How Did We Get Into This Mess?
There are times in life when we get jolted out of our normal reality by events that seem harsh and hard to understand. Many times bad things appear to be random and there is no way to really know why they happen, such as the tragic death of a young person or someone near and dear to you. Sometimes, even in tragedy people find meaning and respond by trying to do something good in the world. There are other events that serve the purpose of waking us up so we pay attention to something gone wrong, something out of balance, and in need of a course correction in our life. These are sometimes very personal struggles and sometimes they are collective experiences.
One such jolting experience was the election of Donald Trump, which has thrown many people into some level of despair and provoked soul-searching questions like why and how could this happen. Ken Wilber, the leading scholar, philosopher, and author on Integral Theory has tackled those questions in a new eBook, “Trump and a Post-Truth World”, (see link below) and offers the most comprehensive perspective I have seen. He makes a compelling argument that this event was a necessary correction for the cultural evolution of our country.
Integral theory provides an elegant framework for understanding human and cultural development and can be applied to individuals, groups, and societies. Spiral Dynamics is a related framework and these frameworks demonstrate how we have culturally evolved and how our world-views have changed over time. As we work our way through the stages of development, each stage will transcend and include the stages that go before it. On a basic level, it is similar to child development where we learn to crawl, then walk, then run. Each stage is necessary and has value, and we become capable of more complexity of perspective as we grow. In the normal course of development, we also become more compassionate, inclusive, and less inclined towards violence and destruction as we mature. However, people are not aware of this developmental hierarchy in general and so up until a certain level we tend to believe our own world-view is the superior and correct way to understand reality and those who are at a different level are inferior and wrong.
Ken Wilbur uses this developmental framework to show how those at the leading edge of evolution, at what he calls the green level, have gotten way off-track, and directly contributed to the conditions in our culture that led to the Trump election. Specifically, he calls out those on the liberal political side for losing balance in perspective and failing to include and understand the perspectives of those at different levels of the hierarchy, and instead displaying an attitude of ridicule and superiority. He explains the contradictions and hypersensitivities of those at the green level which were imposed on others in the form of excessive regulations and political correctness. His point is that this contributed to the seething anger and resentment that Trump exploited which carried him into office. He describes this result as a necessary halt in our cultural evolution, a step back to regroup and re-balance before we can move forward again. His call is for deep reflection and self-evaluation and an overall course correction. He also describes a vision for how this can happen.
This book does not deal with the questions of how we can counter the immediate threats of an autocratic administration, however it does deal with the larger questions of how we got here and how we can make the needed adjustments to get back to a more sane and compassionate direction for our country. This is a heady book and not an easy read, but if you want serious answers to why we have gone so far off course, what we need to learn from it, and how to move forward in creating a more healthy and compassionate world, then I highly recommend taking the time to digest what Ken has to teach us. You can find a copy in my digital library here.