Why the Green Meme is in Crisis

OK so enough about the basics of Integral. There is enough information out there that I will assume from now on that if you are still interested and reading this you have an understanding of the basic principles, and if you think this is all just windbaggery, then you’ll be skipping this post anyway…

The Green Meme has been dominant during my lifetime, but I believe it is at a point of crisis and (hopefully in the near future) transcendence. In my case because I experienced Green in such an Agentic way (KW elaborated on this here), I often had a lot of confusion about where “Orange” ended and “Green” began, and I also had (and still sometimes have) trouble relating to the more common Communal expression of Green. But Green is primarily characterized by a shift away from objectivism toward relativism and pluralism, and thus lays the foundation for the holistic Integral worldview.

My own country’s political transition from Orange to Green starting from the turn of the 20th century and really flowering in the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s (Great Society, Civil Rights, Environmentalism) was a very long process involving a lot of social turmoil. The Green Meme took hold of the existing Orange Corporate State apparatus and transformed it into a Social Democracy and began to institute all manner of redress-by-fiat of inequitable circumstances in society and around the world. From LBJ to Obama, whether the president has been Republican or Democrat, and regardless of his individual developement, the Green Meme has been the force of Political Correctness and Progressiveness in America. Dr. Don Beck describes the process well here.

At its peak, GREEN is communitarian, egalitarian, and consensual. Without ORANGE we wouldn’t have GREEN, because in ORANGE the inner being was bypassed and ignored. Our science left us numb, without heart and soul, and with only the outer manifestations of success. The “good life” was measured only in materialistic terms. We discover that we have become alienated from ourselves, as well as from others. So GREEN, this fairly recent memetic code, began emerging about 150 years ago, out of the Ages of Industry, Technology, Affluence, and Enlightenment, to declare that in all of these undertakings, the basic human being has been neglected. The focus shifts from personal achievement to group- and community-oriented goals and objectives—for GREEN, we are all one human family.

GREEN begins by making peace with ourselves and then expands to looking at the dissonance and conflicts in society and wanting to make peace there, too, addressing the economic gaps and inequities created by ORANGE, and also by BLUE and by RED, to bring peace and brotherhood so we can all share equally. Gender roles are derigidified, glass ceilings opened, affirmative action plans are implemented, and social class distinctions blurred. Spirituality returns as a nondenominational, nonsectarian “unity.”

Green is born out of the materialistic flatland of Orange. It is the rejection of Orange’s reduction of the Kosmos to It and It’s (the right hand side of AQAL) that really starts green searching for something deeper. But in order for the Green Meme to exist in the first place we (as a society) must have the foundation of Orange, and must have experienced all of the material benefits of that stage in the spiral. This is why it is said that (materially) Orange produces, and Green Consumes.

It uses the resources that ORANGE has built, but because it dislikes ORANGE, it backs away from growth. Growth and consumption are bad. It wants to use resources already available and redistribute them so everybody can catch up. GREEN is a wonderful system, but ironically, it assumes that everyone enjoys the same level of affluence that it has.

In the final stages of the Green Meme the situation becomes untenable. It becomes impossible for society to support the burden of Green’s benevolence. Not only that but the social and economic systems put in place by Blue and Orange are enthusiastically weakened and dismantled by Green, until they can no longer deal with Red (which is Blue’s primary function). Red is then left off the hook so to speak. Egoistic Red sees the Green Meme as their entitlement and enthusiastically absorbs all it has to offer, taxing its services, filling its rehabilitation centers and prisons. As Dr. Beck says:

It destroys ORANGE economic structures. And it also destroys BLUE authoritarian systems, which are necessary to control RED, as we can see all too clearly in the example of Zimbabwe today. It therefore becomes counterproductive. It makes things worse. It relieves RED of the responsibility to learn discipline and purpose in BLUE-ORANGE, because it loves the indigenous people but tends to read into them greater complexity, as it sees them as “noble savages.” And in destroying the authoritarian, purifying systems in BLUE and ORANGE, there’s the flooding of the RED undisciplined, egocentric, impulsive behavior into the GREEN zone, both in one’s self and in societies.And it is this unhealthy meshing of RED and GREEN, in which strong egocentric narcissism combines with pontifications about humanity and equality, that becomes the breeding ground for what Ken Wilber and I call the “Mean Green Meme,” or “boomeritis,” so called because the boomer generation was the first to enter the GREEN meme en masse.

We see today that “the mean green meme” is a dominant force in politics. And we also see the result, which has been in the making for decades. Trillions of dollars of debt, massive unemployment, mountains of regulations and licensing making entrepreneurship nearly impossible, economic bubbles built on Green Meme economics.

Now, Ted commented on an earlier post that it seemed that after 911, America was slipping back toward Blue. It is of course true that there are large segments of the population in Orange, Blue and Red stages. In American Politics it tends to be the case that Orange and Blue identify with the Republican party while Green and Red identify with the Democratic Party. Academics, the Media, and Politics in a general sense are dominated by the Green Meme, but in 2001 we had a Whitehouse that was pretty solidly Blue. The US response to the attacks (Red) of 911 was thus predictably Blue. As Ken Wilbur put it:

Bush’s “axis of evil” is, of course, a blue meme statement. As such, it infuriates green. But there is another sort of “good news, bad news” about bush’s approach. On the one hand, Blue always has a much better understanding of Red and of how to handle Red. Blue is right next to Red, has just come out of Red, and understands the drastic measures that are required to handle Red war lords and brutal terrorists. Green is generally helpless and hapless in the face of Red: All of Green’s tools and values are clueless in the face of joyous brutality and intentional aggression. Talking, sharing, caring, and dialoging do not impress Red. It takes a blue meme to smash Red in the face and not blink.

Under the full support of Red (swept up with the desire for immediate and violent revenge), Blue and Orange segments of American society, the US began to institute the very worst that the Blue meme’s authoritarian worldview could come up with. For the most part the Green meme’s response was horror, and they struggled to regain control of the reigns of government. To do so though, they had to bring Red back to their side again. This meant focusing on issues of material inequality: A poor economy (drained by war and debt), promises of handouts (healthcare, and a solution to the mortgage mess). The strategy worked and Obama was elected in 2008.

But Obama has not undone the patriot act, or stopped the wars, or demilitarized the police. He has left those tools in place, and instead is doing what Green does worst. He’s trying to solve social ills with attempts to alleviate material inequity. The result is that the country is going bankrupt and social collapse may soon be inevitable.

Now I am not trying to beat up Green. EVERY level goes through this process of emergence, (healthy) transcendence, dominance, (unhealthy) pathology, and eventually subsumption (by the next level). This is a natural and necessary process. It is usually with the third (dominance) stage that you begin to see the next level emerge into the social discourse, and by the time the dominant meme is becoming clearly unstable, the next meme is in transcendence.

This is the current situation; with the (unhealthy) “mean green meme” on its way to being subsumed by the transcendence of Integral. The question remains, what might that look like from the standpoint of social organization and politics?

I am getting there, really I am.

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4 Responses to Why the Green Meme is in Crisis

  1. Michael Schultz says:

    I very much dig this analysis. It was very helpful in my own path.



  2. Jason Gosnell says:

    Are you still doing this integral work…?


  3. Jason Gosnell says:

    We are currently seeing this in he USA…


  4. brodoland says:

    Hi Jason. I have not been very active in the last few years, but I am working on some writing on integral politics and economics. Particularly because things are beginning to get interesting and frightening, and also maybe even hopeful. In any case, It seems we are simultaneously cursed and blessed to live in interesting times…


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