It’s good to be back for the 2014 Summer Series of the Daily Evolver weekly live calls! If you ever wish to join the calls in real time, you can register here. Thank you to my friends at Integral Life, the world’s leading online integral community, for hosting the calls each week.
ITEM #1: FISH STORY
I start this call with an account of my personal discovery of the interior world of our finned friends. It began with a post I wrote on the Daily Evolver blog late last week linking to new research that shows that fish can think, feel, make friends and suffer. A report of the research out of Macquarie University in Sydney Australia, stated:
Fish have very good memories, live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and can learn from one another. This helps to develop stable cultural traditions. And there is mounting evidence that they can feel pain in a manner similar to humans.
My discovery ended two days later, when I Inadvertently brightened a little corner of my own back yard.
ITEM #2: QUICK REVIEW OF MALEFICENT
Next I share some thoughts about the new movie, Maleficent, which retells the classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, and stars Angelina Jolie as the wicked godmother. Fairy tales have been told for centuries as a means of transmitting life lessons about good and evil, particularly to children. In the traditional telling of Sleeping Beauty the princess presented a role model that was beautiful and good, but essentially passive and powerless. The wicked godmother on the other hand was…well, wicked; she put a curse on the King’s newborn daughter because he had snubbed her at the christening.
In Maleficent, Angelina Jolie’s version of the wicked godmother is motivated by a far more justifiable anger. And that’s a key point. In our new, post-modern retellings of these tales, which in addition to Maleficent include Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, OZ the Great and Powerful, and even the current Disney mega hit Frozen, the protagonist isn’t just “good” and the antagonist just “evil”; they each contain some of both ends of the polarity. We see that while the evil character may do bad things, it is a result of being mistreated or misunderstood.
The new lesson is that good and evil reside in each of us. The word Maleficent is itself a mash-up of the words malevolent and magnificent. And as the narrator intones in the last line of the movie (spoiler alert) as the camera pans away from the image of a newly wiser, stronger, more mature Angelina Jolie, “And so the kingdom was brought together not by a hero or a villain, but by someone who was both hero and villain…”
ITEM #3: CAN INTEGRAL THINKING HELP US UNDERSTAND IRAQ?
I begin my comments on Iraq with a look inside the minds and hearts of the jihadis who have surprised the world with their sudden success in taking over the northeast, Sunni-dominated areas of the country.
This week we got a remarkable view into what motivates these young men, when they released a well produced twelve minute video on YouTube, in English, directed to the young Muslim men of the West. In the video a small group of fighters, later identified as having come from the UK and Australia, sit in a row in an outside setting and tell their stories. Entitled “There is No Life Without Jihad,” the video makes a passionate case for forsaking the comforts of western life to come fight for Allah. One speaker, a Brit named Abu Bara Al Hindi, says:
Oh my brothers living in the west, I know how you feel. In the heart you feel depressed. The cure for the depression is jihad. You feel that you have no honor. Oh Brothers come to jihad and feel the honor we are feeling, feel the happiness that we are feeling.
As you sit in your comfort, ask yourself if this is how you want to die. Or do you wish to be resurrected with the wounds and the sacrifices that you’ve made for Allah. Ask yourself as you sit and watch this video if this is what you have chosen while you know your brothers are out on the front line facing the bullets and the bombs and everything that the enemy has, while you were sitting in comfort, while you were sleeping, while you were going shopping, they are sleeping on the floor, they’re giving blood.
Are you willing to sacrifice the job you’ve got, the big car you’ve got, the family you have? Are you willing to sacrifice this, for the sake of Allah? Then if you sacrifice something for Allah, Allah will give you 700 times more than this. You are going to die anyway.
Coming from an integral view, we would identify these men as being developmentally at a center of gravity somewhere between the red and amber altitudes of development (Spiral Dynamics red/blue). Remember, red is the warrior altitude where the organization of the human psyche requires it to be in deep contention with other human beings. This is the stage where ego comes fully online and the subject needs to feel powerful and needs to be seen and dealt with in order to find out how strong he or she is. The amber altitude features a mythic religiosity, and calls for a devotion and subjugation to the one true God. Put them together and you have a holy warrior.
The red/amber altitude of the jihadis also features an abject brutality, where the enemy is seen as completely outside the circle of moral consideration, minions of the devil that must be eliminated. Thus we see the trail of cruelty left by ISIS: beheadings, dismemberment, and bodies hung from poles as a tool of mass communication.
The original video has been removed by YouTube, but here is a short report about it.
Yet for the warriors, the red/amber altitude is also home to a sense of intimacy and comradeship that is not available anywhere else. As war journalist Sebastian Junger writes:
The undeniable hellishness of war forces men to bond in ways that aren’t necessary — or even possible — in civilian society. Men in a platoon of combat infantry for the most part are prepared to die for each other. I think that kind of courage goes to the heart of what it means to be human, to affiliate with others in a kind of transcendent way.
The draw is apparently powerful; currently estimates are that 7,000 – 10,000 foreign jihadis are fighting in Syria and Iraq, with more flooding in every day.
The second question I address regarding Iraq is: what do we do now? What is the best response from the west, particularly America which has a responsibility to ameliorate the damage and suffering our intervention unleashed?
Of all of the thousands of words I’ve read and listen to on this issue, I think one man, Barack Obama, has put it just about right…
We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we’re there we’re keeping a lid on things and, after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conductive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.
You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory… And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.
People may disagree about the implementation of Obama’s policy, but at least he has the view right. That’s important, because the wrong view, such as the Bush/Cheney view that we can impose democracy (a modern, orange altitude innovation) on pre-modern cultures, and that “we will be greeted as liberators,” inevitably creates the wrong policy.
We end the call with a number of great questions from our listeners. Hope you enjoy it. Check back next week!