a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
Stadial theory/Eugenics—systematizing superiority
The Cladist approach we peeked at last week applies to our argument in two important ways.
- If there are no sharp edges in natural taxonomies as Darwin insisted and emphasized, then that raises serious questions about trying to identify “stages.”
- Analogous to a Cladist framing, in practical terms there is no separation between a stadial model and the audience, so the standard defense fails, — it becomes incoherent to say: “The model is fine, it’s just those who interpret it poorly that create the issues” — let’s unpack.
Separation of ‘Model || Audience’ fades
So, I feel the incoherence I mention above may be a function of a blind-spot in some who are passionately zealous about models like Spiral Dynamics, or Integral. The conversation I’ve heard regarding Bateson’s provocation leads me to believe that many SD and Integral leaders (and devotees) do not appear to realize how extremely countercultural the claim that “higher doesn’t signify better” really is!
Granted, one may emphatically state that: “In this model, ‘higher’ doesn’t signify ‘superior’!” However, candidly, while Graves/SD voices often do state this, I don’t hear many, if any, Integral voices concerned about the superiority aspect. Rather, it’s more like that’s a point of pride — clearly, the ‘Periwinkle [LY]-envy’ dynamic won’t be dismissed by fiat. Disclaimers/caveats/nuances lack currency when American audiences are nearly 100% certain that higher means superior.
It’s the American way to see that higher is better! It’s ubiquitous, totally baked-in, and ‘close to the bone!’
The American cultural zeitgeist may be mired in narcissism and nihilism, yet it still holds a bedrock-belief that higher is better; e.g., from “movin’ on up” (into a prized penthouse apartment) to acquiring our goods from the ‘top shelf.’
In America, from an early age, we are constantly being trained to know that higher is superior. Every ‘grade level’ in school that one is able to complete opens ever more possibilities regarding what life might offer.
No, in America (and the West in general), higher IS better. Perhaps SD || Integral zeal prevents this being universally known or sufficiently appreciated. In any event, it points to the need for a conversation with SD || Integral folks.
Meritocracy: not well born
Admittedly, perhaps a somewhat distant cousin, still, meritocracy is akin to eugenics. Is that close enough to the bone for you? Before you start throwing things at me, recall that I’m the same person who wrote (here):
Seinfeld lightly but rightly points to the naïve expression of merit values. But instrumentality is also a very necessary aspect of present day, first-world life conditions and successfully navigating them. When you need brain surgery, I doubt you’ll be asking strangers in the hotel lobby if anyone is ‘feeling it’ and up for doing your surgery—I mean, surely there’s a YouTube tutorial video on it for someone to go by?
Two things are frequently true at the same time. We probably don’t want to completely toss the idea of merit (instrumental value). Still, the way we stratify and dehumanize life with it simply must be taken to task.
Instrumental value is very contextual and yet we systematize it and make the very notion of merit into a social commodity that coldly stratifies humans and life possibilities — DJT expresses a two-stage schema: winners and losers. Who needs an institutionalized caste system when money equals merit? It’s then, i.e., when cash = merit, that the disconnect from context is fully realized and humanness retreats.
Bateson has receipts
In the (Jeremy Johnson’s videocast) ‘Mutations’ conversation in which Nora Bateson, Maimunah Mosli, and Jon Freeman engaged, Bateson offers a rather troubling example of the deep, ubiquitous penetration of stadial theory in Western society.
Bateson really leads by identifying the issue within her own discipline of ecology. Even ecological rhetoric is shot-through with eugenics. Bateson recalls Garrett Hardin’s infamous classic: “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor.’ Please watch this two-minute passage [queued to the select clip (01:02:57—then, you stop at 01:05:06)]:
“This is a eugenics question.”
“If you tell a group of kids they have to answer the lifeboat question… you get all sorts of … they start to answer it. …”
Sadly, from public education to healthcare to top-tier VIP-status to border/immigration policy, stadial theory and eugenics still saturate our twenty-first century context.
Modernity essentially *elevated* the instrumental value and ghosted the intrinsic value of humans and made our instrumentality dominant/determinative.
Modernity and human instrumental value clearly have both beneficial and dehumanizing features. Stadial theory and eugenics are darkly dehumanizing. When money equals merit, the culture that results becomes dehumanizing.
We’re presently witnessing what happens after that’s been the case for a while: 600,000+ homeless, and rising, for instance.
Next week: “Stage theory… Is BS?” — pt. 5 … Come and see.
[this post approx. 850 words (3 min. read)]
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?