Before we addressed the big Washington story of of debt and default, we started this week’s call with a quick look at two very positive developments in the international arena. One is the news that on Sunday the UN inspectors in Syria began dismantling Bashar Al-Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. The second piece of good news is that on Tuesday Iran presented its opening position on the negotiations to constrain their nuclear program in exchange for lifting the sanctions on its economy, a presentation (using Powerpoint!) that the European negotiators found to be “encouraging”, and the Americans found to be “workmanlike.” As beginnings go I’ll take it.

All negotiations, particularly those between hostile countries, are replete with bluff, bluster and duplicity. But what is becoming clear is that Syria and Iran, as well as their patron state, Russia, want to be knitted into the systems of the modern world. This is a powerful motivation, the irrevocable maturation of modern consciousness, and evidence that they all realize that being outliers in our interconnected world is a losing proposition. With this, the world’s center of gravity (or at least the centers of gravity of the ruling elites) rises to an ever-more stable worldcentric altitude, and as with the emergence of all stages of development the effects are incalculable.

Debt death match

Now, on to our top story! Public opinion this week broke bad for the Republicans, who could no longer deny the split within their ranks between the traditional Republicans, who want to reel in spending and particularly Obamacare, and the Tea Party, who see government broadly as a pernicious force that needs to be brought down, even at the risk of an economic body blow. The extremists lost, as they always do in a mature democracy, and have been marginalized.

Emblematic of their marginalization was the so-called “Million Vet March,” consisting of fewer than 1000 people (according to National Park Service estimates), featuring Ted Cruz and a speech by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, encouraging President Obama to “put down the Koran” and “stop bowing to Allah.”  While this kind of language may be red meat for the right-most 20% of Americans, it is a loser for the other 80%.

The vast majority of people just want things to work. They have a natural suspicion of ideology and when dangerous ideology is revealed it is rejected. This was true in the 60’s and 70’s, when liberalism became identified with the anti-traditionalist (and often anti-modernist) counter-culture. Now we are seeing a reckless anti-establishment strain coming from the right. As a result they will have less influence over the movable, non-ideological middle and this is a good thing.

Yet the far right perseveres, as they should, as they follow the truth revealed by their own lights. The lefties are mortified that the House Republicans sang “Amazing Grace” during their Tuesday morning meeting. But instead of indignantly asking, “How could they do that?” integral practitioners are encouraged to ask that same question out of a sincere curiosity: “How could they do that? To stand there and unironically sing three complete verses of Amazing Grace as their ship was going down?” The answer, of course is that at the traditionalist stage of development (social, small-government conservative) the more defeated one is the more one is spirit-filled. We modernists and postmodernists should be so lucky. These Congresspeople were expressing their collective faith in the rightness of their cause and of their God who calls them to it. They were singing their allegiance to a bygone but better America, an America of faith and family, where everyone knew who they were and knew right from wrong. Further development will call them to lose that religion, but they can only – and ought only – do so when they’re ready.

Our job as integralists is to appreciate the gifts of the traditional stage of development, as we work to mitigate its ethnocentric limitations.  Unless we appreciate these gifts  we are left to explain traditionalists’ behavior as being crazy, deluded or co-opted, and to see them, as all first tier memes see each other, as defective versions of ourselves.  And that’s just boring.

My guest on this call is Rich Tafel, who is founder of Public Squared, an integrally informed public policy group in Washington DC. We discuss his latest article in Huffington Post, “The Only Upside to the Shutdown: Realizing We Need a New Political System.”

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