First a quick nod of thanks to R.E.M. for the song that’s been playing in my head for nearly a month. Where would we be without our daily life soundtrack….
A few days ago, I posted a short piece to FaceBook that I later added here as a blog entry, talking about how I’ve finally managed to get past the election of Donald Trump, and get on with my life. In that post, I said I’d had 2 “ah-ha” moments and I explained what I’d learned, then ended by saying there really was a 3rd big AH-HA — but it would take too long to explain in a FB status update. After all the comments, Likes, private messages, phone calls etc from my friends & FBcontacts, I now realize that just about everybody I know — including even those who don’t live in the US or have US citizenship — has been experiencing the same kind of PTSD reaction to this year’s election, and that maybe I should have taken the time and explained all three Ah-Ha’s. Here we are, nearly five weeks after the fact, and people are still either in denial — still expecting some deus ex machina intervention or catastrophe to prevent the coming inauguration — or so deep into depression that they are considering a visit to their doctor to talk about SSRIs. Or Valium. or Xanax. or medical marijuana. or how to self-administer a lethal injection.
Not those who voted for the Don, I suppose. But I don’t actually know anybody who voted for him. Or who will admit to it, anyway.
The worst reactions are coming from those who have either been in abusive relationships and escaped — or those who have lived and/or worked closely with a narcissist. (Not a slightly self-absorbed average person — a real, live, clinically pathological narcissist.) For those people, the post-election season is a little like waking up in one of their own nightmare memories. The evening news is like watching old home movies — playing out on a global scale. People who have survived a marriage to a narcissist or a business relationship with a narcissist know what’s coming. It’s the Big Reveal. Or the Big Run-And-Hide. Enemies lists, revenge, retribution, long-game-I’ll-show-you, spiteful jabs, reputation destroying, enemies-closer, cyber-stalking, power-plays, victory laps, pep rallies, loyalty rewards cards, military parades, membership in Biggest Winner Fan Club, mass hysteria, dogs and cats living together….
And they’re right, of course. All of that is more than possible. It’s probable. Likely. Coming to a theater near you. And a market near you. And a street near you. Everybody needs to have their exit strategy laid out. Keep the tank full at all times. Have at least 3-4 weeks of food and water on hand. Keep blankets and water and an emergency care kit by the door.
This is not a test.
But here’s the other thing that’s just as true:
The model still holds.
I am not going to explain the model in this post. That would be like explaining particle physics in 20 words or less. (lol) It would be a 50 page (conservatively) snooze-a-thon for most folks. There is a full explanation of the Graves Model here in my blog (start here, if you want the full monty) – but the essentials are these:
- There is a developmental pattern shared by all of us.
- The same pattern of human development is shared by groups — families, societies, species. From individuals to villages, companies to governments, to the global village — each of us, and each of the cultural groups we belong to, all follow the same pattern of evolution.
- The level of the model an individual operates at is demonstrated by their motivations, beliefs, and behaviors.
- When the “tipping point” of any level is reached, the person or society that has reached that tipping point moves on to the next level. (much like a simple game, where the tiny explorer fights all the creatures and solves all the puzzles on one level, then discovers the doorway into the next level and so moves on.)
- The levels alternate between inward focus and outward focus. That is, Level 1 is all about my own personal survival. Once that survival is secured, we look around and say “Is that it? Is that all there is to life?” And of course, the answer is always, NO. There is more to life that just my own survival — but I can’t see that until I’m good enough at surviving to look around my own little 2-square-feet of real estate. And Level 2 is born — the family group or tribe is born. Level 1 is inward — just me. Level 2 is outward and inclusive — US. WE. We survive and we do it better together. We take care of our own. We share the load. We help each other.
- Each progressive step upward reaches its threshold asking a question. Odd numbered levels ask, “Is that all there is?” before moving up to an even-numbered level. Even numbers ask, “but what’s in this for me?” and then move up to the next odd-numbered level to do inward/individual focus again.
- Each progressive level is broader and/or more complex than the previous level.
- The group — the US — of each progressive even number is bigger than the last. Level 2 is about protecting and building family and tribe. Level 4 is about protecting and building social order — church, state, laws, written morals etc. Level 6 is about protecting and building for all humans and other diverse groups, acting together and for one-another.
- The individual — the ME — of each progressive odd number exhibits a wider range of power, control, and participation in self advancement than simple survival. Level 3 is about competition, conquest, and winning on the battlefields of sport, war, and pre-capitalist economics. Level 5 is about competition, conquest and winning on the bigger playing fields of capitalist economics, science, and technology. Level 7 does not exist yet on a global scale — we have not reached this level in the broader evolution of our species, but in individual terms, it is about the competition and conquest of ideas. We are playing on the bigger field of human ideas and understanding. It is a world of figuring out bigger questions. Bigger patterns. Patterns over time and distance. L3 is pre-capitalist. L5 is capitalist. L7 is — you guessed it — post-capitalist.
- The Graves Model itself, exists at Level 7. And yes, there is an 8, but neither L1 nor L8 is really relevant or helpful for this discussion, so we’re just going to drop those for now and move on.
- In general, the harshest critics of any level are those who have just moved to the next level. Like someone who has just managed to kick an addiction to cigarettes is the first to insist that smokers are enemies of the state.
- In general, odd numbers see both the previous even number and the next even number as enemies of all they stand for. L5 tends to see L4’s laws, regulations, and morals as strangling and ridiculously rule-bound; and L6’s concern with “all-those-not-like-me” as wasting their time, money and energy on things that don’t matter to the bottom line. L3 felt the same way about L2 and L4. L7 will, if we last long enough as a species, feel the same way about L6 and L8.
- In general, regardless of what level we exist at, we are able to operate at other levels when called for. For example, anyone who has survived (L1) is able to shift into L1 when their survival is at stake. Anyone who has lived at L2 will return to L2 for family gatherings. Anyone can play tennis at L3. Everyone probably attends church or balances their checkbook in L4-mode. There are certain activities that pull us from our general operating level into a level that works best for that particular activity.
- We all tend to believe that everyone is just like us — but that some are doing it very badly. L2s think the entire world exists for them to use for their group’s benefit — but some individuals or countries just don’t understand. L3 thinks the whole world is there for them to fight, defeat, and conquer — the one with the biggest stick or gun wins. L4 thinks the world just needs to follow their rules. L5 thinks money will fix everything. L6 thinks we are our brother’s keepers, and everyone is our brother — but (L5 especially) just doesn’t get it. L7 believes they can fix it if they can just figure it out — and any other pursuit is a waste of time.
- And — this is the important take-away — Every individual, regardless of level, and every social or cultural entity, regardless of level — has one belief in common:
ANYONE (or any society) NOT OPERATING ON THE SAME LEVEL AS ME IS
CRIMINAL, INSANE, SINFUL, STUPID, USELESS, and/or WEAK.
And that, boys and girls, is where war and aggression come from.
And that’s the shortest explanation of the Graves Theory of Human Evolution I can give you. It’s not complete. I’ve made some outrageous simplifications. But that’s the crux of it. It’s a really REALLY complicated big picture cut down to a page or two of generalizations.
I thought I’d live to see the shift from Graves Level 5 to 6 as the dominant world system. After all, we’ve been here at L5 since the Renaissance. Sure, there have been many individuals who have existed happily and well at L6 and L7 for years — but not enough of those individuals for any but a few tiny countries or organizations to move up into L6 en mas. Large collections of L7s work in close proximity in few really forward thinking companies, research institutions or colonies, but in general they are Lone Wolf thinkers who specialize in pattern recognition, theoretical scientific work, and systems analysis and theory.
But since the Renaissance, L5 has been the dominant and overwhelmingly persuasive bully on the pitch. In many cases, it has persuaded us that it is the only game in town — that if it isn’t working, it’s because it is being played badly — and with enough effort and elbow grease, we can get it working the way we want it to work.
But here’s the truth — the pattern holds.
The next step will be the de-throning of L5 as the dominant social system.
We were closer than we’ve ever been to that flip into L6 in 2016 with the candidacy of Bernie Sander for President of the United States. With Hillary Clinton, we had a candidate who had split her time going back and forth between L5 and L6. After all, her social ambitions were based firmly in L6 ambitions, but she spent her entire career fighting from within the L5 establishment. With Donald Trump, we had a candidate playing solidly in L5 (albeit in a significantly unhealthy way.) HERE is a write-up on Health at any Level.
But Bernie Sanders was a horse of a different color in this race. He makes no bones about being post-capitalist in a capitalist dominated world. And he made no bones about pointing out the flaws in that system — for his entire career in politics. This made him the ideal candidate for all those who have individually moved to the Graves Level where protecting and building a world where everyone is on equal footing — has equal advantages and opportunities — equal rights and protections under the law. And for the first time in human history, one of the most powerful nations on the planet came very close to shifting from Level 5 to Level 6. In fact, if the L5 US had been a healthy version of L5, rather than a panic-driven L5 running without the constraints of L4 morality, he might have succeeded. But neither the Democratic nor Republican parties felt bound by right over wrong, legal or illegal, truth over lie, or fair and just over self-interest.
In short, Bernie Sanders felt bound by the rule of law and the fairness he was running to create. Neither of the other two major candidates or their parties felt the same way. Hillary and Trump were running in and for an L5 world. Bernie was running in hope of an L6 emergence.
So again, THE PATTERN HOLDS. L6 is where we are all heading, both as individuals and as a species.
One of the biggest bluffs L5 has run on humanity is the hyper-quotable: “Nobody ever said life was going to be fair.”
The idea that life isn’t fair makes it easy for L5 to take what it wants, regardless of who it hurts. So long as life isn’t fair — bullies reign. If we start with the presupposition that there are winners and losers — then it’s okay within that presupposition for most of the population to be losers. And it’s okay for winners to gloat. And kick the losers in the butt to make sure they remember their place.
But the presupposition is a lie. If life is sometimes unfair, it’s because its really really hard, not because it’s impossible. And creating something that is really really hard and complicated and complex and far-reaching requires a higher Graves Level of complexity than L5 could manage. It will take L6 — fully formed and reveling in the complications and tangles — to created fairness.
Expect justice to be the motive from healthy L4.
But expect fairness to be the motivation from healthy L6.
So if you are waiting for the deus ex machina to drop down and save you from Donald Drumph, you can stop waiting. This is all real and it is all going to happen. His narcissism is going to be dangerous. His ignorance is going to be a challenge. But his presence is going to be. Period. The trick is going to be to survive it — both individually, and collectively as a country. If there is homework, it will be waiting to see how far we can get the pendulum to swing. Never mind “don’t let that pendulum hit you in the butt as you leave the White House, Donald!” We want it to hit him so hard that L5 leaves with him as the dominant system in the US, and L6 is the only logical and reasonable step forward anybody can see.
So to all my friends that are still having trouble figuring out how to move on with their lives in a Trumpocracy — just know we are all still here, and the pattern holds. We may not live to see it, but our children and grandchildren may yet discover that the world really can be a fair place. A just place. An honorable place. A complex puzzle of life rather than a jack-bo0ted torture of a life.
The task ahead — the one that really gets us ahead, rather than earning us a spot in the loony-bin — is to do our best to live lives of fairness and hope, rather than lives of fear and victim-hood. Do your L6 best — volunteer. March. Protest. Give things away to people who need them. Donate to organizations with a clear L6 focus and structure. Support random acts of kindness and fairness. Participate in your community and group and religion and school. Feed somebody who’s hungry. Learn constantly. Reinvent yourself daily. Save the planet. Save the animals. Save yourself.
In evolutionary terms, the only resolution to advancing complexity is to move to a higher level of existence. Problems cannot be addressed from the level that created them. It took L2 to create a place for L1 to live out their survival. And it took L3 to progress beyond the boundary of the village. It took L4 to stop L3’s conquests. It took L5 to reign in L4’s structure. Similarly, L5 can’t fix L5’s hoarding and bullying. Only L6 can fix L5 problems. And only L7 can harness the energy of all those minds and ideas held dear by so many people thinking and creating together.
If we can keep the planet alive long enough, we might be able to all live here together. The pattern holds, and the pattern is bigger than this election. It’s also bigger than the US. Certainly bigger than any one mewling politician or disrupted event. If you’re still stuck in the politics, pull up higher so you can see the bigger picture. — and hold on to that bigger picture. It’s the one that matters.