Next level consciousness

The Syrian refugee crisis is challenging the Netherlands as is does Europe, to safeguard its democratic and social achievements. Not by falling back on a conservative, right-wing response, but by growing into the next level of consciousness.


Syrian refugees getting a taste of the Dutch multi-cultural heart

In the Netherlands, just like anywhere in Europe, refugees are confronted with rejection and even aggression. But they also encounter many people welcoming them with an open heart. In general, the Dutch are a very tolerant people with a long history of appreciating other cultures. The average postmodern Dutchman or -woman aims at peaceful co-existence and will approach any struggling foreigner with emotional openness and compassion.

But what does all this boil down to for a refugee?

If you’re obligated to move to another place every week and haven’t got a clue what your future will look like, this warm welcome will easily get spoiled by a lack of a well-planned follow-up. “Okay, we’re working on that,” we say. But what is the perspective we’re offering them in the long run? And who are these Syrians, anyway?

Refugees are temporarily living at a survival level of consciousness

Due to their dire circumstances, refugees are basically living at a pre-cultural level of mere survival. Food and shelter temporarily become more important than ethics and culture, rules and regulations. Only when these basic necessities have been taken care of – another thing we are working on – these refugees will be able to transcend their survival state. At which point we will soon find out that ‘the Syrian refugees’ do not exist, but are composed of three main subgroups.

The modern Syrian elite

Part of the Syrian refugees are highly educated and are living life at a modern level of consciousness. They are capable of appreciating and supporting our modern, social-democratic welfare state. This potential future Syrian elite within the Netherlands will have little problem finding their way into our society. In fact, they will integrate far more easily than our Turkish and Moroccan labor immigrants in the past, who came predominantly from traditional, rural areas.

The tribal Syrians

Another subgroup of Syrian refugees is living at a relatively primitive, tribal level of consciousness. In the Netherlands, this group is probably quite small, because more often than not they will not have been able to afford the journey to Europe. These Syrians will want to benefit from our liberal social welfare system, but are simply not capable of appreciating the deeper social values underlying it – they just see our welfare system as a welcome means to their personal survival.

Syrians at the level of ‘traditional’ consciousness

A larger subgroup of the Syrian refugees consists of people living at the level of so-called traditional consciousness. At this level, people consider the values of their own culture to be absolute truths, often in some form of fundamentalist religion, either Christian or Islamic. In its early phases, this may manifest in a lack of appreciation for modern achievements such as the separation between state and religion, or between the public and the private sphere.
The separation between the public and the private sphere implies that any citizen is free to form his or her own private opinions. That freedom can only exist within a public domain where the freedom of speech, religion and education is guaranteed by law and protected by the authorities. But at the traditional level of consciousness, people do not acknowledge the separation between public and private, nor do they accept the relative truth of their own ideas.

The balance between receiving and supporting

The modern democratic nation state, particularly in countries with an extensive social welfare system such as the Netherlands, depends on a continuous process of balancing and adjusting social rights and obligations. A social welfare system can only exist by virtue of broad public acceptance and support. People living at a pre-modern consciousness level may be eager to profit from these rights, but they do not themselves contribute to that public support. They may even feel discriminated if they are required to conform to all the social requirements of our modern, social-democratic nation state.

Polarization of native and immigrant ethnocentric consciousness

If we are not able to address the refugee crisis adequately, then European nationalistic extremists, who are themselves living at a pre-cultural level of ethnocentric consciousness, will clash with Syrian pre-cultural ethnocentric consciousness. At this consciousness level, people only think in terms of ‘we are good, they are horrible’, and easily consort to bullying behavior, as we have seen in violent incidents in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In the political arena, xenophobic, ethnocentric Europeans will vehemently oppose equally xenophobic, ethnocentric Arabs and Africans. But from a consciousness standpoint, these groups are not that different from each other. Yet which postmodern, multi-cultural politician will dare to take firm action against these subgroups? Who wants to be called a nationalist, right-wing bastard, risking to lose his or her soft-hearted, postmodern followers?

The weakness of postmodern multi-cultural consciousness

At the postmodern, pluralistic level of consciousness, all values are considered to be equally valid. Postmodern citizens are egalitarian and anti-hierarchical. In their mind’s eye, all cultures, and all individuals within those cultures, each with their own perspective and world view, have equal value. Therefore they will be quick to reject the idea that African or Syrian refugee subgroups with a pre-modern consciousness are standing lower on the evolutionary ladder than people with a modern or postmodern consciousness, for they will see this as a discriminating idea.
This anti-hierarchical bias causes postmodern people to deny the fact that they themselves are living at a fairly advanced level of consciousness. This denial is dangerous, for it makes them powerless to defend their democratic and social achievements against people with a pre-modern consciousness, whether they are natives or immigrants.
Postmodern citizens in our society easily forget all the efforts and sacrifices of their ancestors, who made it possible for them to enjoy their present multi-cultural level of consciousness. They are slow to realize that the achievements of our modern social-democratic nation state, based on the Western Enlightenment and social emancipation, are not a given and cannot be taken for granted. They may well need to start preparing themselves to defend these achievements against pre-modern attacks, coming from both their own nationalistic, right-wing populists and from immigrant subgroups at pré-cultural or traditional levels of consciousness.

Integral consciousness transcends the identity of political parties

In many developmental theories, the next evolutionary level of consciousness is called ‘Integral’, or, in the Spiral Dynamics model, ‘Yellow’ or ‘Teal’. From an Integral perspective, each level of consciousness has its own, abiding value as long as it is applied to the appropriate context. Integral consciousness is able to not only discern these values, but also apply them in their appropriate contexts. But Integral consciousness is only just emerging in the world, and therefore still quite weak.
From an Integral perspective, it is important for democratic countries to have political parties that represent very different worldviews, so voters have something to choose. Yet it is equally important that the leaders of those political parties are able to function at an Integral level. That is to say, they ought to be aware that while all perspectives have some value, it will be always a relative and not an absolute value. Enlightened politics is all about the cooperation between many different groups with different backgrounds, ideas and ideals, embracing and transcending their political differences.

The relative value of pre-cultural, traditional, modern and postmodern consciousness

On the ladder of cultural evolution, each consciousness level has its own achievements, but also its own limitations.

Pre-cultural consciousness works well in survival situations, but in case of conflict with any other group, it is not capable of doing much more than taking the law into its own hands. It is unable to put itself in other people’s shoes or meaningfully participate in a larger, pluralistic culture.

Traditional consciousness is able to transcend ‘control by brute force’. Traditional organizations are capable of providing order and hierarchy based on moral judgment and ethics. But traditional consciousness still operates from an ethnocentric ‘we against them’ culture. It views only its own ideas and ideals as ‘right’, and in early phases of its development it is even prepared to die for them, as in the Christian Crusades or the Islamic Jihads. Most of the problems between people on earth in the present, are created by this level of consciousness.

Modern consciousness has brought us respect for the individual, which has led to civil rights and human rights. It created the modern, democratic nation state with its separation of legislative, executive and controlling powers. But it should learn that ultimately, the world cannot be controlled by rational success formulas of the separate self, aimed at just our own wealth and welfare, at the cost of damaging nature and risking our survival as a species. Most of the problems that have tot do with the sustainability of the earth itself come from this level of consciousness.

The postmodern malaise

Postmodern consciousness can boast of great achievements. It is undogmatic, anti-hierarchical and multi-cultural, with a preference for consensus and affectionate empathy above cold rationality. It has a keen eye for the cultural, ethnic components of historical values and so-called ‘truths’. It stands for an equal division of power and abhors privileges based on tradition, gender, status, position, property or knowledge. It strongly advocates and supports gender equality and tolerance for different sexual inclinations. Postmodern consciousness strives to deconstruct all historical values and truths, making them all inter-subjectively negotiable.

But postmodern consciousness should be aware that its way of operating also has many limitations. It denies and undermines the great achievements of hierarchy and tradition. It doesn’t like rules, but has no eye for the safety and reliability they provide. It clings to the view that all people are equal, but denies the fact that in real life, everybody is different. It condemns modern consciousness for being cold and rational, but is not able to deal with real-life problems itself. It views all values and truths as relative and negotiable, except for its own anti-hierarchical tendency towards political correctness.

In a very real sense, postmodern consciousness disqualifies both modern and traditional culture. It actually turns a blind eye to the existence of a developmental ladder of cultural evolution, where the higher rungs create more enlightened, civilized societies than the lower levels. In denying this ladder, including its own place on it, it easily regresses to a pre-modern level of consciousness. This triggers a tendency to act out primitive impulses and immature emotions, which in turn leads to a culture of irresponsible consumerism unbridled by any transcending values or reference points. It is this shortsighted consumerism, by the way, that both Muslims and Christians, fundamentalist and liberal, refer to as ‘Western decadence’, and rightly so.

This degenerated postmodern consciousness is powerless against people at a pre-cultural level taking the law into their own hands, whether they are natives or immigrants, rich or poor. This implies a risk of chaos, where nobody remembers any more what values they really stand for, which agreements they should honor and who is responsible for what any longer.

Postmodern consciousness should realize that its friendly, warm embrace of refugees needs to be followed up by a reliable management of all real-life problems that go with it. This includes measures that enable refugees to meaningfully integrate into our modern and postmodern culture. Otherwise our warm welcome doesn’t amount to anything, and will even undermine our ability to manage our own society.

Integral, post-postmodern, Yellow or Teal consciousness

My standpoint is that we should only take in refugees to the extent that we can really absorb them into our society. This will require all of the resources, both inner and outer, that we have gained in our own development over the centuries. We should first validate and claim all our own achievements before we can meaningfully and consciously apply them to this new situation, without undermining our own society, which is vulnerable in itself already.

All previous levels of consciousness need to be embraced and transcended in this endeavor. We don’t need to think in terms of absolute truths or moral obligations, but we do need to realize that we will require clear ethics and values in order to create a new and healthy culture from this postmodern chaos.

Unnecessary triggering of ethnocentric behavior

Without such clear ethics and values, politicians will drown in their postmodern pseudo-hospitality, provoking ethnocentric bullying behavior from their own people against immigrants. Dutch premier Rutte was quite clear in this regard: “Anyone who doesn’t comply with our rules will be prosecuted.” It is this clarity that will enable the Dutch to keep taking in refugees, whereas all too postmodern statements have only added fuel to the flames for those who are in favor of simplistic, ethnocentric ‘solutions’ of the refugee crisis.

The refugee crisis as part of humanity’s Second Shock

When the human race appeared on earth, at a certain point our human ancestors grasped the concepts of time and space, for the first time. They suddenly became consciously aware of dangers that might happen in the future. This is what Ken Wilber calls ‘Future Shock’ and what I have called ‘Humanity’s First Shock’. In reaction to this psychological shock, mankind has resorted to a specific mode of survival by the separate self. The ‘self’ that took this task upon itself became finally the anthropocentric, separate self. This ‘separate self’ that is only concerned about its own survival on the planet, has been polluting and exhausting the earth’s natural resources and is creating lots of problems and violence in the world, to the point where our survival as a species is now at stake. Now that we, as a species, are becoming consciously aware of this danger. Our waking up to this dilemma is what call ‘Humanity’s Second Shock’, a term that has been adopted by several thinkers in the field of conscious evolution. The refugee crisis forms part of that danger, and in that sense, it is another wake-up call.

The urgency of conscious evolution

It is the Post-Postmodern, Integral, Yellow or Teal level of consciousness or ‘self’ that, at this point in human evolution, has the best chance to be capable of dealing with this Second Shock. In the context of our worldwide crises, the investment of time, money and energy in our own leadership development and conscious evolution, in order to learn to live and function from that level, is not a postmodern luxury but an urgent necessity.

Published earlier on Linketin >>

Mauk Pieper is author of several books on Integral Leadership and Senior Teacher at Venwoude Life School. He is the architect of an Integral training-curriculum for the Venwoude Life School in Holland, that includes an Education for Integral Leadership and Integral Facilitation.

(All links are referring to information in Dutch.) 

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