The “performative contradiction” of extreme-postmodernist thought created serious errors that seeped pervasively into culture by a thousand cuts. So, what ‘performative contradiction?’ What ‘errors?’ What’s the trouble here? In a word: Flatland.
Kramer’s, intuitive, feng shui-like response:
Yes, levels, or stages of human values development. They went missing through much of the unhealthy (Naïve) expression of Green [FS] values. This was a by-product of extreme-postmodernist thought. Associated naïve Green memes [No Truth. No hierarchies. No subjects.] served much like a thousand Trojan-horses smuggling a flat, material reality into the cultural zeitgeist.
The performative contradiction of extreme-postmodernist thinking goes like this:
Extreme-postmodernist thought asserted that all over-arching narratives are disqualified and dismissed on the grounds that they misappropriate and unjustly vector power. All, so-called, “meta-narratives” (the overreach goes) are finally tyranny because they invariably privilege the narrator. Thus, all hierarchies are bad, and there is no legitimate way to differentiate and rank one perspective as superior to any other. There is no perspective whatsoever that is once-and-for-all true from which to warrant a universal claim… except, this one. Oops.
The performative contradiction of allowing to myself that which I am disallowing to all others. It’s as though extreme-postmodernist thought ascended the mount of Green [FS] pluralist, global, justice values and simply declared/dismissed all pre-Green value sets as unjust, oppressive, and obsolete. In an overreaching Red [CP] values’ power play, naïve Green declared itself king/queen and proceeded to conflate and reduce all other perspectives to a relativist flatland. “Oops,” and then some.
In last week’s post, I described how this destructive cultural seepage began and how we came to our present life conditions. When we reduce reality to flat surfaces, we conflate humanity with it’s outer, physical, objective, aspects.
From Friar Richard Rohr’s July 9 Mediation:
“Over the years, I’ve met many social activists who were advocating for crucial justice issues, but they were still largely living out of their false self with the need to win and look good—and defeat ‘the enemy.’ They might have the answer, but they are not themselves the answer. In fact, they are part of the problem because they still trust in power over love.”
Green, leading edge values reflect a naïve expression in the manner it proclaims/declares justice largely sans the work of healing. [cf. my July 8 post]. In fairness, Green does partially express healing. It zealously challenges systems, structures, and behaviors—all surfaces. The difficulty here is naïve Green dissociates it’s healing from the interior (values) correlates of those external, measurable, surface manifestations. .
We’ve seen naïve Orange and naïve Green fundamentally collapse subjectivity into an unseen shadow of an all-encompassing objectivity [cf. J.B. Watson, B.F. Skinner, Michel Foucault]. Treating both objectivity and subjectivity well in these times is no mean feat. Discourse requires that we remain vigilant against conflation and reduction, and faithfully try to maintain subtlety and nuance in our pictures of reality.
In the following statement Friar Rohr recognizes the corresponding spiritual gulf when he writes in his July 8 Meditation:
“To be a faith leader is to connect the inner and outer worlds.”
Ursula K. Le Guin acknowledges the linguistic gulf when she writes,
“Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates.”
So, how does reducing our view to objective, measurable surfaces adversely effect (and even do great harm to) our ability to design and effect transformational change, especially in areas of human rights and inclusion?
Unintended consequences: projected shadows
Simply declaring justice by fiat and then guarding the line with some form of shaming is neither transformative nor even effective; and is demonstrably harmful. An extended quote detailing a practical illustration will help us bring this unintended harm into stark relief:
Let’s say that green activists are looking at 100 people brought together in a town meeting, and want them to express views that genuinely embrace diversity and inclusiveness. So green gives courses and lectures and workshops on how to behave in ways that reflect real equality replete with teachings about trigger warnings, safe spaces, and micro-aggression. The green activists tell the crowd that, yes it might take some of them a bit of learning, but “we’ll be watching you, and chastise any behavior that isn’t appropriate, and soon enough you’ll learn.” Variations on that approach can be found among any social justice activists anywhere.
It’s not that such approaches are totally wrong; they’re just mostly wrong. Or, at any rate, they are mostly incomplete. Let’s now view this situation by not just looking at 100 bodies and watching their exterior behavior carefully; let’s look also at their interiors and take those into account. Using Robert Kegan’s research, we saw that, on average, 3 out of 5 Americans are at the ethnocentric or lower stages of development. That means that out of a crowd of 100 people, fully 60 percent of them are at ethnocentric or lower. And that means that those 60 individuals, in reality, want nothing to do with equality. They do not want to treat all people fairly regardless of race, color, sex, or creed. In fact, they have some sort of deep ethnocentric beliefs—they could be racist, or sexist, or fundamentalist religious, or politically zealous, or extreme white supremacist or extreme feminist or scientician or extreme patriot. They want special treatment for their special group, and they will fight any efforts to extend those same treatments to all people. If they truly get caught and punished for behavior indicative of these beliefs they will quickly learn to disguise those beliefs by changing their behavior—while in the meantime continuing to embrace those ethnocentric beliefs with renewed vigor. ~ Trump and a Post-Truth World, by Ken Wilber [pp. 104-5]
Dissociating from values, interiority, and the subjective dimensions of transformation has rendered growing-edge leadership impotent. Paint any Utopian picture you would like, it is still very difficult to argue that alienating, aggravating, and discouraging people from honestly expressing/admitting their animating values is an effective strategy for transformation and transcendence. [cf. my July 1st post]
Objectified and flattened
OK, naïve Orange [ER] objectified reality (scientific materialism) and naïve Green [FS] flattened it out [radical deconstruction). Shadows intrinsic to that have produced some destructive cultural memes.
So if human beings are simply cogs in a machine, merely Skinnerian targets, blank slates to be aligned with the latest Utopian scheme, then subjectivity itself is at risk of being swept up in a collectivist tyranny. We are AI-monitored by our cultural bubbles quite handily through our (mobile) “parlor screens.” One doesn’t dare step out of line as it surely means being shamed, shunned, or banished (censored) for any violations to the prevailing group-think of a given tribe. Mixing movie/book metaphors a bit here, like “agents” in The Matrix, every tribal identity has scores of Captain Beatty’s ready and waiting to carry-out burn orders against any challengers (those who suggest any difficulties with, or desired deviations) to a particular values set.
So, the fruit of the extreme-postmodern performative contradiction: No Truth; No hierarchies; No subjects. That’s another way of saying a narcissistic, nihilistic cultural zeitgeist. Sorry, I know that might sound a bit hopeless. I pray not. —I do note that bringing light to shadows is no joy… however, it is required for any (much needed!) healing to occur.
Next week we’ll continue with the fallout of the performative contradiction and take up the widespread cultural meme that (naïvely) declares: There is no Truth! [publishing 7/29]. Please continue the conversation this week, and stay tuned.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
—Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
13 thoughts on “Flatland”
I enjoyed this summary of Flatland. When we get to the end of the post and find “So, the fruit of the extreme-postmodern performative contradiction: No Truth; No hierarchies; No subjects. That’s another way of saying a narcissistic, nihilistic cultural zeitgeist.” I try to put this into the context of what is going on around me.
The contradictions go beyond performative contradiction. Here in the US Flatland of DJT, we have the perfect example of Flatland taken to the extreme. He is the archetype of Flatland. The complete narcissist who became King because in Flatland, truth sometimes becomes the one who has the most confidence and talks the loudest.
The contradiction is people go to Flatland in order to supposedly become their own version of the truth as they see it. What I don’t understand is how almost all become enamored by Trump, a Fox personality or some other internet pundit because in the end since there is no landscape, markers, signposts, landmarks, etc in flatland people get lost and then look for someone to point the way.
Yet, my friends and family who wander aimlessly in Flatland now are the ones who said Obama was the narcissist. They were the ones who say science doesn’t know what it is talking about. They are the ones who will not accept any published facts from the standard media. And, those beliefs turn them into the narcissist they supposedly hate the most. Maybe this is more a psychological discussion that we are most blind to what is our own biggest fault. I am not sure. But, since I keep seeing this over and over in Flatland folks it seems to be important.
So, they go to Flatland to find their own truth only to find it was too confusing to figure out. Now they accept someone else’s explanation. And, in the meantime all other facts, data, scientific knowledge is rejected. I don’t understand how anyone can spend even a few minutes there. And, some have now been there around 20 years. Several went to Flatland right after 9/11. But, some just made the journey in the last couple years. It doesn’t seem to be correlated even to education with many college educated people comfortable living there. My supposition is fear triggers something.
I know this is quite a ramble. Lots coming up for me that is hard to articulate in a 10 minute response. And, while I read Wilber’s Trump treatise back when he first published it, the whole idea of Flatland has not really made sense until very recently. Thanks to whomever reads to this end.
Thanks for writing!