Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Got serious, no, obsessive, yesterday about figuring out backing up my data onto my external hard drive. For about a year now I thought I was doing just that, only to discover I'd had a false sense of security. My only "back-ups" were stored on my internal hard drive because the external drive was formatted in a system that my system could only read, and not write to. Not to mention it was taking up tons of room on my hard drive. Discovering that fact was a major piece of effort, and that was before I began to dig for the solution. 6 hours later I was feeling utterly defeated, in bad need of a geek. Then I stumbled accidentally on the solution.

I don't know whether to be glad, or exasperated.

It's amazing how time can just ooze by for me when trying to navigate my way through technology. Gary had taken the boys to the beach, and that's not really my desired way to spend the gift of alone time. But I'm trying to see it as an "investment" that makes my "sacrifice" worthwhile.

I've been thinking about my last post and feeling a little uneasy about it. I love my father, and didn't mean to trash him in public. Nor was I trying to exploit him as a relic. The conversation I reported was emblematic of many with him which leave me feeling disturbed at the underlying conflict that we stop just short of.

And it makes me wonder if it's emblematic of deeper themes than political differences. Underneath the differences lies a deeper split--about how to orient oneself in the world. From what posture do I choose live? I sense that for him the debate becomes personal--it's about more than politics, it's about a way of life.

It seems odd that a posture of deference to authority should so naturally include nationalism.

But then I look at a framework that Ken Wilbur writes about, which in turn he has borrowed from other sources , the theory of Spiral Dynamics. It is a sort of hierarchy of consciousness, and the development of humanity along that hierarchy over time. It was pioneered by Clare Graves, then refined by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan who coined the term. He calls the levels of consciousness "memes". Each level has its own internal system of perspective and social structure. Eight are identified. Level 4 is described:
"Life has meaning, direction, and purpose, with outcomes determined by an all-powerful Other or Order. This righteous Order enforces a code of conduct based on absolutist and unvarying principles of "right" and "wrong". Violating the code or rules has sever, perhaps everlasting repercussions. Following the code yields rewards for the faithful." (pg 9, 10, A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilbur)

Sounds like the meme of nationalism, and religious fundamentalism. Such a meme would be inherently authoritarian, with the goal of maintaining order. A guiding principle would be an ultimate Authority, God, and one's worth determined by how closely aligned they are with this authority. Authority would be delegated hierarchically, from God, to the church, to the leaders of the church (and/or government), to parents. (And in the old days, to man, to wife, to child).

What's interesting is that each of these memes cannot appreciate the existence of others: Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened." (pg 12)


"This is why many arguments are not really a matter of the better objective evidence, but of the subjective level of those arguing. A person who operates from one meme will never be convinced by the arguments at the disposal of a different meme.

Wilbur writes that each level, or wave is "crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral", and development's goal is humanity's "transcending and including" each preceding wave. The 'higher' order includes the lower, the way that molecules contain atoms. It takes a leap into higher order thinking though, to permit this process. He calls the squabbling among the levels as an "autoimmune disease", and until humans can move into higher order thinking we are destined to more violent struggles for supremacy.

This is a context that helps me to understand the underlying heat beneath my father's and my differences. When Bill O'Reilly champions "traditional American values" in his book Culture Warrior he is defending the meme he lives in with my father. He claims these values are under attack by "Secular Progressives". To answer to the claims and accusations of this meme I find I must enter it, and in entering it I'm stripped of my perspective and vocabulary. I'm forced to speak on their terms. I suppose this can account for the sense of helplessness I feel when I do try to engage, the feeling of gasping for air.

George W. Bush appealed directly to people's sense of loyalty to an outer authority. Somehow this authority is aligned with obedience to God and parents, and to the sense that one's own goodness depends on that loyalty and faithfulness.

This was the stuff I breathed growing up. Is there anything comparable to this in England, Canada, Australia, any other nationals reading this (because it would be interesting to go beyond nations that began as England's colonies)? I'm curious what others' bedrock core group identity is based on.

1 comment:

Douglas W said...

You might recall reading about a difference of opinion I had with my father when I was due to register for national service during the Vietnam war. I suspect there was no way that our fundamentally differing views of the world would ever find a middle ground. The discussion remained unfinished.

He was probably coming from a Scottish/English background of how to view the world rather than Australian. His own father had died in Mesopotamia (Iraq) during the first world war and he never knew him. It was one of those battles where ten thousand men marched gallantly to their deaths in mud-filled trenches all in the name of King and country. Or at least, that's how it was reported for years afterwards. To me it was an utter waste of life and effort in the name of misplaced nationalism and colonial greed.

But then, we are all usually the products of our times and once upon a time it was quite ok to take other people's homelands as our own; to exploit their people and resources; kidnap their young men and women as slaves... and then years later try to justify it all by pointing out how so much more civilized their country had become as a result.

Sure, many Africans speak English better than the English; so do the Pakistanis; and Indians - but who sat back in their white houses, being fanned in the heat, and drew arbitrary lines on maps - "this is yours... this is ours" - with the result that today African peoples are constantly at war because their traditional homelands were forcibly divided; and the Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese... the list goes on...

What was that you said about English colonies? Oh, yes... the Americans resorted to dastardly acts of unspeakable terrorism (don't tell George W) and drove the English out in 1776. So the English, wanting to maintain their prim and proper society, had to find somewhere else to send all those poor people who had been caught stealing loaves of bread because they were starving and handkerchiefs because they had caught colds living in the streets. How convenient it was that Captain James Cook had "discovered" Australia in 1770.. it was an empty land, nobody worth mentioning lived there... how about sending their excess convicts to Australia now that the American colonies were revolting.... so that's what they did. Out of sight, out of mind... sent ship after shipload of convicts to Australia... "transported for seven years", "transported for life", "exiled, never to return".

Oops... sixty years later somebody discovered gold and a flood of "free settlers" arrived. Certainly the motivation couldn't have been greed... no, just wanting to get away from Dickensian England of the Industrial Revolution.... gold for the taking, land for the taking, a land where everybody could live like a king... or so somebody said.

And then, speaking of kings... the King called the young men back to fight in the mud heaps of Europe and Turkey and Mesopotamia. And they did it happily. And a myth was born. Something about Australian bravery... and something about Australian irreverence for authority... probably because of all those convicts way back.

I'm not too sure where the values come from... the evangelical fundamentalists who must save Israel at all costs, no matter what, came a bit later, mainly from over your direction...

Did I digress a bit there? Never mind... my values probably come from a totally unreasonable reaction against most of these things.