Conservatives and Liberals Show Their True Colors
Welcome to the “Divided States of America.” The familiar red and blue states may be lining up on the battleground for this year’s presidential election, but according to a new study, red state voters have a decidedly blue state of mind and the blue states are really green. No—this is not an oxymoron, a mood indicator test or a plug for a new environmentalism; it is a reflection of the “value memes” of the conservative and liberal bases of America’s two major political parties.
“vMemes”1 (hereafter referred to as “memes”) are the color coded levels in the “Spiral Dynamics”® (SD) model of human development based on the research of the late Dr. Clare Graves.2 Contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber, in A Theory of Everything3 (TOE) expands the SD model in a fluid, yet hierarchical format, to codify value systems, core beliefs, social systems, worldviews and cultures that arise from the evolution of consciousness through each of eight distinct levels, arranged on two major tiers. Astrologers may correlate tier one—egocentric, ethnocentric and world-centric stages—to the psychological filters corresponding to the archetypes of the inner and social planets. “Saturnian conservative blues” and “Jupiterian liberal greens” (my terms) inhabit this landscape. The second tier represents a holistic level of integral awareness best symbolized by the models of transpersonal consciousness assigned to the outer planets.
Two current planetary transits are setting the stage for one of the most bitterly partisan and divisive presidential elections in American history. Plutonian energies (in Sagittarius), embodying the terrorist threat and the resultant climate of fear, are the primary catalyst for our overarching concern with homeland security. Saturn in Cancer, in a perfect symbiotic dance, is keeping Americans tightly focused on this critical and potentially decisive issue. Against this backdrop, two candidates with vastly different worldviews and diametrically opposed solutions, one Saturnian (blue) and the other Jupiterian (green), are vying for the support of the electorate. As Pluto further polarizes an already virulent ideological conflict, citizen soldiers in the color war are lining up behind the captains of their respective teams.
The Republican Party’s right wing (its dominant base) and the current administration’s policies strongly reflect blue meme ideology—a decidedly Saturnine worldview. Authoritarianism is blue’s chief feature and Saturn’s sojourn in Cancer has energized this group as never before. Conservative and responsible, blues are the bedrock of society, law abiding citizens with strong traditional family values. They live in highly structured groups led by all-powerful leaders—rigid paternalistic hierarchies that require conformity among members. The sacrifice of the individual for the greater good of the group is an ennobled tenet of blue meme doctrine. Emotional rather than rational, blue’s belief systems are doctrinaire and absolutist with unvarying principals of right and wrong, good and evil. Champions of the status quo, their approach to education emphasizes information retention and skill development while marginalizing critical thinking.
Also labeled the “mythic/membership order” by Wilber, blue’s religion is fundamentalist, based on authoritarian beliefs and literal interpretation of scripture. In a blue meme mindset new myths (whether spiritual, social, political, etc.) expounded by accepted authorities will be believed unquestioningly by followers. Membership in the group, assures one a place of special privilege (particularly in the eyes of God). Blues tend to disregard, distrust and disrespect all outsiders. They are fiercely ethnocentric, nationalistic and militaristic. Excessive patriotism, narrow self-interest and contempt for other countries are earmarks of their jingoistic attitudes. The communist and fascist socio-political orders of the last century (where the state replaced all other gods) exploited blue meme loyalties.
According to Wilber4, 40 percent of the American population is blue meme, accounting for its proportional influence in American politics. Zealotry and organization also play a role, but the heightened paranoia accompanying the terrorist threat and the subsequent strong national security climate have bolstered blue’s power immensely. The politicization of 911, eclipsing all other election year issues, has given blues a decisive edge.
At the recent Republican National Convention, the blue meme’s myth-making machinery was running at full tilt. The aforementioned Plutonian and Cancerian themes were embellished with scripted messages, perfectly synchronized with the daily Moon signs (see Moonstruck in Boston for a description of Moon time at the Democratic National Convention). On Monday night Piscean themes were highlighted (Moon reflections are italicized) including victimization—as 911 family members delivered an emotional and eloquent tribute to lost loved ones. Their deaths, as well as those of soldiers in Iraq, were framed as noble Sacrifices (note the capital “S”). Senator McCain exhorted delegates (and viewers at home) to be worthy of these sacrifices, declaring “right makes might” and painting Saddam as “a pillar of support for global terrorism.” Faith and prayer were integral parts of the ceremonies and the American flag was an omnipresent graphic motif.
By Tuesday, the Moon had shifted sign (Aries) and Aryan macho-man “Ahnold” chided the Democrats’ “girlie men” while lauding the successes of a nation of immigrants and entrepreneurs. The super hawks came out by the light of the Aries Moon on day three. Zell Miller’s eyes flashed angrily as he delivered his slash and burn, take no prisoners rhetoric. He made a maudlin and manipulative plea for protecting American families and enshrined American soldiers as liberators, not occupiers, before a cheering crowd. Dick Cheney reiterated the linkage theory between Iraq and 911, bashed the UN (blues hate multi-national organizations), and ridiculed John Kerry’s commander-in-chief credentials before a jeering crowd. Pundits characterized Tuesday as the night “compassion took a back seat to passion.”
Thursday was the President’s show. With a Taurus Moon, one could anticipate that he would need to devote a major portion of his speech to issues of—well, “the economy, stupid”—job creation, tax relief, etc. Bush, who has a Cancer Sun, put in his own personal plug for defending the homeland, the right of the unborn child and family values.
It mattered little to the party faithful that the day after the convention, (the day Mercury began moving forward after a three week retrograde) The New York Times challenged misleading statements made by presenters, comparing them side by side with actual facts in a full page, two-column spread. Blues don’t read the Times, they watch FOX News. An effective propaganda machine is an essential ingredient in a successful blue mythic/membership state, and America’s corporate owned media are rising to the task. The myths are taking root. A recent Pew research poll indicated that 40 percent of the electorate believes Saddam had something to do with 911.
The Sagittarian greens are a horse of a different color. America was conceived and established by a small group of forward thinking greens, the Founding Fathers. They were products of the Age of Enlightenment, who nevertheless lived at a time when democracy was a radically avant-garde idea. The USA’s natal chart and the chart of our Constitution are both Jupiter ruled. The DNC, liberal bastion of the green meme, has repeatedly invoked the vision of the Founding Fathers, particularly during the Sagittarian Moon days of their convention (Moonstruck in Boston). Greens are pluralistic, inclusive, multiculturalists and egalitarians. In contrast to blues, they value rationality over emotion. (Kerry and Bush are quintessential archetypal leaders for their respective memes, due in large part to their respective Sagittarius and Cancer Suns.) Greens operate from a world-centric paradigm, espouse civil liberties, individual rights, environmentalism and global cooperation. They are incensed by the current Saturnian restrictions of freedom imposed by the Patriot Act and view terrorism as a global issue, best addressed through a multi-pronged approach (including education) and with strong multi-national participation. According to Wilber, most of the governments of Europe are green meme, as is, of course, the UN. Should the US elect a green president, it bodes well for our re-entry into the world community. In fact, a survey conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland showed that citizens in 32 out of 35 foreign countries preferred Kerry over Bush as US President. America has just come through a Saturn square to its natal Saturn, restricting the expression of her natal Tenth House Saturn in Libra—her diplomatic mission for peace in the world. Perhaps the ingress of Jupiter into Libra this month will help restore balance—or create an opportunity for new (green) leadership at home.
Notwithstanding their enlightened perspective, greens can be elitist and intolerant. According to Ken Wilber, a major pitfall of green ideology is the naïve belief that all social problems have external solutions and that society can be transformed from the outside in, without transforming people from the inside out. This approach is responsible for the failure of ambitious programs like the Great Society, resulting in hostility towards tax and spend policies that squander capital. Greens are traditionally enemies of big business, and while reform of our capitalist system may be overdue, if greens gain power the corporate sector fears a deconstruction with potentially devastating consequences for the economy. Greens make up about 25 percent of the population. Therefore, green politicians must constantly modify their message to attract support from other quarters, often giving the appearance of indecisiveness.
A Rainbow Coalition
Blues and greens, conservatives and liberals respectively, are the two dominant and conflicting ideological forces on the American political landscape. Enemies and adversaries, each is fighting for dominance. Blues want to deconstruct the green’s democracy and greens want to deconstruct the blue’s theocracy. As neither side has a clear majority, any winner in the upcoming election must emerge through the formation of a “rainbow coalition.” If there is any good news to be had, it is that reds, oranges, and yellows, many of whom have been traditionally apathetic or apolitical are beginning to participate in the political process—many for the first time. Those elusive swing voters are members of the largely underclass and minority reds (although minorities spread across all memes), the orange self-involved, scientific materialists, and the yellow progressives. Some are swayed by the messages of one or the other of the dominant memes, and some are in the “ABB” (anybody but blue) camp. However, the polarization has catalyzed an awakening that can only bode well for the future of our democracy.
Even though the SD model is of a fluid, dynamic and evolutionary spiral, the memes often operate as closed hierarchical systems, competitive and locked into beliefs that say “my values alone are the correct values.” Each seems capable of perceiving in the others only the bad and the ugly, but not the good. Like the blind men and the elephant, each is operating on a partial truth. Memes on the lower rings of the spiral have no ability to comprehend the paradigmatic systems of those who have superceded them, and those above disdain the lower orders through which they have passed. So, while upward mobility is the natural order, in today’s complex world, conditions seem to be spiraling downward.
In truth, neither this country’s, nor the world’s problems can be resolved by any of the first tier memes. No problem can ever be solved at the level at which it was created.
The hope for resolution lies in the emergence of second tier consciousness. Spiral Dynamics researcher Dr. Don Beck has documented the emergence of two second tier memes—the yellow, integrative meme beginning in the 1950’s and a holistic, turquoise meme in the 1970s.5 According to Wilber, yellow may be ripe for a new infusion of energy. His attention is focused on that segment of society (almost exclusively “baby boomers”) identified by sociologist Paul Ray as the “Cultural Creatives.”6
These individuals, poised at the green apex of the first tier, are an astonishing 24 percent of the population (about 44 million). Wilber declares “as they move into the second half of life, this is exactly the time that a further transformation of consciousness, from green into mature second-tier awareness can most easily occur.”7
According to SD founder Graves, second tier is a “momentous leap.” It understands the crucial, if relative, importance of all previous values—including red, blue, orange and green. Second tier is inclusionary, egalitarian and integrative from a holistic perspective and has the capability of organizing first tier into a cooperative system. It engages in creative problem solving, generating long range transformative solutions that adequately address underlying issues. Second tier is a corollary to the transpersonal consciousness enshrined by the archetypes of the outer planets—the dissolution of boundaries (Neptune), progressive, out-of–the-box thinking (Uranus), and the emergence of a new paradigm of power (Pluto). Over the next eight years, Uranus and Neptune in mutual reception promise to accelerate this shift in consciousness.
Clearly, second tier is the wave of the future. However, before we see significant implementation of second tier systems, we may have to witness a further breakdown of current paradigms. In the meantime, second tier individuals and organizations are working towards creating new integrative models in all areas—business, education, healthcare, government, politics, psychology, spirituality, etc. Wilber has formed his Integral Institute8 to support this network. Pioneers of New Age thinking, these groups are working for change now, and preparing for eventual ,broader, future opportunities. Perhaps, someday the colors that now divide humanity will create a rainbow bridge, linking members of a true global community and providing a pathway to a brighter future for all inhabitants of the planet.
1. vMemes is the proper Spiral Dynamics terminology. Hereafter I will use “meme,” the version adapted from Ken Wilber.
2. The space of this article allows only a superficial examination of Spiral Dynamics®. Visit their website for more definitive information.
3. Wilber takes some liberties with the original SD model. It is his theory that the politically conservative and liberal groups in this country belong to the blue and green memes.
4. T.O.E., p.10.
5. Don Beck, The Never Ending Upward Quest, p.2
6. Paul Ray, The Cultural Creatives
7. T.O.E.. p. 31.
8. Ken Wilber Online