The following is a new set of videos from Troy Wiley, an emerging voice who's weaving together materials from various sources to create thought provoking presentations like the ones below. This piece began as an introduction to the videos, but the more I sat with the material and took some notes, the more connections started to form and it's ballooned into something much more substantial (bordering on unruly!). I hope my 'companion notes' serve to flesh out some of the key ideas presented, many of which I think are important.
Troy's first video- Integral Zeitgeist- came out in November 2011 and offered some well timed critiques of mainstream integral thinking. The Occupy movement was a couple of months old and many in the extended integral community wanted to reduce/dismiss what was happening as simply an expression of postmodern (or "green") consciousness (cf. the Integral Trollz for more on this allergy), but Troy saw something different emerging, as did I (1). The decentralized networked planetary consciousness that's (also) being expressed in Occupy and the many other struggles around the world, shares many characteristics with what Spiral Dynamics Integral calls "turquoise" consciousness, or what Troy will refer to as the "neotribal worldview" (2). When I watched Integral Zeitgeist for the first time I remember repeatedly and emphatically pointing at the screen and saying "yes, yes" and "exactly"!
These new videos also have a lot of riches to offer. I find what Troy presents in Act 3 stretches the capabilities of my current socio-economic imagination; I'm not sure my brain fully knows how to make that move yet. But I'm a big fan of the exchange of ideas in general, and I think the broad scope of what Troy presents in these videos is fertile ground for that, so I'm glad to add them to the mix here at Beams.
So to begin, here's the first of three videos that make up Neotribal Zeitgeist. The second two may be long but I think they're well worth the time. Enjoy.
Act 1- The Converging Crisis Birthing Transition - The Battle between Open and Closed Paradigms
The Supreme Ordeal
Troy refers to the convergence of crises we're going through as the The Supreme Ordeal. There are a few other notable figures who've talked about this same process but in slightly different terms.
The philosopher Edgar Morin writes about the "Damoclean threat" that hangs over the head of humanity (due to techno-industrial development and environmental degradation), and the need to move to a recognition of our Homeland Earth. Morin writes- "We must transcend, without excluding, our local cultural identities, and awaken to our being as citizens of the Earth".
Author Darrin Drda's new book The Four Global Truths is subtitled "Awakening to the Peril and Promise of Our Times", the peril being brought on by global ecological crisis, and the promise being that we have the capacity to consciously create a different future (what he calls "a great evolutionary adventure"). He sees the supreme ordeal as a process of initiation by fire through which we're being challenged to re-integrate with the whole Earth community.
Martin Heidegger wrote an essay called 'The Turning', where he sees humanity awakening from planetary technicity and our profound separation from the Earth that makes us view the natural world as simply stuff out there for us to use as we wish. In that essay he repeatedly quotes an intriguing yet enigmatic couple of lines from the German poet Holderlin- "But where the danger is, grows the saving power also". (What could Heidegger mean? What saving power?)
And lastly, there's a series of people talking about energy decline and the end of growth, and you can even take a Crash Course on how to respond to the coming transition. Some in this field are also outlining what they see as the way forward through this ordeal.
Open and Closed Civilizations
One of the core themes in the first and second videos involves the distinction between "closed" and "open" systems. Capitalism is fundamentally what Troy calls a closed system. As Sasha Lilley writes in the introduction to Captial and Its Discontents, "Commodification and enclosure are at the center of capitalism and are magnified in its neoliberal form...While enclosure has been a hallmark of capitalism since its inception, the process of privatizing the commons has been accelerated under neoliberalism…Neoliberalism has also meant the continued and accelerated commodification and plunder of nature" (p.7-9).
The processes of enclosure and commodification have indeed accelerated, as witnessed in the privatization of water, the global acquisition by agribusiness of agricultural land from farmers, the growth of intellectual property rights and much else besides. For a powerful look at the human costs of privatization, see the recent documentary Catastroika.
This process might be speeding up, but the basic act of enclosure itself is what helped achieve the transition into a capitalist market economy in the first place. Here's how James Bernard Quilligan describes this history in his paper People Sharing Resources- Toward a New Multilateralism of the Global Commons:
The history of the privatization of capital and natural resources is well known. Beginning in the 12th century in northern Europe, and intensifying during the 16th century, the emerging free market laid claim to what seemed to be an endless supply of natural resources existing in empty and limitless space. Enterprising merchants, bankers and politicians enclosed these ‘vacant’ areas and turned them into legally titled property. Over the past several centuries, similar enclosure movements have spread across the world, subjugating and extracting resources which were previously un-ownable, fully accessible and often governed by local custom. Under the system of property rights and sovereign boundaries that has evolved, resource managers (public sector) and producers and providers (private sector) are kept distinctly separate from resource users (commoners).
These social divisions produce and reproduce the modern institutional norms of economic management and the creation of market value through profit and interest, which are said to be the basis of dynamic social progress and economic growth. But through this process of wealth creation, poor and native peoples have been evicted from their villages and lands and displaced from their means of subsistence, while customary rights and traditions over resources are criminalized.
The history of enclosures is a legacy of struggle and violence over rightful claims to property, which continues today.
The internet is currently a site of intense struggle when it comes to the debate surrounding open vs. closed culture. I wrote a post with some resources around this called Piracy is the New Radio- A Mashup About Mashups. The Harvard professor of law Lawrence Lessig has been a central figure fighting for what he calls "free culture", and his TED talk called 'On Laws that Choke Creativity' is a good entry point into the subject. The podcast called Second Enclosure Movement- Trademarks, Copyright and Patents is also a good introductory resource.
Others like Michel Bauwens are talking about "open-source civilization", and Bauwens' P2P Foundation is a leader in that growing movement. Another important figure in the conversation on the commons is the economist Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel prize in economics for her work on the economic governance of the commons. Here's a link to a video of her giving a lecture called 'Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons', and here's a review of her book Governing the Commons-The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. The mounting (global) struggle surrounding the commons heralds a general shift out of our current 'closed' civilization.
Act 2- The Age of Separation - The Old Story
Neotribalism is Not A Regression
I recently saw an integrally minded person post Troy's Neotribal Zeitgeist videos on Facebook with this caption- "Now watch as I reduce the turquoise box to a purple one"; or translation, watch how a supposedly emergent phenomenon (neotribalism at a higher octave in Troy's view) is really just plain old tribalism of an ancient sort, nothing new or useful about it, in fact it's just more regression.
Now, maybe that's not what this person had in mind, but if they did I strongly disagree with this view. We need to step back for a moment and engage in some meta-integral analysis here. There was a strong current in the postmodern world of people wanting to go back to a time before modernity and the sick industrial civilization we found ourselves in. A lot of this was genuinely regressive, and I saw quite a bit of this during my years at university. And there was a strong counter-current of polemic in Ken Wilber's work towards this regression, with him using phrases like "the regress express" and the "way back machine" to describe all this. Here's Wilber from SES p.611:
And that regression infects not just social movements, it is becoming rampant in many types of "new paradigms", from tribal "eco-wisdom" to magical and mythical New Age imperialisms, to biocentric and ecocentric immersion in precisely the sphere that cannot itself take universal perspectivism. All of these, of course, are sincerely offered as "global" salvation, but most of them are simply splinters of a widespread, regressive retribalization.
There's no doubt that Wilber had a partial truth here, and his polemic was in many ways important for countering the many genuinely regressive elements of the New Age and the postmodern world. But it occurs to me that this extreme emphasis on regression has possibly hindered integral from actually being integral, by which I mean, this phobia towards regression of any kind has not allowed a space for the INCLUDE portion of the "transcend and include" equation to actually take place. It's created what Wilber called Phobos, or fear of the lower, and as he points out in SES, "Phobos is the source of repression and dissociation" (p.350). Precisely.
Let's stop for a moment to really think about one of the key fundamental realizations of an integral view- that past stages of humanity did not go anywhere but are still enfolded and latent within the human psyche. Nietzsche made several points in this direction, but it was really the depth psychologists who discovered this past within us. Here's how the philosopher Charles Hartshorne summed up this paradigm shifting discovery:
Freud’s truly great discovery is that the earliest manifestations of the cognitive-spiritual side of man become from then on part of the vague but potent background of all the later ones. What this amounts to is that the emotional-sensory past of man is the main material to which his later life gives ever new form. Past experience is the very substance of the present self- not some “matter” or stuff which in the past received form and now receives another one instead; no, just the past experiences themselves with their own very forms. Freud shares with Bergson the honor of discovering the great secret of process itself, which is memory in its primary sense of the direct possession of past events by present ones. (3)
According to the philosopher John David Ebert, Jean Gebser thought that Freud and Jung had discovered our mythic past within. I think it's worth pausing and listening to this short clip of Ebert talking about Gebser's view of the integral structure, as it has a lot to say about what we're talking about here (for the full series of videos, click here):
So to repeat a couple of key points that Ebert makes. All former structures of consciousness are latent within us, "they don't just disappear when a new structure comes along. The new structures come along and take the field, but the old structures become latent, and they can be activated in each one of us at any time; and part of the integral consciousness structure that came about from about 1870 on is the need to realize this, to realize and render transparent within oneself which consciousness structures are there and when and how they're active and when they're not and when they're to be used". Ebert's last statement summarizes this again- "Each [structure] is accessible to us today, especially now that we're moving into the integral, where we can become for the first time aware of these different consciousness structures and what their uses are as tools, and also what their limitations are". In other words, transcend AND INCLUDE.
[It's important to point out that Ebert mentions recognizing the limitations of the structures too. This negation is inherent in the signifier "transcend", although maybe not explicitly enough. This is why I in many ways prefer Hegel's term for the same process, aufheben, which means to "negate and preserve", or to "simultaneously annul, preserve and raise up to a higher level". I'm arguing that Wilberian Integral and the community that's followed the dictates of this theory has been very good at transcending or negating, but very weak in the including or preservation.]
Individual talents and perspectives don’t have to shrivel within a retribalized society; they merely interact within a group consciousness that has the potential for releasing far more creativity than the old atomized culture. Literate man is alienated, impoverished man; retribalized man can lead a far richer and more fulfilling life — not the life of a mindless drone but of the participant in a seamless web of interdependence and harmony. The implosion of electric technology is transmogrifying literate, fragmented man into a complex and depth-structured human being with a deep emotional awareness of his complete interdependence with all of humanity. The old “individualistic” print society was one where the individual was “free” only to be alienated and dissociated, a rootless outsider bereft of tribal dreams; our new electronic environment compels commitment and participation, and fulfills man’s psychic and social needs at profound levels.
And in a recent article entitled The Next Buddha Will Be a Collective, the aforementioned Michel Bauwens writes:
There is overwhelming evidence that the evolution of consciousness is marching on, moving from collective living, where the individual was totally embedded in the life patterns of the collective; through a gradual, often painful, process of individuation, with the emphasis on the will and sovereignty of the individual; to what is emerging in our time: a conscious return to collectivism where individuated, or self-actualised, individuals voluntarily - and temporarily - pool their consciousness in a search for the elusive collective intelligence which can help us to overcome the stupendous challenges now facing us as a species as a consequence of how our developmental trajectory has manifested on the physical plane thus far...As we enter this new stage of individual/collective awakening, individuals are being increasingly called to practice the new life-form composed of groups of individuated individuals merging their collective intelligence.
Rather then a regression then, I think it would be more accurate to see this emergence of 'neotribalism' as a reactivation or retrieval of our past, a past that remains latent within and is now returning powerfully to the surface in new forms.
Retrieving Our Cooperative Past
One of the most important parts of our inherited past that we can re-embrace (or reactivate) is our long history of inter-personal cooperation as a species. There's been a steady stream of books recently emphasizing this dimension in human beings in particular, and in nature more generally. The economist Samuel Bowles has recently written a book with the behavioral scientist Herbert Gintis, called A Cooperative Species- Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution. In a review of the book, UC Davis professor of biology Peter Richerson writes:
Humans are capable of remarkable feats of cooperation. Warfare is an extreme example: when under attack, hundreds or even millions of people might join forces to provide a mutual defence. In A Cooperative Species, economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis update their ideas on the evolutionary origins of altruism. Containing new data and analysis, their book is a sustained and detailed argument for how genes and culture have together shaped our ability to cooperate.
The Harvard professor of biology and mathematics Martin Nowak has also co-penned a book on cooperation, entitled SuperCooperators- Altruism, Evolution and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed. In it he writes:
The two pillars of evolution are mutation and natural selection: mutation generates diversity, and natural selection chooses the winner. What I want to argue in this book is that, in order to get complexity, there is a third principle, co-operation. It's not just a small phenomenon, it is something that is really needed to explain the world as we see it.
You can watch a video of Nowak and his colleagues giving a half hour presentation of the book's contents here. The evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has also played a central role in this renewed interest in cooperation and the collective dimension of evolution, writing a book with the philosopher Elliot Sober called Unto Others- The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior. According to a NY Times article entitled 'Thirst for Fairness May Have Helped Us Survive':
David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary theorist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, sees the onset of humanity’s cooperative, fair-and-square spirit as one of the major transitions in the history of life on earth, moments when individual organisms or selection units band together and stake their future fitness on each other. A larger bacterial cell engulfs a smaller bacterial cell to form the first complex eukaryotic cell. Single cells merge into multicellular organisms of specialized parts. Ants and bees become hive-minded superorganisms and push all other insects aside.
[It's worth noting that there's also some resistance within the scientific establishment towards this growing body of work. For instance, there's been a recent rather fierce debate between Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson on related issues, and you can read David Sloan Wilson's response to Dawkins here].
So that's just a small sample of the burgeoning body of research showing the importance of cooperation in the natural world, and in the successful evolution of human beings. We spent two hundred thousand years of our pre-history in egalitarian hunter-gather bands, and many more thousands cooperating within Neolithic societies and 'barbarian' tribes (4). And if we add to this knowledge the key integral insight discussed above- that our past doesn't go anywhere, and can be brought to the surface at anytime- then this has far reaching ramifications for the type of vision that Troy puts forth in his videos. We've been so socialized in the post/modern world to believe that we're all just self-interested individuals out to maximize our own personal interests, with our whole culture promoting this narcissistic infantilization at every turn, that we can truly develop amnesia about this long cooperative past that (thankfully) still lives within us.
I've experienced this cooperation in several contexts, such as on sports teams, and have felt its power. I spent many summers in various remote work camps (fishing lodges, tree planting, oil rigs, diamond exploration), and I've seen how quickly a big group of people can come together, under very trying circumstances, and work fluidly as a unit to build a camp or empty a barge or some other such activity demanding all hands on deck. I've also felt how good that feels, how someone who you had nothing in common with and no connection to suddenly feels like a blood brother or sister, with an underlying bond being palpable. I felt the same thing in the first days of the Occupy movement here in Vancouver, and again during the 'casseroles night in Canada' (as I wrote about after).
I'm reminded of the old George Carlin joke, "The only time Americans come together is during floods". This ancient tap of cooperation can get suddenly turned on under the right circumstances. Tineke de Boer relays such an experience in her Beams article Living Under Water, where she recounts living through her first flood in her Dutch homeland. "My alarmed neighbours hurried outside in their nightgowns (I live in a medieval 'hofje' with 15 other women), carrying buckets, towels, sandbags. (Sandbags? Yes, we realized we keep sandbags in the bicycle shed). We didn't need to say much, there was an immediate camaraderie and a natural working together to get the water out and the pump fixed. It felt very... natural".
This is, as Andrew wrote in a prescient early article on Beams, our shared inheritance. Reactivating this latent capacity en masse will go a long way to ushering in what Troy calls "the age of reunion" (5).
Act 3- The New Story- The Age of Reunion
Chris Hedges- Welcome to the Asylum (April 2012)
"And as we race toward the collapse of the planet’s ecosystems we must restore this older vision of life if we are to survive…
Marx, though he placed a naive faith in the power of the state to create his workers’ utopia and discounted important social and cultural forces outside of economics, was acutely aware that something essential to human dignity and independence had been lost with the destruction of pre-modern societies…
Rebuilding this older vision of community, one based on cooperation rather than exploitation, will be as important to our survival as changing our patterns of consumption, growing food locally and ending our dependence on fossil fuels".
(1) The filmmaker Velcrow Ripper has had some interesting and insightful things to say on this point, one of which was in this excellent interview between he and Vanessa Fisher. The other was in a Facebook thread surrounding that interview, and Velcrow has given me permission to reproduce that here:
"It is curious how Occupy and related movements have not been embraced, not just by the integral world but by many activists as well. It was actually a big risk for me to go with the name Occupy Love [for his new documentary], a change from the earlier Evolve Love - which is definitely more appealing to those in the integral world as a title, and yet when Occupy sprung into the world I discovered first hand that it embodied so much of what I was already exploring in my work. However my relationship to Occupy is very similar to my relationship to religion or any specific system - these are great containers and can help memes and wisdom crystallize but they are just fingers pointing to the moon - anyone anytime anywhere in any context has direct access to the moon - to emergent love. The containers can be useful but can also easily become fossilized - love is a verb. There is also something incredibly beautiful that happens in these movements at key moments that is never quite the same later on - anyone who was in Tahrir Square during those first weeks of the revolution will talk about the magic that took place in that temporary autonomous zone that was a heightened form of collective love. It's always there but these events become great focalizers. But it is also messy and doesn't fit into neat boxes. These are all revolutions in progress. Evolutions in progress. To some of the people in the integral world it might be simplified and lumped as basic activism from the outside, and the experiments in collective consciousness might not be as evident - they certainly aren't shown in the mainstream media".
for more on Velcrow's upcoming film Occupy Love, go to http://occupylove.org/
Holistic conception of multiple realities; reliance on holistic consciousness; community beyond nationalities or partisanship; ecological interdependency and interconnections; multidimensional chunks of insight; self is seen as part of a larger, conscious whole; global networking seen as routine; blending, harmonizing, strong collective.
Conditions/problem = knows the earth needs a coordinated approach to new global problems.
Management systems = holistic blend of insights from anywhere, anytime coming together for purposes impacting Global Village and all life forms.
(3) Ed. Charles Hartshorne, William L. Reese. Philosophers Speak of God. p.376.
(4) “Bands lack many institutions that we take for granted in our own societies. They have no permanent single base of residence. The band’s land is used jointly by the whole group, instead of being patronized among subgroups or individuals. There is no regular economic specialization, except by age and sex: all able bodied individuals forage for food. There are no formal institutions, such as laws, police, treaties, to resolve conflicts within and between bands. Band organization is often described as “egalitarian”: there is no formalized social stratification into upper and lower classes, no formalized hereditary leadership, and nor formalized monopolies of information and decision making. However, the term “egalitarian” should not be taken to mean that all band members are equal in prestige and contribute equally to decisions. Rather, the term merely means that any band “leadership” is informal and acquired through qualities such as personality, strength, intelligence and fighting skills”. Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs and Steel. p.268-269.
Also: cf. Cynthia Stokes Brown. Big History- From the Big Bang to the Present. Ch. 3.
(5) “However, in the 18th, 19th, 20th centuries, we begin to see something (re)emerge in Western Europe. We begin to see real democratic revolutions going back even to the English Civil Wars where they actually killed the king!!
What’s changed? Why did the dark night begin to give way to those first muted rays of dawn?
Well, Mr Dyer argues that it’s not that Anglo-Saxon culture is either leading the way or special in any particular way, but rather that their technology let them have the first go at re-engaging our egalitarian heritage. These societies were still big, but they were acquiring technologies that allowed them to begin to have wider societal discussions about their collective futures, their shared values and their goals. The conversations that used to take place around the campfire, that had gone silent for millennia began to take place again but this time in newspapers and books”.