An Epoch Tale of Tragedy and Triumph
Don Edward Beck, Ph. D.
With tongue in cheek...
Let's play the "what if" game. What if the events fictionalized in the earth-blasting movie Independence Day of several summers ago actually happened? If that movie was too far a reach for you, think of something more realistic that does not involve actor Will Smith knocking out an alien. Extensive global damage from a massive asteroid hit would do it. The last time the dinosaurs had a bad day. Or consider the widespread fear and trauma if Ebola-like viruses mutated into air-borne predators, possessing the codes to negate our immune systems. What if a bioengineered microbe broke out of control, attacking our wheat fields and food sources, thus destroying the ecological chain? Chicken Little might have a point about the sky falling.
Or, who knows what Y2K will actually bring when Big Ben strikes 2000 AD. Un- detected embedded chips may bedevil us yet. Even potential terrorists may be primed to strike at the stroke of midnight. And, only last week the heads of the American and British meteorological societies declared that human acts have indeed changed global weather patterns, contributing to awful scenes of human loss.
Our heroes defeated the alien force in the mythical movie, but only after fifty major cities had been vaporized. And, none could deny any longer the existence of menacing extraterrestrial life forms. Perhaps others had the Planet Earth in their sights. Such a fear would be logical to folks who survived such a terrible experience. Even now the mysterious Area 51 military base in Nevada creates paranoid chatter from late night talk shows. Art Bell's Coast to Coast AMradio guests makes eerie claims that radiate to countless Internet forums.
The Human Tragedy
Then, what would WE do? ("We" meaning all five billion-plus earthlings and surviving leadership structures.) The movie deals with the events on a July 2, 3 and 4. Global "independence" was won on that July the 4th from the invading monsters, just as the Yankees gained ours from the invading Red Coats. (Well, I know, nothing was that simple since nobody likes to pay taxes but we needed villains. Alas, lots of good British breakfast tea was dumped in the Boston Harbor in the process!)
But now, on July 5 – "ID4+1" – with major cities in ruins, entire nations in disarray, with chaos lurking on every street corner, and the future destiny of Homo Sapiens on the line, the questions begin:
Who will survive? What organizing principle will dominate? Which hands hold the trump cards? What decision-making system will prevail? Social Democracy? Rigid Authoritarianism? Global Federalism? A Bill Gates Science/Technical Oligarchy? (One might ask these same questions in attempts to define current post Cold War dynamics. I defined such a political space in my State of the World Forum presentation entitled "In Search for Cohesion in the Age of Fragmentation: From the New World
Order to the Next Global Mesh.")
This future scenario may appear to be foolish speculation since it begins with a story full of fiction and mindless fantasy. But remember, we are playing "what if." Perhaps the raised awareness will enable us to probe more deeply into the dynamics at work in our real worlds. We may discover the forces that continue to stir the sands in the Middle East, or why Africa remains in such horrible conditions, or even what lurks in the shadows in our urban blight. Who knows. Maybe humans will succumb to our darkest natures. Red in tooth and claw may glisten everywhere. The slope is indeed slippery that descends to fear, greed and Dante's Inferno. Or, have we evolved into better natures? Is there hope for us after all?
On Independence Day Plus One -- the day after -- six powerful human value systems and worldviews compete for command and control. Each has its own cultural code, set of "what matters most" priorities, operating assumptions, organizational life-forms, and leadership models. Each is convinced it has "the answer."
Since we are now blasted back into the stone age-like conditions, our SURVIVALIST instincts turn many of us into 21st Century hunters and gatherers. If you and your children are starving, private property will not matter, nor will our modern day dietary constraints. Golden Arches will be a sign of free food just ahead. History is full of sordid examples of this "hand to mouth, anything goes" ethic, and they are not pretty. But, when pushed to shove, what's a human to do?
TRIBAL ORDERS form as individuals rally around zones of safety and security. Only the "in" people are protected; the "outs" have to fend for themselves. Boundaries harden, even between previous mates. Here we have the Hatfields vs. the McCoys, or the Crips vs. the Bloods. The various diaspora gather to protect their respective genetic and memetic seedbeds, or their cultural beliefs, languages, sacred places and rituals. As in the Balkans and large parts of Africa, only blood and soil matter. Identity and ethnicity define one's daily bread and future survival No wonder Lord of the Flies-type tribe/gangs flourish in times of great uncertainty and high stress.
A new Attila the Hun appears at the top of a feudal age EMPIRE on what was left of CNN, rattling nuclear-tipped weapons secured from scientists needing bread. Mad Max and a whole generation of road warriors race along our interstates in a new rampage of rape, pillage, and plunder. They make ancient Viking raids look like docile tourists. The law of the jungle becomes the name of everybody's game, both predator and prey. Strong-armed edicts replace any semblance of the rule of law. Power and exploitation reign supreme. Thugocracies roam freely. It becomes a dog-eats-dog time and place, virtually everywhere. If you think humans are incapable of such behaviors in the "civilized" 20th Century, think of Rwanda and Kosovo.
HOLY FORCES assert themselves with their militant ideologies and conformist commands. Millions of people gladly ride into the Valley of Death, searching for the meaning of life and guarantees after death. Ancient Holy Christian Crusades resurface in modern clothing. A malignant Jihad responds in like kind, spreading its influence over landmasses and thought waves. A former calypso singer from Chicago takes charge through his Nation of Islam and disciplined storm troopers. Rule Britannia or Pax Americana-type nationalism raise flags to defend boundaries and keep out the infidels. China finally wakes up its teeming billions with a malignant mix of Confucianism and Marxism as the Pacific Rim fractures in a gigantic War for National Liberation.
Holy wars flare on every continent, raising the specter of Armageddons-for-real, making the violence in Northern Ireland or Indonesia look like the frontier conflict between farmers and ranchers in the stage play Oklahoma. In such a dreadful scenario there are no over-arching goals or values, and no call that "territory folks should get together." Conflicts that are abstracted into struggles between "good" and "evil" are not amenable to rational dialogue. No doubt Jerusalem and most of the Middle East simply implode back into the mores of ancient Babylon, with the same dire consequences.
Powerful élites, under the control of Adam Smith's invisible hand, launch a major counter strategy. They have a great deal to lose of material value. Like old-style radio decoder rings, insiders pick up marching instructions in the voices of Rush Limbaugh and other FREE MARKETEERS. "To the successful, smarter, or more skillful belong the perks and privileges" their commercials exclaim. Science and technology will win out. The "can do" philosophy emerges to elevate levels of optimism as win:win leaders seek to replace privation with progress. New political alliances form involving tribal chiefs, enterprising war lords and self-serving authoritarian, all desiring pay-offs for their "cooperation." A whole new category of case-studies are written for Harvard MBAs to sort out and imitate. Yet, when the FREE MARKETEERS are successful, the rising tides lift a full asortment of different boats.
Finally, the voices of the EGALITARIANS are heard on behalf of the human family. The banners and bumper stickers read: Peace and Understanding, Human Rights Come First and Share and Share Alike. Jean Houston and other "New Age" gurus lead the march on the United Nations. Leaders from the Scandinavian cultures offer to help. We are all asked to join hands in a human ring around the planet, to demonstrate and symbolize our common heritage. The memory of the naïve souls who climbed on top of a building in Los Angeles to await the Great Convergence (in the movie ID4) only to be transformed into ashes, is still fresh in "the community." Yet, their appeals are heard by many, and begin to soften the hard edges of racism and prejudice while many unbridled, random acts of kindness are observable on every front. Many dear souls have not forgotten the hard lessons from counter-cultural revolts in the l960s and l970s.
Take tongue out of cheek!
THE HUMAN TRIUMPH
So, what organizing principle would actually carry the ID4+l day? Which worldview would "make it" in the time of shrinking niches within a hostile, topsy-turvy world? SURVIVALISTS,TRIBAL ORDERS, EMPIRES, HOLY FORCES, FREE MARKETEERS, and EGALITARIANS all lock into a life or death struggle. Just imagine a global Tower of Babel where all of the world's historic grudges, guilt, greed, -isms, power grabs, and zealotry reappear at the same time. Imagine going back to the future and forward to the past all at the same time. What a horrible human tragedy could await us all if we allow ourselves to descend into animalistic swamps of the past. Yet what a golden opportunity for human triumph hovers just over the sunlit uplands. Is such a triumph of the human spirit actually possible? Can we find the courage and vision to explore new horizons? Is there a Land of Oz at the end of the yellow brick road?
(If you think about it for a moment these identical worldviews clash on a daily basis in our current society. Like deep tectonic plates that rub together and collide, they create surface level explosions and forms of human turbulence. These invisible fractals define the primary conflicts between 1st and 3rd World mindsets, growth vs. quality of life goals, and even combatants from "the left" and from "the right.")
Suppose new forms of human intelligence rise out of the Phoenix-like ID4 ashes, ones that have not appeared on the planet before. Call the advocates of this new complex adaptive system the INTEGRALS. They are forged in the crucibles of conflict and despair, and tempered by the realities that human nature consists of many different alloys. They sense a new perspective on human diversities, recognizing the worth of different "bottom-lines." They are neither overwhelmed by the chaos-of-the-day, nor are they intimidated by attacks from other worldviews. Without question this new INTEGRAL human complexity and temperament is bewildering if not threatening to many. One only sees them, today, around the peripheries and perimeters of power. They are waiting in the wings to be summoned forth by the sound of the trumphet call to action.
These INTEGRALS thrive on the Power of The Third Win, a way of thinking beyond the classic win:win gamesmanship. At the top of their priority stacks is an acceptance of natural flows, a respect for the past-present-future time lines. Rather than force a single car-wash solution on everybody, everywhere, they respect the essential human strata of evolutionary development. They are tough-minded but warm-hearted. Their tool kits are full of practical solutions while their souls dream dreams and see visions. They are not better people, or happier people, or more "successful" people.
But, they are different people.
And what would they do if empowered in the wake of ID4? How could they assist the transformation of Towers of Babel into Spirals of Hope? What practical, new processes and protocols could they offer to humanity?
To start, they would form variations of Margaret Mead's "sapient circles," the gathering of the wise ones who could participate in a series of intelligent design initiatives. Mead reported that humans have done that historically whenever the complexity of problems overwhelmed the available solutions. Like now.
MeshWORKS projects would be born over night, a process that mobilizes all of the elements, stakeholders, participants, and interests in a community, company, or country. A meshwork activity involves much more than simply "coming together." It represents a new way of making complex decisions, always in search of The Third Win. While late 20th Century politicians continue their quest for "The Third Way," INTEGRAL thinkers have already discovered and mapped out these pathways. They utilize Ken Wilber's formula of all quadrants/all levels initiatives in societal upliftment. They are aware of Ichak Adizes' concept of CAPI – the coalescing of people with the authority, those with the power, and the individuals with the influence around the same table. No more fragmented, ad hoc, territorial, or piecemeal solutions to complex problems.
INTEGRALS legitimize the healthy expression of the Six dominant worldviews, recognizing each must play a significant role in global recovery and renewal. From the SURVIVALIST comes the capacity to make do with very little. TRIBAL ORDER adds strong, protective "nests" and families that offer chicken soup and supportive spirits. The African term "ubuntu" expresses this feeling better than any other language. EMPIRES contribute the strength, hubris, energy, and "damn the torpedoes," "full speed ahead" resolve to perform heroic deeds and challenge repressive warlords; HOLY FORCES supply a sense of meaning and purpose in life to rekindle hope.
This, coupled with a moral compass and a respect for good authority, would be essential. Without such a capacity Russia continues to suffer from Mafia-type gangsters. FREE MARKET, with its creative imagination and risk-taking ability, provide the uplift, the technology, the pragmatism, and the drive "to be successful" to the core value systems codes. And, the warm, human concern from EGALITARIANS will keep a focus on human needs, so no one will fall beneath the cracks of human existence, even during perilous times.
This integrative thinking protocol would nest the various worldviews like the Russian dolls, systems within systems within systems until the Human Spiral itself is balanced and functioning. This would not be a time of all sweetness and light, but of discipline, accountability, collective action to meet the basic needs of people, and individual initiatives to create and innovate. The ultimate focus would be on the continuation of life – all life – on the Planet Earth. They would enhance our AQ (adversity quotient) intelligence.
INTEGRALS, then, bring this unique capacity for intelligent design to the table. This ability to integrate and synergize human differences, resolve the great paradoxes of the age, and promote the "never ending quest" for new life forms yet unborn, are marks of a world view that could well appear during the crucibles of fear, conflict, and human tragedy. INTEGRALS are not naïve globalists, nor do they spawn any given ideology, self-interest, world order, or Flatlander view. They are realists first and foremost, and recognize that Life Conditions as well as internal human scripts (genetic and memetic) impact human choices and possibilities. These minds search for the next global mesh. Much of this thinking is expressed in Barbara Marx Hubbard's notion of "conscious evolution." And, Howard Bloom's insightful concept of evolutionary emergence describes the interactive roles of diversity generators, conformity regulators, resource distributors, and competitive tournaments in ratcheting human groupings along the evolutionary trajectory.
This explains the INTEGRALS' initial preoccupation with getting systems set right– personal, family, community, organizational and societal. Further, they recognize that each culture or human grouping consists of levels, layers, whorls, and strata of rich histories, traditions, myths, and formative experiences. This unique stratification of the human destiny must be respected, facilitated, and expressed in healthy variations. All of the interior Russian dolls (the smaller ones within the larger ones) must be robust and contribute to the emergence of new Russian dolls that, in Ken Wilber's language, can "transcend and include" them all.
So, as you think about the transition we are witnessing to a new decade, century, and millennium, pause for a moment and ask yourself what you would do following the defeat of the external alien force as in the ID4 scenario. What action would you take on the +l day? And, as you raise your toast to the end of l999 and the launch of 2000 next Friday night, at least ponder the idea that we humans have a momentous choice and challenge before us. Are we up to the task?
As the voice of Akash (Lawrence Olivier) observes in Dave Clark's rock opera Time -- "If you want to change your world, my friend, you must change your thinking."
Will 2000+1 set the tone for Human Tragedy or Triumph?
What a wonderful and yeasty time to be alive.