Bruce Charlton writes:
“Actually, I think this kind of secular, abstract, group-level analysis is now revealed to be intrinsically leftist – feeding into the totalitarian-bureaucratic world view; whatever the intentions may be. I think we absolutely need (here, now) to be grounded in the individual, personal, experienced, intuited – although it’s difficult to break old bad habits, I find.”
Spiral dynamics can be a useful part of one’s intellectual arsenal. Just a tool, and definitely not an all-explaining theory of everything. The pathologies of the Green level are hard to understand without some such perspective.
We need both a vision of shared humanity, and a recognition of the supreme value of the individual Person made in the image of God; sharing this divine inheritance as people. Spiral dynamics, it is true, taps into communal aspects of the human mind. It is certainly not a stand-alone ethic. But, it attempts to recognize that we need every “type” of person and every type lives within us – either realized or as developmental potential. It also has great explanatory power for why people behave in certain ways and points to clusters of ideas and tendencies that cohere into a worldview.
A proper ethic is Personalist and Christian. Spiral dynamics could be understood as attempting to spread Christian charity – peace, love, and understanding – to be precise – to see what might be good, but also bad, about people as types. It is not identitarian, so it has that going for it. The levels described are both phylogenetic, applying to the group, representing various levels of cultural and social attainment, and ontogenetic, applying to the individual who recapitulates these levels within himself.
Each level has implications for how the gods are seen. It certainly does not explain away religion or theology in the manner of evolutionary psychology. And best of all, it seems accurate in that regard. So, I suppose it is secular. But it is not secularist.
Best of all, each level is intuitively obvious in some way. Red – might makes right – or at least, honor and strength, warrior ethic. Blue – fundamentalist – my way or the highway. You get into heaven by following a rigid set of rules. Orange – scientific rationalism. Green – obsessed with equality and emerging particularly in the 1960s, and Yellow is the person who has moved through Green and come out the other side, older and wiser. Not having any structures, having torn them down, Green is in a constant state of crisis and requires scapegoating to generate coherence, while imagining themselves to be the height of love and compassion. The mother bear who rips your guts out out of “compassion” for her cubs.
Ken Wilber’s analysis of Green is particularly relevant for this moment in history. Why would anyone be moronic enough not to distinguish between high and low culture, to think that every culture is as good as the next, or that all problems are solved once we are all “equal?” From a Girardian point of view, equality turns people into rivals. Without hierarchies – adults/children, teacher/student, boss/employee, humans/animals – the social world turns to chaos. That is terminal. But, if this phase is brief enough, can we survive it? Wilber offers a reason for both optimism and pessimism. Optimistically, Green is the last level that thinks it is the highest point of human cultural evolution and that it alone is right. So, if we can get over the hump to Yellow, then the danger is averted, since Yellow recognizes that each level transcends and includes the next and that there is no “highest level” developmentally, though there are higher levels. Pessimistically, by denying that legitimate hierarchies exist, and claiming that all are oppressive, the Green level person remains committed to rejecting development. All standards are rejected, such as SATs, returning us to some kind primordial ooze of leveling. I remember, having had this leveling tendency articulated and named, listening to someone and thinking “Everything this person is saying is just finding synonyms for leveling.” Leveling x, leveling y, leveling z, they say – like when John Malkovich enters the John Malkovich portal, in Being John Malkovich, and everything is just him.
The disaster of Green, when it is pathologized as it surely has, is that like “chutes and ladders,” Green pathology returns us to tribalism and magic. It is clearly not rational, and many of them are claiming that rationality itself is oppressive. That is why the protesters and rioters make no coherent demands and offer no negotiation. All structure is anathema to them. They propose no alternative except to get rid of things, or to try things like drug rehabilitation, social housing, subsidized jobs, and more welfare – all of which have been tried on criminals and failed.
Like all the lower levels, Green hates anything that is not itself and regards itself as the end of history. The fact that the rest of us exist seems to be unbearable to them.
The trouble with being “grounded in the individual, personal, experienced, intuited” is that that is not the level of discourse. And that is definitely a problem with discursive thinking. Berdyaev has lots to say on that topic. But, in order to say anything about the here and now, recourse to generalities is necessary because of the nature of speech, which is communal. If we simply restrict ourselves to personal anecdote and stop referring to say “protestors” but this person who is protesting, and that person who is protesting, then all general statements are forbidden. And to say “All general statements should be forbidden” is itself a general statement.