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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].
Why Solving the Meta-crisis is Simple
A Bodhisattva Manifesto
There is really only two things we need to focus on to save modern civilization from hospice, assuming it is not already on its death bed.
Any complex adaptive system (CAS) uses information from its immediate environment to adjust its behaviors as needed to maintain the system. In the case of most representative democracies within the regime of global neoliberal capitalism today, where money power is a significant factor in how and what politicians get elected, and therefore what policies and laws are enacted, the feedback mechanism in how democratic CAS's are able to maintain themselves breaks down.
Long story short, the power elite who rule the corporate-military-police-state of the modern era are locked in a bubble of positive feedback. The information they receive about how the system is doing and what it needs to maintain itself and thrive, comes from the 5-star hotel luncheon buffets they have with lobbyists, their need for corporate donors to get re-election, the revolving door gravy train of think tank positions and board of director appointments awaiting them after their “service” in office, and the vacation homes in the Alps or the Hamptons they can have (if they play their cards right) in the pay-to-play system of legalized bribery.
Under this system of rules and practices, according to the information elites receive from their environment, which is carefully sealed-off, secured, and scripted by the national security state, everything is honky dory, has never been better, and is getting better all the time, just like Steven Pinker says, and that's an undeniable fact, right? Well, in fact, it is true, for them and for those whose interests they represent, namely, their campaign donors, but not so much for the rest of us, or for the planet.
In other words, the bubble the power elite has created for itself, and which crucially provides the feedback for their decision-making process, is not only poorly adaptive for the problems the system actually faces, it is reinforcing of those problems, and therefore it operates like a self-reinforcing cancer on the system as a whole, not as a truly healthy CAS. Therefore there is in effect two different operating systems in the modern regime today, one at the top that is completely isolated from the actual meat and bones of the systemic body, and the dying body itself whose feedback signals are unable to reach the top.
Any system that does not receive or cannot receive the negative feedback it needs to adjust its responses in order to at least maintain equilibrium, is a system that is set for destabilization and collapse. The neoliberal global system of capitalism we currently live in, where corporate largese is intimately tied to the political functioning of representative democracies, is therefore as good as dead before it even dies if we cannot develop an immune response that is able to properly identify the cancer, and then signal to the rest of the system the need to mobilize a robust response against it.
The cancer, as I have just outlined, consists of the self-reinforcing positive feedback loops the power elite are receiving from their immediate environment, which tells them that everything is getting better and better, because it is, for them!! What we want to avoid, if at all possible, as a first response to this cancerous growth is an invasive surgery by revolutionary surgeons to forcibly excise the cancer, as that could lead to other complications such as excessive hemorrhaging, or a post-surgical infection by some unknown pathogen.
There is really only two things we need to focus on to save modern civilization from hospice, assuming it is not already on its death bed and that we do indeed want to save it. The first thing we need to do is to identify the pathways by which the cancer metabolizes and then cut off or block those sources of its sustenance. Therefore, laws permitting the infiltration of money into politics must be the first focus of any systemic cancer treatment. If the cancer is allowed to continue metabolizing in self-sustaining positive feedback loops disconnected from the needs of the larger body there will be no cure, and that will be guaranteed with nearly 100 percent certainty, perhaps the most certain thing that we could ever say about any CAS.
The second thing we need to focus on in our immune response to save ourselves is the regulation of political and social messaging within major media sources, by which cancers often spread to great extents and with alarming speed. Algorithms that are designed to maximize emotional responses for increasing the clickbait-value and profits of corporations, but which also polarize the population into black and white tribes on controversial issues, should be outlawed, point-blank, as a threat to the social fabric. Creating a healthy balance between freedom of speech and censorship is a dialogue that desperately needs to happen in a world of both bad (or ignorant) actors and oppressed (or marginalized) voices.
Addressing these two issues alone, money power and the collective meaning or sense-making crisis, would be enough to have downstream effects on everything from who gets elected to what laws and policies are implemented, and from how we feel about our neighbors to what we would be willing to do for them, and them for us, out of our empathy and understanding for one another, and for the sovereignty of 'we the people'.
It is crucial that in order for us to solve the meta-crisis we must keep it simple. Any solution that will actually work cannot have too many moving parts or be too complicated to implement, nor can it be micro-managed. Which is why if there is any solution at all to the meta-crisis, it must be simple and trusting of the downstream effects of the proposed actions. But there is one more thing that must be considered, and that is how we can get even these two simple parts of the system moving in the first place toward solving the crisis, or toward creating a living system responsive to its whole needs?
As I said above, the power elite is stuck in a positive feedback bubble from which they cannot receive information from the whole body. That bubble must therefore be broken, but not necessarily by force of arms, as they are in the habit of doing to their internal and colonial subjects. Rather one way to pop the bubble of the elites and get the ball of the CAS rolling toward adaptive learning and living, is to mandate that any candidate for political office must undergo psychedelic therapy at high dose for no less than a half dozen sessions in a controlled setting designed for existential experiencing of ones being on this planet, in this cosmos, as a representative of the human species. This mandate could be implemented the same way legalization of marijuana was in many states -- by petition onto the ballot. No candidate, including POTUS, could get onto the state ballot without undergoing psychedelic therapy at high dose in a controlled therapeutic setting. This would only be needed in a few key states, and just like that, we'd have those fuckers leveraged to the walls!!
No candidate, including POTUS, could get onto the state ballot without undergoing psychedelic therapy at high dose in a controlled therapeutic setting.
The downstream effects of psychedelic therapy at high dose? Trust them. The effects at high dose under settings for existential experience does not have to change the political orientation or the stage of development of the aspirant. All it has to do is create a state-shift in say 40-60 percent of the aspiring politicians, just as it does in many who try psychedelics even without a high dose or proper setting. The effects on what policies and laws are enacted, and what politicians ultimately become successful in the eyes of voters, would likely be highly significant. At the very least, psychedelic therapy would be a way to get politicians to think beyond the skin of their own ego when making decisions that affect the whole. And that would be the first step toward dissolving the main metabolic pathway of the cancer within the body politic.
As they say in alcoholics anonymous in their treatment for addiction, “Keep it simple, stupid!”.