Ever since we have been pointing our fingers out one another, saying, we are right, you are wrong, or they are wrong, in the prison of self-righteousness. Why is that so? Why do we suffer in this prison?
One possible reason is that by nature we always value what we value. It is similar to the tautology that we see what we see; moreover, we can see what we can see. In other words, we can’t see what we can’t see.
Our cognitive limitations lead us to our cognitive distortions.
We can’t be and do what we don’t think of right. When we blame others, we think we are right and others are wrong. Even when we accept we could be wrong, unconsciously we still believe we should be right in doing so by following a specific set of values that we live for them.
We value what we value. In the same way, others could also blame us based on the values that they think of right and that they live for them. They value what they value.
If so, where did such differences of each value come from? Why is our value different from theirs? Why is my value different from your value, and from their values?
One answer could be on the difference in one another’s developmental, evolutionary consciousness stages.
For example, what toddlers value is different from what adults value because of each other’s developmental stages. Likewise, what hunter-gatherers value in the prehistoric era is different from what company employees value in this twenty-first century. Such differences among socio-cultural, geo-historical factors and civilizations could be one of the reasons.
To explain these varieties, one of the possible articulations is a model of Spiral Dynamics.
Spiral Dynamics is primarily for developmental psychology to map out the growth of human consciousness, particularly in adulthood. I have one entry on this topic.
In this entry here, let me explain some reflections from the point of view of self-righteousness.
While it is for developmental psychology, there are various interpretations and reflections around this model. Some are for business consultancy, others are for geopolitical pursuit, still, others are philosophical arguments. Allowing such various approaches shows that this model is somewhat archetypical.
In Spiral Dynamics, one stage (called color-coded Value Meme or Meme) includes and transcends the previous one. When and if one Meme faces specific life conditions and challenges, another Meme could emerge in such a way that the emerged one overcomes (transcend and include) the current one. This newly emerged Meme, however, would face another set of life conditions and challenges, and the next Meme should come out.
Conscious Self in Memes
Using “self” as a keyword, each Meme could be described as follows:
- Beige: Instinctive unconscious self
- Purple: Tribal conscious self
- Red: Power-seeking conscious self
- Blue: Obedient conscious self
- Orange: Rational conscious self
- Green: Empathetic conscious self
Starting from the first Beige Meme, there are six Memes in the First Tier. After reaching the last Green Meme in the First Tier, there should be a leap that would lead people into the Second Tier.
And starting from the seventh, which is the first Yellow Meme in the Second Tier, also known as “Radiant Beige” should start another unfolding spiral move. After Yellow, there could be Turquoise (Radiant Purple), Coral (Radiant Red), Teal (Radiant Blue), and more.
- Yellow (Radiant Beige): Transcending conscious self
- Turquoise (Radiant Purple): Compassionate self
- Coral (Radiant Red): God-within self
- Teal (Radiant Blue): Selflessness
Let me describe each Meme (in the First Tier) as follows:
The First Tier Memes
Beige: Newborn babies belong to this Meme. The main drive is a survival instinct. When they are hungry, they eat. When they are angry, they even kill others instinctively. They can’t control their emotions. Their emotions control them.
In extreme circumstances such as chaotic battlefields and starvation, their instinctive violence controls everything. Anyone would degenerate into this stage. Usually, all lower Memes are dormant within.
As their self-consciousness is half-baked, they don’t know about themselves. Positively, they are as innocent as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Negatively, they don’t have a sense of shame and guilt without a fig leaf (a symbol of self-consciousness and law).
Purple: The main drive is a family, kinship, and tribal community. It could be the basis of the family tie, kinship lineage, and tribal tradition. As one of the basic drives, it can control people’s living. They can work hard to protect their family and relatives. Often, they prefer to keep a group within their family, or tribal members.
They keep a sense of loyalty to their group. But the size is within the scale of a tribal community of more or less 150, known as Dunbar’s number. Outside this community, everything and everyone could be external threats. The golden rule here is don’t trust strangers. In the prehistoric era, one of the top causes of death was murder in the tribal wars. A noble savage is a myth. People can trust one another only within their community.
They are highly superstitious. There are various gods and goddesses in each tribal community. During the tribal war, they pray for their gods and goddesses with manipulative sorceries.
Red: Constant tribal warfare is not sustainable. Like slash-and-burn agriculture, all communities would be exhausted and eventually nobody would survive. As a result of constant tribal competitions, therefore, one overarching king or queen should emerge. The ultimate winner gets everything.
In Red, various despotisms and civilizations could emerge. One superpower rules everything and everyone. This special individual even gains the position of a god or goddess. Thus, the constant tribal warfare finally ended under one superpower. There was “peace” achieved. People have overcome their life conditions and challenges that they faced in Purple.
As long as they follow and worship their king and queen, they are safe. They don’t have to rely on their family tie and tribal tradition. On the other hand, in the loyal family and kinship of their king and queen, perhaps Purple is still one of the drives to maintain their power and authority.
It works well as long as their king or queen can control his or her people and community, which is beyond Dunbar’s number. Quite often, such a huge community is no longer manageable. As history proved, any despotisms faced the miserable end. Their king or queen got insane if not executed or assassinated. An individual can’t take a position of absolute power. Charisma is a myth, if not fake.
Blue: How can people manage the civilization that their charismatic leader developed, and yet couldn’t maintain? That was one of the life conditions Red faced and failed. They needed a system and institution. Blue emerged.
If the size is around 150, people can remember one another. In the scale of thousands and millions, on the other hand, they needed to institutionalize their community into the organization with systems.
The government became an independent entity, like our human body can manage the complexity of cells without our consciousness. Instead of one charismatic leader, the system runs itself for its purposes. Instead of the leader’s intentions and whims, the laws can take the position of superpower and authority.
Religions typically went through this shift from Purple to Red to Blue. In Purple, people are highly superstitious, and their gods or goddesses are tribal or ethnocentric. Those gods and goddesses protect only specific tribal communities. After the tribal warfare, however, people started worshiping one overarching charismatic figure. As long as people believed in such a king or queen-like living, they could be safe. Quite often, however, their worldly god or goddess ended up with scandals, if not killed or assassinated. Regions should be institutionalized in the stage of Blue.
Orange: As institutions went too far, people faced harmful bureaucracies and dehumanized oppressions. They kept the rules only for the sake of rules. Systems run only to keep them running. People were diligent and obedient to their systems, but they forgot their original purposes.
What for they are doing it? Here, they recalled a long-forgotten Red motive. Instead of degenerating into Red, however, the next level conscious self emerged, which is rational, scientific, pragmatic self.
Orange is a color of Red with a bit of Yellow. This way, their self-consciousness is not as brutal and selfish as Red. They embraced the systems and institutions, and yet they know how to use them effectively for their own benefits.
With this consciousness level, people achieved unprecedented prosperity and productivity. The world population explosively increased. The mortality rate dropped dramatically. Even the war-caused death dropped sharply in the twenty-first century.
For the first time in human history, people have finally overcome three enemies of humankind — starvation, disease, and violence.
People are rational, and pragmatic. They solved various life challenges in the previous Memes. Due to their Red-factor, however, people are still selfish and competitive. They are on the logic of capitalism. They work hard for them to win and become prosperous worldly in defeating others.
How should they take care of others whom they are supposed to defeat? Moreover, how can they overcome an act and concept of winning or defeating itself? That is the life conditions Orange faced.
Green: Throughout human history and consciousness development in both macro and micro perspectives, people have ever since faced constant conflicts.
In Beige, they killed others based on their emotions. In Purple, there was a series of endless tribal warfare. In Red, one superpower controlled the life and death of everyone. In Blue, the system oppressed the obedient populace. In Orange, people are in the fight between 1% wealthier and 99% poorer, even though people are globally in the state of unprecedented prosperity.
The ultimate solution is to deny these conflicts themselves. That is what Green has realized. Thus, their consciousness is compassionate and empathetic by embracing diversities and inclusions. The concept of human rights is on this value Meme.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”: in perhaps the most resonant and beautiful words of any international agreement, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises, to all, the economic, social, political, cultural and civil rights that underpin a life free from want and fear.
These human rights are not country-specific. They are not a reward for good behaviour, or particular to a certain era or social group. They are the inalienable entitlements of all people, at all times and everywhere, 365 days a year.
They are the rights of people of every colour, from every race and ethnic group; whether or not they have disabilities; citizens or migrants; no matter their sex, their class, their caste, their creed, their age or sexual orientation.Human rights day statement: High Commissioner
In this perspective, the goal of Green is even to embrace all previous Memes that people transcended and included. In Green, nobody should be neglected and oppressed. Even there must be no inter-Meme conflicts.
Towards the Second Tier
The intention of Green was sublime. Are there any life conditions and challenges Green was supposed to face? That is what we call the tyranny of relativism and the dillemma of self-righteousness.
With the intention of embracing indiscriminately everything and everyone, even all the First Tier Memes, Green fell into this trap. As anything goes, people can no longer distinguish what is right and wrong. It is a state of anarchism.
At a glance, Green looks compassionate and empathetic. The truth, however, is that they are unconsciously narcissistic and self-righteous, like other First Tier Memes. The truth is that they love themselves as they see themselves embracing and accepting everything and everyone. For this reason, while they declared their relativistic Green perspective, their reaction against those who denied and criticized them could be quite violent. In Spiral Dynamics, often it is called Mean Green Meme.
Green is the last Meme in the First Tier. Nevertheless, or because of that, the downside of the First Tier could be manifested in this special manner. After all, the First Tier is the prison of self-consciousness and self-righteousness. As long as we are in the First Tier, we can never get out of this dilemma.
That is what people have finally realized in Green, the last Meme of the First Tier. We need to leap into the Second Tier by transcending conscious self as such.
Image by Gerd Altmann