wilber crit

I want my f%$!ing head back

Warning–integral/SDi/Wilber stuff ahead… I suspect I’m intuiting some stuff from the next book of the Kosmos Trilogy.
Wilber harps on the Mean Green Meme a lot, and I think he’s not entirely wrong, but I don’t think he’s using his model in as complete a way as he could in the critique.

Let’s look at lower-right quadrant Green. What techno-economic mode corresponds to a Green consciousness? It seems pretty clear to me that it’s an information economy. An information economy emerges out of a strong Orange-Green institutional context. Orange due to the science and engineering necessary, and the competitive dynamic at play in the marketplace–remember, Moore’s Law is only half about technology. Green because the industries have to operate out of an industry-wide consensus model. You can’t build a network without agreeing how the pieces will talk to each other. Information economies also leverage sharing, ala the open source movement–a very Green pattern.

So they build all this equipment, and sell it to a hungry world, to anyone with money (and some without–see the One Laptop per Child project) beleiving they will change the world.

And they do. In lots of good ways. Some of which I hope I participate in myself. But this isn’t about the good ways.

When you provide this technology this way, you empower every voice. Everyone from my Zen teacher to the American Nazi Party to Al Qaeda uses Internet technology and websites. In other words, it’s the material correlate of the Mean Green Meme. Information technology empowers every voice indiscriminately.

This can cause problems, but it isn’t where the evolutionary rubber meets the road–at least in the foward direction. Here’s what I see: when you empower every voice, you create quite a din. A chaotic mediascape so full of distraction and indulgence you can’t really think. It can be quite overwhelming. How deep is your Netflix queue? How many feeds do you have in your Bloglines account? How many hours of video on your Tivo? How many hours can you spend in World of Warcraft or Second Life?

How much can you absorb? How much can you spew? How much can you comment? And how much do you really get done? Because that same medium is where buy your plane tickets, communicate with your friends… for more and more people, it’s where you work, too. It’s where I work.

At some point you do have to recoil. I mean, I love the Internet. But I have to manage my self at some point, on a level and with a discipline that I think is rare. Just to have a meaningful life.

If you want to identify a specific evolutionary pressure that could produce the Yellow meme en masse, this is it. It’s not understanding that “The MGM is destroying the structures that lead to development blah blah blah…” that sounds almost like Green trying to out-Green itself. No, it’s “I can’t think anymore, I can’t finish a damn book, I can’t get anything done, I need to retreat, but I can’t go cold-turkey with the Internet, I won’t be able to do much of anything… AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGH!! I’m trapped!”

This creates the need for Yellow capacity, in a very personal and immediate way. I need a mind that can operate autonomously, and get things done without getting distracted by the increasingly shiny baubles of this world. A mind that handles its own internal distractions, knowing when to honor the amygdala’s fight-or-flight impulses and when to set them aside. A mind that engages this world on its own terms.

We see primitive versions of this impulse in things like GTD methodology, and even websites like Lifehacker–though for me it’s as much a part of the din as anything. It’s the pursuit of flow, of basic detached focus, of a sense of mental autonomy, a mind that manages itself. Which is probably exemplary of early Yellow, or one road into Yellow. Not necessarily even a unique mental state, but a mind with the capacity to manage state.

The next question that leaps to mind is “What does that mean intersubjectively/ethically? If I demand this for myself, what does it dictate in how I treat others? What new version of the Good emerges out of this desire?” Perhaps that’s a topic for another post…


fundamentalism and attachment

I find fundamentalism a fascinating phenomenon. I don’t often agree with fundamentalists in political ways, but they can be interesting people to talk to if you bring the right attitude.

Once, I met a woman who had such a commitment to such a narrow vision of Christ, I got curious: how did she come to be this way? She was Hispanic, but not Catholic, so she already didn’t fit my preconceptions at the time. I wanted to know more.

She worked at the CTA, was in her forties or fifties. She had a worked there a number of years. She had a single-family home on the Northwest Side, a husband, kids. Not a bad life. Orderly, predictable, generally happy. Probably voted Republican. She invited me to her church several times.

She didn’t talk about growing up. At one point when she was younger, she just started to want answers. She felt unsatisfied with just living her life without insight into ‘what it’s all about.’ So she started seeking, and she ‘found Christ.’

It seemed like she attributed her orderly life to her faith. It gave her a sense of purpose, of right and wrong, There were conventions in life, she followed the rules, and she profited by them.

From a rationalist, materialist viewpoint, you’d think, ‘How utterly benighted. This woman needs to cast off her blinkers and join the real world.’ From an integral viewpoint, many would probably say, ‘That’s a nice healthy Blue meme life.’ And in the back of their minds they would think, ‘Not for me, but you know, good for her.’

There is another way to look at this, that expands slightly on an integral view: what do I have in common with this woman? How can I find a moral connection with someone who thinks like this?

Here’s what I saw: she had her search for truth, and I have mine. Do I like the way I conduct my search better? Of course. Does her stopping point make me a little sad? A little.

But you know, we probably all have boundaries to the amount of truth we will allow. Most rationalist materialists I know (and I know a lot of them) seek truth in the material world, but don’t look very deeply within. They approach their environment with appropriate skepticism, but they accept the self as pregiven.

Integral folks have the boundaries of whatever model they use, be it Wilber or Edwards or SDi or whatever. They may accept that their model is limited, but most are not working hard to expand it. And folks can get surprisingly religious about this as well.

I’m not saying attachment is a complete explanation of all levels and ways of understanding Spirit and the world. I’m just trying to inject some humility and compassion into the conversation about levels ands values. When you look down on the limits of other’s vision (even in a very subtle way), remember the limits of your own.

the yellow meme in history

Wilber Esoterica Alert: if you haven’t read any of Wilber or Graves, you may not understand the following. Check some of the links to the right (especially Spiral Dynamics). I think it’s fascinating stuff, but if you don’t like it, ignore this.

In the spiral dynamics documents I have read, all the memes through green are described by example. And once you grasp the concepts, it’s easy: I can’t think of John Ashcroft without thinking “blue meme.”

But second-tier memes are described in qualitative terms that can be a little hard to grasp. The reason given is that they are still emerging, and there aren’t many examples of them yet to point to.

I suppose that’s true, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t historical examples. Green meme may be easy to find today, but we can see it in Thoreau’s writing over a century ago.

There is one other reason second-tier memes may be a little hard to find in the past. They will tend to camouflage themselves, appearing orange in a blue-orange context, or orange-green in an orange milieu. They willl not stand out as themselves, but will appear only as subtle variations, moving the action forward.

For example, I suspect Thomas Jefferson had some yellow-meme mastery. He probably operated in a blue or blue-orange social environment, but his impact was distincty orange. As I understand it (and I’m no Jefferson scholar), he was described as saying what he had to say to persuade any audience, to the point of being known as manipulative.

I’ve had a long debate with myself as to whether Abraham Lincoln brought some yellow meme to bear. In fact, I’ve been toying with the idea of stereotypical professions among the memes: red-soldier, blue-cop, orange-scientist, green-activist… perhaps yellow-politician. To really master politics, you have to master the yellow meme. Dealing with diferent contituencies, playing different emotional chords, bringing appropriate mindsets to particular situations. Finding the right aspect of yourself to resonate with those around you, and move things on up the spiral. These seem to me to be aspects of yellow.