In a comment on this blog, Nagarjuna said…
You say that second-tier Democrats might “begin to lose their arrogance and elitism, because they are able to see the irreducible value and merit of the entire spectrum of development, and to contextualize their own place in a cycle of development where there is no peak.” I like the sound of this, but I wonder just how much “merit” there really is to a “lower” or less inclusive “greed is good” or “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” level of development in today’s world, and how and how much one at a more inclusive level can respect and effectively work with someone at a less inclusive level. I agree that someone at a more inclusive level should not feel or display the kind of arrogance that alienates people at less inclusive levels. But I wonder how exactly this translates into how this person should interact personally and politically with others at “lower” levels.
My response (mostly unedited and still quite rough):
Since you are familiar with the color scheme of Spiral Dynamics, permit me to answer by reference to these colors.I wish that SDi hadn’t given the pluralistic level the color green and integral level the color yellow. The level of relativistic pluralism is really already symbolized quite well by the Rainbow Flag. Yes, it’s particular to the GLBT community. However, it’s also the symbol of Multiculturalism (e.g., Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition). The flat, unidimensional Rainbow is really the symbol par excellence of pluralism.
Integral shouldn’t be thought of as a separate color. Integral is a further extension of pluralism, from relativistic pluralism to universal pluralism. It’s the Rainbow turned from flat to multi-dimensional. It’s what I call the Bridge of Light, a spiral-shaped, dynamic rainbow of colors.
So in essence one doesn’t get to the integral level, look around at all the pathetic losers at lower levels of development, and start ringing your hands. First off, you’ve done the hard work at the pluralistic level of multicultural sensitivity training, expansion of awareness, deepening of feelings and capacity for intimacy, you’ve grown in appreciation for feminism and other modern liberation movements not only as abstract notions but as an expansion in your own being. Becoming more tolerant and sensitive to others is hard work, and if you’ve put in your time as a pluralist, you’re well on your way to getting there. Problem is: you may get Democratitis, you may get soft in the head, indecisive, you lose the killer instinct, the fire in the belly has gone out, and you start losing every argument because you see so many contexts and perspectives you’re paralyzed. You start to look for what might help, but you look to what you’ve seen before–attitudes and philosophies and religions at past levels of development–and you go, no thanks.
What happens as pluralists turn integral is that they look around and they see all the colors of the rainbow within themselves and the world around them arranged as a dynamic spiral of hierarchical development. They stop feeling separate from the “lower” levels of development, because they can see those levels within themselves. They begin to appreciate that the levels are a permanent aspect of the human condition, and cannot be by-passed. Every child starts at zero, and every child always will. So integral (yellow) properly understood is basically an extension of pluralism (green): it’s a deepening of compassion and love to encompass previously under-appreciated areas of self, culture, and nature.
Simultaneously, as one expands one’s awareness that the stages/levels are aspects of one’s own being, paradoxically, one transcends exclusive association with any of those aspects. One’s sense of self gets too wide to encompass any of those. It becomes impossible, then, to spout simple political slogans. Politics becomes the work of compassion and love, done in the thick of a world that demands compromise, negotiation, and skillful communications.
That said, personally the thing that’s most helpful to me in the writing I do on integral and politics is to bear in mind that there are healthy and unhealthy expressions of every level/stage. When I go on the attack, it’s against unhealthy expressions at any level. And I don’t feel a need to hold back on the punches. This is very confusing to some people to see me rather stridently attack people on both the left and the right, secularists and religionists, hedonists and moralists alike. On the other hand, if I simply want to criticize a perspective for being limited, I see no need for a frontal assault. My rhetoric and tone reflect a gentler approach. If I see somebody expressing a basically healthy attitude at a lower level of consciousness, I try to find someone at the same level who’s expressing himself with unhealthy, pathological ways, and then I contrast the two (here’s the good cop, there’s the bad cop). If I see somebody stretching beyond the green level towards yellow, I encourage them along their path, usually by something as simple as a blessing or encouraging tone. If I see somebody at orange stretching towards yellow, I try to push them back down to green, because you can’t skip levels (I realize some people want that to be a controversial proposition, but it really isn’t. That’s my firm opinion at this time). Orange’s desire to be more like yellow is often just misplaced revulsion at green; they need to to be encouraged to work on their aversion to green.
Orange moving to yellow is very tricky, because if you’re smart enough to read Wilber’s work and engage it critically then you’re pretty much at yellow on the cognitive line of development… but still have rationalism as your “center of gravity.” In politics, reason, debate, and dialogue dominate your ways of thinking and acting. Everything’s about who has the best arguments wins the debate. This basic attitude is the dominant approach among the “intellectual titans” of our political magazines and even in the blogosphere. This sort of condition isn’t hard to spot, for these individuals generally haven’t learned the developmental lessons of green. In the integral community, I’ve encountered this most often among self-described “integral neo-conservatives,” to be frank. One fellow I know who lives in the Northwest calls himself an “integral conservative” and writes nasty things about gay marriage, feminism, liberals, and the wickedness of polyamory on his weblog. That’s not even close to integral, if you ask me. That’s delusional. If you engage these folks in political discussion, you’ll find that they’re still basically pretty partisan or attached to right/wrong views of whatever their positions are. It calls itself “integral,” but if it talks and walks like a very different animal, it’s integral in name only.
P.S.: Integral politics isn’t pacifistic or lovey dovey. It’s okay, and it is sometimes absolutely essential, to go on the attack and throw hard punches. An excellent sign your writing on politics has reached an integral level is that you’re attacking unhealthy/pathological expressions of all the various levels/stages, and not focusing unduly on just some of them. In my writing, I notice a tendency to go a little light on the egocentric/hedonistic stage, and a little harsh on the traditionalist stage. And that’s just a bias that I am (somewhat) aware of. Part of the benefit of writing is its ability to help us to spot our own blind spots and shadows, so we can better integrate those aspects into our being.