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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com and his YouTube channel.
Practicing Multi-Perspectivalism Regarding the Ukraine War
Understanding the Russian Perspective
Understanding the perspective of Russia on the war in Ukraine is not the same as agreeing with it. This simple recognition, a fundamental understanding in its own right, meets strong headwinds in the West and more broadly in WILPs (Western, Integral, liberal, progressives). Massive and constant pressures from the Western narrative insist that the Russian perspective is already well understood and that our perspective takes it into account and then offers a superior one.
This false confidence is what I attempted to point out in my first essay in this series, “Is Putin Red and the West Green?” in which I showed how Robb Smith's conclusion that the Russian perspective is centered on a “red” or late prepersonal to early personal level of development while that of the West is centered on a “green,” or late personal level, with Smith viewing his own perspective as integral, because it recognizes both the Russian and Western perspectives. In that essay and subsequent ones I have attempted to demonstrate that this is not only wrong, but delusional, based on a desire to protect and defend not only a deeply entrenched WILP worldview, but prerogatives derived from that worldview that have significant personal lifestyle and economic benefits. WILPs personally benefit from simply living in an amoral, mid-prepersonal “profits over people” economic system which channels a disproportionate percentage of the world's wealth to them and by an immoral, late prepersonal “might makes right” geopolitical position, which works to defeat potential competitors that could reduce their comfort, benefits, and lifestyle. WILPs have a vested interest in maintaining that unequal and unjust worldview.
Frank Visser has provided a good example of this process in his essay, “Putin's Rationalization of the Ukrainian Invasion, Another Reply to Joseph Dillard,” by citing Deutsche Welle's critique of Putin's reasons for his “special military operation” in Ukraine:
Exactly one day after Putin's speech, the German news medium Deutsche Welle (DW) did a fact check of some of his core claims.
While DW's critique presents itself as objective and factual, it arrives at its conclusions by either ignoring or discounting major aspects of the Russian perspective. While I could go through each and show how and why this is the case, such an approach is, in my experience, never persuasive, because while we are generally confident that our worldview is objective and factual, what we humans actually do in practice is select out those “facts” and experiences that support our worldview and ignore or discount those that don't. This is due to an inherited cognitive bias called “confirmation bias.” Groupthink is powerful because it is based on employing intrinsic cognitive biases that work beneath our radar. We are so subjectively enmeshed in our worldview that we are incapable of seeing how we are being propagandized or having our perspective manipulated.
From the perspective of “offensive realism,” the geopolitical perspective of international relations scholar John Mearsheimer, it doesn't matter which perspective, that of the West or that of Russia, is correct; what matters in international relations are calculations of relative power. Mearsheimer makes the case that great powers will justify their actions based on moral and humanistic arguments when that is useful and supports their strategic interests, but that they make decisions based on strategic interests, not morality and humanism. That is, they calculate how much power they have and make decisions based on that calculation. This is functionally a “might makes right” perspective that echoes the famous view of Theucidides: “The strong do what they can while the weak suffer what they must.”
The best way I know to understand that perspective (other than listening to Mearsheimer's own excellent exposition of it) is to point out how WILPs avoid cognitive dissonance in two ways: They simply deny or ignore the relevance or importance of countervailing facts or use cognitive biases to overwhelm opposing perspectives. This is the fundamental nature of advertising, propaganda, psyops, the “manufacturing of consent,” the creation of groupthink, and brainwashing. Edward Bernays, the father of American advertising as well as a principle source for Joseph Goebbels, in his 1928 book, Propaganda, identified key factors in getting masses of people to buy what you are selling, that is, to forego intellectual autonomy and instead substitute groupthink, all the time convinced that they accept this principle or buy that product because to do so is their own decision. Repetition of the desired form of groupthink is essential, because familiarity and truthfulness are closely related in our minds, independent of reality. And so we find the same concepts regarding Putin and Russia packaged in different ways, all conveying the same message: “Putin/Russia BAD!!!”
As Herman and Chomsky explained in Manufacturing Consent, there are structural limits to what is acceptable or allowed in the 'mainstream' media:
the “societal purpose” of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises.' (Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, 'Manufacturing Consent', Vintage, 1998/2004, p. 298)
Parenti expanded on the theme during a talk titled “Inventing Reality” in 1993:
And, you know, the minute you move too far – and you have no sensation of a restraint on your freedom. I mean, you don't know you're wearing a leash if you sit by the peg all day. It's only if you then begin to wander to a prohibited perimeter that you feel the tug, you see. So you're free because your ideological perspective is congruent with that of your boss. So, you have no sensation of being at odds with your boss.'
A BBC2 interview by Andrew Marr of Noam Chomsky in 1995 provides an example of this point. When in 1995, Chomsky was challenged on his allegation that Marr was speaking from an ethically compromised position, Chomsky responded by saying, “I'm sure you believe everything you're saying. But what I'm saying is that if you believe(d) something different, you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting.” The same point was made by the Dutch historian Rutger Bregman in an interview with Tucker Carlson, which caused Carlson to swear and not air the interview.
This argument does not simply apply to the media. It applies to all of us who are compromised by having a personal stake in maintaining an unfair and exploitative economic and geopolitical system. This is the situation of WILPs. We experience freedom of expression because we speak from within the perspective of Western enlightenment and/or AQAL. Like Marr, Integralists have “total freedom” to say whatever we like on integral forums because we can be trusted to remain within acceptable limits. If we don't, we may get ridiculed, as Wilber has done to his critics, or ignored, or if that doesn't work, censored. Censorship of the Russian position is endemic in Western media and WILPs self-censor. Why? Because the Russian perspective undercuts the effectiveness and validity of the Western narrative. This is why I have taken a position (in “Integral Closet Ethnocentrism”) against censorship as being anathema to an integral perspective.
Frank Visser, who refuses to censor anyone or anything he publishes at IntegralWorld.net, can tell you what happens when you overstep the boundaries of acceptable discourse. I have argued that is also the purpose of Smith's and Wilber's Trump essays. Their function is to keep discussions of multi-perspectivalism within the perimeters they have defined, to keep you, the consumer of integral perspectives, “on the reservation,” “on the team,” and not questioning the underlying axioms or premises that justify opinions and worldviews that just happen to be aligned with prevailing WILP groupthink.
Censorship of the Russian position is endemic in Western media and WILPs self-censor. Why? Because the Russian perspective undercuts the effectiveness and validity of the Western narrative.
We are stuck at prepersonal in our overall level of development
The reality of geopolitics as of 2022, due to an amoral global economic system and an immoral “might makes right” geopolitical system, is late prepersonal at best, regardless of what sorts of higher meme rationales are used to justify it. The world is not yet at a level of mid-personal Jeffersonian legal rationalism, in which the most powerful countries are compelled to follow universal principles embodied in international law. The United States and NATO did not do so in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, or in the Ukraine, regarding the instigation of a coup that overthrew the democratically elected government.
While all invasions and wars are violations of international law, Russia has by far a stronger rationale than did the US and NATO for all of those invasions, dismemberments, coup attacks, and arming of terrorists mentioned above. The US flatly refuses to be held accountable by the UN International court but recognizes its authority over other states. “International law for thee, a ‘rules-based order’ for me.” Idealistic statements of humanistic intent or advocacy of utopian forms of international governance make no sense if countries won't and don't follow the basic rules of human decency.
NATO membership was promised to the Ukraine despite insistent protests by Russia. The democratically elected government of Ukraine was overthrown in a US financed and armed coup. The US and EU lied about not moving NATO east of East Germany. The US and NATO lie when they claim that NATO is a “defensive” alliance, having fought unprovoked, illegal wars in multiple states. The US, EU, and NATO turned a blind eye to eight years of shelling of Ukrainian civilians. They funded, armed, and trained neo-Nazis for eight years in the Ukraine and are still doing so. They raised no objections to the Ukraine becoming a nuclear-armed state. They undercut the Minsk II agreements and raised no objection when Zelenski announced he had no intention to implement them. The US, NATO, and EU have opposed a neutral and de-Nazified status for Ukraine. Biden has stated the goal of the US is regime change in Russia, that is, the overthrow of the Russian government. And yet WILPs ignore all of these facts and blame Russia and Putin, as if they were not provoked into their invasion of Ukraine.
Those who do not reciprocate, who do not respect others, who lie and steal, need to be called out, contained, and held accountable. While Russia has been and is being called out, the US, and WILPs in general ignore or deflect any and all attempts to hold them accountable for their roles in creating the current global disaster. This is because they suffer no consequences for their violations.
For example, the West suffered no adverse consequences when it absorbed the states of the former Soviet block into NATO; why should it consider the present demands of Russia to be consequential? WILPs have succeeded in exploiting the lion's share of global resources for decades; why should they stop now? So what if the National Geographic's Greendex found that American consumers rank last of 17 countries surveyed in regard to sustainable behavior? So what if the study found that U.S. consumers are among the least likely to feel guilty about the impact they have on the environment, yet they are near to top of the list in believing that individual choices could make a difference? So what if psychological studies have shown there is a correlation between wealth and a sense of entitlement that leads to a disregard of the rights of others? So what if the average American will drain as many resources as 35 natives of India and consume more goods and services than 53 Chinese?
What is important in WILP geopolitical groupthink is to deflect responsibility and to blame Russia, China, and Iran or the current villain de jour. One would think that the foundations of not only integral but human morality would require the acceptance of responsibility. What does it say about those integralists who instead, merely disempower themselves by blaming Russia and Putin?
Sergey Glazyev's Perspective
As a test of this argument, I invite you to read this summary of the Russian perspective by someone in the inner circle of Russian governance, Sergey Glazyev, economist and politician, member of the National Financial Council of the Bank of Russia, and, since 2008, a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is highly influential in formulating the ongoing Russian response to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. As you read it, observe what objections come up in your mind to Glazyev's perspective. Observe how you feel. Observe what you react to and dismiss as untrue. (This is a machine translation from Russian, which means that wording can sound stilted and meanings obscured.)
PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON
You will notice that Glazyev rebuts each of the arguments of Deutsche Welle. He says the West actively promotes Nazism in Ukraine, NATO is one element of the plan to destroy Russia and is indeed moving weapons systems and troops closer to its borders while attempting color revolutions in neighboring states, such as recently were attempted in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Glazyev also contends that there is indeed a genocide being conducted in Ukraine by Ukrainians. It is obvious that Glazyev views the Russian action as justified for these reasons, whether the US or its allies agree or not. He obviously disagrees with their interpretation of international law.
However, the point is not that Glazyev is correct and DW incorrect, but rather that this is the Russian perspective, whether it is correct or not. The reason that matters is not just that events in Ukraine are confirming Mearsheimer's worldview, whose predictions on this have been more accurate than others in the international geopolitical community, or that while Russia is winning the war and Ukraine, the West, neocons, Integrals, liberals, and progressives, are losing it. The reason Glazyev's perspective matters is that Russia is a nuclear armed state that has given multiple warnings that if its red lines are crossed it will use them. Propaganda wars designed to manufacture consent don't work when they backfire and kill the propagandizers.
If we are all dead it doesn't matter who was right and who was wrong.
Integral exceptionalism “R” Us
Integral perspectives don't work when they reinforce the privilege and elitism of those who, like myself, have the freedom from fundamental relational exchanges that allows them to think multi-perspectivally. We Westerners, regardless of where we live on the globe, are rich. We know that while we preach egalitarianism we use far more of the world's resources than is our fair share. That's not equitable. That's not egalitarian. We work hard to maintain that imbalance, excuse, and justify it, because we will sacrifice comfort, privilege, and opportunity if we don't.
The problem with Russia for the West is that it is calling out the exceptionalism which you and I want to maintain. Integral helps us to do so by justifying our exceptionalism in lines that cumulatively amount to high overall self-development and societal superiority. That exceptionalism may be called out, but not in ways that threaten how we ourselves personally benefit from it. For example, millionaires repress talk about taxing the rich or redistributing income. Billionaires, oligarchs, and elites repress talk about class and its privileges. Integralists have a tendency to repress talk about their own amorality, immorality, and unfulfilled responsibility to align their actions with their avowed intent, because it undercuts their idealistic delusions of spiritual exceptionalism, based on the myth of higher stage development. Russia's perspective is a direct threat to all of that, and so it must be fought, denied, suppressed, repressed, and expelled from collective consciousness. We are not only in a physical proxy war with Russia, but in a tooth-and-nail ideological struggle designed to maintain our exceptionalism.
By ignoring the US/NATO arming of Ukraine and its shelling of its own ethnic minority Russian citizens for the last eight years we have made ourselves accomplices to genocide. But who wants to look at that inconvenient truth? The WILP perspective must be justified and that of Russia proven wrong. While doing so is hardly multi-perspectival, the broader point is that it is sociocidal. The backfiring of over 5,000 sanctions on Russia should provide enough evidence of that, but so far, it hasn't. Like a rocket coasting on the inertia of its burnt out engines, reality has not yet (as of May, 2022) caught up with WILP groupthink.
WILPs don't have to believe me. In fact, I hope they don't. What I think won't make any difference anyway. They don't have to understand or agree with the Russian perspective. What will constitute the decisive wake-up call for most is inflation in energy and food prices that is already hitting the EU and US, partially as a result of the backfiring of their own sanctions. WILP groupthink is already causing economic hardship in the West and the social costs haven't even gotten started yet. How bad does inflation have to get before the population votes out the current EU governments? Inflation in energy and food prices is going to hit the Middle East and North Africa even harder than Europe. How many and how large do the waves of refugees into Europe need to be before the population votes out EU governments that support sanctions to punish Russia but in practice gut their own economies? The US and NATO, which have a history of “doubling down,” are most likely to continue to levy sanctions on Russia and arm bordering countries until they are stopped, either by the implosion of their economies or by an armed confrontation with Russia, or both. At some point, “Atlanticist” governments in Europe will be overthrown and, for purely economic reasons, there will be a return to a normalization of trade relationships with Russia.
In case WILPs in the US retain the historic illusion of protection from such social unrest, cut off by two great oceans, inflation is currently at a forty year high and multiple sources predict it will get much higher. How bad does inflation have to get before the US votes out both the Republican and Democrat parties? At what point will WILPs wake up and realize that “Russia BAD!” is a psyop designed to deflect their attention from mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence at home?
When John Mearsheimer was asked by The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel last month what he thinks is preventing Kyiv from signing a peace agreement with Russia, he replied as follows:
I think that when Zelensky ran for president he made it very clear that he wanted to work out an arrangement with Russia that ended the crisis in Ukraine, and he won. And what he then tried to do was move toward implementing the Minsk II agreement. If you were going to shut down the conflict in Ukraine, you had to implement Minsk II. And Minsk II meant giving the Russian-speaking and the ethnic Russian population in the easternmost part of Ukraine, the Donbass region, a significant amount of autonomy, and you had to make the Russian language an official language of Ukraine.
We know that due to remarks of Right Sector co-founder Dmytro Anatoliyovych Yarosh, then the commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, one week after Zelensky's inaugural speech: “No, he would lose his life,” “He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk—if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the Revolution and the War.”
Caitlin Johnstone notes that the war would have been prevented if the US had not wanted a proxy war with Russia and the generation of a massive, effective psyop to validate it in the minds of WILPs.
…every major factor which led to Russia's decision to invade could have been nullified by the US government. A guarantee of no NATO membership for Ukraine could have been made. The weapons supplies could have been stopped. And Zelensky and his government could have received protection from the US military against the armed fascists who would repeat their violent acts of 2014 upon them.
The US and NATO failed to protect Zelensky from the neo-Nazi elements in the Ukraine because they desired to expand and use the Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia. WILP groupthink was generated and maintained to justify and validate that decision. While Johnstone blames the “psychopaths” in charge of US foreign policy, they are only able to do so because thoroughly brainwashed WILPs support them in doing so. We have to take responsibility for taking the “blue pill” in the Matrix, that keeps us delusional, living a zombiefied, groupthink existence. It is fascinating, in the sense of watching the macabre spectacle of a train crash in slow motion, to see so many WILPs remaining willing to commit energy suicide and create chaos in their lives to defend a neo-Nazi regime.
Westerners and Integralists are forced to face the reality that they aren't so exceptional after all.
How is this going to play out? The risks of nuclear war are currently diminishing because Washington has blinked. The Pentagon has over-ruled the neoconservative war hawks and refused to create a no-fly zone or directly confront Russia militarily, an example of how strategic interests largely determine the actions of nations rather than moral or humanitarian issues. We can all be glad for that. Russia is not bluffing and the status of Ukraine indeed constitutes a red line for it. If war hawks, the government in Kiev, and millions of WILP lemmings, got their way, we would be at war with a nuclear power right now.
Going forward, Russia is most likely to maintain a minimal approach: waiting out the remaining fighters in the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol and using long range artillery and missile strikes to grind down the Ukrainian military with minimal loss of its own troops. This approach makes for effective but relatively non-newsworthy war. At some point WILPs will lose interest in the Ukraine and Russia, when it becomes obvious that Russia is winning and the West is losing. If that were the end of it, WILPs could maintain their delusional and exceptionalist groupthink. However, the US will continue to press for regime change in Russia, and Russia will continue to demand a neutral status for those countries on its borders.
At some point, as a result of an increasing number of countries choosing to trade in their own currencies, as a result of the global fear created by the Western “appropriation” of over 300 billion of Russian assets held in Western banks, the petrodollar will implode, meaning the US will no longer be able to fund global imperialism. At this point, if not before, WILPs will surely move beyond step one, denial, in Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief. That will be followed by decades of relative isolationism in the US, as the WILPs there focus on rebuilding a devastated, hollowed-out, and corrupt society.
Integral theory will survive all this largely intact because the four quadrant holonic model, the pre-trans fallacy, and Wilber's understanding of empiricism are all substantial and solid contributions to the advancement of personal and societal development. However, its cultish, spiritual, idealistic, and teleological foundations are not going to fare so well. They are likely to get washed out along with WILP exceptionalism, as consequences of decades of irresponsible and exploitative decision-making become unavoidable, and Westerners and Integralists are forced to face the reality that they aren't so exceptional after all.