Dr. Don Beck s best known as the coauthor of the book, Spiral Dynamics. He has traveled the world with his compelling messages about the application of spiral dynamics to reframing how we define issues and understand the people involved in them. His work has taken him to South Africa, Palestine and Israel, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, France and many other countries. In addition he has worked with corporations in the United States. His interest in sports included consulting to the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints.
At the end of this interview, there is a recording a recent presentation by Dr. Don Beck at the Integral Leadership Collaborative Conference.
Russ: Don, I don’t know which one it is but you just have held an SDi Confab or conference in Dallas Texas?
Don: It was our 12th.
Russ: Your 12th! I know people came from wide and far to attend. I would love to hear your account of what were some of the critical or the most valuable highlights of this year’s confab.
Don: The theme of it, Russ, was Peace and Progress by Design – that’s in contrast to a negotiation.
The current example is Israel-Palestine as a case study, which in our view cannot be negotiated in the traditional sense. Something new and different has to happen to handle that complexity. It’s also relevant to the political mass war in the United States regarding liberal versus conservative or traditional versus progressive and the constant ying and yang that goes back and forth from the left to the right and back to the point that it seems that we are trapped in it. We have not shown that we have the ability to transcend that sort of polarity. So all those things are wrapped up in the basic approach that we took.
We field studied this in South Africa where we found that by showing how the entities, the parties, could redefine themselves and understand the stereotypes – rather than attempt to sit around at a conference table and horse trade as happens in South Africa or the famous Road Dutch Shell scenarios that even you wrote about on the Invictus article – falsely misled people to the belief that those who had a ticket to the table, whether they are representatives of the oppressed minority or the oppressed majority, end up enriching themselves like everybody else has done. In South Africa the resources being used to meet the needs of people in healthcare, housing, law enforcement and education were corrupted. All we did was move one group of people from the German motorcars and nice vacation homes in Cape Town to a next set of people who are now in the German motorcars and nice vacation homes in Cape Town. It makes Desmond Tutu just livid when he talks about it.
What I’m trying to say is that our processes of so called peacemaking are faulted, because they are not dealing with the aftermath of when the piece of paper is signed, as if there is peace in our time. Where have we heard that before? So the processes that we are using take us from debate to deliberation and dialogue into design with the belief that in many circumstances the nature of the deep divides require a different approach than what we have traditionally dealt with.
I first became aware of this in my PhD study on the causes of the American Civil War as I tracked the 1850 to 1860 slithery slopes when both North and South got themselves in a polarity with a very serious misunderstanding. Therefore, by the winter of 1861 when Congress met, they just sat there in stone silence; they had nothing to say to each other. And Abraham Lincoln, bless his heart, really didn’t know how to handle it, because even in his first inaugural he said he had no intention to disrupt slavery in the Southern states. But that wasn’t heard, you see. So what we know is the assimilation contrast effect where both sides begin to move into their extreme positions. They glorify and obstruct in the name of God or in the name of Allah or in the name of whatever and then the gaps widen and there is no ability for there to be dialogue.
So that horrible experience I had when I was a graduate student trying to figure the causes out is what really awakened me to the fact that that there has got to be some other way to handle deep divides where there are high levels of ego involvement, partisanship that is fostered and the justifications that occurs with dehumanization and extreme brutality. The civil war was uncivil war. It was as brutal as anything that one can imagine. So the North won their war and the South won their reconstruction. Consequently, I don’t know if we came off better or worse.
All of those things in my background, Russ, led me to the work of Clare Graves. His work turns being able to look at a position people are holding and identify the memetic value system and motives in the stacks of their beliefs that are hidden from you. What is it that causes a group of people who are neighbors even to find themselves on that slithery slope even moving from pragmatism to ideology, certainty to absolutism to become zealots and fire eaters and kill their neighbors?
It’s that process that intrigues me, because I know that even after a piece of paper is signed – like if there were a miraculous kind of event in Israel Palestine where the leader signed a document – you can see the extreme gaps between Israelis and Arabs and the anger and the retributions and the revenge and all those things. To think that all of a sudden those are changed by signing the paper, that’s why so many attempts of peace making fall apart – because the hearts and minds of the groups are not utilized or facilitated in order to create a relationship that would not only make better judgments and peace, but also they would be sustainable.
Russ: It’s as though after a period of conflict – with all the pain and everything associated with it – people want to try to rebuild normal lives and let somebody else take over the work of figure out how to manage and support that.
Don: That’s right! That’s why they fall apart so quickly, because the needs of people aren’t met. The understanding of their differences is not facilitated. And what we are trying to say is there is an alternative to this. That alternative is what we are calling natural design, where in the case of Israel and Palestine they become the Hong Kong of the Middle East in a future relationship.
There is a process – I have experimented with it where we were able with a number of Palestinians of third generation, Fatah particularly, to show how Israel would be their very best friend. Israeli healthcare, high technology, stability, all those things would be a very best thing for them to be next to, because there is nothing in the Arab countries that compare well to that. So, rather than Israel being the hated enemy, the idea is to do a major transformation so see their assets. In fact I asked the governor of Palestine, a friend or Yasser Arafat, “Well, would you want the Israelis just to go away?” He said, “No we would kill each other if they did and where would we go for healthcare? Jordan?”
So the whole purpose is not just to once again go around the table and horse trade. The purpose of natural design is to redefine the situation in such a way that the combative elements find ways to need each other and to build something into the future together. You take the stingers out of them. I was just amazed with the Palestinians who at first objected to the Jewish state idea, that the Jews have a particular interest in their territory, because it’s a way for the overseas Diaspora Jews to have a homeland.
If the right of return [of Palestinians to their pre-Israel properties–ed.] were forced on them that would result in a Jewish state that would out number them in terms of voting that would be intolerable. I said to my Palestinian friends, “Now let’s be clever. The fact that it’s a Jewish state means that there is a constant flow of visitors who bring in money, who visit all the sacred places. Therefore, having a Jewish state is a cash cow. Don’t bugle it up because you know there are a million or so Israeli Arabs living in Israel and voting in Israel right now. Israel is not the apartheid condition that I found in South Africa for years. So if you are clever, realizing that the fact remains that there are symmetries between Palestine and Israel, meaning that they are not at the same level of development. They are just not. You can be an egalitarian and not like me saying that to you. But the fact still remains that is the reality. Given that as the reality you are never going to find in Arab countries the potentials to educate your children that you’ve got here in Israel.”
So the strategy, Russ, is to show the contributions that both sides could make toward a future condition.
Russ: What would be the strategy? What would be the message to the Jewish population in Israel?
Don: Palestinians are some of the most hospitable people I have ever encountered. The intelligences and even education level are really quite good, when you encounter the Diaspora Palestinians. Imagine a condition in Israel in its high tech Silicon Valley environment. It is magnificent. Imagine having first class Arab speaking salesmen who could sell their products all over the Middle East. Put those two things together and realize that over time there will be assimilation where there will be more Arabs doing the kind of high tech research than Israelis are doing. There will be more Israelis able to do sales and marketing. So rather than them being adversaries, it turns out they could be partners in a most creative fashion. After all, they are all Semites. I mean they are all children of Abraham. There is a unique closeness, but you’ve got to deal with the fear.
You see the Israelis think in terms of the demographics. That is the belief systems of the people, because they want Jews, because they have to preserve the torah and the traditions and historic crisis and on and on. That’s what maybe the Prime Minister was really talking about at the UN. The Palestinians think in terms of territory, spaces, because they lost their spaces. They have to have a space. Well, who wins that battle? Because if the space needs of the Palestinians and the rife return of Israelis occur, then you have a point of conflict.
What’s the third way? What’s the way to incorporate both of those and support what we call the functional system? As you look at the area itself, ask what needs to happen for this area – including Israelis, Palestinians and whoever else – for it to be successful, effective, functional? The ultimate third win criteria is not demographics; it’s not geographics; its functionality. How can these entities be integrated in a way that their fears are allayed, their futures are guaranteed and it’s in this synergy for them in the whole area? Now speaking about life conditions, about the topography, the possibility of tourism like forever because of sacred places, they need to look at the whole issue about water, for example, and all those things. So when we speak of Hong Kong or Singapore or the Middle East, we are speaking of a new Garden of Eden. That is possible given the resources that exist. Consequently, it’s going to take this new relationship to make possible political settlements.
Russ: You did something that it seems to me has been a central part of the type of intervention that I have observed from a distance not just in the Middle East but in the Netherlands, in the UK. In those places you have put forth or you have had them bring forth a purple kind of unifying message that is what I was hearing in the new Garden of Eden concept. I was hearing shifting from being ashamed of British goods to being proud of made in Great Britain. Am I picking up on that correctly?
Don: Well yeah, but that leads to a whole topic that so many people who claim to be integral are missing entirely, I think my friend Ken Wilber has a hint of it, but has never really been in a position to have to implement it. Because he is a theoretician, an arranger and assembler of other theories, and for all kind of health reasons, he now is not at the cutting edge experimentally. That’s not a criticism; that’s simply an observation. But if what Graves says makes any sense at all, there are billions of people, like it or not, who are passing through purple, red or blue now into orange. You can’t put a green or – for Gods’ sake – turquoise trip on it. That makes absolutely no sense.
But the idea is to produce a healthy transformational trajectory so that the expression of the codes does’t disrupt the spiral itself. But when you have the Gaddafi’s and others of the world then those expressions are heavy red-blue. They stop the spirals movement, so the first task in the seventh code in yellow – and I have been saying this for many, many years – the first task is to clean up the spiral in terms of shifting the codes from their negative to their positive.
Russ: The Garden of Eden idea is in a sense a way of addressing that at a purple level, but what can be done through natural design or functional design that promote the cleaning up of the spiral? It seems to me that requires some kinds of interventions that involve some kind of ongoing process and commitment. I’m not clear how that would have happened.
Don: If I could use a metaphor from Canada, from Ottawa where there is the Ottawa River between French Canadian Canada and Ottawa the capital city. I think there are nine locks where you can cross the water. These are locks that raise or lower the boats. You can’t go from lock one to lock nine because there is no escalator trip up the existential staircase.
You have to go from lock one to lock two to lock three to lock four. Therefore, at the top of this are the lockmasters. The lockmasters are those who open and close locks. So, if you could conceptualize the numeric codes as locks that contribute uniquely at that particular level to raise the boats. Therefore, by keeping all those locks functioning nature itself takes care of it. because in our brains are the codes of dissatisfaction and aspirations for the next level. We are driven to emerge. There is no question about that any longer. By opening up the channels we can occasionally nudge change – I like to call it encourage shifts – in such a way that we move the whole process of emergence along with sustainability and resilience.
So we look at three different things. Not just sustainability that’s not enough. You also have to add resilience, the ability to handle wild cards and challenges and so forth. But also the themes of emergence are important because when that’s blocked, that’s what produces cesspools and terrorism, because their aspirations from what they see as the good life is on television and the Internet. But they can’t get there. And so we have Arab springs, because there are millions of people who suddenly are breaking free as if they were trapped.
Recently, two conferences that I have attended were entirely frustrated because the environmental leaders all wanted to say what they wanted to do. And I kept protesting, I asked, “Shouldn’t we find out what needs to be done, rather than what you can do?”- Some of the famous names that you will recognize all have things we “should” do. The conferences don’t hold opportunities for all those things they want to do.
To me, that isn’t enough because we can do all that we want to do and not move evolution a single inch. So we have to look for the acupuncture points in human emergence and focus resources systematically on these acupuncture points to produce the best case for emergence. And to me that’s what the whole integral world should be doing. But it’s not doing it you know for sure. So that’s the whole theme and it goes back to piece by piece and progress by design, rather than just peace, as well as the aftermath of so called peace that is progress being incorporated into the peace making.
Russ: It seems to me that Roberto Bonillo, whose work we published in the Integral Leadership Review (August 2011), provided some information about the use of Spiral Dynamics profiles within aspects of companies, as well as in relation to the drug cartels in Mexico. I can’t imagine a more intense or difficult situation than the one that Mexico is facing, especially because of US complicity in fostering those conditions. In this idea of peace and progress by design, what kinds of things happened at the recent Spiral Dynamics integral Confab in Dallas that contributed to the way we think about how to proceed?
Don: We gave Roberto a Graves award – for vision, leadership and courage, courage especially. He really deserved to be honored, because you know what he told us about what he has done there. It will bear fruit ultimately. It’s what happens when a culture losses its blue system. The Catholic Church wasn’t helping. When a society losses that blue system and entices the youth with making a fast buck – I mean lots of money – and the whole advertising culture is such that it is consumer based and the society doesn’t have the jobs available to produce the wealth, something has to shift. In Mexico there is a huge sinkhole around the red to blue zones. About five years ago I was with Roberto and we spoke in Mexico City to about 120 top government executives. We said these things and we had various people show us on a map of Mexico where the red zones were. And then we did a piece with the Young Presidents Organization in Monterrey and kept saying that you guys have serious problems, because you are not addressing the forth level (blue) system and its going to come back to haunt you. We were, unfortunately, very accurate in our predictions.
When we were working with Mexico’s teachers’ union to design education for the whole country, we told them, “You are never going to improve education until you build the infrastructure of blue in the kids and in the whole culture. Until you do that, as we say in the American South, you are just whistling Dixie.” So that is the awareness that now they are beginning to get. Its going to take awhile. You can’t have corrupt politicians – the corruption levels are high – and get any kind of legitimacy. You can’t have just nine families who own the wealth of the whole country and don’t pay taxes. You can’t have that, you see.
So sometimes it takes a crisis, unfortunately, to give the wake up calls. There are no easy answers to that. But certainly there is understanding of what needs to be done. Then the question becomes what are the stages of large scale system change?
Russ: With the deterioration of blue in Mexico and the emergence or the just the growth of red and some orange taking place what is to be done? Add to that the conditions fostered by the United States that supports these conditions. I mean it’s going to take a long time. Are we not faced with having to encounter force with force and to create a great deal of destruction before we can start building?
Don: Unfortunately that’s why we need Special Forces. But the kind of special forces that we need are the ones that Colonel Fred KraWchuCk spoke about at the Confab. He surprised a lot of people. He said that most people, when they think of Special Forces, they think of yang. They think of military interventions like the Navy Seals who took down Bin Laden. They think of that as Special Forces and there is that piece in Special Forces. You don’t mess with them! But the Colonel represented the yin and implemented it both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. There was the participation of the Special Forces in the villages and in supportive building modes. Of course they carried a gun because you’ve got to, yet that wasn’t their particular mission, and the like. He helped design that whole process, informed by Spiral Dynamics, by meditation, all of those. He is one of us. Whenever you are dealing in those environments then you can’t just kill people and break things because the counter thread is the Taliban.
This is important because many in the integral world immediately turn off or become alarmed when I mention Special Forces. They freeze up on us…
Russ: Are you advocating Special Forces interventions in Mexico?
Don: Those of us in Texas on the border see the violence creeping into our communities. There are horrible stories of the decapitation of some women who were protesting cartels and drugs. They found some of them hanging from trees. That’s the reality!
I even sometime surprise some of our colleagues when I think of muscular spirituality and remind that it was Jesus who drove the money-changers out of the temple with a whip. So the whole point is that peace making has to have a much fuller complementary set of skills and understanding if we want it to work. Obviously I would much rather prevent great divides, because that’s when we really get have to heighten our themes and that’s a whole different story. But until we are mature enough to cause that to happen then we simply have got to be realistic.
Russ: But then that brings us to the United States, because recently you’ve written about the mischaracterization or the demonization, if you will, of a populist movement like the Tea Party. When I think about the tea party, I think about an awful lot of blue going on in there.
Don: It’s true.
Russ: And the reaction of orange and green has been apoplectic whatever I say that we need to pay attention to the value added that they are bringing. But it gets all muddied up with the capitalist domination of a few wealthy individuals who are undermining alternative processes.
Don: You are right.
Russ: And so I would be curious about your look at this political landscape. You’ve even felt sympathy for Obama and his attempts at reconciliation and so on. How would you see the current situation such as that in the U.S. as being one ripe for any kind of intervention that’s going to make a difference, other than to see an election cycle in the same kind of dynamics that you were talking about when regimes are displaced in other countries?
Don: This gets pretty close to home. I’m pretty opinionated on this, Russ, because I have dealt with it for many, many years. To me the Tea Party – it’s not a party it’s a point of view – was formed out of fear. The kinds of people who entered it I would call here “dear hearts and gentle people who live in my hometown.” I don’t know a single member of Tea Party. I mean. There might be one here in in Texas [Laughter] but they would not invite me, typically. But whenever this kind of movement occurs the worst thing to do is attack it. That’s just the worst thing to do, because that’s going to prove to it that it’s right. The more it’s under attack, the more that it will grow to excessiveness.
And that’s why our political system around campaign time here – which is not part of our constitution –and times like these could be so destructive. Even the fact that we are entering the election cycle once again with a 24-7 news cycle that includes explosiveness and demagoguery on both sides means it’s going to be a very dangerous period. This is like the 1860 election that I studied in my dissertation. So I’m super sensitive to it. When you have a two party system, one party is seen as more traditional, more past focused to preserve and that tends to be much more Republican or Conservative Democrats. Then you have the so-called progressive thing that we used to call liberal that exists primarily on the coastlines and places like that…
Russ: Tucson, Arizona – Austin, Texas.
Don: …you have them fighting against each other.
Well, from our viewpoint – from a so-called integral view point – you have to think like the Russian dolls, the doll within the doll within the doll within the doll within the doll. They are more traditional The so called conservative world view is what establishes justice, impacts the sacrifices to think of police and fire firefighters as what stabilizes the whole community around some sense of right and wrong and predictability and all those things. When that is compromised, as happened as Said Dawlabani [in the August 2012 Integral Leadership Collaborative Conference – see ILC Encore online] talks about in our financial mess – when the regulation and accountability value systems left Wall Street and fostered the derivatives and the separation of value from pieces of paper and produced the Iceland mess and our own crisis in 2008 – when that element in our main stack weakened, then the other system – the orange success driven make a lot of money with compromise and the green system that said naively every family should own a house whether they can pay the mortgage or not – became a toxic mixture that then led the blue system to play the major role in producing a crisis.
So basically from our side what happened was the lack of systemic balance among the blue, orange and green. We deserve what we got and there is guilt enough to go around for that. So when the traditional systems – the Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, all our civic clubs that have made America famous like the Lion’s Club and the Rotary Club and all those things – when the Little League sports events and leafy neighborhoods and traditional kind of celebrations of cultural rituals all those things in that package – when that package is weakened it weakens the system’s emergence? So that’s one center of gravity.
The emergence of the progressives is what happens when there is evolutionary movement out of those conservative institutions and if it separates itself from the conservatives it becomes a major sinkhole. Communities all of a sudden are only commercial. The privatization scheme disrupts mom and pop shops that provided the first jobs for kids. McDonald’s goes entirely technological where you order from a screen and thousands if not millions of jobs for kids, their first jobs, that’s all wiped out just as in South Africa where I was working. The petrol stations installed completely self-service petrol pumps. We opposed it, even though global capitalism would say,”Yes, you put in self service pumps so you can make more money for the stakeholders, shareholders.” And we said, “No. We are going to keep the millions of people who pump gas in jobs, because each of those men or women supports 15 to 16 other people. When you lose those jobs without replacing them with other jobs what you’ve done is you tilted too much to the profit center and in doing so you disrupt the stabilizing forces. So we must keep them in those jobs. Do you follow me?
Russ: Yes, I do. Basically, what you are suggesting is that we have done exactly that in our own culture.
Don: That’s right. That’s why the understanding of so-called first tier systems is critical: there are billions of people that are passing through those zones. And that’s why they have to be healthy.
So let me finish this theme: If there is decline in the traditional system at some point the progressive system will dissolve and that’s what’s happening here. So they are interdependent. They are not adversarial unless we have a political system that artificially through so called class warfare makes them separate and that’s what’s happening today. It’s pure insanity. But what puts them together is the integral system. That’s why when I went to Ten Downing Street with Tony Blair’s people, politically I demonstrated how these two things are not adversarial. They are not either/or’s. They are both/ands.
I was just listening to Rush Limbaugh to monitor what he is up to. He challenged the audience by asking them give him an example of a center point of view. I almost made the mistake of trying to call the old bird, because now there is a no label movement have you heard of it?
Russ: No I haven’t.
Don: Yes! And it’s a large group of people who are disdainful of the political model separating the left from the right. But like other trans-partisan movements that we help start, they don’t understand the codes.
With integral design principles we look at life conditions and what needs to be done and then couple together from both sides. So in the UK, much to the surprise of some of my friends, I said that now what you need here are Thatcher principles. They responded, “Thatcher? You mean Margaret Thatcher with the handbag that hits people over the head?” “Yes,” I replied, “because her technology treats the transition from blue to orange. But you also have at the same time labor thinking that focuses on the orange to green. You don’t put them against each other; you align them where it is functional, because the key of integral is emergence.
Russ: That seems like a really key point, because it cancels faith and patience and a whole bunch of other things. What happens is that I or we or all of us look at our current conditions and what’s going on and what we see as evidence of regression, of oppression. And evidence of regression would be in your own State of Texas with the State Board of Education taking Thomas Edison out of the history books and a number of other things in order to make sure that what is taught in the schools reinforces some of their red-blue orientation, rather than fostering the kind of progression you are talking about.
Don: That’s right. It happens at almost every scale today, especially when there is fear. And so again the solution to it is not to attack it. The solution is information, understanding of what children need for the future. So, how should who teach whom to learn what with which children coming from where? So rather than a prescription of how to teach, no, it’s always shaped by who is the learner and what is it they need to learn in the 21st century. So we are designing using an equation not a prescription.
Russ: Doesn’t it seem as though there has been such a massive accumulation of wealth on the part of people who support things like that, that the attempts at providing information are going to be weak by comparison with the power that they wield.
Don: Well that’s absolutely true. And there are lobbyists and foundations everywhere and all those things. But you see that’s our problem, because we don’t know how to make decisions. What governance principle should determine what governance system that we adopt? So you have to get to that meta level. That’s what I call the master code. It was the greatest technology in terms of all the evolutionary models. I am talking about Loevenger, Kegan and even Wilber. The master code explains why they came up with what they did, because Graves was not looking for the next psychological theory in his research. He was looking for what is it that creates new theories, whether political, economic, social, or religious. What is the master theory maker?
That’s why his approach is so different from the other evolutionary models. In the intelligence. It’s in the spiral itself, as opposed to the output of the spiral. That is the system be there six, seven, eight or nine levels – however they happen to be. That’s not the real focus of spiral dynamics. The focus is on the spiral as a system maker. Therefore, one could take the master code and set it down anywhere, even in the most current theory you approach. Because, if you put the master code into that, then you have instructions as to when the energy moves up to the application to knowing what is essential in the solution package. You can put all kinds of groups in the theory, but if the intelligences are not there nothing is going to happen down at the bottom.
And so the master code is required for integral design engineers, just like I sent out [on the Spiral Dynamics integral list serve] recently on the thing about the HIV packaging of condoms. Did you see that?
Russ: Yes, and you might want to summarize what your point was.
Don: In Africa it was noble for so many NGOs to freely distribute condoms in the name of arresting the HIV spread. But there came a point when they weren’t being used. A woman in the Congo decided to package them and sell them in the private sector. When you look at the packaging you can see the purple, red, blue, orange themes in the packaging. In other words she wrapped the condoms in the memetic packages that had in them the motivations to use the condoms. So it does not work to just redistribute condoms without connecting them to the motives for using them. That is a basic theme that we are talking about here.
So the master code there would say okay clearly we have problems, but rather than simply to say you must use condoms and here are free ones, at some point that doesn’t work. Now, here are packages of them. You have to pay for them. But look at the packaging, because what you are buying with the use of condom is purple sexual security of your partner. What you are buying is red: how you show your power. What you are showing is blue: how to keep the African blood pure. You see? When you add the memetic code onto the packaging, then you are doing what we say needs to be done on other kinds of issues.
Russ: That’s fascinating, because you know I just moved back to Tucson, Arizona after 45 years, I guess it is. I enjoy the culture here and it is a familiar place; I used to teach here at the University of Arizona. One of the things I got curious about when I came back here was how can I connect to what’s going on politically in this culture. How can I do it in a way that’s going to be value added? I started going around and talking to many of the different political organizations that I felt some kind of an affiliation with. I went to Move On, to labor union and peace organizations. I began working with helping Latinos prepare their documentation to become citizens and talking to people about immigration issues and putting water in the desert so people don’t die when they are trying to come across into the United States.
I was clear that there are all these different organizations, many of them with very similar kinds of values and aspirations. There may be different groups, but they are all trying to work towards something that fits with my value system. So I was exploring the question of how can I start bringing about some quality of unity and connection and integration across the boundaries of these organizations, get labor union members to attend Move On house parties, and so on. The thing that I think I am learning and have been learning both from Elza Maalouf and from you is that such linkages need to be forged to create points of unity and connection not just among the progressive organizations, but with the more conservative and traditional organizations within the community, as well. Is that the kind of thing that we are looking at if we are going to make progress in the face of the challenges we have?
Don: Oh yeah, for sure. The question becomes, Russ, how do you do it?
Don: What I found – because I had to figure out something in South Africa during the tear gas days – was that it required being able to show that the categories people had in their minds were pure stereotypes, not based on reality. Or, they would identify a most radical viewpoint and believe that the whole group has that radical view point. Even Morgan Freeman yesterday made the most outlandish statement about racism. I almost regret his doing the film Invictus where he played the role of Mandela. But he wasn’t being Mandela yesterday. I mean, he was being a racist yesterday.
Russ: Morgan Freeman?
Don: Yes. I was very disappointed in him. He said the only reason why there is objection to Obama is because he is a black man. Oh, for God’s sake! I have even announced to my local friends a second emancipation proclamation, a second one.
This time people are being emancipated from the civil rights movement, from black leadership who keep reminding the kids that they are descendants of slaves. For God’s sake, free the kids from that! The more that you reinforce that, then the more it will fulfill the prophecy. The more that you give credence to idiots who make racial kinds of statements with a term I just despise, then the racist is alive and well. For God’s sake! Wake up! I am saying that now is the time for black leadership to be accountable. That’s why I support Bill Cosby versus Jesse Jackson, because it’s time that the black community come of age and that’s the wonderful story that’s happening.
Russ: There are so many wonderful stories around the world and even in our own country that don’t get told. We are being inhibited, it seems to me, by that same centralization of economic power and control over media whether it’s about non-violent efforts in Palestine to encourage the Israelis to redraw the lines of their walls of separation so that they don’t divide villages or whether its efforts such as you are advocating among black leaders.
Sometimes it gets pretty depressing when we think of the array of forces that seem to be stacked against us in achieving the kinds of things you are talking about.
Don: That’s why we need the master code and I found when I presented to Hamas in Bethlehem. They wouldn’t shake Elsa’s hand because she’s a woman. And they came to discredit me, because I was stirring up trouble, because we had people all over the West Bank talking about colors and about a meme spreaders. It was just marvelous. But what I did was I very simply put up the system and say, “Here are the value systems. Now do you know anybody like this?” Then I put up the “assimilation contrast of fact spectrums”: flame throwers, zealots, ideologist, pragmatists, conciliators. “Now, do you know anybody like this in Hamas?” You would not believe what happened! All of a sudden it gave meaning and understanding to those differences. All the opposition to me just dissolved and they invited me back.
So we’ve never seen something like this. I know you haven’t because opportunist leaders want to control, don’t want them to know about this. And so that’s why we can move into a very difficult environment by simply showing these differences. I was struck by it – two guys took me to lunch and when they explained that they own their keys to the houses of their grandfathers that the Jews took in 1948, unless they get their house back they are not a real man. So I said, “Well, real man – that’s the value system, that’s the priority code.” I asked, “What if I could show you a better way to be a real man, changing not priority code, not the value system, but changing what it connects to?” They said, ”Like what?” “Well, what if you design education for your grandchildren? That’s being a real man!” So there is a whole area of operations that the integral world hasn’t discovered yet.
Russ: The thing that really resonates for me around this is the connection among the different world views and the ability to create those connections from the advocacies, from the values that are dominant in any given context, and see the linkages to the other worldviews, especially those that are at the prior stages in the system.
Don: Yes. And you have to add the third one, too, Russ: the life conditions.
As long as those kids in Mexico can make a lot of money from drugs to support their families and they can’t make that money by selling tacos on the street, you understand their behavior better. So you have to work in three areas.
Russ: Or going to school and not having jobs available for them.
Don: Yes, that’s right! That’s exactly right! That’s why there has to be a systemic approach to everything, to working on life conditions, working on the education and impact of a whole community in order to build the categories of thinking and the priorities of thinking within the value system. But then pay attention to what beliefs and behaviors come from those value systems. We have to work in all three, simultaneously.
Russ: Was there anything else in the Confab this year that where examples of successes and doing anything like that?
Don: Bjarni Jónsson in Iceland has done a magnificent piece of work. And so I told him I’m his PR agent. He is very humble.
Russ: What are your next steps from here?
Don: A couple of things I am doing. One I am working with a group called the Memnosyne Foundation in Dallas. It’s the third generation of wealth from 7-Eleven convenient stores.
They have been doing some quite extraordinary things in working with indigenous people, for example, not just to preserve their cultures, but just like the seed bank in Norway, to preserve earlier coping mechanisms with the belief that we might need them again. So they are creating a museum of the history of ideas. It’s intriguing. They have multiple centers. I just happened onto them and they. I guess, discovered me. So we are meeting this week with a design team in the city of Dallas that wants to learn how to micromanage the whole city.
Memnosymn to me is retail that is actually doing things with real people. They just came back from the Club of Rome in Budapest. So, they are getting some international recognition, but they haven’t had a good understanding of what their codes are and what they want to replicate in the global local.
They have elders from the Mayan people and various Indian tribes in this country helping them release their children from the captivity that produces the high alcohol use.
I am helping them show how these particular indigenous groupings can maintain the essence of their culture but not the captivity of the culture.
Russ: One of the many tribes we have around Tucson has a rather large reservation. They have their casino now and I suppose that is helping at least some of them. But I remember in the 1970s driving through the reservation on my way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and seeing piles of tin cans outside of homes. And just really unfortunate conditions.
When you look at the resources that they have on the reservation – we are talking severe desert – we are not talking just a little bit of desert and a lot of room for agriculture or anything else like that.
I look at that situation and wondering how tribes who are attached to the physical space of their reservations can bring about change. Of course, many young people leave the reservation, but how can these tribes hope to transcend the conditions that lead to such things as heavy alcoholism and things like that? That’s quite a challenge these folks are taking on.
Don: Well, that’s the issue that they are addressing. And because it’s a 7-Eleven connected foundation, just think of the power. Particularly, if we go into a serious economic crisis just think what those stores could be. As feeding places you see?
Russ: Yes, I do.
Don: And so you know I have encouraged them to stop this nonsense of being anti-business: that capitalism is bad. We’ve got to stop that nonsense, for sure. And so it’s an interesting group. The executive director is an African American who builds museums for African Americans. He is an architect and his wife is a sculptor; so they are coming out of the arts.
Russ: Anything international coming up?
Don: We are about to get back into Israel and Palestine. But also Elza Maalouf and I are speaking in Paris on October 25, 26. We are funded by the European Community on the Nature of Radicalization. They are concerned about the Islamic threat. That’s going to be a big thing.
Russ: Don, is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d wish I had?
Don: As I develop the quest of the master code, which some will see to be quite arrogant (I didn’t say the master I am trying to be), I seek the theory that explains everything versus any theory that explains everything. The language here is important.
I’m dedicated to that because to me it’s like on the verge of every integral activity at some stage. At least they will say, “Well lets now test it out with the master code.” So if we are marketing condoms lets test it out! What does the master code say to us? That’s where we have the equations for how should who lead whom to do what. Rather than here is the way to lead, here is the equation, here is the master code to set down into a context. That’s why I hope that you do something with my friends in Cologne Germany and the research they’ve done with pet scans and FMRI. They are taking the Graves method of measurement of speedy recognition of symbols and computerizing it. They hooked people up with brain scans, FMRI, while they made choices. I have been able to identify where in the brain these systems are, because Graves was the first who said these are bio-psycho social systems.
My friend Ken wouldn’t even talk to me about it because he had such adversity to anything that is not spirit based. But here is – in all of the studies of integral evolutionary models – here is a first attempt to validate it and they’ve done it, even our values test.
Russ: Yours is an impressive body of work. Thank you so much Don and good luck with it all.
Don: Thank you, Russ.