I’m not like them
But I can pretend
The sun is gone
But I have a light
The day is done
But I’m having fun
I think I’m dumb
Or maybe just happy
– Kurt Cobain, Dumb
My typical writing style consists of taking a particular topic or train of thought and bringing it to some sort of conclusion within a single relatively short post. Today’s topic is simply too expansive for that model, so it’ll be published in at least two parts.
This post needs to be read in the context of my last two posts. If you haven’t read those, you’ll probably have a difficult time fully grasping everything I discuss below. Here are those pieces in case you missed them the first time.
Once again, today’s article will focus on the writings of Ken Wilber. I’ve been completely blown away by the fact that his insight into a evolutionary model of human consciousness called Spiral Dynamics, almost perfectly expresses how I feel about things despite never having come into contact with the model previously. As most of you know, I view Trump as a symptom of a diseased societal, political and economic paradigm, as opposed to the disease itself. Trump was a reaction, and the way the Democrats handled the primary was the final nail in the coffin in sealing his victory. People became so fed up with the insanity of the fake left, many of those who didn’t even like Trump decided to roll the dice with him anyway.
Ken Wilber’s recent free e-book, Trump and a Post-Truth World, takes it much further in a thoroughly enlightening manner through the prism of evolutionary consciousness. In fact, he makes it clear that the election of someone like Trump was a long time coming and, in fact, the culmination of a decades-long process of “liberal” ideology gone completely off the deep-end. Before I go any further, let me provide a quote from the book which will give you a little taste of where he’s coming from.
But one of our central points, with either major way forward, is essentially the same, which I’ll briefly summarize: 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—“there is no truth”—and its basic essential attitude—“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 hemorrhage, 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.
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 recognized 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-organization through self-transcendence.
There’s a lot in there, I know.
In order to even begin to dissect all of this, we need to go back and review the color scheme outlined in his 2000 piece. In the interest of brevity, I’m going to merely focus in on orange and green. For the rest, see yesterday’s post.
5. Orange: Scientific Achievement. At this wave, the self “escapes” from the “herd mentality” of blue, and seeks truth and meaning in individualistic terms—hypothetico-deductive, experimental, objective, mechanistic, operational— “scientific” in the typical sense. The world is a rational and well-oiled machine with natural laws that can be learned, mastered, and manipulated for one’s own purposes. Highly achievement oriented, especially (in America) toward materialistic gains. The laws of science rule politics, the economy, and human events. The world is a chess-board on which games are played as winners gain pre-eminence and perks over losers. Marketplace alliances; manipulate earth’s resources for one’s strategic gains. Basis of corporate states .
Where seen: The Enlightenment, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Wall Street, emerging middle classes around the world, cosmetics industry, trophy hunting, colonialism, the Cold War, fashion industry, materialism, liberal self-interest. 30% of the population, 50% of the power.
6. Green: The Sensitive Self. Communitarian, human bonding, ecological sensitivity, networking. The human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness; feelings and caring supersede cold rationality; cherishing of the earth, Gaia, life. Against hierarchy; establishes lateral bonding and linking. Permeable self, relational self, group intermeshing. Emphasis on dialogue, relationships. Basis of values communes (i.e., freely chosen affiliations based on shared sentiments). Reaches decisions through reconciliation and consensus (downside: interminable “processing” and incapacity to reach decisions). Refresh spirituality, bring harmony, enrich human potential. Strongly egalitarian, anti-hierarchy, pluralistic values, social construction of reality, diversity, multiculturalism, relativistic value systems; this worldview is often called pluralistic relativism . Subjective, non-linear thinking; shows a greater degree of affective warmth, sensitivity, and caring, for earth and all its inhabitants.
Where seen: Deep ecology, postmodernism, Netherlands idealism, Rogerian counseling, Canadian health care, humanistic psychology, liberation theology, cooperative inquiry, World Council of Churches, Greenpeace, animal rights, ecofeminism, post-colonialism, Foucault/Derrida, politically correct, diversity movements, human rights issues, ecopsychology. 10% of the population, 15% of the power.
According to the development model, the “green” level emerged around the 1960’s and represented at the time the “leading-edge” of consciousness evolution, one step beyond of orange. It must be said that the emergence and rise to dominance of orange had represented an enormous advance in human progress; from the Enlightenment to revolutions to overthrow monarchy, to the ultimate end of slavey and an emphasis on individual rights and liberty. Orange had a tremendously positive impact on human progress.
I suspect that when many of you read his color descriptions you’ll have a similar reaction to mine when I first read them. You’ll ask yourself, how is green really superior to orange? There are two reasons why it’s hard to come to grips with this. In fact, it took me the better part of two days to think it all out for myself.
First, most of us have come to associate green, or much of what is described as liberal ideology today, as some sort of cultural mental disease irrationally obsessed with turning everyone into victims, denying truth, fighting against freedom of speech, etc. If that’s your impression, it’s not incorrect. “Green” has been going of the rails for multiple decades now, and its total failure to deliver results and inspire the national psyche was a direct cause of Trump’s election victory. This is the most significant insight Ken Wilber has regarding how the evolutionary consciousness process can be understood in terms of current American (and indeed world) politics. To conclude, many of us have a negative impression of green, because green has descended into total madness. Yet that doesn’t mean there aren’t positive attributes to green thinking.
Like most of you, when I first started reading through the color scheme descriptions, I naturally started applying them to my own life journey. When I quit Wall Street, this was clearly me discarding orange. Not discarding all of orange of course (that wouldn’t be very integral after all), but it became very clear to me that the orange mindset was no longer vibrationally consistent with how I felt and how I wanted to live my life going forward. So I moved on. I understood this part fully, but became confused because I never really identified with Ken’s description of green. After reading his latest piece; however, I understood why. Green had gone so completely off the rails it became almost impossible for a mentally healthy person to identify wth it. Then I thought some more, and realized there was a lot more green in me than I observed at first glance.
One of the most meaningful contributions of green before it got completely demented, was the perspective of humanity’s relationship to the environment and planet earth as a whole. The idea that technology had resulted in humans rapaciously exploiting the planet as opposed to living in harmony with it was a very meaningful and important realization. Equally meaningful, was an increased consciousness regarding how we treat animals. As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted long ago:
You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
A sharp focus on factory farming practices and animal treatment has been a very positive element of the wider emergence of a green consciousness. Recognizing that animals also deserve rights, even if we decide to eat them, is important. Even my move to Boulder, Colorado was an unintentional expression of greenness on my behalf. While my politics is considerably different from most of my neighbors (Boulder is a pretty green place but with plenty of higher tier thinking as well) ,it’s largely dominated by the healthy green, not the pathological green. So I really like it here.
That said, I don’t think I center around green at all, and I don’t think I ever did. I think green simply became too incredibly insane for me to ever feel comfortable with it. As such, I think I subconsciously picked some of the healthy aspects of green and incorporated them in an integral manner into who I am and moved on. I suspect many of you probably feel the same way.
Those were a few of the positive contributions I can articulate about healthy green, but understanding pathological green is far more important in order to understand where we are and how we got there, and I haven’t seen anyone describe it better than Ken Wilber. The following are excerpts from the excellent, Trump and a Post-Truth World — An Evolutionary Self-Correction:
On balance, the response to the recent election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has been extreme, visceral, and loudly vocal, on both sides. The supporters of Trump have often been nasty and mean in their triumphal attitude, voicing “I told you so!” and “ This finally serves you right!,” gloating over their unexpected but, they feel, totally righteous and justified win. The anti-Trump side has been, if possible, even more vocal, with people tearfully telling of how they threw up, screamed, spent endlessly sleepless nights, all but gave up on democracy and any sort of idealism at all (many of whom had promised to leave the country should Trump win), finding his election to be a victory of hatred, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all-round bad taste—and then, usually, vowing to continue “the fight” and urging their fellow Americans to fight with them, never give up.
Both sides, in my opinion, are caught in too narrow a view. There is a bigger picture operating here, and I’d like to outline what that might possibly be. I’ve never heard this particular view I’m about to describe be expressed by anybody, but I believe it represents a larger, more integral view, and as such can be quite illuminating—and liberating. The pain and suffering that both sides feel is, I believe, the result of identifying with a much too narrow view, and a more expansive stance offers genuine release —while still allowing one to work on whatever side one wishes…
As the decades unfolded, green increasingly began veering into extreme, maladroit, dysfunctional, even clearly unhealthy, forms. Its broad-minded pluralism slipped into a rampant and runaway relativism (collapsing into nihilism), and the notion that all truth is contextualized (or 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).
For postmodernists, all knowledge is non-universal, contextual, constructivist, interpretive—found only in a given culture, at a given historical time, in a particular geopolitical location. 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 metanarrative about why all metanarratives 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.
Beginning over two decades ago, with the book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, I summarized this postmodern disaster with the term “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-organization collapses.
And finally, when there are no binding guidelines for individual behavior, 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 in uential 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.
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.
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 siloed boxes and echo chambers of social media were beginning to almost exclusively promote and enhance).
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 unequality—in terms of income and overall worth, property ownership, employment opportunity, healthcare access, 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.
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 denied the means to actually achieve it. You suffocate, you react, and you get very, very mad.
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 speci cally 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 denied the means to actually achieve it. You suffocate, you react, and you get very, very mad.
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.” is has become such a hot-point 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 hyper-sensitive liberal do- gooders who are destroying the very capacity for the free pursuit of ideas and open knowledge.
But the extremes of political correctness really were extreme. There was a full- edged 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 the person 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.
The above should set the stage for tomorrow’s post, which will once again use Wilber’s work to show how the collapse of green led to an inevitably strong reaction on the part of evolutionary human development with the election of Trump. A dangerous regression, but a necessary consequence of green’s failure to lead properly.