Let's Hear it for Dead Amber Males
Back to the discussion of Ken Wilber’s Integral Politics that we started last Friday. Again, I’ll just provide my spontaneous thoughts and reflections. A character named Charles is at a press conference, outlining the theory. He says,
“Let’s begin our story by noticing that in this country, mainstream Republicans or conservatives have very strong amber/traditional values. Hence, when they say that ‘character counts,’ or that they want to ‘instill values in people,’ or that they are ‘the party of values,’ they almost always mean amber values only, traditional values, ethnocentric values: nationalism, family values, militarism, patriotism, patriarchalism, good ole Biblical injunctions and command morality. They do not mean green values, red values, teal values, turquoise values, etc.”
Here’s where things start to make no sense for me. First, the usefulness of the whole color-coding paradigm escapes me. Secondly, I know of no conservative who values nationalism, or patriotism, or militarism for their own sake. Usually it is because of an awareness that the United States is by far the greatest and most decent nation that has ever existed. In other words, to feel patriotic or nationalistic about the United States is simply based on objective reality. It’s not the same as feeling patriotic about some crappy little country like France, where shame would be the more appropriate emotion.
Wilber seems to conflate patriotism and nationalism with bad patriotism and nationalism, as if they aren’t worlds apart. Iranian nationalism: bad. Palestinian nationalism: bad. Nazi nationalism: bad. If I were a citizen of those places, assuming I wasn’t completely brainwashed, I would hardly be patriotic. Again, this would be an objective assessment of the situation. Those are bad and evil governments that do bad and evil things on purpose.
One of the reasons these color schemes hold no appeal for me is because my primary values are truth and decency. The latter follows from the former, because evil on a widespread scale is usually only possible if it is rooted in massive lies. Nazis murdered Jews because they believed lies about them, just as Islamists want to kill Americans because they believe lies about us. If people simply believe the truth and behave decently, everything else will pretty much take care of itself.
You might argue that everyone is patriotic, so that American patriotism is no different than, say, Mexican or Canadian patriotism. In other words, we have a second rate country to the north of us and a third rate country to the south, and the majority of their citizens are probably just as patriotic as Americans. But this isn’t true. Not everyone is hypnotized by bad patriotism. My father, for example, had the good sense to get the hell out of England and make his way to America just as soon as he was old enough to do so in 1948. He was not blinded by sentimental patriotism for England. He knew this was a much better place. He wanted to live in the greatest country on earth, for which I am eternally grateful.
LIkewise to say that conservatives simply value “militarism” outside a moral framework is seriously misleading. Yes, I would like America to have the most powerful military in the world, for the simple reason that I want the most moral and decent nation to be the most powerful. It’s the same reason why I want the police to be more powerful than the criminals. To suggest that I am merely “pro-violence” would be another serious distortion. I am pro moral violence and anti immoral violence, a distinction that is often lost on the left. Yes, I want to kill bad people before they murder more good people.
Wilber seems to be treating Christianity with some contempt in the remark about “good ole Biblical injunctions and command morality.” If by command morality he is referring to absolute moral standards such as “do not bear false witness,” “do not steal,” and “do not murder,” then I suppose I am for “good ole Biblical injunctions.” They seem infinitely more wise to me than the morally relativistic blather you will hear on the typical college campus.
“But that sort of traditional, conservative political movement -- grounded in mythic-membership and the amber value system -- was the dominant form of governance for most of humanity’s civilized history, East and West, from the great Axial Period (around the 6th century BCE) up to the Enlightenment in the West.”
Oh? Ronald Reagan was no different than a pre-democratic emperor or king? Here is a presumably amber -- or possibly even “red,” God forbid -- man who helped to liberate more human beings than any other ruler in history, and he is lumped together with all the butchers and monsters that preceded him, merely because he had “conservative” values? If we had fought the Soviet Union with green values, we’d all be speaking Russian now.
“This amber value structure, and the governance systems that it supported, were those of the great Republican empires and ancient nations, East and West, North and South, Rome being one of the mightiest. These were agrarian societies..., and therefore typically they had a corresponding mythic-membership culture of amber or traditional values.... At their best and healthiest, and for their time, these cultures were a thing of beauty and wonder.”
Yes, if you like tyranny, slavery, human sacrifice, widespread illiteracy, cruelty to women and children. What these “amber” values have to do with modern conservatism escapes me entirely.
Charles continues: “Beginning around the Renaissance and culminating with the Enlightenment, an entirely new level of values began to emerge -- namely, the orange, modern, worldcentric value system -- and with it, a radically new type of political philosophy was born: liberalism.”
SEMANTIC ALERT: This is also where modern illiberal leftism was born, so be aware of the tendency to conflate the two. There was the radical Enlightenment of France (bad) and the skeptical Enlightenment of Scotland and America (good), and the two were as different as can be, resulting in very different societies and value systems.
“Liberalism reflected many things at once: a move from ethnocentric to worldcentric perspectives; from monarchy/aristocracy to democracy; from slavery to equality; from a society informed by myth to one informed by science; from a role-identity to an ego-identity; from duty and honor to dignity and recognition; from ethnocentric values to universal values (especially freedom, equality, solidarity).”
If “informed by myth” Charles means “informed by Christianity,” then he is dead wrong, at least in so far as the skeptical enlightenment. It is true that the radical enlightenment attempted to throw out all tradition, reinvent man, and base all of their ideas on their narrow notion of “reason,” and we can see the terror and barbarism that resulted.
The American founders were not particularly motivated by the pursuit of equality -- much less “solidarity” or “fraternity” -- as were those of the radical enlightenment. Rather, they recognized that equality and liberty were inversely related, and came down firmly on the side of liberty. Europe went down the other road, and we can see what resulted: perhaps more equality -- since everyone has less -- and far less liberty. In the radical trinity, “equality” and “fraternity” are paramount. In the clasically liberal trinity of America “life” and “liberty” are emphasized, with very different consequences.
Here again, I believe the following statement to be deeply incorrect: “Liberalism grew up in the same flatland atmosphere, the atmosphere that recognized only exteriors, only matter, only things you can see ‘out there’ -- which is precisely why, to this day, most liberals can only comfortably think about what needs to be fixed in the exteriors (such as economics) in order to make society a better place.”
The classical liberals who founded America didn’t think this way at all. But contemporary leftists (who are not really liberal) certainly think in this limited and dysfunctional way. Remember, when that great French classical liberal, de Toqueville, visited America, he was most impressed at how deeply spontaneously religious our citizens were. I suppose Wilber would dismiss them as being primitive, mythological “amber” types, but that seems to me to be a European-leftist prejudice against true American liberalism, which has always been informed by spirit (until the 1960’s, anyway).
“To think about fixing interiors would imply that some interiors are better or worse than others, and liberals usually recoil at the implication -- thus inadvertently paralyzing any effective interior development and focusing almost exclusively on the exterior engineering of social systems.”
I can only assume Wilber is being ironic here. No one is more obsessed with remaking mankind than the typical leftist-liberal. Of course, leftists always deny they are being judgmental, but no one is more prone to nightmarish social engineering to try to remake human beings in their image. These leftist wacktivists have taken over virtually every professional organization, including my own, which is why there are so many things I am not permitted to think. Nowhere is speech less “free” than on an elite liberal college campus.
“But there is also a very positive reason for the liberal reluctance to discuss interior development, and it needs to be carefully noted, namely: the separation of church and state.”
Here again, America was different. Thankfully, there was nothing about “separation of church and state” in our constitution, much less our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which specifically declares that God is the source of our liberty and that it is the task of Government to protect and preserve that sacred liberty. Far from being at odds with it, government is here to preserve and protect religious liberty. Religious liberty is “higher” than government, as it is its source of legitimacy.
Obviously, what our constitution actually says is that “congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is just flat wrong to say that our founders wished to go beyond “ethnocentric governance to worldcentric governance based not on religious mythic values or conventional family values, but on postconventional freedoms extended to as many individuals as possible.” As if the founders were a bunch of leftist, U.N. loving, politically correct, one-world cultural relativists who thought, say, the Koran was just as good as the Bible!
“The liberal stance that says all people are equal is itself an elite value reached only by a minority of the population at most times. Liberalism is the product of several major hierarchical stages of growth that then turns around and denies the importance or even the existence of hierarchical stages of growth. Liberalism thus denies the very path that produced liberalism.
Well, not this liberal, nor, I suspect, the vast majority of my readers. We deeply want leftists to understand that there is a superior political philosophy that can only be founded upon emotional maturity, and that will always be attacked on all sides by those who are less mature. It is not classical liberals such as myself who “vigorously deny interior hierarchies and thus effectively dissolve the path to its own genesis.” Rather, it is leftists who do this. Again, they pose the greatest danger to the preservation of classical liberalism. Where they prevail -- as in Western Europe -- the situation is more or less hopeless, as per Mark Steyn’s America Alone. Leftists are more concerned with fanciful theories of global warming than in protecting the fragile conditions that preserve and promote real liberalism, including a powerful military to take on the true “red barbarians” who wish to impose their theocracy on the world. But leftists really do believe that “red” George Bush is no different -- perhaps even worse -- than “red” Osama bin Laden. This is maturity? These are the spiritual elites of our society?
Please. Give me a guy with a “good ole Bible” who knows the difference between right and wrong and knows how to shoot a rifle. God save us from the world-centric, morally post-conventional, post-patriotic green pacifists. If that’s “reality” or “evolution,” then give me myth. At least I’ll live to mythologize another day.
Remember that sniper in Saving Private Ryan, the sharp-shooting country boy who would kiss his crucifix every time he blew away a nazi? That's who I want on my team.
To be continued....