Understand Your vMemes (part 1 of 2)

It’s the key to understanding what we’re all fighting about and why…

This is going to be a two-part post for the people who aren’t too familiar with what vMeme’s are and why I keep talking about them. The term vMeme was coined by Don Beck and Chris Cohen, authors of Spiral Dynamics and based on the work of Clare Graves. The term vMeme stands for “value Meme” and defines a sort of cultural genetic code. The code defines the values of a given society and is passed from person to person through social interaction. A vMeme does not define cultural narratives (such as the belief that Allah is the One true God) but merely defines the general characteristics of the values that individuals making up a given social group hold (such as that unwavering loyalty to Islam is the highest virtue).

Wilberian integral approach0002

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Because the actual picture of the whole Spiral of the Kosmos is infinitely complex and nuanced, in order to make them easier to discuss and reference the vMemes are given a color scheme.  a vMeme is not a box that one hops into or out of. vMemes are better thought of as a spiral, or a series of waves. Each vMeme builds on the ones underneath it, and each an essential foundation for the next wave. Without Purple there can be no Red, without Red there can be no Blue, etc.

We carry with us the tools of our past vMemes to be brought to the surface when life demands it, often unconsciously. You may, for example, consciously  embrace and identify with the egalitarian and communal GREEN vMeme in your life yet, never-the-less at work must ambitiously strive for that next promotion (ORANGE vMeme Tools), all the while frustrated that you even have to run the corporate rat race, you release your frustration by playing indoor soccer with your friends after work where you absolutely fucking crush the other team  (RED vMeme Tools), although after the game you totally don’t care who won, and you all go out for beers.  This dipping back into “lower” or less complex vMemes is perfectly healthy and necessary.

In contrast a person rooted in ORANGE will not feel any frustration about the “rat-race” of the corporate world and instead will revel in it, while being completely baffled by GREEN’s “soft entitled attitude and lack of ambition.” Meanwhile, a person rooted in BLUE is loyal to the company, and cannot fathom why Mr. GREEN isn’t simply grateful to have his job.

Again, one does not just fit in one colored box or another – the truth is far more nuanced. One progresses up and, at times, regresses down the spiral in a fluid flexible fashion, often in many small incremental steps, and at times large revolutionary leaps. Each person’s journey is different. Though usually taking a steady course through childhood and young adulthood until one reaches the vMeme upon which their chosen social group is centered (be that a family group, religious group, peer group etc.). Progression from one given group to another holding a different vMeme is often difficult and fraught with risk of conflict or ostracism, which may result in ultimate rejection of the new vMeme and regression to the former one.

As one progresses through these waves, in the language of Spiral Dynamics, one might be described as BLUE/orange (centered in BLUE, but receptive to orange), or blue/ORANGE (Centered in ORANGE but still clinging to parts of blue) etc. Invariably one will always be centered closely to their chosen social group. The pressure not to stray too far beyond the group is extremely strong. A person who belongs to a BLUE social group will feel more tension with that group the further their values stray from BLUE. At BLUE/orange it might just be mildly irritating, but at blue/ORANGE it will be almost unbearable. One would have to choose to either stay silent and bear it, confront and try to change their group, or abandon their group for another that fits.

In situations where escape from the group is difficult or dangerous, you can see how the incentive to remain in line with a dominant vMeme is strong. Even in societies that are relatively free, such as the US and Europe, the pressure to remain in line with the group, or suffer potential ostracism from family, friends, community, and peer groups is very powerful. This is why, for example, the GREEN vMeme’s hold over academia, and the Humanities in particular, has enabled it to become so dominant in the nations culture.

vMemes in the First Tier (Beige to Green) are called “Subsistence” or Pre-Personal/Personal vMemes while those in the Second Tier are called “Being” or Post-Personal vMemes. The main thing that distinguishes the two is that in the First Tier each vMeme believes it holds the monopoly on truth and that all others are simple wrong, or actually evil. The further a given vMeme is from one’s current vMeme the more romantically it is viewed. GREEN for example romanticizes cultures with PURPLE and even RED vMemes reading into them a level of complexity much greater than they actually possess and projecting their own vMeme upon them. Conversely GREEN views BLUE (especially any flavor of BLUE they experienced directly) as backward and dangerous, while ORANGE is actually willfully evil and destructive.

In the Second Tier the discussion we are having here actually makes sense (which is a funny way of saying that if you are reading about this stuff for the first time and going “yeah I kinda knew all this deep down  but didn’t have the words for it” then you may be at GREEN/yellow or green/YELLOW or YELLOW and so congratulations you get a gold star!).This stuff won’t sound like hippy mumbo-jumbo psychobabble, or some Right Wing Conspiracy. The Second Tier is distinguished by the ability for the first time to understand each vMeme as they are, and to literally be able to inhabit their perspective. This is something I have referred to as an “aperspectival lense.” You can see all the layers of the vMeme onion, recognize them for what they are, and inhabit them freely. Going from GREEN to YELLOW is such a hugely transformative shift that it gives new meaning to the term “Mind-Blown.”

Once we understand vMemes, the social and political battles of the day become more clear.  We’ll look at a couple of examples using current issues.

Let’s use the example of the Muslim Refugee Crisis:

GREEN Democrats are angered by blue/ORANGE Republican “racism” toward Muslims who deserve a chance to live here as much as anyone. Not all Muslims are Extremists!

blue/ORANGE Republicans understand the danger we face from red/BLUE Islamic Extremists and are baffled as to why GREEN Democrats can’t see that letting them into the country to blow us up is not smart!

red/BLUE Islamic Extremists laugh at the stupid blue/ORANGE and GREEN infidels who will soon be destroyed and bred out of existence, ushering in a global Caliphate, Praise be to Allah!

Or even better, how about Social Justice Issues:

GREEN Democrats know that the injustices of the world stem from the White Male Patriarchy that has dominated American society since the birth of the nation. The White Male Patriarchy, represented by blue/ORANGE Republicans, has always oppressed women, encouraged a vicious “rape culture,” oppressed minorities, holding them back through systemic racism, and oppressed LGBTQ people by not recognizing their gender identities and refusing to bake them wedding cakes. Not to mention all of the atrocities past generations of White Males have visited on Native Americans, Slaves, and countless other horrors that still require redress. Because of their injustices and abuses, they need to be torn out of their places of power, and re-educated until they acknowledge their Privilege.

blue/ORANGE Republicans are mostly disgusted with GREEN’s irrational and entitled attitude. They want GREEN to shut up already, stop their whining and leave them alone. Where do they find the time to do all that protesting? Don’t they have jobs? They don’t think they are racist or sexist (although men and women are different, duh) and certainly are not responsible for the atrocities of past generations. In fact there is a not insignificant probability that a blue/ORANGE person is a minority, or LGBTQ themselves. After all roughly 20% of all minorities and 21% of the LGBTQ community identify as “Conservative” or “Republican.” blue/ORANGE Republicans view GREEN as lazy, spoiled brats who are drunk on Socialist Propaganda. They believe Socialism as a system has already been a proven failure and thus socialist programs are wasteful and actually do more harm than good to the people they are supposed to help. They are highly suspicious of GREEN’s political agenda, as GREEN has a tenancy to “bend” the truth and manufacture “facts” to back their narratives.

RED/blue Democrats believe the GREEN narrative because why else would they still be “held down” if not for White racism? They believe that the system is rigged against them. GREEN provides them, through progressive social policies, with the treasure produced by blue/ORANGE in the form of welfare. This, they feel, is only deserved recompense for the inequity suffered by their ancestors at the hands of blue/ORANGE. Those in their RED/blue group who try to shift into blue/ORANGE are criticized for “acting white.” Still, some RED/blue minorities (especially those who make it in academia) do transition through BLUE and eventually on to ORANGE and GREEN.

…So okay, all of that was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but it does highlight another reality about all vMemes, which is that they all rise, then peak, then fall.In the next post we’ll explore the Life Cycle of a vMeme. Stay Tuned.


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