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CHAPTER VII

INTEGRAL POLITICS



AT A RECENT WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, Bill Clinton (2006) referred complimentarily to Wilber’s (2001b) A Theory of Everything, saying:

“[T]he problem is the world needs to be more integrated but it requires a consciousness that’s way up here, and an ability to see beyond the differences among us....”

KW himself, interestingly, had earlier given his own defense of the Clintons’ interest in transpersonal ideas, in his (2000a) One Taste:

The cautionary tale. Michael [Lerner] is friends with Bill and Hillary, and his “politics of meaning” was particularly espoused by Hillary. The liberal media found out about it [in 1996] and had a field day. Saint Hillary, Michael was “Hillary’s guru,” and so on.... A simple visualization technique [taught by Jean Houston], used by thousands of therapists daily, was turned into Hillary’s “channeling” Eleanor Roosevelt, whereas all she was doing was creative visualization. But anything interior is so utterly, radically, hideously alien to the liberal media that they could hardly discuss the topic without snickering or choking.

Yet, in 1983, Curtis D. MacDougall, emeritus professor of journalism at Northwestern University, had written an entire book detailing the attitude evinced by the very same “liberal media” toward gurus, clairvoyance, ESP, and various less “interior” spiritual pursuits (e.g., astrology, ghosts, witchcraft and UFOs). From that back-cover copy:

In Superstition and the Press, America’s most distinguished journalism professor and veteran newspaperman provides a devastating critique of the treatment by the press of claims of supernatural phenomena. This book documents virtually every story about paranormal events to appear in American newspapers for more than a generation. The author’s conclusion is that newspapers, with rare exceptions, treat claims of supernatural experiences and paranormal phenomena without questioning their validity.

Further, Al Franken observed, in his (2003) Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:

The right-wing media tells us constantly that the problem with the mainstream media is that it has a liberal bias. I don’t think it does. [Sullivan (2005), however, quotes research done at UCLA which proves that there is indeed such a predictable left-wing bias.] But there are other, far more important, biases in the mainstream media than liberal or conservative ones. Most of these biases stem from something called “the profit motive.”

James Randi (2003) has likewise noted:

Educated mainly in the humanities, thus lacking hard scientific training or savvy, and with the constant goal of finding the “perfect story” always applied to their backs, [the media] snatches at any and all scraps of propaganda that filter down to them from the heights above [i.e., from purported “real psychics”], gratefully embellishing and flavoring them before presenting them to the consumers below, in return for appropriate tribute, of course....
I’ve mentioned before the fact that the dozens of tests of power-of-prayer that are carried out every year, often at great cost, only produce a fraction of positive results, well within the expected range of error—but those are the results—the only results—that media editors choose to feature.

And from Jacqueline Deval, in her (2008) marketing guide, Publicize Your Book!:

The reporter’s job ... is to get a good story for their readers. They are looking for angles in everything you say and do.

Read even just a little bit into the skeptical perspective and you will find that, to the present day, skeptics are at least as disgusted with the overly credulous nature of media coverage of claimed paranormal phenomena as Wilber is with the same media for not being credulous enough!

The reality is that any informed and unbiased presentation of the various transpersonal claims eagerly accepted by kw would be “bad press.” And the more informed and fair the presentation was, the worse it would be for him and his ilk.

Venturing further into “integral politics,” Wilber (2003d) has predictably given his opinion on the war in Iraq:

I personally believe that any protest movement that does not equally protest both America’s invasion and Saddam’s murder of 400,000 people is a protest movement that does not truly represent peace or non-aggression or worldcentric values.
I am aware of no major protest movement that has protested both forms of violence equally, and that has insisted upon an immediate end to both aggressions, and offered a believable way that both aggressions could actually be halted immediately so that neither side can continue its homicidal actions.
That is, I am aware of no integral protest movement anywhere in the world, unfortunately.

Amnesty International is a “major protest movement.” While not officially condemning the war in Iraq, to any right-of-center political perspective they have done much more to “harm” the American cause there than to aid it:

Critics of AI have suggested that AI’s concern for the human rights implications of this war disproportionately criticize the effects of U.S. military action while in comparison they were less vociferous about the abuses of the Hussein regime and the human rights implications of the continued rule of this government (Wikipedia, 2006).

And yet—

Supporters of AI have pointed out that AI was critical of Hussein’s regime while Donald Rumsfeld was shaking the Iraqi leader by the hand, and that when the White House later released reports on the human rights record of Hussein, they depended almost entirely on AI documents that the U.S. had ignored when Iraq was a U.S. ally in the 1980s.

Indeed, “the September/October 1988 [Amnesty International] newsletter’s lead article was an appeal to the United Nations Security Council to ‘act immediately to stop the massacre of Kurdish civilians by Iraqi forces’ under Saddam Hussein.”

Wilber might try to hide behind the idea that AI hasn’t protested those two sets of evils exactly equally—which, by definition, it couldn’t have, regardless of which side it might (or might not) have favored. Amnesty also probably never had a plan to offer in which “both aggressions [i.e., the invasion of Iraq, vs. Saddam’s mass murders] could actually be halted immediately.” Did you? Did kw? Not likely.

By Wilber’s own absurd third criterion of needing to have presented such a plan in order to qualify as “integral” in his judgment, he fails as miserably as anyone: Not only is there no movement which meets that third standard—a quite unnecessary one, in terms of evaluating one’s good intentions or state/stage of consciousness—there is probably not even a single individual who does. (If there was a workable and obviously correct political solution to that problem, which kept everyone honest in the process, Bush would never have gotten away with that rushed invasion in the first place.)

So why does kw even bother framing all that? Why does he set it up so that, in practical terms, no movement could possibly be “integral” with regard to the Iraq conflict ... even while he himself and his institute are “integral” by definition?

My strong suspicion? He is doing it to reserve high integrality only for meditative beings such as himself, regardless of how superior the behavior of others may be in practice when compared to his own ideas and character.

If you disagree, consider kw’s self-aggrandizing (2000a) statement, in One Taste, that “until the ecologists understand that the ozone hole, pollution, and toxic wastes are all completely part of the Original Self, they will never gain enlightened awareness, which alone knows how to proceed with these pressing problems.” There, too, he is basically integral by definition, even though being less than ecologically conscious in practice (i.e., for his leather couches and Thanksgiving turkey dinners, whatever one may otherwise think of such things).

That Wilber would have ever put the above “ozone” ruminations into print, without considering how blatantly self-celebrating and openly grandiose they are, smacks of something far worse than a mere occasional “mental lapse.” And again: Where is his workable, integral solution to the ecological crisis? Nowhere, even for ostensibly having an “enlightened, integral awareness” in his own consciousness.

Given all that, it is no surprise that any other movement, such as Amnesty, composed merely of “ordinary mortals,” must be “non-integral” ... until its members (who obviously overlap significantly with the ecological movement) attain to the same exalted state of consciousness as kw thinks he possesses.

Consider also the perspective of Greenpeace (2003)—the typical “green meme” organization, explicitly cited as such by kw (2000f) himself—in outlining their reasons for officially protesting the war in Iraq from the beginning:

We don’t support Saddam Hussein. We don’t back any governments or political leaders. When we decided to take a stand against this war, it was because we see a far greater danger in the concept of preventive war....
For one nation to take arms against another because it believes that nation to be a threat undermines the foundations of peaceful coexistence, multilateral institutions like the United Nations, and an “entire web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values,” to quote John Brady Kiesling’s letter of resignation from the U.S. diplomatic core.
As tempting as it may be to those who view Saddam as a cipher of evil to step in and remove him militarily, one has to ask what’s next?
After the U.S. conducts a preventive war on Iraq, will it set its sights on Iran? North Korea? And if the U.S. can wage a preventive war to protect its national security, shouldn’t India or Pakistan have the same right?
This is the first step on a slippery slope. It ends with the United Nations in tatters and the rule of might making right.

If you are wondering how significantly the membership and culture of Greenpeace overlaps with that of Amnesty, consider Rolf Schwendter’s (1991) explicit mention of those two groups in exactly that context:

Examples for the clusters and networks of pivot institutions [as gathering-points for members of overlapping cultures] ... would be groups like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund—a large number of political, cultural, human rights-centered, ecological, self-help-oriented organizations.

The reactions exhibited by “patriotic” Westerners post-9/11 and immediately prior to the war in Iraq included the need for protection by a religious or political “savior,” the witch-hunting eradication of “evil,” and the willing surrender of one’s freedoms in that hunt. We further saw the voiced belief by American newsmen that “we’re winners,” being attacked by “losers” only because of that ostensible superiority; and the regarding of anyone who dared to question the claims of the country’s alternately lying and priority-shifting leaders as being “unpatriotic.” We also had death threats against the likes of the courageous Dixie Chicks and the leaders of Greenpeace, by persons who obviously identify so strongly with their nationwide “cult” as being “the best in the world” that even the suggestion that one could be embarrassed by the bullying behaviors of its leader(s), or that the evil “out there” might not be the immediate threat which it is presented as being, causes them to wish you dead.

It is therefore worth considering the fairly obvious point that both religion and politics utilize the same techniques of manipulation on their followers, bringing out exactly the same psychological defenses in their adherents. Does it really make a difference whether the Evil Other is Satan, or communism/terrorism? (If you studied Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible back in high school, with its intended parallels between the Salem witch-hunts and McCarthyism, you already know that it makes no difference.) Could the psychological reactions/defenses really be any different against one than against the other? Isn’t it obvious that, given a structurally comparable set of threats and fears in the political world as in the religious, the psychological reactions to those real or perceived dangers will likewise be hardly distinguishable?

Whether or not the dangers actually exist as presented by the leader/guru is secondary. To bring out the cult-follower defenses, it is enough that one believes they exist and that only the right guru/president/ideology can keep one’s body and/or soul safe from them.

As the social psychologist Philip Zimbardo (2004b) then put it, after elucidating ten “ingredients”—from rationales for engaging, to small first steps, to high exit costs—for “getting ordinary people to do things they originally believe they would not” do:

Such procedures are utilized across varied influence situations where those in authority want others to do their bidding, but know that few would engage in the “end game” final solution without first being properly prepared psychologically to do the “unthinkable.” I would encourage readers to do the thought exercise of applying these compliance principles to the tactics used by the Bush administration to get Americans to endorse going to war against Iraq.

Robert J. Lifton (2003) likewise noted the inclination of America’s leaders “to instill fear in their people as a means of enlisting them for illusory military efforts at world hegemony.” One need not agree with the latter half of that reading to recognize the penchant of a nation’s people to periodically and obediently rally ‘round the flag, even when it was obvious that they were being deliberately manipulated.

Yet, there are always persons who are subjected to exactly the same attempts at coercion and subtly enforced obedience, and yet who have enough ability to think for themselves that they are able to see through the attempted manipulations, and refuse to go along with the lies of the political, spiritual and “integral” leaders, even if doing so gets them branded as unevolved (or unpatriotic), and thus not worthy of membership in the “saved” group.


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