Thursday, October 13, 2005

More on Integral Politics

After a bit of reading, I'm wondering if perhaps we need to redefine our politicians, and thereby revitalize our politics, rather than create a new political model.

Most of the integral politics articles promote ideas similar to Clinton and Blair's Third Way or Bush's Compassionate Conservatism (great marketing tool that was never intended to be implemented). These approaches attempt to find a middle ground between liberalism and conservatism, a position that incorporates the best of both sides.

Using Spiral Dynamics as the framework, these approaches attempt to bridge the gap between the Blue meme (Christian fundamentalism), the Orange meme (free-market capitalism), and the Green meme (postmodern liberalism). Of course, the reality is much more complex than these simple phrases, but it gives a hint of the complexity of the problem.

The existing approaches are an outside-in process, creating a model and asking politicians to adopt it. However, I think the real solution may be an inside-out process. My take is that we need to create politicians who are capable of disidentifying from their own particular value meme and who are capable of seeing through the lens of value memes other than their own. The prerequisite for this skill has generally been thought to be second-tier thinking (yellow meme or higher on the Spiral).

I suspect, though, that there are simple techniques that can dislodge people from their particular value meme even if they haven't reached second tier. Psychosynthesis offers tools to achieve this goal (disidentification exercises), and Genpo Roshi's Big Mind (subscription required) can help free individuals from their ego identification, which facilitates multiple-perspective capabilities.

Rather than building an integral politics, we may need to create integral politicians and let the politics grow out of their work. More to come on this topic.

After further reflection, I think we need both an outside-in and an inside-out approach to this problem. The outside-in aspect should be a loose framework, though, and not a rigid "party platform" as we traditionally think of it.

A truly integral politician must be able to define a just government in terms of collective values (interior-collective), social structures (exterior-collective), individual needs (exterior-individual), and unique visions (interior-individual).

S/he must be able to speak authentically about this vision of a just government to all three of the major value memes in our nation (Blue, Orange, and Green) in such way that each feels heard and validated.

This is the prospect of a truly integral politics.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Politics and Non-Attachment, an Integral View

Buddhism advocates non-attachment as the path to liberation from the cycle of endless rebirths. Many of us work at this goal in our daily lives through mindfulness practice and other methods to reduce the clinging of the ego. When we work on personal issues, such as anger, resentment, greed, and so on, these practices are useful, and it's easy to see the advantage of giving up our attachments.

But what about politics? I maintain a political blog, Raven's View, through which I am very involved in specific political issues, such as removing Bush and his henchmen from office, and protecting our civil rights from the Bush administration's efforts to curtail them. I am also anti-war, in favor of equal rights for gays and lesbians, opposed to wingnut Christian efforts to impose their religion on the rest of us, and I have strong views on a variety of other subjects.

Do I have to give up my attachment to these issues to attain a greater degree of personal freedom? Will my political involvement limit my growth as a Buddhist?

Maybe. But I am willing to take that risk. As a follower of the Shambhala path, I have taken a bodhisattva vow to dedicate my life to the liberation of all sentient beings. To me, there is more to that vow than merely working on my own life to attain Buddha nature, no matter how much doing so might indirectly aid other beings. I firmly believe that part of that vow entails working to make the world a better place for all people, and that by doing so, it becomes easier and more likely that other people can attain liberation.

Oppressive governments, wars around the world, political greed, hatred among peoples of differing faiths -- all of these things limit the chances for anyone to become liberated. Fighting against these injustices is a way to create more positive karma in the world. It may slow my own progress toward liberation, but it seems that working toward becoming a bodhisattva should include the exterior world as well as the interior, the collective world as well as the individual, in a truly integral approach to Buddhism.

What we need is a fully integral Buddhist practice.