Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Becker’

I’ve thought for some time that humans might be in the process of diverging into two species. The recent increasingly ugly fight over health care policy (money versus the common good)  illustrates what I think is happening. Please bear with me as I try to explain this.

First, listen to Al Gore: “The politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has combined with the degradation of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason.”

Second, note the many pointers suggesting  we are at the brink of some kind of massive change involving both the Earth and humanity – not to mention all other affected beings on our planet. Just the kind of times at which rapid evolutionary changes occur.

Third, it seems likely that human beings inherit a set of genes that predisposes them to believe in a higher power – an evolutionary advantage that helped overcome the terrifying fear arising from the conscious awareness of our own death. This may no longer be an evolutionary advantage.

Fourth, note what Texas psychologist Clare Graves wrote in a 1974 article titled “Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap.” It describes a new theory explaining human nature as

an unfolding, emergent, oscillating spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as an individual’s existential problems change. Each successive stage, wave, or level of existence is a state through which people pass on their way to other states of being. When the human is centralized in one state of existence, he or she has a psychology which is particular to that state. His or her feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning system, belief systems, conception of mental health, ideas as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, conceptions of and preferences for management, education, economics, and political theory and practice are all appropriate to that state.

The Spiral Dynamics Model of Human DevelopmentTwo of Graves’ students (Don Beck and Chris Cowan) created an approach they named Spiral Dynamics to explain why there is so much conflict in the world:

Individual and cultural development is a process of changing world view, of changing value systems. Each person (or culture) sees the world through a window/filter that matches its stage of development. For most of their development, a person believes that the way they see the world is the way the world is, and people who’re looking through a different window are uninformed, just plain wrong, stupid, or evil. Even though one may think s/he is open-minded, until one reaches higher tiers of the spiral one habitually disregards or discounts information that is out-of-step with one’s current mind set. (To quote Don Beck: “Keep your hands on your knees. Notice when they jerk!”)

It’s a fascinating theory and offers a profoundly incisive, dynamic perspective on complex matters such as:

  • HOW people think about things (as opposed to “what” they think);
  • WHY people make decisions in different ways;
  • WHY different people respond to different motivators; and
  • WHY and HOW values arise and spread;

It seems to me that, under the immense stresses of our times, one branch of humanity is moving steadily up the spiral towards a level of global conscious awareness, and another branch is turning down the spiral towards the kind of magical, instinctive, survivalist thinking that dominated early feudal societies.

It is my opinion that (a) humanity is differentiating into two branches according to world view, and (b) the split is happening at a younger and younger age. Because we tend to self-select breeding mates from those with a similar world view, the likelihood of genetic diversion follows. That is if we don’t exterminate ourselves in the process.

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