Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Integral Racism and the Green Meme

Every human system has it's biases, preferences, assumptions, and perspectives. Sometimes these are conscious, considered, strategic, and loving, and sometimes they reflect the most horrible unconscious and shadowed aspects of human experience. And there's always something in between. And there's always other stuff too.

This blog is a commentary on integral culture's (generally of course) perspective on systems of human development. If you're not familiar with the development systems of Spiral Dynamics, check it out here. You may also want to look at Susan Cook-Greuter's Action Logics, which is my developmental system of preference.

I don't necessarily prefer conscious and benign over unaware and shadowed - they really can't exist without each other in both linguistic and energetic realities. All opposites live in each other. The conscious exists in the unconscious and the good always exists in the bad - halls of mirrors forever.

I am going to make some meaning and interpretation here to give context to what I am sharing. I am probably wrong about most of this. However, the context gives easier cognitive and emotional access to something that seems fairly true and relevant: the integral community has a serious and horrible bias against the green meme that in some circumstances borders on stageism (a sort of racism about stages of development and development itself).

I have certainly done this. I have certainly placed people in the green meme based on little experience and without questioning the assumption too much. I have also pulled the "they're so green" card and have held it in negative light. This is wrong and also perfect for what it is - it is however not very useful.

Integral is not the truth. Reality is not an integral reality. Reality is not and does not unfold through stages. Integral and stages of development are ways we have created to make meaning of reality. It's a damn good tool, don't get me wrong. But it's just a tool.

The meaning making that the integral perspective brings is sometimes very useful. The integration through a hierarchy of perspectives and recognizing that reality cannot be defined in just one perspective is helpful and in can bring people together creating great connection in the moment. And sometimes it just can't.

One thing a second tier ego can do is recognize what perspective will bring the most value in the present moment. The meaning making that arises at the green meme can sometimes do a better job at bringing people together in a circle of love and trust. Access the whole spiral, please.

The green meme is truly one of my favorite places for a human to arrive. It's the first time they have truly and deeply stepped into a sense of true self. Because of this, a great deal of altruism and care beyond self and embedded culture arises. It is still a first tier perspective, so there will be concrete thinking, preferences of truth, and polarization, all of which has its challenges and assets. The green meme is truly gorgeous and has created some of the most beautiful philosophies and actions in our contemporary world.

Sadly, most of those running around typing others as green haven't yet reached green. Those that have moved past green and still have the impulse to negatively type have some shadow to seriously consider.

Ken Wilber stepped into the integral perspective and created integral theory in a culture of academic pluralism. He got a lot of flack and he had to fight hard. It seems that in the fighting he lost some perspective. It seems that in the fighting and pushing he at times stepped out of the second tier and fought for second tier perspectives from a first tier place. As with all leaders and founders, this energy and perspective has now trickled liked a flood into the integral community. There is certainly nothing truly wrong with this (and there is something very wrong with this), but it has created division and struggle where perhaps healing and development could have been realized.

I recall a place and time when I considered myself second tier because I really understood integral and could really make cognitive meaning using integral. I was no where close to integral though. I got the theory, but my relational, emotional, linguistic, energetic and true meaning making were not close to the second tier.

In a recent conversation someone said: "The hallmark of the second tier is a hierarchy of perspectives." This is both true and not true. Certainly, the early second tier individual has deeply discovered a hierarchy of perspectives (not just cognitively and theoretically, but in an embodied, energetic, and relational way). It seems that a later first tier perspective projects onto the second tier an emphasis on hierarchy, whereas someone deeply embodied in the early second tier has a preference for integration.

Integration through a hierarchy of perspectives is the hallmark of the second tier.

It seems that an early second tier perspective does have a reemerged preference for hierarchy. However, the hierarchy only and always serves towards deeper embodiment and integration. The emphasis is not on hierarchy, but on integration of perspectives to create the most value.

An early second tier person uses hierarchy of perspectives to integrate various thought to create value for everyone.

In the late second tier, we again see a release of hierarchy as it is recognized as a tool for meaning making and a way to create deeper connection. Tools are tools. Tools are great, but they're still tools. In the late second tier there is such an awareness of one's own ego and reality construction, hierarchy and complexity again dissipates towards simplicity, spontaneity, and the creation of moments of unity. Unity and love in a very rich, deep, and subtle way are very much the hallmarks of late second tier, as an individual moves more deeply to the 3rd tier.

A second tier person does not use a hierarchy of perspectives to find greater value in that which is considered "higher." We must value each level of ego embodiment. I see each level that I have embodied adding great perspective to my life and meaning making. I see constantly multiple levels arising at the same time, in a sense competing for space, interpretation and voice. I sometimes interpret things from one level and then act for another. This is all naturally arising and it is deeply chosen to create experiences of love, revelation, unity, and care (at least on my best days).

Green is gorgeous. Learn it, live it, and love it. Value yourself, the whole spiral, and each human being, as they reflect you and add great value to your life.


  1. Nice post. I think you are accurate in a few of your statements regarding some in the integral community looking down on the green meme. Based on my own experience, it seems like early second tier contains a period of massive reorganization - fresh from green but still shaky in many many ways. I think just like any sort of graduation or growth, we can sometimes look back at what we were and feel less than stellar about who we used to be, looking negatively upon attitudes and opinions we once held, etc. This can easily translate into projecting these feelings onto others who embody what we, at first, consider to be a former self. Part of growing into second tier is first seeing that these levels of development exist, but then figuring out how they work together and how they can be expressed harmoniously. It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination! Each level of development has its own pathologies and lessons to learn, I think this is a very big one for second tier awareness.