Pic of the day: In school children, competitiveness is rather obvious. Later it can become very stealthy indeed. (Screenshot from Azumanga Daioh, an anime.)
Whenever we try to quantify levels of consciousness, we open up for what my American friends call a "Dick size war". In terms of consciousness, this means "my consciousness is higher than your consciousness!" followed by "Is not!" and "Is too!". Of course, since one of the clearest sign of a higher consciousness is humility and benevolence toward all, this debate is largely fought by proxy or in extremely subtle ways. But the fact remains, any reasonably cultured individual wants to have a high consciousness. (If your role model is Conan the Barbarian, this probably does not apply to you...)
I don't expect myself to be immune to this desire. That's why one of the selling points of Spiral Dynamics for me was the fact that I could not identify with the highest level of consciousness described, although I did with the next-to-highest. When a company just tries to sell, they will try to flatter the common people and make them feel special. If they can't even make me feel special – and I am special, after all – then they must be doing something right!
The founders of SD takes great care to point out that the categories are not value judgments, just a way to describe where people have their worldview and their behavior centered. Each higher level incorporates those that came before, and they may still be used for specific situations where they are fitting. For instance you may be "blue" – law and order – at work, but red – conquest and selfishness – in the bedroom. Or perhaps purple – tribal – in your football club. Whichever strategy seems to pay off for you, you are likely to use habitually. But overall, learning a higher level of thinking means you can accomplish more. Certainly the original founder of Spiral Dynamics, Dr Clare W. Graves, believed that it would be beneficial for humanity as a whole to encourage people upward on the spiral toward higher states of conscious being.
In practice, not all of us can choose which level of consciousness to operate on. Two factors influence this heavily: The capacity of our brain, and the demands of the world we live in. If you are stupid, then there is no hope of understanding a complex world. (Actually, none of us could possibly hope to understand the world, but we can gradually grasp more of the nuances that matter to our small lives on this small planet.) People really cannot help being born with less IQ, although it seems that relentless education can increase intelligence for quite a long time, well into our adult years.
Even if you have a healthy and quick brain, however, you may not use it optimally. Depending on where and when you live, society may be organized in such a way that you are expected to take a simpler view. If you are a genius living in a medieval society, you will have a much harder time breaking through to a scientific view of reality. And if you live in a strictly materialist society, it can be hard to escape the cynicism and acknowledge values that go beyond hard cash. In fact, chances are you won't even attempt it, until you are exposed to new ideas somehow.
And even then you have a choice. You can remain and function at a more primitive level because you are lazy, because it is expected of you, because of loyalty ... there are many reasons to stay behind. But you cannot function at a higher level just because you want to. You may be able to fake it briefly, but those who live there naturally will see through you pretty quickly. So in practice, you can only choose downward. Although I guess it may be possible to crawl upward by studying the lives and lores of those more advanced than you, or perhaps by relentlessly reading literature bought from the Spiral Dynamics guys. ^_^ All you can lose is your money, your courage and your self esteem. (And other people's esteem, unless you do it in secret.)
In the end, those at the higher levels are not superior as in "more human than you", but rather have a larger tool box. If you don't need those tools, and if they don't make you and others happy, there really is no reason to strive for it. But the more you meet people with different values and different modes of thinking, the more you need the tools to understand and work with them.
Of course, Spiral Dynamics is not the first or only attempt to sort human values. And generally each of us likes to sort them in such a way that we come out on top... or at least near the top. So a religious person would say: "I obey more of God's laws than you, I win!" Meanwhile his neighbor says: "I earn more money than you, I win!" And yet another may say: "I am more politically correct than you, I win!" And my personal favorite: "I understand more than you, so I win!"
And since I am a Yellow, it is almost not to be avoided that I would stumble upon Spiral Dynamics and choose it as my fad of the week. Because we Yellows love knowledge for knowledge's sake, we like to not only know but understand, we think in systems and connections. SD satisfies all this and looks pleasantly probable. And it even gives us something to reach out for, always an important thing in a human life. Hmm...
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.