WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, JOE DIMAGGIO? A NATION LIFTS ITS LONELY EYES TO YOU…
The USA lost the battle — to Belgium in the World Cup — but soccer won the war. America is now officially smitten. More of us watched the USA’s final match in the World Cup than watched last year’s World Series, the championship of the great, all-American sport of baseball.
Soccer integrates the red altitude impulse to fight and win, civilized by amber rules, produced by orange business and expressing a green world-cultural identity. It is helping Americans become better world citizens (and not all conservatives like it). Yet soccer presents a challenge for Americans because it is so, well, foreign. The arcane ranking system, the low scores, the theatrics (as Rachel Maddow points out, the only arena where Americans feign injury in order to manipulate the game is politics) — all these require us to take new perspectives, which of course is an engine of evolution.
The World Cup is explicitly un-American, since it has the word ‘world’ in it and we have zero chance of winning. If I wanted to spend ninety minutes watching foreigners beating us up embarrassingly, I would just leaf very slowly through our students’ international math and science test results.
— Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post
Which brings me to our lovely host country, Brazil. Or is it a dystopia, I forget. What happened to all the stories about how bad Brazil had screwed things up, about the stadiums being unfinished, the transportation system broken down, rampant criminality, the people up in arms? In the weeks leading up to the games I would’ve thought that they were going to be called off, or played in the midst of rubble. Then suddenly the story of Brazilian apocalypse shifted to…let’s play ball!
This points to a polarity that host countries have to navigate. They fight hard to win the privilege of hosting a huge event like the World Cup or the Olympics. After all, it’s a chance to get the attention and respect of the world. The downside is that in our contemporary media environment the host country’s flaws get highlighted as much – if not more so – than their achievements.
We can blame the media — as long as we remember that the media is us.
We tend to think that the media is conveying information, that it’s factual and logical. (We tend to think this about ourselves too.) But actually what reporters do best is tell stories, morality tales about good people and bad people, involved in some drama that stimulates our thinking and emotional systems. And like good storytellers of all times and places they spin the “facts” to make the story more vivid and meaningful.
For months, the story they/we have been telling of Brazil is of a country that has fundamentally entered the stage of modernity, with all its attendant goodies but without sufficient regard for their poor. Hundreds of thousands of people rose up in a series of large demonstrations, critics railed against the government, experts predicted failure.
And though the protests have dwindled since the games began (it seems that the disaffected have World Cup fever, too) the point has been made. Brazil and the rest of the world have all seen something that cannot be unseen. To see is to care, and to care is to act.
That’s why integral theory stresses the idea that the leading line of human development is the cognitive line, with cognition defined very simply: what are you able to see? In the case of Brazil are you able first of all to see the poor? Are you able to see the reasons why they’re poor that are not their fault? Are you able to see how their poverty is society’s responsibility? Your responsibility?
Can you see that their poverty is your poverty?
These are all stages of moral development, and what we’re seeing in Brazil is a dramatic, real-time process that Martin Luther King described when he said: “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”
THE STRUGGLE IN UKRAINE’S SOUL
If healthy red is sports, unhealthy red is war. Half a world away from Brazil, in the Ukraine a struggle is on between the culture and consciousness of the East and that of the West. This struggle has on occasion broken into significant violence, and it threatens to escalate once again.
We’ve been following this story so here’s a quick update: Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, has gone ahead and signed a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union. This is the treaty rejected by the former president, the Russian-leaning Viktor Yanukovych, last February, which set off the dramatic protests in Kiev’s Independence Square and led to his ouster and exile in Russia. Poroshenko is also showing a willingness to use military force against the Russian rebels who are occupying some Ukrainian towns and buildings.
My guest on this call is Oleg Linetsky, a Ukrainian philosopher and writer with whom I spoke last week via skype from his home in Ukraine. I include in the podcast a five minute excerpt from our full conversation, which will be posted in its entirety soon.
Oleg sees the struggle with Ukraine and Russia as a battle in a bigger struggle between the East and the West.
He writes about some of the differences:
In the West, especially in the US, people meet challenges in terms of science and development. In the East they meet challenges in terms of soul and inner knowledge.
If we want to achieve peace and harmony in the world, these approaches have to be integrated. And this is my personal concern as we are here on the verge of the third world war.
As you know Ukraine is involved today in an undeclared war with Russia. Europe pulls Ukraine to the West; Russia pulls it to the East. From the outside it may look like aggression of imperious and irrational Vladimir Putin against the entire civilized western world. I am convinced that his methods are medieval and treacherous, indeed. However, from his point of view, it makes certain sense.
Oleg goes on to quote Puting as saying, “The West is not merely expanding its sphere of influence in the East, but also it attempts on the Russian soul…I’m convinced there is some higher moral principle, about which they forget in the West thinking only about success and prosperity.”
THE ESCALATOR OF CULTURE
Cultural identity, particularly our identity with family, actually precedes the formation of our individual identity. Every culture holds themselves as sacred, as each is an expression of the basic goodness of its people. Basic goodness is a teaching emphasized by Chogyam Trungpa, the Tibetan Buddhist master who founded Naropa and the Shambhala lineages in the West.
There’s a basic sacredness at the center of all cultural identity. It’s that special quality of feeling at home.
Basic goodness holds that people are fundamentally wired to want to do the good and right thing. This holds the opposite pole from the Christian teaching of original sin. Of course both have a piece of the truth, but I’ve always appreciated the teaching on basic goodness because it helps balance out the reflexive Western view of sinfulness, as well as the negativity bias which is apparently built into the human brain.
Basic goodness helps us understand the deep connection we have for our tribe and clan. Every culture loves and nurtures its children. Every culture laughs and takes pleasure. Every culture creates art and ritual and celebration. Every culture connects to the ineffable, absolute reality. Barring aberrations, every child is born into a container of love and intelligence, and as we grow our roots extend even deeper into that particular soil.
But from these idyllic beginnings can grow some nasty fruit. A culture’s identity is challenged the second it meets another culture, and most of human history is the story of one people conquering another. However, as a culture moves into modernity (orange altitude) it begins to accommodate a whole new idea: pluralism, and is able to live with, work with, and create families with other cultures.
When we get to post-modern culture (green altitude) we don’t just accommodate differences, we celebrate them and defend them. This creates new set of problems, mainly around over-valuing culture as a determinant of identity.
In the last part of the call I share what I think is the move beyond a green vision of cultural identity to a more interesting and exciting integral vision. Hope you have a listen!