INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Ray Harris is a frequent contributor to this website. He has written articles on 9/11, boomeritis, the Iraq war and Third Way politics. Harris lives in Australia and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For an explanation of the color terminology used in Spiral Dynamics, see Don Beck's Stages of Social Development.
The Memes at War
Part 3 - The Red Brotherhoods and the New World Order
Amongst all the rumours and sound bites came the news that El Qaeda had made contact with the Russian mafia in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons. Why would a fundamentalist religious group consort with criminals who run slave prostitution rackets?
In South America, in Columbia, Brazil, El Salvador, etc, the line between drug cartels, independence guerrillas, militias and foreign agencies are increasingly blurred. In the favelas of one of the world's most violent cities, Rio de Janeiro, the narrow alleys often break out in gunfire as drug gangs openly battle corrupt police. In so many cities heroin, crack cocaine, ice and newer, nastier drugs wreak slow, steady havoc. Returning to Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance funds its efforts through the harvesting of opium.
The connecting thread is a pathological Red vMeme. Brotherhoods of the 'Terrible Father' locked into a pattern of basic Red assertion over other vMemes, unable to make the transition to Blue, dragging those who come into contact with its pathology, down into a kind of memetic vortex. In this vortex politicians, the police, the military, business leaders and the judiciary slip out of Blue via tentacles of corruption. In Indonesia a violent coup (Soeharto) leads to a 'crony' regime where the military protect a network of illegal business dealings. In the Philippines Marcos runs a similar regime. In South America, again, a similar picture. In Iraq, a government with an extensive criminal reach has a psychopathic son as heir apparent.
The First World is not immune. These networks extend into the criminal brotherhoods, the Mafia, the Triads, the Yakuza, Hispanic, Black, Jewish, Russian, you name it, all vying for control of the lucrative drug, arms and standover 'markets'. The result is a sub-culture of violence and decline through addiction.
As I mentioned in Part 1 Red has a core need to control its environment. A quick glance at the Red trouble spots immediately leads you to the poorer parts of the globe, whether it is Sicily, Columbia, Afghanistan or the ghettos, downtowns and favelas. Places where people have been denied power, either through intent or neglect. Denied access to the mainstream it is hardly surprising people attempt to gain control through illegal means, through the black market. And everywhere the same pattern, a strong patriarchal structure, the use of blunt force and terror, and foot soldiers prepared to die for honour and glory. It doesn't matter if the patriarch is a 'Don', a 'General', or a 'Drug Warlord', power is maintained by terrorising the chosen victims. The means? Drive-by shootings, torture, disappearance, raping and raiding, death in the middle of the night or in mass graves.
A story of despair? Certainly a history of humanity, whether it be ancient conquests or more recent conquests.
The solution? Once a Red 'grouping' gains sufficient control it naturally evolves into Blue. Tragically such dominance usually involves a great deal of violent suppression. Usually the benefits of Blue, then of Orange and Green, go to the group that has the ability to maintain the means of suppression. Blue seeks stability and order; it shifts from the terror of the 'Terrible Father' to the patronising benign control of the 'Good Father' . It can act in a compassionate manner, but here's the crunch, it only acts benignly to those who are defined as family. Such a 'familial' grouping can be based on ethnic or national identity. Whichever is the case Blue has an almost insurmountable problem. It takes a lot of energy to maintain control. The 'peace' is always fragile. The interface between Red and Blue is never completely stable, nor particularly long lasting. There is always some Red grouping causing strife. Rome may be secure, but the outlying territories are not. History is largely the story of the rise and fall of civilisations. Or, in memetic terms, the rise of temporary islands of Blue/Orange and then their Atlantean fall into the volcanic sea of Red.
As 'luck' would have it this situation changed in a significant way. In Europe, a loose and volatile alliance of countries, through the exploitation of foreign countries, went through enough periods of Blue stability to give rise to a growing number of Orange "memers". This gave rise to a new world order and new form of government, democracy. This was not, of course, an original event. The idea of democracy comes from Greece, an island of civilisation that arose in an earlier time. But this new order was different largely for one reason. The wealth that enabled the Blue stability to exist for such a long time came from countries geographically isolated from the beneficiaries. If a new wave of barbarians were to arise they would have had to cross an ocean to storm Rome (a somewhat more daunting proposition than the Danube). Despite internal squabbles that inhibited memetic progress, Europe and its offspring (the new nations - the USA, Canada, Australia, etc) were able to maintain a relatively sustained period of stability that eventually led to the rise of many Orange institutions, thus generating a shift toward Orange proper. Such a shift took centuries and, again emphasising this point, was enabled by the wealth generated by exploiting distant lands. The English were the most successful empire builders and the English-speaking world still holds the most power. The French were perhaps next. But whichever the order, it was Europe that benefited.
This Orange revolution, to stress the point, was built on Blue stability, which itself was built on the constant work of suppressing and exploiting the colonies. Even the emerging power of the US had colonial ambitions, as was evidenced by the conquest of Cuba, the Philippines and the wresting of southern states from Mexico.
AN EVEN NEWER WORLD ORDER
Globalisation has changed the effects of distance. The 'Red' lands, the countries and populations denied power, now benefit from the global era. They too can make use of rapid intercontinental communication and transport. What the US today calls 'terrorism' is simply the ability of the Red vMeme to reach into the US's very heart. Imagine if you will, the world coloured, not by the colours of national boundaries, but by the dominant vMeme. The US would be a shifting sea of Blue and Orange with pockets of Green. The Midwest would be Blue and the east and west coasts would be Orange, with pockets of Green in the wealthier areas and pockets of Red in the poorer areas. Europe would be much the same, but with larger areas of Green, especially around Belgium, Holland and Denmark. However, these pockets would be surrounded by a sea of a different colour, moving east of Europe the colours shift from Orange to Blue to Red. The same pattern emerges moving south of the US, or north of Australia. Now, with the rise in immigration and instant global reach, the Red conflicts that used to be far away can now erupt like a solar flare in the centre of Orange/Green city like New York. The threat is not only from El Qaeda and Red Islamic fundamentalists, but also from the insidious corruption of the drug trade which imports Red violence and terrorism to the streets of modern cities. L.A., at once the home of Orange 'Hollywood' excess and Red urban 'Gangsta' violence, is a prime example. In the US the flow of illegal drugs is largely from the south, in Australia from the north, and in Europe from the east.
What is the solution? It used to be that the privileged Orange vMeme could keep the Red vMeme at arms length through the agency of Blue institutions of force. Not any more. It is a new world order. The recent attack on the WTC has now made that abundantly clear. The US has been criticised for its tendency toward Blue isolationism. The current administration has been criticised for its unilateral approach on a number of issues, not the least being global warming. Yet, within a very short time, the same administration finds itself talking up a global coalition to fight global terrorism.
The Blue 'pull' in US politics will be hard to resist. The likely outcome in the short term will be a series of successes by the coalition against the El Qaeda network. Bin Laden may in fact be finally neutralised. The US will then likely attempt to retreat to its Blue/Orange centre of gravity, thinking the threat has been contained. There are however, other forces at work. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has, at the writing of this piece, out manoeuvred the Bush administration in the 'moral high ground' stakes. Whilst Bush stays at home and talks in largely Blue language, of the war between the absolutes of good versus evil and the defence of the homeland, Blair is travelling overseas to meet with Russia, Pakistan and India. And in his recent speech to a Labor Party conference in England he shifted the debate to a much more inclusive Green position. It is worth quoting some of Blair's speech.
"Round the world, September 11 is bringing governments and people to reflect, consider and change. There is a coming together. The power of community is asserting itself. We realise how fragile are our frontiers in the face of the world's new challenges. Today's conflicts rarely stay in national boundaries. Today a tremor in one financial market is repeated in the markets of the world. Today confidence is global; either in its presence or its absence. I have long believed this interdependence defines the new world we live in."
"The world community must show as much its capacity for compassion as for force. The critics will say: 'But how can the world be a community? Nations act in their own self-interest.' Of course they do. But what is the lesson of the financial markets, climate change, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation or world trade? It is that our self-interest and our mutual interests are today inextricably woven together. This is the politics of globalisation. The issue is not how to stop globalisation. The issue is how we use the power of community to combine it with justice."
At the moment it is Blair who is representing the coming wave.
Let me explain. Blue obtains stability by excluding non-family members. It wraps its protective paternal arms around its own as the 'Good Father', but represses the 'other'. It can do this to whatever extent its power and wealth will allow it. The US is very wealthy and through its military strength it has been able to keep its population largely free of non-familial attacks (though not free from internal non-familial attacks, ie, the conflict between Black and White). It has expended a lot of energy in keeping the Red, barbarian hordes out of Rome. Maintaining this defence pulls the US constantly toward Blue, but allows its Orange elites to flourish. This worked up until the end of the Cold War. It no longer works in the new era of globalisation. The enmeshing of markets, the migration of people and the advent of instant global/satellite media means that the repression can no longer be at arms length. Blue is increasingly going to have to repress its neighbour in full daylight and the boundary between family and non-family will increasingly become blurred.
This is what is happening in Europe. Gradually, falteringly, Europe is uniting and dropping its age-old definitions of family. Increased 'inclusiveness' is leading to a greater emergence of Green and consequently of Second Tier.
It used to be that the higher vMemes would arise within the extended privileged families of the elites. The Medicis dominated Venice and were great patrons. As power grew to include nations rather than city-states, the vMemes grew within the privileged classes of that nation. But now even nations are being absorbed into a new transnational order. And the repression of the other, the outsider, that creates the wealth to sustain Blue order and Orange privilege, is less possible. The outsider is becoming a global insider, part of the broader family. Red used to be kept outside the walls of the city-state, then it was kept outside national boundaries. But in a connected global order where does Red go?
The mechanisms of Blue repression will no longer work, the cost will be considered too high. Red will increasingly arise within the city walls.
Already Blue/Orange countries are suffering from an internal rot. This is particularly marked in the US where a strong Blue has essentially lost the Drug War, and its 'romance' with the idea of the gun has made some urban districts virtual no-go zones. Red even arises in the dreams and actions of confused middle-class children.
Gradually the Orange elites will realise that Blue can no longer keep Red at bay. The increasing emergence of Green will turn the debate increasingly toward the root causes of Red pathology. Blair recognises this and speaks also of a humanitarian coalition. Afghanistan is frankly a mess. Whatever Blue stability may have existed has been destroyed by years of invasion and civil war. The country is in a Red storm caused by ethnic factions attempting to dominate. The Taliban is the natural Purple/Red consequence. Purple, because the brand of Islam they advocate is a reduction to its roots in clan conflict. Some of the rules of the Taliban are based in tribal culture and a deep Purple/Red suspicion of women, (which is another story - the transition from matriarchal culture to patriarchal occurs at the Purple/Red nexus). If Afghanistan is to be prevented from being a haven to Red outlaw factions it must be reconstructed. Indeed the Taliban must be removed, but it must be replaced with a Blue coalition if Afghanistan is ever to stand a chance.
This is now the choice confronting the old order. Understand that the interface between Red and Blue is inherently unstable and inherently violent. Understand that Red arises because of an imbalance of power. Understand that Red is no longer at arms length, but active in the midst of First World cities. Understand that the lower vMemes must be given the means to evolve. Understand that the whole globe must now be pulled up to at least a uniform Blue level of security, with this further important understanding; that the transition from Red to Blue marks the transition from the harmonic of the lower three vMemes (Beige, Purple, Red), the harmonic of tribalism, to the next harmonic (Blue, Orange, Green), the harmonic of civilisation.
I suggest that Second Tier can only fully be realised in the era of true global civilisation.
The struggle to achieve the new global order will still take decades. Europe will lead the way. Yes, it will struggle to reinvent itself. The old national suspicions still abound. There is however a new European, one who does not identify him/herself with any particular country. This can be seen amongst the young generation. Already most Europeans are bilingual, and travel readily across several cultures. Kids follow a dance culture from England to Ibiza to Berlin to Copenhagen.
The US will struggle to define itself in this new order. It must undertake a massive task to redefine its Blue mythology and shift the Orange elites further toward the Green end of the Spiral. It needs a new 'Kennedy', a new 'Camelot' to carry it into the new world. The events of September the 11th will demand, in the years to come, that necessary shift. At the moment it would seem Bush has missed the moment. But the US will eventually realise that wiping out El Qaeda will not fix the Red rot, they will realise that it was merely one manifestation of a much larger problem. I predict that until it fully grasps this problem the US will undergo an extended period of confusion and lack of confidence.
I also suggest that the 'free market' ideology will undergo a crisis of faith. This is an area where Orange actually erodes the stability of Blue. The world will begin to realise that it cannot live with the volatile ups and downs of a nervous market. It will realise that it needs a calmer and more just economic order.
There are interesting times ahead.
Perhaps the question should now turn to, how can an Integral Political Practice help?
To be continued om Part IV.
© Ray Harris, October 2001