Friday, October 9, 2009

Boomeritis Triumphant: Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Equally as urgent as the development of healthy individual egos emerging from Amber is to the health of the Prime Directive, so too equally critical is the emergence of healthy Green from the swamp of Boomeritis. Wilber has identified the contours of healthy Green in numerous places, but it is difficult to find it much in the real world. Instead, we mostly encounter Boomeritis Green.

Today’s announcement by the Norwegian Nobel Committee that it has awarded its Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is just the cherry on the Boomeritis sundae.

What characterizes the Boomeritis variant of Green, according to Wilber, is the significant and stubborn persistence of a Red narcissism.
Boomeritis is that strange mixture of very high cognitive capacity (the green meme and noble pluralism) infected with rather low emotional narcissism—exactly the mixture that has been noted by so many social critics. In other words, the very high developmental meme of pluralism becomes a shelter and a haven for a reactivation of some of the lower and intensely egocentric memes (e.g., purple and red). In green’s noble attempt to move beyond conformist rules (many of which are indeed unfair and marginalizing), and in its genuine desire to deconstruct a rigid rationality (much of which can be repressive and stultifying)—in short, in green’s admirable attempt to go postconventional—it has often inadvertently embraced anything nonconventional, and this includes much that is frankly preconventional, regressive, and narcissistic.
Barack Obama personifies the Green Boomeritis variant in his intense subjectivism, his eagerness to adhere to his Boomeritis anti-American cousins in Europe, his devotion to extreme egalitarianism, his belief in the magical properties of his rhetoric, and his unconscious social divisiveness. Campaigning on a promise to promote bipartisan approaches to national problem-solving, for instance, he has governed with a thinly-disguised disdain for the beliefs and concerns of the opposition—a classical First Tier characteristic.

Obama of course also represents a significant tendency among the American citizenry that also identifies with these character traits. The irrational “change you can believe in” theme of Obama’s campaign last year exemplified the Boomeritis assumptions that it has all the correct answers and that they can be applied without any particular consequences.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Second Tier Speculation Traps

In commemoration of al-Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Ken Wilber has posted a number of articles and webcasts on his web site. One of them, unfortunately undated, is a video in which he discusses a putative “Integral World Federation,” something he first explored in A Theory of Everything. Another video, evidently filmed sometime before Barack Obama consolidated his nomination victory over Hillary Clinton in last year’s primary season, elaborates some of the themes of the first.

He also links to his brilliant analysis of politics in the emerging world, written in 2002, entitled “The Deconstruction of the World Trade Center”—still a highly important attempt to put his arms around what he later has called a “transpartisan politics.”

It is instructive, I think, to read “Deconstruction” first and then watch the videos. We get to see the challenges of gridding the theory against reality and practice. More importantly, we see the limits of forecasting the specific content of memetic evolution, because as Wilber well knows and has noted before, the nonlinear nature of evolution means that we simply cannot predict the nature or contour of an emergent from the nature and contour of its source.

But, of course, being meaning-making machines, we are nonetheless compelled to try. It’s both fascinating and a bit sad to watch Ken make the attempt. He’s such a brilliant theorist that we tend to forgive his stumblings at forecasting, but really he ought to know better. I suspect some of his falling short is a product of his lack of much experience in the rough-and-tumble world of actual politics, but some of it is simply forgetting what he has already taught us about the nature of the Second Tier.

Given the extraordinary status he has achieved among many would-be integralists, it’s important that we be willing to disagree and perhaps even correct him in those rare instances where it might be necessary.

Wilber has been interested in the political expression of Spirit’s evolution from the beginning. The concluding chapter of Up from Eden, entitled, “Democrats, Republicans, and Mystics,” first offers his insight that liberals tend to assign exterior causation to explain problems, while conservatives favor interior factors. He comes back to this in A Theory of Everything, this time with an AQAL perspective.