Irony: *Integral* “flatland”

a mystical möbius— curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.



From a plain sense, on-its-face basis

I’ve been in some social media conversations about my recent “Irony” observations (part 1 and part 2). It’s frustrating that I need to keep repeating that I’m trying to consider the face value of the curious statement attributed to Ken Wilber [kw]: 



Obviously, getting universal agreement on anything is impossible. For my part, I’ve agreed that kw‘s statement can be seen as paradoxical, or possibly taken in other ways that are useful. I’ve simply said that on its face, in plain sense terms, the statement is absurd. But yes, my absurdity claim has met with resistance.  

But, even any idea of a ‘plain sense, face value’ reading evokes resistance. It’s not that there is no coherence to the resistance; it’s that most of the content of the resistance is quite esoteric. Problem is, plain sense, face value readings are exoteric.  

Says who?

When I was asked: ‘who decides what’s absurd?’ …I essentially replied that Reality does; and, thankfully, we have received logic and language conventions (e.g., Merriam-Webster, grammar, etc.) that aid and direct us in how to interpret what words and sentences mean as we test our particulars against Reality’s constraints.


“The people who say Sasquatch doesn’t exist and the people who say that Sasquatches are absolutely everywhere are both right.”

The statement simply violates rudimentary, plain sense understandings… understandings that may not be totally universal in the written language form, — because education is unevenly distributed — but are nonetheless far more common than the understandings shared by Integralists. I’d suggest that even someone who is illiterate could easily perceive the absurdity of the Sasquatch statement on first hearing. “Mutual exclusivity” as a relationship appeals to plain sense reasoning. 

If this were about Sasquatch, and not systemic racism, I wouldn’t be raising a concern. But this is about the apparent affirmation of a denial of systemic racism. The why of that is undoubtedly curious/complicated. 

Lived experience

Black bodies know systemic racism exists. Whatever one calls it, White supremacist ideology [Wsi] has artifacts both historical and extant, i.e., systemic racism. American First Peoples and people of color know by the evidence of their lived experience the reality of systemic racism (e.g., the artifacts of Wsi).

As a light-skinned person, I must use my observation and imagination to consider what Black bodies experience in America. In his description of it, James Baldwin helps me in my imagining:
“White people go around, it seems to me, with a very carefully suppressed terror of Black people—a tremendous uneasiness. They don’t know who… they don’t know what the Black face hides. They’re sure it’s hiding something. What it’s hiding is American history. What it’s hiding is what white people know they have done and are doing. White people know very well one thing; it’s the only thing they have to know. They know this; everything else they’ll say is a lie. They know they would not like to be Black here. They know that. Now they know that, then they’re telling me lies. They’re telling me and my children nothing but lies.” —James Baldwin, 1979 [video receipt]
Jane Elliot offers a 45-second mystical demonstration of Baldwin’s insight: 

Approaching the “bottom line”

So, there’s one group of people who [obviously setting aside objective evidence that it exists] are doing mental exercises [ME] to entertain notions of the non-existence of something that another group of people know exists — they know in their minds and bodies. So, I need an open mind to imagine that the ME actually serve to offer a license to those who deny the existence of something known to exist by those affected. Some race crits (CRT scholars/activists) refer to these kinds of ME as the “status quo,” because that’s the inevitable result. These ME basically form a blanket license for one group of people (to continue) to gaslight another group, cf. James Baldwin quote above — “Now they know that, then they’re telling me lies. They’re telling me and my children nothing but lies.” [go learn what John 9:41 means]
One reason for DJT‘s popularity in some quarters is his objection to the exposure and dismantling of this gaslighting mechanism. He protected Americans from having to face their White fragility — “are both right.”
I was sorely disappointed when I observed that online-Integral* had gotten caught-up in this kind of enabling rhetoric. I still feel that their dogma and its unintended consequences may be paramount here. More next week.


First, I want to affirm that kw‘s Integral system has some very helpful insights. I am in sympathy with many Integral ideals. However, my observation is that online-Integral* has completely gone off the rails on the “race in America” discourse. Making the narrative about protecting those who harbor harmful delusions seems purblind, at best. My observation is that *Integral* messaging on race in America is mostly a train wreck.

online-Integral* = *Integral*



Next week: “Irony: *Integral* ‘flatland’ 2” [this post ~850 words (~3 min. read)]

Your thoughts? 



4 thoughts on “Irony: *Integral* “flatland”

  1. Here is a tangential way of looking at racism possibly more pragmatically. This mostly ignores the theoretical discussion you have been writing about. There is McWhorter’s view promulgated in Woke Racism that while systemic racism exists it is a non-starter for improving race relations. His take is that most systemic racism was eliminated years ago and even though some exists now, focussing on it detracts from solving the most important problems black people face.

    His three prescription recipe is 1) eliminate all drug laws on all drugs 2) use phonics early for teaching how to read 3) incorporate a technical/trade school path in High School. I am doing the book a disservice to try summarizing his reasons in one paragraph but will give it a go anyways. Eliminating drug law enforcement would have a positive impact on black lives since drug use and drug selling is a major component of many who live in low-income neighborhoods and cause generational and systemic negative interaction with law enforcement and the penal system. Phonics would teach children how to read at a younger age which would increase success in school since poor reading ability is a major problem in the black community. Providing an alternative to college and a path to a good paying job through trade/technical school training will give anyone not college bound a way to be economically successful in mainstream society and avoid criminal pursuits.

    He goes into a lot of detail as one would expect in a book supporting those ideas with facts, figures and reasoned arguments. On a common-sense level they are rational arguments. He believes CRT as promoted in White Fragility is causing a negative backlash that is counter-productive. In his mind, focussing on CRT will not improve the lives of the average black person and only brings negative attention to racism.

    So, here is a very pragmatic take on racism by McWhorter vs the theoretical discussion as initiated by Wilber’s quote. And, while Baldwin and Elliot make valid points does rehashing those arguments make a substantive change in black lives?

    Personally, I found White Fragility much more impactful personally in getting me to understand racism in a brand new way, And, Woke Racism was irritating to me on many levels including repeated logic fallacy use and I found his contrived vehicle of comparing it to religion completely unconvincing. I don’t accept his main thesis of Woke Racism being a new religion and a mostly negative pursuit by dogmatic zealots to punish those who get out of line.

    However, McWhorter has a point as to what actions will have the biggest impact in improving black lives. Will trying to teach CRT really make black lives better? Or, would focussing on the three actions McWhorter promotes make a bigger difference? The pragmatic side of me has started to accept that part of McWhorter’s argument.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Btw, the video (Power, Privilege, and Fragility: Leveling Up Our Conversations About Race and Racism) you linked to in the beginning of this post did explain Wilber’s statement how systemic racism is mostly eliminated in one quadrant and still prevalent in another. In a way, that is what McWhorter is saying about how civil rights legislation has removed most systemic racism from a legal perspective. Yet, systemic racism is practiced on personal levels consciously and unconsciously in another quadrant. Are you saying that you are rejecting looking at racism across the four quadrants? Now, I am having a hard time following your argument from an Integral Theory perspective. From a pragmatic perspective like your Sasquatch example I get it. But, Sasquatch is not true in any of the four quadrants so that analogy doesn’t work from an Integral Theory perspective.

    If you are saying you are rejecting Integral Theory then I get it. Is that what you are saying though? Maybe I am not reading and comprehending well.

    While I agree the Integral FB community is a complete train wreck, it seemed the video you linked to explained racism from an integral perspective quite well. Thanks for that link and bringing many other pertinent books (e.g. Dianglo and McWhorter) and videos to my attention in this and previous posts. I am learning a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hey now, Shasta Mike,

      Thanks for writing! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

      > Are you saying that you are rejecting looking at racism across the four quadrants?

      I’m questioning and resisting the selective, narrow, non-holistic use of the quadrants. This week I give it a playful description: “The perspectival relativism (upper left quadrant, tunnel-vision argument from phenomenology) ….”

      > Now, I am having a hard time following your argument from an Integral Theory perspective.

      Sorry about that. In my defense, I’m not meaning to make a systematic argument here. With three-minute episodes, I’m just trying to point at a story that conveys some concern.

      > If you are saying you are rejecting Integral Theory …

      Not whole cloth. Please check the first part of the tl;dr for this piece.

      > Leveling Up Our Conversations About Race and Racism) you linked to in the beginning of this post did explain Wilber’s statement how systemic racism is mostly eliminated in one quadrant and still prevalent in another.

      Yeah. Two hours and forty minutes attached to the opening “absurd” statement. The folks I’m raising the concern about likely hear the absurd statement at the beginning, take what they need from it, and check-out long before any explanation can be proffered much less take root. My concern really requires that one step outside of their own understanding of Integral and imagine being a first-time neophyte being exposed to the thinking in this way.

      Please stick around for… “Irony: *Integral* ‘flatland’ 2,” as I address this.

      grace and peace,
      Michael L. McKee


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