ‘higher-order holons’ (Smith, 2006: 3).
Meta (prefix) – Used here to mean ‘beyond’ or ‘higher’, eg. a higher level category
Narcissism – The pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes
Nihilism – The belief that nothing in the world has a real existence and life is meaningless.
Morphogenic – The ‘morpho’ element is an acknowledgement that society has no pre-set form or preferred state: the ‘genetic’ part is a recognition that it takes its shape from, and is formed by, agents, originating from the intended and unintended consequences of their activities.
Ontic – Having to do with being
Positivism – A philosophical system recognising only that which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and therefore rejecting metaphysics and theism
Preoperational Cognition – The 2nd stage of Piaget’s theory of development, associated with children aged 2-7, in which the individual cannot use logic or transform, combine or separate ideas.
Ressentiment – French for ‘resentment.’ Used by Nietzsche, it is specifically meant for the type of nasty, angry, and mean-spirited attitude that tends to go with egalitarian beliefs.
Violet wave – This is a transpersonal stage, i.e. the ego is sublimated into the whole.As a species, we move from unconscious and un-individuated (i.e we have no sense of self) (animal) to unconscious and individuated (infrared) to conscious and individuated (amber, orange & green) to conscious and un-individuated, i.e at the end we are fully conscious and one with the whole.
Turquoise/Teal – Where may be headed next; characterised by integration and guided by vision and logic. Perspective is cosmos-centric.
Green –The leading edge of the current stage, which is usually referred to as postmodern. It has been so for the last 40-50 years.
Orange– The previous leading edge, known as modernism or rational. Beginning of world-centric view, which has been in place for about 300 hundred years (since the Enlightenment).
Amber – Known as literal, characterised by ethnocentricity, i.e. it gathered people into groups, tribes, nations. Perspective expanded to include concern for others. Became the leading edge about 12,000 years ago..
Red – Mythical understanding of the world. Belief in gods. Ego-centric, powerful, selfish, i.e. a first-person perspective. This stage and the two preceding it defined humanity for the first 2 – 3 million years of its existence.
Magenta – Animistic/magical
Crimson – Archaic; led by nothing except instinct for survival
Infrared – A non-self-aware animal.
These are often referred to as waves, because not everyone gets there at the same time, i.e. there is always a vanguard or leading edge that must pave the way for the rest. For example, it is thought that, at present, 70% of the world’s population is still in the red or amber stages.For a developed country like Australia, 2% are in red, 20-25% are in amber, 50% orange, 20-25% green and 2% turquoise. The U.S. is not as far along as most developed countries, however, with about 60% still in red or amber. Wilbur is a bit more optimistic about turquoise, as he credits 5% as in this stage.
When I was back in the US a few years ago, there was a TV commercial that portrayed one’s bed as a grey, bubbling, seething pool of something that one imagines might dwell in their sewer lines or septic tanks.Wasn’t it kind of the people of Proctor and Gamble (or whoever it was) to warn people of the dangers of bedsoil!?
Coincidentally, those very same people had just the thing to protect everyone.All that was necessary for salvation was to buy their product, put it in the washing machine with the sheets, and all would be well.It makes one wonder how we have survived the assault from our beds all these years.
Another commercial sought to warn of the incredible number of germs on our toothbrushes. Of course, this advertiser, too, was able to come to the rescue…for a price.However, the ad neglected to mention that the main source of all these germs is our own mouths, which have harboured these germs all our lives without causing much difficulty.
These are just two examples of the ways in which people’s fears are nurtured and used against them for someone else’s profit
Of course, fear is a natural instinct that is important for our survival.If we had no fear, we would not avoid real dangers or act to get rid of them, so we probably wouldn’t be around very long.However, like all our instincts, this one is subject to inappropriate action.
Faith provides the balance to fear; it is its antidote.Whilst it does not make fear go away, it allows us to continue to face life, even though there are real dangers.For example, bacteria indeed represent a real danger, but faith, based upon our experiences of life, the potency of our immune systems and efficaciousness of our routine preventative measures, allows us to get out of bed each day, free from worries about surviving the onslaught by the millions and billions of organisms with which we will have contact during the day.Faith provides the balance necessary to keep our fear of germs in proper perspective.
A Culture ofFear
In the film, Bowling for Columbine, the question is raised: why are there so many more deaths by firearms in the U.S. than anywhere else (by a very, very large margin)? The usual explanation is that it is easier for people to obtain guns there.Certainly this is a factor, but it is not quite this simple.Canada has about the same rate of gun ownership as the U.S., but its citizens do not go around killing one another at anywhere near the same rate, so there must be other things at work.
The reason offered by the makers of the film is the high level of fear that is nurtured and nourished in the U.S. compared to other countries.Not only is fear encouraged by businesses who want people to believe that only their products can protect them, but also by government who, similarly, wants its citizens to believe that only it and its policies can protect them.
This fear factor became strikingly obvious after 9/11.Taken alone, 9/11 was scary enough, but the event was used to convince people that, in order to protect them, it was necessary to accept government policies that would have been totally unacceptable prior to September 11, 2001.Terrible as it was, the terrorist attack was the best thing that could have happened for the Bush administration.This is why Americans are regularly reminded of the danger with timely warnings.
The U.S. was the only country that had any real support from its populace for the war against Iraq. Why?Because the government played on the fears of the people by creating images of terrorists using the weapons of mass destruction that, allegedly, would be provided by Iraq. We now know that claims Iraq had such weapons, and that it was allied with terrorists, were blatantly false, but the lies worked because of the fear that had been instilled in the people.
Yet, when it comes to the urgent action that appropriate fear would normally inspire, such as reducing green house gasses to combat global warming, the fear is dampened by those whose interests are served by keeping our heads in the sand.
Even worse than inaction, our inappropriate responses to fear can exacerbate the dangers.For example, everything seems to be antibacterial these days: soap, hand cream, detergents, floor cleaners, etc.We have become an antiseptic society; so fearful of germs and so clean, in fact, that some researchers believe that children’s lack of exposure to normal household sources of bacteria results in weak immune systems, and this is responsible for the increase in the rates ofasthma and other common maladies.
Why do people drive SUV’s when they are not used for the off-road use for which they were designed?They use more petrol and other resources, theyproduce more pollution per kilometre, and they cost a lot of money to buy and insure, yet they are often used just for trips to the grocery store or running kids around.Apparently, women like driving them because they are viewed to be ‘safer’In fact, not only do SUV’s pose additional hazards for other drivers and for pedestrians, they cause more accidents than cars and are more dangerous to their passengers because they are not as stable in corners due to a higher centre of gravity, are heavier and thus harder to stop, and are not as nimble in avoiding accidents. This is another example of fear bringing about an inappropriate response, which then results in increased danger.
The common foreign policy of combating terrorism militarily will always be only partly effective. While expending lives and huge amounts of money, it actually increases the risk of terror attacks because the policy itself breeds terrorists.Until the sources of terrorism are dealt with, the response to this fear is not only inappropriate, but downright dangerous.
Healing the Illness
Why are Americans such suckers for the false fear factor?One would think that there is less reason for fear there than almost anywhere in the world.In addition, as one of the most church-going peoples in the world, one might think that Americans hold an edge in the power of faith, so as to keep fear in proper perspective.How did this fearful state of affairs come about?Why doesn’t their faith work?!?I use the American example, because they are one of the most fearful people in the world, but a recent survey indicated that Australians are not far behind, so there are lessons for us.
Maybe the trouble lies with the nature of faith.The first institution to use fear to manipulate people was the Church.The Church leaders took a gospel of love and infinite mercy, and created an image of hell, from which only the Church had the answers that would save us.People fell for it, proverbial ‘hook, line and sinker.’
Although Americans are indeed a church-going nation, the manipulative ways of the old time religion still play a dominant role.Many (far too many) people still believe that, at death, there are two ways to go: up or down?If one is to go to heaven, then one must do certain things, believe certain things, and not do or believe certain other things.This is not what Jesus taught (quite the contrary), but there are still principalities and powers that get mileage out of manipulating people with fear of eternal damnation.Perhaps the Americans’ church-going heritage is the very thing that has made them so vulnerable to manipulation by fear when, in fact, faith should be a protection against such manipulation.Australians are less obviously religious, but one might argue our faith is equally unsophisticated and there is less of it go around than in the U.S.
People are clearly suffering a faith shortage.This spiritual crisis is potentially more dangerous than the threat of germs, bad breath, a failing economy and all the terrorists of the world put together.The failure of our faith to keep fears in proper perspective is not only dangerous but, given the power of the U.S. (and its closest ally, Australia) to inflict disaster in other parts of the world, it is a danger of global proportions. As a nation, Americans suffer from a form of fundamentalism that makes the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism pale by comparison.At least the dangers of the latter are obvious, but it is much harder to see that our greatest danger is our own fear. Nations that tag along with the fear-motivated Americans court disaster.
There is much that is good about names.Mine identifies me as an individual; one with feelings, thoughts, talents, flaws; i.e. much like any other human being, yet different, unique.When I am called Bob Thomas, I fall into a narrow range of individuals who happen to have the same name,
yet different, unique. True, there can be mistakes made; for example, I have been confused with another Rev. Bob Thomas, who happened to be serving the Presbyterian Church in Geelong, while I was in Belmont. Although we had the same title and name, we were very different people, with very different opinions, to the extent that if someone were, erroneously, to think I wrote a particular letter-to-the-editor of The Geelong Advertiser signed by the Rev. Bob Thomas, I would have been embarrassed (which did happen), and no doubt he would have had a similar reaction if it had happened the other way around.
With a little added information, such as a time, date and place of birth, I become an absolutely unique Bob Thomas, This is what is good about names; so good that they should never, ever give way to labels.
Of course, labels are very useful. We humans love to categorise.It helps us understand similarities among things too innumerable to name individually, and gives us a sense of control over what otherwise would seem chaotic. But when labels become a substitute for names, we are in danger. As soon as my name is replaced by a label – and there are many that can be, and have been, used – I become something considerably less than unique, even something less than human.Without a name, I become a Yank or a senior citizen or a preacher, no longer an individual with feelings, thoughts, talents and flaws.It doesn’t matter if the label is accurate or flattering because, if the name is omitted, it still dehumanises, and when someone is dehumanised, it opens the door to unspeakable crimes that would be unthinkable otherwise.
Consider the inhuman acts committed against ‘Jews’ in World War II.Do you think that an otherwise good, kind, friendly Sargent Heinrich Stumpert* would have murdered his good, kind, friendly neighbour, Amos Shimmerman*, because Amos was of Jewish descent?I doubt it, because Sargent Stumpert would have known Mr. Shimmerman as a human being, just like him, with feelings, thoughts, talents and flaws, and it wouldn’t have occurred to him to think of Amos only as a Jew. But put Mr. Shimmerman in a concentration camp, where Sargent Stumpert was ‘processing’ Jews, and it is then no trouble for Heinrich to turn on the gas, because Mr. Shimmerman is no longer a good and kind human being in Sgt. Stumpert’s mind; he is merely a Jew with a number instead of a name. Furthermore, good Christian German people allowed this to happen. They did not recognise that mass murder was being committed, because the victims were not human beings; they were ‘Jews’.
Ethnic cleansing was not invented by the Nazis; it has happened many times, in many places before and since.Ironically, the Jews in modern Israel have taken the place of Nazis in this drama, in which Palestinians have become the new ‘Jews’.What enables an otherwise good person to engage in an act of terrorism against good, innocent people, but that the victims are not perceived as individuals; rather they are ‘enemies’, ‘infidels’, ‘oppressors’ and the like.
And in Australia?There were once people bearing the label ‘refugee’ who were welcomed,given the opportunity to be known by name, and to add to Australian culture their thoughts, feelings, talents and flaws, even if they had to suffer the abuse caused by other labels that were given them first: wog, chink, curry muncher, coconut, kanaka, lebo, slope, et al.Then some clever person in the government of the day decided, as it would be politically unwise to persecute ‘refugees’, to rename a certain group of refugees as ‘boat people’.Since this was a new label, it was possible to associate it with other unpopular labels such as ‘queue-jumper’, ‘terrorist’ and ‘baby killer’, and thus make it politically possible to put them in concentration camps (a.k.a ‘detention centres’), without trial for indefinite periods of time.Of course, this was hardly an original gambit, just as the use of ‘Jew’ by the WWII Germans was not original; dehumanisation by label is a long established practice.And just as in Germany, the good, kind, friendly people of Australia stood back and allowed it to happen.
While the history of dehumanisation by label is long and terrible, my immediate concern is a developing tendency in the present of what used to be a fairly innocuous habit, but now seems to be rapidly changing into something much more dangerous.I see it in the social media often: the demonisation of groups bearing the labels ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’, ‘progressive’, plus certain political party names.These labels are used in ways which suggest they are dirty words, and the people to whom the labels are applied are spoken of as though they are the spawn of the devil. They have come to represent the extremities of the ugly polarisation that now affects religion, economics andpolitics, making two-party democracies almost non-functional in places like the United States and, to a lesser extent, Australia. This is the kind of divide that was created with the words ‘Confederate’ and ‘Union’ in the American Civil War, where members of the same community were set against one another; where former friends and even members of the same family were, through the use of these labels, turned into enemies.
There are already far too many factors which damage the fabric of community without adding to them by creating new ways to assist hating one’s neighbour. In the most general sense, my theological views may be accurately described as ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’, but this does not necessarily mean I take a liberal stance in areas outside theology or even on every aspect within theology. When the label becomes a barrier to someone getting to know me, it becomes dehumanising, and when it becomes a pejorative term, indicating that I am, in some way, to be feared or hated, it becomes demonic, because it could conceivably justify sending me to a modern equivalent of the gas chambers of Auschwitz. I see such otherwise harmless terms being used today in just this way.
For example, a poll last year found that 47%, i.e. almost half, of liberal Democrats said that if a friend supported Donald Trump, the friendship would be strained.As I look through the social media, I find that when someone is called a ‘liberal’ or a ‘progressive’, it often comes with words like dirty, criminal, stupid or some other demeaning term.If the term ‘conservative’ is used, it is frequently associated with corrupt, uncaring, immoral, ignorant, etc.Yet the terms originally were coined with no such bias; they were simply descriptive, never intended to be positive or negative, and certainly not adequate by the themselves to define a person.Indeed the labels could be used with bad people or good people alike.Labels are lazy, because they are substitutes for taking the time to get to know people.They are not always nasty; in fact, most are not, but when they dilute the uniqueness of the individual, they render the object of the label less than human. Labels are a cheap way to justify denying a person’s rights, not only in big things like the denial of freedom to ‘boat people’, but even in refusing simple courtesies that should be accorded to every human being every day. A simple rule: don’t label anyone until you have learned their name and something unique about them.If this is not possible, then don’t use a label, even an unspoken one in your thoughts. Allow everyone to remain unique individuals, each with their feelings, thoughts, talents and flaws.
* The names used are fictional, and any similarity with real people is entirely accidental
Is preaching the gospel compatible with a discussion of politics?There are some who think not; indeed, who even get rather worked up about it, especially politicians. However, even a cursory reading of Scripture will lead one to understand that it is almost impossible to communicate God’s Word without getting tied up in politics.More than one of God’s prophets, before, after and including Jesus, was killed or imprisoned for ‘stepping on the toes’ of those in power.
Bearers of the Faith, would be less than disciples if they were to ignore the actions of those in power when such actions go against the grain of God’s will, e.g. when the poor suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful, when God’s creation and the well-being of future generations is plundered, when people are denied basic human rights, when the commandment to love is ignored in favour of war, revenge and punishment, when a culture of fear is fostered rather than a culture of faith.All of the above are happening now.
Common sense will tell you, if the gospel has nothing to say about politics (i.e. the means by which human beings order their societies), it really has little relevance to our lives at all, and we may as well burn our Bibles and close the church.
To believe in one God, and one God only, means patriotism and political partisanship must always take a back seat to discipleship.As a people guided by God, there is no way that our political views ever can be free of the way of Jesus, nor should they be.When God’s will and the will of our leaders conflict, there is no doubt where our allegiance must lie.
From time to time over the course of my career, I have preached sermons which were considered too political by some members of my congregations, but is it not the duty of every Christian to call our leaders to account for their actions when we think that they are acting contrary to gospel values?Are we not called to name evil when it appears and to name its perpetrators?
This is not a question of Labour vs. the Coalition or liberal vs. conservative.The question is: Is our leadership, whichever party is in power, acting morally?It is a question that should be asked everyday, and if the answer is ‘no’, then change is in order, and action is called for.
Given that our responsibility in this matter is so blatantly obvious, it must be asked: Why would any Christian complain about bringing religion into politics?I came up with three possibilities, but there may be others:
The gospel conflicts with what we want, so to side with the gospel against the government would be to threaten the advantages we are getting from current political policies, be it security, money or support for our prejudices, or…
We have a misguided sense of loyalty, mistakenly believing that it would be unpatriotic to criticise the government, even if we don’t agree with their policies, or….
We are among those who are responsible for having cast our vote for the party in power, so it is better to not know about its immorality than to acknowledge we made a mistake.
If a person were to fall in the last category, it would seem that this person would have not only a greater sense of responsibility, but also more motivation to question the existing order.After all, these are the people who should feel betrayed by the ones to whom they entrusted their power.This is why we have elections every few years: so that we have a chance to fix our mistakes.In my years of ministry it has frequently been necessary to speak out against specific policies that were clearly contrary to Christian values.If I should ever stop doing so, I will have abrogated my responsibility as one who has vowed to spread the gospel.
As issues arise, you will hear politics from the pulpit; there is no other viable moral or theological alternative for a preacher.It is a question of being faithful to the one God and to the way of Jesus, our teacher.
One church leader said before the American elections: “What would it mean to have a public voice in our community this year around issues that we care about?” she asked. “If God is still speaking, then God doesn’t shut up in the face of potentially controversial issues.”
Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22nd, and this year (2018) it falls on a Sunday, a timely reminder that it is not only an appropriate theme for Christian observance, but an essential one.
Variations on a Theme
From an article by Peter Sawtell, Eco-Justice Ministries
“We don’t believe we are going to reverse the environmental crisis by simply passing laws. We have to change the human understanding of its place and purpose in creation. Unless you have that fundamental change in values, many of us believe environmental degradation will be irreversible.”
I often come back to the above words by Paul Gorman, the founder of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (USA), when I’m talking about the importance of faith communities in the environmental cause. Rethinking our “place and purpose in creation” is a deeply religious task.
Within Christian communities, an important part of that rethinking has involved a critique of two of the traditional biblical expressions of our distinctive human role.
’Dominion’ in the first chapter of Genesis certainly has received harsh criticism. While a case can be made for dominion, it requires theological nuance and a clearly defined context. With all of the historical, philosophical and emotional baggage that it carries, the big ‘D’, which so easily slides from ‘Dominion’ into ‘Domination’, does not guide us toward “a fundamental change in values.”
Faith communities have often talked about being good ‘stewards’ of God’s creation. Environmental stewardship is a common expression outside of church circles, too, often referring to responsible management of natural resources. That sense of control over things, and of a sharp separation between people and nature, has led many folks to shy away from stewardship as the hallmark of our place and purpose in creation. Some people are so put off by the inherent relationships of ‘power over’ within the stewardship model that they refuse to use the term.
If these two traditional Christian notions of our place and purpose in creation are deeply flawed, where do we turn? What new description can we adopt?
One positive option comes out of process theology. The new expression is that we are to be ‘co-creators’ with God. This first struck me as incredibly arrogant, a claim of even greater power than we find in the notions of dominion or stewardship. To see ourselves as co-anything with God seemed like a dangerous extension of our role, our authority, and our wisdom.
But Anne Pederson’s book, God, Creation, and All That Jazz: A Process of Composition and Improvisation, offers the sense that co-creation is like the way an improvisational musician builds on a musical theme.
Process theologian Jay McDaniel wrote with a similar image in a recent article, God, Sustainability, and Beauty. Wholeness, in the spirit of improvisational jazz, “involves trusting in the availability of fresh possibilities, so that we do not become stuck in the past or immobilised by the tragedies of the present. In this trust there is a harmony with the wider horizon in which we live and move and have our being: a harmony with God which some call faith.” He emphasises that jazz is a metaphor: “Of course this way does not require an ability to play an instrument. But it does require an ability to listen deeply to the voices of other people and the natural world, responding to them with wisdom and compassion.”
The lovely metaphor of improvisational music erases the sense of arrogance in the notion of co-creation. This role does not give us god-like power and authority to do whatever we want. Rather, we can be creative and inventive as we build off of the framework that God has set out. (In process thought, God is still setting out new and creative themes.) I now see ‘co-creator’ as a very fruitful term that can inform and guide us as we rethink our place and purpose in creation.
Co-creation is not a license to make up our own stuff. We may build on a core motif, but we need to stay connected to it, just as a jazz musician may improvise all he wants as long as it fits it with the rest of the piece.If he doesn’t, the music can be quite painful.If we are called toward improvisational creativity as co-creators with God, what are the divine themes that should be foundational for us?
Shalom, God’s peace, is one of God’s great compositions. The general theme of peace with justice through all creation sets out an essential and underlying framework. In each age and setting, we are called to find the right variations and harmonies from that theme to entice us back from the sins of violence, exploitation and alienation. The church should always be working to polish a fresh interpretation of ‘Variations on Shalom.’
Another grounding composition for our improvisational work is the shape of creation itself. The laws of nature and the deep processes of the universe provide a melody line that must always be honoured in our variations. As McDaniel notes, this creativity, this co-creation, flows through all parts of the universe. “The laws of nature were like jazz standards; and every event in the universe plays one or another of these standards”, each its own unique voice.
Humans do have a distinctive freedom and creativity as we improvise on God’s themes. When we do it well, it is an act of praise. McDaniel wrote, “The practical outcome of praise is the development of a constructive vision of a new and better kind of community. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it the beloved community. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God.” McDaniel, descriptively, but not very poetically, calls it “inclusively sustainable community.”
‘Co-creators with God’ provides us with a wonderful way to change the human understanding of its place and purpose in creation. By identifying primary melodies in natural laws and in the vision of shalom, we are rooted and constrained in our expressions of power and creativity. The call to improvisation requires that we deal fully and responsibly with the crises and opportunities of our own time and place.
I invite you, individually and as the body of Christ in this place, to explore the fresh insights of being co-creators with God. Through that new metaphor, may we find faithful, joyous and healing ways of living within Earth communities.
I can still hear the deafening silence in a study group at my last church when I said that economic growth was neither desirable nor necessary. Before the discussion could continue, someone had to say: “I beg your pardon. What did you say?” It was as though I had just declared Jesus to be gay.Of course, business leaders and politicians would like us to believe that economic growth will solve everyone’s problems. When the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or GNP (Gross National Product) increases, the party in power will claim success with the economy, and when it decreases, it becomes the excuse to remove protective measures from the environment (and, by extension, from all of us – present and future – who depend on the environment for our survival) and give tax cuts to the rich, supposedly (and erroneously) in order to spur investment. An increase in GDP also usually means more abuse of an already-over-abused environment: more consumption, more resources expended, more waste generated, more pollution, more global warming.
GDP can even increase by increasing a variety of bad things: for example, the money you pay to your lawyer to settle your divorce, the money spent on security to protect you from crime, the cost of repairing cars after accidents, the cost of medical care and the cost of the things that cause the need for medical care, such as cigarettes, alcohol, drugs of addiction, over-eating, etc.A far better measure is the well-being of a people. From 1957 to 1997 the real income (adjusted for inflation) of Americans increased by about 175% – i.e. it came close to tripling. In short, people are vastly better off economically today than they were in 50’s. I don’t have figures for Australia, but I think it safe to assume that they are at least comparable, and probably better.
However, people’s sense of well-being has steadily decreased over the same period, thus proving the time-honored phrase, money can’t buy happiness. Economic growth is hardly a reasonable goal, especially given its negative effect on the environment, if people aren’t happy as a result.
To be sure, money makes a lot of difference to poor people. Poverty can cause much unhappiness; however, studies have shown that money increases happiness up to about $17,000 a year per capita income. After this point, it has a relatively modest effect and, at higher incomes, no effect at all. Very often, the pursuit of economic growth has such negative side-effects that the overall sense of well-being decreases.Today there are better measures of a country’s well-being than the GDP. Probably the best known is the GPI, the Genuine Progress Indicator, but there are also the Human Development Index, the Living Planet Index and the Wellbeing Index. The last of these uses 87 indicators to measure human well-being. According to this measure, two-thirds of the world’s people live in bottom two of the five rating levels. Only three countries – Norway, Denmark and Finland – rate at the top level. More recently the Social Progress Index also indicated that GDP is not a reliable indicator of the general well-being of a nation’s citizens. The World Happiness Reportis another. The nations in the World Happiness report are all economically developed countries, though not the wealthiest, but the Happy Planet Indexshows an even greater divide between happiness and wealth, with relatively poor Costa Rica at the top of the rankings, followed by Mexico, Colombia, Vanuatu and Vietnam. Australia is way down the list at 105th, just 3 places above the USA.
The moral? There are much better ways to be used in the pursuit of happiness than the chase for economic growth, especially when economic growth is sought at any cost, as it is being pursued today in Australia.
This should be no surprise to Christians. Although Jesus mentioned money frequently, it was usually by way of warning people of the barriers that it put in the way of their being part of the Kingdom of God. 2000 years later, the wisdom of Jesus is being verified and quantified by secular studies, but are people taking note? The answer is: yes, a few, but these people, more often than not, are European. Again, we discover the intriguing paradox that the country that is the most religiously Christian, the country that Australia loves to follow, is among those that have managed to most ignore Jesus. Curious, isn’t it?
Finding a Moral Framework
One method by which we establish a moral framework is by reference to an established structure with well-defined rules and obligations, e.g. the Ten Commandments. Emmanual Kant built an ethical system around this concept, which was, for years, the dominant ethical system. The trouble with this is that no fixed structure can cover all situations in all times, and we are left with the question: who makes the rules in the first place.
Later came Utilitarianism, which focuses on the greatest good, then seeks to maximize whatever value is believed to bring it about, e.g. happiness. It has a similar problem to the first option: who chooses the most important value? Worse, it leads to the assessment of everything and everyone in terms of their contribution to the preferred value, and ignores the means by which this value may be obtained. Unfortunately, in our western capitalist economy the value that has risen to the top of the pile is money and, with it, economic growth. Consequently, the value that really counts is monetary worth; therefore, those people and those things with obvious financial worth are given high priority when decisions are made. Things having an undetermined dollar-value, such as clean air and water, endangered species, indigenous communities, and a habitable climate, are considered expendable.
There is a third ethical system, attributed to the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, based on the concept of a ‘virtuous man’. Aristotle would have us imagine a perfectly moral person who, using wisdom and discernment to wrestle through each unique situation, seeks the right path. Our goal, then, is to act likewise. Aristotle did not know Jesus, but I think that he would have found the combination of Jesus’ Great Commandment (Luke 10:27) and his Great Paradox (eg. Mark 8:35) to be a very appropriate starting point for his virtuous man. So might we.
The words of the above title from the well-known hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” reflect the unfortunate history of the church: one schism after another until the church has become fragmented into a myriad of denominations, all claiming to follow in the footprints of Jesus, their Lord, yet unable to stay in line together .
Why?Because there is a tendency to place conditions on membership. And because there is no universal agreement on what constitutes the minimum requirement for being a Christian, people congregate with others of like mind.Each group avows its version of Christianity to be the right one; and, of course, anyone can be a member…as long as they meet the conditions that are imposed by the group.
Ironic isn’t it?All Jesus ever asked of his disciples was that they follow him.He never asked them to believe any of the things that Christians insist that followers believe.Jesus imposed nothing that would divide his followers, and yet the church has split numerous times because of a difference of opinion over beliefs, especially beliefs about Jesus.
There is one requirement, and only one, that is imposed upon Christians: that they follow Jesus’ way.This allows for all Christians to be part of one diverse, but united, body.Certainly, there will be differences of belief, but it is of no concern to Jesus.He just wants us to be united in following him in doing the will of God, and this is all that counts.
Does this mean that beliefs are not important?By no means!Beliefs help us to follow, but this is all they are: tools to help us get the job done.If another’s beliefs are different from mine, the only criteria I can use to evaluate them is whether or not they help that person to follow Jesus in doing the will of God.Those same beliefs may not be helpful to me, but if they work for another, halleluiah!
If one’s beliefs bring about peace, justice and love in the world; if they help a person to live in the fullness of the life given by God, then no one can claim they are not appropriate.If, on the other hand, they keep a person from living fully; if they impose burdens of fear and guilt; if they add to the discord and injustice in the world, then they must be challenged.
There are, unfortunately, too many of the latter kind of beliefs among what is popularly called Christianity.I couldn’t even begin to list here all the utter rubbish that passes for Christianity.One simply has to have faith the Truth will prevail in the end.Unfortunately, some of the junk religion that is bandied about will do much damage in the meantime, much as the radical extremes of Islamic fundamentalism are doing elsewhere in the world.
We have much to learn from the diversity of Christian belief.Sometimes one’s own perspective is restricted by one’s upbringing, church affiliations, experiences and education.Another person’s own perspective can be invaluable, since it adds knowledge that would otherwise be forever outside one’s own line of sight.
There are hopeful signs.The fragmentation of the church increased dramatically when people began to claim the Bible as an infallible external authority.However, in recent times, as scholarly biblical criticism has become more widely acceptable and available to the lay person, this fragmentation has slowed and even begun to reverse itself in the unification of denominations, as has happened, for example, among the Methodists, Congregationalists and most of the Presbyterians here in Australia.
The Role of Scripture
Throughout the church, the Bible is regarded as normative for the faith, but there is much difference of opinion within the Church’s ranks about the nature of the Bible’s authority. Inevitably, differences of opinion between parts of the church boil down to differences in interpretation of the Bible.
There is a clear distinction between a ‘book’ religion” and a ‘living’ religion.Islam is a book religion;. Mormonism is a book religion.They are book religions because their followers believe that the contents of their holy books were dictated by a heavenly source and recorded verbatim by a human being, and thus they must be followed.All that needs to be revealed is in the book, and so one need never look outside of it.
Judaism, on the other hand, is not a book religion.Jews believe that they are living in salvation history, the action by God for God’s chosen people, and since history continues to happen, the revelation of God is ongoing.Their holy scriptures are the records of this salvation history, but they can never be closed(at least not until history ends).
Neither is Christianity a book religion.Although the church accepts the Bible as normative for Christian belief, it recognises that God continues to reveal, continues to be incarnate in God’s children, continues to be active through the Holy Spirit and, therefore revelation cannot be contained in, or limited to, one book.
The Uniting Church position on Scripture is similar to the other major denominations. The Basis of Union regularly uses the phrase, “we embrace the biblical witness” with regard to basic Christian affirmations, and notes that “we share with many Christian denominations a recognition of the authority of Scripture in matters of faith.”Scripture reveals the “living core” of Christian practice, “illumined by tradition, vivified in corporate experience and confirmed by reason.” It says: “God’s eternal Word never has been, nor can be, exhaustively expressed in any single form of words.”.
The Bible is considered to be the “the primary criterion for Christian doctrine and, through it, the living Christ meets us in the experience of redeeming grace.”I think this is essential to our understanding.Words are fixed, and so a book religion is fixed; whereas Christianity is based on a living word, which we find in the living Christ, conveyed in part by the words of Scripture, but only when read with the participation of the Holy Spirit.It is new every day.
The Roman Catholic church, among others, has always said authority resides in three places, of which Scripture is only one.The others are the tradition of the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit in individuals. According to my Catholic sources, the Catholic Church considers the last of these as the most important.
Some notes on the nature of the authority of the Bible:
1. The authority of the Bible cannot be greater than that of Jesus, himself, as attested by the Bible.Jesus doesn’t set himself up as an absolute external authority of perfect truth, so we cannot use the Bible this way. He regularly challenged the Pharisee’s literal interpretation of the Law in favour of human reason based on love.
2. The word, “Word”, in Aramaic (the language of Jesus) is dabhar, denoting a voluptuous, extravagant outpouring of creative energy.It really has little to do with our English “word” in the literary sense in which we use it. The Bible is, of necessity, limited by human language, and therefore can be only a very, very limited exposition of God’s Word.Human words just can’t come close to containing the Word, no matter how divinely inspired. There is much more yet to be revealed through the Holy Spirit, at work in individuals, as they ponder the words of the Bible.The revelation of God is ongoing.
3. The Bible is a selection of 66 books, or writings, by many (often unknown) authors over the course of about 1200 -1500 years, chosen by the Church for its own self-regulation, providing a norm so as to prevent the basic tenets of the faith from straying wherever they might, i.e. the Church defined itself by beliefs based upon those writings it found to be appropriate to the beliefs already contained within its traditions.4. The assertion that Scripture is an infallible, literal communication from God is a relatively new phenomenon; going back only to the 17th or 18th century.Indeed, the major denominations hold, as a basic principle, that no doctrine shall be considered that does not have its origins in Scripture.This certainly applies to the notion of scriptural infallibility, also, which has no scriptural warrant, and is not endorsed by the Uniting Church. To treat the Bible as literally infallible is an arbitrary decision, without grounding either in tradition or in Scripture.Some people, in their journey of faith, understandably may want the sort of security and clarity offered by this view, so please don’t think I am saying that a literal understanding of the Bible is always unhelpful, but to hold on to such a black and white understanding indefinitely will be to miss out on the vast and varied colour offered by deeper study of Scripture.
How to read the Bible?
There are two main approaches to Scripture, and we should use both.
1. When we want to know what gave rise to our religion, what God did for his people in history, what God did in Jesus; when we want insights about the meaning of life found by early followers of Jesus, then we need to know:
why a given author wrote,
the nature of his audience,
how his/her words would have been received by the people of the time
In other words, we need to know the context of his writing.For this reason we need the help of the dedicated people who have spent their lives studying the Scriptures, and so we turn to commentaries, of which there are many.The United Methodist Book of Discipline neatly sums up this approach: “We properly read Scripture within the believing community, informed by the tradition… and we interpret individual texts in light of their place in the Bible as a whole…aided by scholarly inquiry and personal insight, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
2. More often we just want a word for us in our time in our situation.In this case, we often need only to reflect on the words in the Bible.In meditating on a passage in silence, we can often gain an insight for our lives that the author never foresaw.Here the message might be thought of as coming between the lines. The words of the text may evoke the living Word through the action of the Spirit within us.Someone else will reflect on the same words and get an entirely different message, yet no less appropriate to his or her own situation. As we open our minds and hearts to the Word of God through the words of human beings inspired by the Holy Spirit, faith is born and nourished, our understanding is deepened, and the possibilities for transforming the world become apparent to us.
Given the centrality of the Good Friday/ Easter event in the church, the movement from life to death to life brings with it a renewed consciousness of an old companion; one which has been with us from the moment of our births: our deaths. Consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, for good or for ill, the fact that we will die one day affects much of what we do with our lives. We choose how we deal with the recognition of our finitude (finiteness); here are three.
Weary Traveler: “Why in the name of heaven did they build the railway station three miles away from the village?”
Helpful Porter: “They must have thought it would be a good idea to have it near the trains, sir.”
A few years ago I attended a conference on renewing churches. It was quite clear, as the leader described the different stages of a church’s life – incline, recline and decline – that all of the churches I have had the privilege to serve were in their declining years. Are the Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads Uniting Churches among them? I leave that to others to answer. But unlike our individual lives, which grow old and die no matter what we do, the death of a church is optional.
Although most churches that go into decline follow the downward slope into nothingness, death is not inevitable if the people are willing to make the necessary changes. Of course, being human, people usually prefer to condemn the church to death rather than change, simply because dying is more comfortable than changing.
In this year of transition, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads have the opportunity to choose life. 2021 is not a leap year, but we can make it one. We can choose to leap out of the comfortable rut that will lead to the ultimate death of this congregation, to leap into job of building true community in this place, and to leap ahead in the areas of evangelism, social action, outreach and spiritual growth.
To a disciple who was obsessed with the thought of life after death, the Master said, “Why waste a single moment thinking of the hereafter?”
“But is it possible not to?” asked the disciple. “Yes,” was the reply.
“By living in heaven here and now.”
“And where is this heaven?”
“It is the here and now.”
When one studies the gospels, seriously and critically, one is often surprised to discover that Jesus seemed to have little or no interest in life after death. In fact, he said, in effect, that to be concerned about it was a sure way to miss out on what he called eternal life or life in the Kingdom. Yet many in the church seem to place a great deal of weight on the promise of heaven after they die.
The concept of heaven does not come from Jesus. It evolved in the few hundred years after Jesus and became a fixture in the mythology that pervades popular religion.
Such religious ideas are human creations that take the place of real faith. Human religion says. “I believe in ________, be it life after death, judgment, salvation, et al.
There may be a heaven. I certainly am not in a position to say yes or no. I do not know and, indeed, the answer is not knowable. I do know that life in its fullness is a product of faith. Real faith does not say, “I believe in…”; rather, it says simply, “I believe!” When one lives by faith there is no reason to ever ask the question about heaven.
The lament of a bishop:
“Wherever Jesus went there was a revolution; wherever I go people serve tea!”
Prophecy is not, as many believe, the prediction of some event in the distant future. The Biblical prophets did not foretell so much as forthtell. That is, they analysed the present in light of God’s will and, from their analysis, drew conclusions about tomorrow and the consequences it would bring from today’s choices. In other words, they identified sin and named it for what it was.
Elijah was forced to flee for his life into the desert because his proclamations upset Queen Jezebel; Hosea denounced the political intrigue in Israel and proclaimed the fall of the royal house of Jehu; Amos decried the grievous disregard of the elementary principles of social justice and predicted the destruction of the nation because of it; Micah called attention to the corruption of the government of his day. If there were no limitations of space or reader attention span, I could write many pages describing the role of the prophets with regard to the government of the day.
The vocation of an ordained minister is often defined by three essential roles: pastor, priest and prophet. When people tell me, as has sometimes happened, that I shouldn’t mix religion and politics, they are saying that I should ignore a third of my vocation (prophet), thereby forsaking the responsibility that was put upon me when I was ordained.
However, the prophetic role does not belong only to the ordained, but to anyone who would be a disciple of Jesus, the one who challenged death in order to proclaim God’s will…..and won!