The Master Code and Integral Politics in Polarized America

Column / March 2013

Don E. Beck

Don E. Beck

Don E. Beck

Regardless of your own political views, memetic codes, or location on the intensity spectrum (from flame thrower to pragmatic) you must be both concerned and confused as to the current issues in Washington DC. While the words “stalemate, “crazy,” “polarized and soaked with acrimony,” define the condition, it appears the huge gaps in our society continue to grow and expand. The fiercely fought presidential campaign has not abated one bit. President Obama’s campaign team continues to work its magic with the full force of a supportive media and one can now get direct access to the oval office for a sum of $500,000.

In my decades of focusing on the nature of ego-involvement, beginning with the experience of my study of the l860 presidential election that led to the bloody “Civil War,” I have never seen such polarization in this society. It impacts virtually every issue, problem, and proposed solution. The air is filled with distortions, high levels of manipulation, down right false claims and threatening rumors coming from the polarized opposites and their surrogates. I frankly don’t know whether the center can hold, especially if we experience a major financial crash.

If you have kept up with what I have been writing in this column you recall that I have warned about this possibility, especially during the campaign. While each person is most certainly free to exercise individual political choices, I warned about anybody connecting the “Integral Movement’ to either candidates. If “Integral” has any meaning at all, it must include elements free from partisanship, or taking sides, since our skills and insights should be preserved and protected until the divides are full blown, requiring fresh approaches based on our unique mission to avoid being “used” by the media voices from either camp.

During all of my years working within the South African apartheid society I was very careful to connect with all elements in that power structure, even though I most certainly had points of view. On a single day in Pretoria I was called a fascist pig and communist dog. Both descriptions were probably accurate. I had been struggling against racism my entire working life, but over the 63 trips I saw beyond the contemporary divides to begin to work and propagate an “integral” view. I must tell you I was most likely the only person doing so. I learned, then what I am trying to say to you in the Integral persuasion– that you need to be careful and full of wisdom.

So, now, the question for this community is whether we have anything to offer? Is there a practical “walk” from all of our fancy” talk.? Neither “blame and be blamed” or even “live and let live” can help. Maybe “thrive and help thrive” will, as we search for the quality of collaboration that can involve a spiral-full of insights and actions.

First, it is essential that we get to the core of the belief systems, much like the DNA that lies beneath the surface level political positions and movements. Ever since I was working at Paul Robeson High School in deep South Chicago, I was keenly aware of the thought processes in the Hyde Park area where President Obama was working. I knew about Saul Alinsky and the “Rules for Radicals” as well as many of the more ‘liberal” academics from the University of Chicago.” Much of what began to be called “the Mean Green Meme” entered my thinking at the time. Both traditional Blue and even selfish-oriented Orange were the “enemies.”

Clearly, President Obama’s own world view and current political strategies are centered in that philosophy. We are not seeing the content or style of his 2004 speech at the Democratic National convention or even the elements of his 2008 campaign.  Before you deny this characterization you best open your eyes and look at the evidence. Here is a Illinois State Senator who most often voted “present” not to identify with positions in order to keep his slate clean. Here is a president who constantly alleged that “You didn’t build that,” but it was the collective who did so. To those who question the “trickle down” economic systems where resources go to the wealthy and who, in term, create jobs and enrich more,” consider there is also such a thing as “trickle down” government where the decisions go to bureaucrats and rule enforcers. (Later I will describe in full an “integrate” spiral-based trickle down, bubble up, and distributions systems that build capacities with decision making systems that enrich the whole. (My book, The Crucible: Forging South Africa’s Future, provides a model for implementing this version.)

The manner in which the Obama health program, aided by colleagues in the House and Senate, was both designed and passed, was primarily responsible for generating the Tea Party movement. This is called blow-back as the foil, counter foil move toward more radical positions reinforce each other. There is guilt enough to go around and history will not treat either kindly. I’m not certain our political leaders can “negotiate” anything of significance in this climate.

Over the years I have learned to detect the end-state, the critical dogma, that underlies a movement. With President Obama and his core advisers it is quite clear as to what drives his entire administration. The entire “transformational” effort represents a major break from the past, but lacks the sophistication of understanding the nature of Second Order change.”   In short, the current Democratic Party reflects a combination of the RED (the victims) and GREEN (the rescuers). They need each other. In contrast, the current Republican Party still holds the Blue and Orange Axis, and Mitt Romney was the ideal candidate as a standard bearer. While Abraham Lincoln was famous for this “Team of Rivals” approach, we lack, now, the capacity to enlist and include the full Spiral of beliefs in our political and economic programs.  While there will always be conflict when such “radical” change is being proposed, our current media environment with 24/7 news cycles and a myriad of partisan voices has made extremism more pronounced, and dangerous.

And the constant pre-campaign chaos within the Republican Party’s nomination process was not reassuring. New leadership needs to emerge that can produce what the Democratic Party needs for it to be to make possible healthy negotiation.

We recommended in the book The Crucible that South Africa pause to engage in 10 years of national unity to get a better understanding of the unique diversity of the South African population and life conditions. Unfortunately, it is now beginning to reap what it sowed in the initial transfer of power to the African National Congress. Desmond Tutu still grieves over the manner in which only a few leaders in the ANC benefited from their newly discovered wealth and privilege.

Second, there needs to be a significant change and shift away from the surface level pontificating into a focus on “what needs to be done” – not what any specific ideologue promotes, from either left, right, or center. It will take much longer to roll this out, but we have been working on this effort for several decades. By understanding the market place, the needs and capacities of people, their available resources and capacities, then by hanging the plumb bob over those people, in those places, one can develop an understanding of the appropriate political, economic, and education strategies and tactics. For example, in terms of “Integral Leadership, the formula how should who lead whom to do what with which people living where points at “what needs to be done.”

John and Margo (King) Steiner, along with Mark Gerzon in Boulder, are leading an effort to convene a “Transpartisan” movement, one designed to uncover the so-called “third way” initiative.  Likewise, the Evolutionary Leaders group, established by Deepak Chopra, are exploring ways to introduce a global view at the United Nations in June.

I hope this column will generate a healthy and robust discussion on these matters because, if we claim to be uniquely “Integral” thinkers, it is time we earned our reputation. Just leave your personal priorities, filters and commercial interests behind if you want to be serious. Unfortunately there are already signs that the “Integral movement” is breaking up into commercial empires which displays a strong RED and ORANGE under tow. How sad.  One should think that “Integral” elements would be able to practice their own profession.

About the Author

Dr. Don E. Beck, The Spiral Dynamics Group, is co-author of The Crucible and Spiral Dynamics. He may be contacted at the Global Center for Human Emergence
940-383-1209 (office)
940-382-4597 (fax)