Today’s post is the final installment of a four part series on the Google memo and the various issues it’s raised regarding our cultural capacity for intelligent debate. I’ve also touched upon the very serious issue of Google’s expanding position as an integral and willing tool of U.S. imperial foreign policy, as well as its defense of oligarchy and status quo thinking at home.
Here are the first three parts, in case you missed them:
Before I get started, I want to make something clear. I am entirely sympathetic to the fact that the Google memo justifiably made many women who work in the tech industry feel uncomfortable and anxious. While I’ve never worked in that field, I worked in the highly aggressive and male-dominated environment of Wall Street for a decade. That sort of culture can definitely make women feel left-out, awkward or worse. I do not deny that such problems exist in an industry dominated by one gender. Unfortunately, that very legitimate issue has become totally swamped in the public mind due to the hysterical, dishonest and illogical reactions by many to the Google memo.
Irrespective of what you think of the memo, it’s dangerous and counterproductive to start calling people names rather than engage in calm, intelligent debate. Certainly, James Damore could’ve done some things differently in the composition of his memo, but anyone who reads it can see he was trying to be fair and open-minded. I have no doubt that he was genuinely trying to have a conversation about an issue he identified at Google and feels passionately about. He wasn’t trying to make his colleagues feel anxious or uncomfortable. For that transgression he was demonized and fired. Are we already back to burning witches?
Today’s post will focus on applying what we learned about consciousness evolution in my five-part series on Spiral Dynamics to the Google memo affair. I’ll do my best to make this as understandable as possible for those of you who never read those posts, but to fully grasp what I’m about to discuss, you should probably read (or reread) them.
As I started reading the Google memo I couldn’t help but think that I was reading something written by someone coming from a second-tier consciousness perspective. This is important, because according to author and thinker Ken Wilber only a small fraction of the world’s population (about 5%) is centered around yellow consciousness or higher. Here’s a brief description of yellow consciousness from a prior post.
7. Yellow: Integrative. Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies [holarchies], systems, and forms. Flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority. Differences and pluralities can be integrated into interdependent, natural flows. Egalitarianism is complemented with natural degrees of excellence where appropriate.
Knowledge and competency should supersede rank, power, status, or group. The prevailing world order is the result of the existence of different levels of reality (memes) and the inevitable patterns of movement up and down the dynamic spiral. Good governance facilitates the emergence of entities through the levels of increasing complexity (nested hierarchy).
If that’s confusing, here’s an alternative attempt:
Yellow value system Characteristics
Firstly, he noticed that a Yellow orientated lifestyle is much more free than a lifestyle in any of the other value systems. Yellow oriented people seemed to move and express themselves completely free and independent of their life environment. Contrary to people in other value systems, they were not afraid anymore to be rejected and they didn’t fear other people’s or God’s judgment. They didn’t show the need to make an impression on others and to reach the top at the cost of everything.
They also didn’t strive anymore for absolute truths and they didn’t have the need to belong to something anymore. In short: these were people without irrational fears, compulsive needs and compulsive behaviors. However, this Yellow freedom doesn’t mean that people in the Yellow value system are not connected to their environment. On the contrary, Yellow oriented people are very much involved and show a lot of compassion. The biggest difference with people from other value systems is that their life environment is not fearfully or compulsively leading them.
Right off the bat, I identified James as a second-tier thinker when he wrote the following about political leanings.
Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.
What James does right there is something most people never do. He objectively, and without claiming one to be superior to the other, discusses the key traits of people who tend to lean left versus those who lean right. Of course, you could always add to the list, but I think he pretty much nails it. He goes on to state that both are necessary for a functioning society. This is where it becomes clear he’s coming at political debate from an integral, or second-tier consciousness perspective. Rather than profess one ideology to be superior to the others and try to fight about it in an attempt to gain power and dominance, which is what first-tier thinkers always do, he understands that different human perspectives are important and necessary to the whole. Progress is not about demonizing and subjugating people who don’t agree with you, but rather integrating all the various and beautiful differences amongst us in the most healthy and beneficial way possible.
Moving on, one of the many things Ken Wilber so accurately notes throughout much of his work, is how the prior leading-edge level of consciousness (green) tends to despise and react very negatively to anyone operating on second-tier consciousness. When we talk about green in 2017, we are really talking about how green currently manifests on the planet, which is actually just a twisted perversion of its original self. This devolution of green consciousness into a destructive “mean green” meme is a big part of what’s been holding us back as a species, and also played a consequential role in the election of Trump. Ken Wilber discussed this at length in his excellent e-book on the election, Trump and a Post-Truth World. Here are a few relevant excerpts:
The green postmodern leading-edge of evolution itself has, for several decades, degenerated into its extreme, pathological, and dysfunctional forms. As such, it is literally incapable of effectively acting as a real leading-edge. Its fundamental belief—“there is no truth”—and its basic essential attitude—“aperspectival madness”— cannot in any fashion actually lead, actually choose a course of action that is positive, healthy, effective, and truly evolutionary. With all growth hierarchies denied and deconstructed, evolution has no real way to grow, has no way forward at all, and thus nothing but dominator hierarchies are seen everywhere, effectively reducing any individual you want to a victim. The leading-edge has collapsed; it is now a few-billion-persons (or so) massive car crash, a huge traffic jam at the very edge of evolution itself, sabotaging virtually every move that evolution seeks to take. Evolution itself finds its own headlights shining beams of nihilism, which can actually see nothing, or narcissism, which can see only itself. Under this often malicious leadership (the mean-green-meme), the earlier levels and stages of development have themselves begun to hemorrhage, sliding into their own forms of pathological dysfunction. And this isn’t just happening in one or two countries, it is happening around the world.
As the decades unfolded, green increasingly began veering into extreme, maladroit, dysfunctional, even clearly unhealthy, forms. Its broad-minded pluralism slipped into a rampant and runaway relativism (collapsing into nihilism), and the notion that all truth is contextualized (or gains meaning from its cultural context) slid into the notion that there is no real universal truth at all, there are only shifting cultural interpretations (which eventually slid into a widespread narcissism).
One of the reasons contemporary greens act so hysterical all the time is because of the fact that their entire worldview is actually based on a contradiction. On the one hand, they claim to believe that there’s no absolute truth and that everything is a social construct, yet…
For postmodernists, all knowledge is non-universal, contextual, constructivist, interpretive—found only in a given culture, at a given historical time, in a particular geopolitical location. Unfortunately, for the postmodernists, every one of its summary statements given in the previous paragraph was aggressively maintained to be true for all people, in all places, at all times—no exceptions. Their entire theory itself is a very Big Picture about why all Big Pictures are wrong, a very extensive metanarrative about why all metanarratives are oppressive. They most definitely and strongly believe that it is universally true that there is no universal truth. They believe all knowledge is context bound except for that knowledge, which is always and everywhere trans-contextually true. They believe all knowledge is interpretive, except for theirs, which is solidly given and accurately describes conditions everywhere. They believe their view itself is utterly superior in a world where they also believe absolutely nothing is superior. Oops.
The madness emanating from a lot of these folks makes sense when you deconstruct it all and realize that pretty much the entire postmodern green ideology is based on a massive, irreconcilable contradiction. This is precisely why they don’t like to debate issues, but would rather shout people down by calling them names like Nazi, racist, misogynist, etc. It’s a brutish form of language oppression and authoritarianism, which they somehow justify in the name of their view being superior (in a world where nothing is supposed to be superior). No wonder they’ve lost their minds.
It’s even worse than that though. Not only do greens have to deal with the fact their ideology and worldview is rooted in a lie, they now have to deal with the obvious truth that their policies in government have completely failed the public. As Wilber notes:
Meanwhile, the leading-edge green cultural elites—upper-level liberal government, virtually all university teachers (in the humanities), technology innovators, human services professions, most media, entertainment, and most highly liberal thought leaders—had continued to push into green pluralism/relativism—“what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me”—all largely with intentions of pure gold, but shot through with an inherently self-contradictory stance with its profound limitations (if all truth is just truth for me and truth for you, then there is no “truth for us”—or collective, universal, cohering truths— and hence, in this atmosphere of aperspectival madness, the stage was set for massively fragmented culture, which the siloed boxes and echo chambers of social media were beginning to almost exclusively promote and enhance).
The problem very quickly became what Integral Metatheory calls a “legitimation crisis,” which it defines as a mismatch between Lower-Left (or cultural) beliefs and the Lower-Right systems (or actual background realities, such as the techno-economic base). The cultural belief was that everybody is created equal, that all people have a perfect and equal right to full personal empowerment, that nobody is intrinsically superior to others (beliefs that flourished with green). Yet the overwhelming reality was increasingly one of a stark and rapidly growing unequality—in terms of income and overall worth, property ownership, employment opportunity, healthcare access, life satisfaction issues. The culture was constantly telling us one thing, and the realities of society were consistently failing to deliver it—the culture was lying. This was a deep and serious legitimation crisis— a culture that is lying to its members simply cannot move forward for long. And if a culture has “no truth,” it has no idea when it’s lying—and thus it naturally lies as many times as it accidentally tells the truth, and hence faster than you can say “deconstruction,” it’s in the midst of a legitimation crisis.
In the meantime, the leading-edge of both green “no-truth” and techno- economic “no-job” had created a seething, quietly furious, and enormously large amount of what Nietzsche called “ressentiment”—which is French for “resentment.” Nietzsche meant it specifically for the type of nasty, angry, and mean-spirited attitude that tends to go with “egalitarian” beliefs (because in reality, there are almost always “greater” and “lesser” realities— not everything is or can be merely “equal,” and green resents this mightily, and often responds with a nasty and vindictive attitude, which Integral theorists call “the mean green meme”). But the notion of “ressentiment” applies in general to the resentment that began to increasingly stem from the severe legitimation crisis that began to soak the culture (which itself was, indeed, due primarily to a broken green). Everywhere you are told that you are fully equal and deserve immediate and complete empowerment, yet everywhere denied the means to actually achieve it. You suffocate, you react, and you get very, very mad.
So where does all of this lead us? For starters, we’re dealing with a mean green ideology that increasingly dominates most elitist institutions. This worldview is based on an obvious contradiction, and over the past several decades, has also publicly failed when it comes to governing. While Trump’s election was a regressive political backlash to this reality, the cultural dominance of green remains firmly in place as we can see with the dishonest and unfair reaction to the memo by the media and Google itself.
Going forward, there are two paths to a better future. Personally, I don’t think greens will ever get control of their own madness and become healthy “greens.” Rather I think we will have to push to try to get 10% of the world’s population to what Ken Wilber describes as the “tipping point.” Here’s how he put it in his e-book:
The one other option, slightly different, is for evolution to leap-frog to an integral stage of unfolding as its new leading-edge, which would inherently perform all of the tasks now required of a regenerated green. This “leap- frogging” would not constitute skipping a stage (which is not possible), but it would mean building a higher stage on a diseased predecessor, which lands it with a handicap right from the start. The integral attitude, however, is designed to effectively spot and route around such roadblocks, and this we would expect to see.
The most likely course of action, however, is some mixture of both. That’s not a cop-out, it’s a precise prediction. Green simply cannot function, not even on its own level, if it continues in its extreme, mean-green-meme (vindictively seeing “deplorables” everywhere), hyper-sensitive, over-the- top politically correct, dysfunctional, and pathological form in which it now exists. Its inherent contradictions are increasingly being seen and felt, and ways to work around them are being explored (which incorporate the partial truths of green but not their extreme and pathological absolutisms).
That lessening of green’s pervasive hostility and vindictiveness toward all previous stages of development is what we identied as “step one” in the requisite self-healing of green. There is at least a decent likelihood that this will—and to some degree already has—begun to happen. On the other hand, “step two”—the realization that growth holarchies provide the actual basis of the value judgments that green is already making, and that these growth holarchies also are the only truly effective means to displace the dominator hierarchies that green correctly ranks on the bottom of the list of social desirables—is a bit less likely to occur at the green level itself, but will most likely depend upon the transformation to integral 2nd tier. My strong suspicion, therefore, is that green will perform a good deal of step one on its own, and that this will have a very positive effect on culture at large. (And conversely, to the extent that at least this first step is not taken, then the self-corrective drive of evolution will continue to push, and push, and push into existing affairs, driving more Trump-like “disasters” as evolution redoubles its efforts to force its way through these recalcitrant obstructions.)
But step two will likely be taken at this time only by integral communities themselves, and otherwise will await the growth of 10 percent of the population which would initiate a tipping point and propel the integral stage into being the next-higher leading-edge, with altogether stunning repercussions.
Contributing to this growth and increase in truly inclusive awareness, and under the drive to discover “what’s next” after postmodernism, various Integral theories and metatheories are increasingly gaining ground, and wherever they do, they automatically correct the green dysfunctions that they unearth. Little by little, in other words, an Integral awareness is helping to embody an evolutionary self-correction in its very actions.
It is this Integral view that I wish to recommend to any who are ready for such…In embracing all of yesterday, it opens us to all of tomorrow. And it will provide a leading-edge of evolution the likes of which humanity has literally never seen before.
This is indeed the next, authentic and genuine leading-edge, and it has already begun its inevitable emergence. It carries with it the inexorable drive to “transcend and include” literally all of the previous stages of development and the stations of life that they now inhabit—but minus the inherent rancor that each of them, on its own, feels for the others.
Humankind has never had a leading-edge like this at any previous point in history. It is indeed “cataclysmic,” “a monumental leap in meaning,” and it is here for each of us to embrace and express should we so desire. And it is the one, sure, and certain balm—if authentically inhabited—for the isolating, regressive, repressive, mean-spirited, and fragmenting state in which the world now nds itself rapidly drowning.
As Wilber explains, green consciousness, so revolutionary and important in its early days has devolved and descended into madness. It is no longer capable of leading, and we face a major evolutionary crossroads — regress or push forward into higher consciousness. Green will go into this new world kicking and screaming as we’ve seen recently with the Google memo, but go they will. The more they act out, the more they expose themselves as vacuous, narcissistic charlatans, which will turn more and more people off. Its self-destruction is a necessary step in the path forward.