I AM - David Long


A Truly Integral Political Theory: Transcending & Including Both Translation & Transformation

The following excerpt is taken from an article previously released on Beams and Struts called: Eight Perspectives On Integral Trans-Partisan Politics: http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/1143-eightperspectivespolitics  

 Please check out the rest of the discussion if you have time. 


As integralists we need to understand the unfolding of development so that we can work with ideas, systems, and people right where they are. This recognition leads to two different approaches: translation and transformation. Which approach we use is dependent upon where a person or system is in its current unfolding.


For example, some people are new to a stage of development and still have much to learn in that stage while others are well established in a stage and are not going to change their general worldview anytime soon. This is where we use skillful means to try and work with the interpretation of ideas to create a more healthy translation. (Example: getting Christians to care about the environment by referencing the scriptures and getting them to see them selves as “good stewards of the earth”) This often means embracing a quadrant that might be rejected or given less influence. (Like getting the Christian to care about the LR environmental systems). It also might mean doing a better job of encouraging the growth of the previous stage, or more fully taking up the role of the current stage of evolution being occupied. (Example: Red is impulsive/egoic. "I want it now" and Blue is a conformist stage where we "sacrifice now, for something better later." This is often a magic/mythic translation but it doesn't have to be. The main thing that makes a stage healthy is that it keeps the lower stage in check and/or helps it to evolve.)


On the other hand, there is a point in evolution called “the dark night” where the ideas in a stage have reached their natural culmination and new problems emerge that can’t be solved by the old ways of thinking and something new is required. This is where transformation into the new stage is necessary, and old antiquated ideas that inhibit development must be dealt with. This is often a painful process, but it can also lead to a beautiful rebirth into new previously undeveloped potentials and a more positive harmonious way of being.


I find that when I speak to integralists about politics there is a bit of a split. 


Many integralists focus on a more short-term approach. There is real excitement in the integral community about more healthy translations that are slowly unfolding. Many integralists want to get more involved and work with our political system where it is to create better lives for the people now. This includes great things like equal rights for different genders, classes, and races; The end of prohibition, and the drug war, etc. 


Many other integralists will argue that while these things are positive advances, it’s ultimately just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; fixing only the symptoms in a system that is destined to go down if the real problems are not addressed. They are seeing that we are stuck in a dark night and find that our current political discussions are not dealing with the real underlying problems that have manifested as a natural result of our current system’s philosophical foundations. 


Here are some of the main problems not being addressed:

1. Unsustainability - in terms of our use and waste of limited resources in the environment as a natural outgrowth of materialism, gluttony, consumerism, and planned obsolescence resulting in environmental degradation and systems collapse. 


2. “Haves” and “Have Nots” – scarce resources ultimately lead to a huge gap between rich and poor that is ever-widening. More and more people are finding that the “American Dream” is an unhealthy nightmare that we must wake up from and that these freedoms that we take for granted are claimed at the expense of the systems that support us. (There is an unhealthy balance between positive and negatives liberties i.e., “freedom from” and “freedom to” with a narcissistic, individualistic, “hands off my stuff”, and “I’ll do what I like” type of underlying attitude that has to change.)


3. “Us and Them” Thinking – in a world where all of our systems are becoming ever more connected, ideas like borders and political party lines cease to make any sense. It becomes more obvious all the time that humans share this planet with each other (transcending our ideas of local culture into a historic perspective of unfolding human culture) and with other species. We are now seeing that we are a part of the ecosystem, and that it was not put here for us to exploit like a cancerous virus. We are outgrowing the blue/traditional/ethnocentric and orange/materialistic/nationalistic ways of thinking into a more worldcentric understanding and expansion of care. (This is also a natural outgrowth of a scientific cosmology, and that should be appreciated.)


4. Limited Education and Health Care systems – unsustainability is also evident in human society because there is a limited focus on development. Often what should be seen as “investments in our collective human future” are seen as “handouts to the irresponsible.” To see people as just what they are now and not as what they could be or bring to the table is a flat and static view with a very limited understanding of human development, and results in a limited investment in a natural growth hierarchy. Our current systems are run like a factory and people are treated as cogs in the machine, beasts of burden, wage slaves, means to a mechanistic short term monetary end only reaped by the corporate elites.


5. Biased Problem Solving Methods – all of these problems are a result of legislating taste (top down) vs. taking a vote (mob rule). Everything from corporate corruption in politics (corporations as people and money as speech) to the idea that what is true or good is equivalent with what is popular amongst a people who are not even educated enough to make decisions in their own best interest. (This is the real source of the paralysis in our systems. We need a more unified scientific “peer review process” type of system that factors in natural growth hierarchies, takes good ideas from everywhere based on their merit, tests these ideas, and is open to refinement over time.


Here is a video I made expressing many of these same points:

In the face of all these problems, many integralists have stopped participating in our current systems; but, also see limited to no solutions coming from the green/postmodernist/deconstructionist uprising (e.g., The Occupy Wall Street Movement). While it is a positive sign of growth and shows a deep desire for something better, it is also seen as more:

1) “us and them” thinking (we are the 99% - not we are the 100%),

2) a lack of understanding of development (blaming the 1%, expecting them to be better and/or fix things instead of fixing them and making things better themselves, as well as not appreciating the advancements brought by this way of thinking in an unfolding context),

3) a flatland lack of distinction even within its own participants and their motives, as well as a rejection of the natural growth hierarchies that could ultimately hold the solution.


A favorite quote amongst integralists more focused on transformation is:

We never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
— Buckminster Fuller

So while many integralists are working on short-term healthy translation, conscious capitalism, trans-partisan third-way integral politics, and expressing these ideas in a way that can be heard and appreciated in our current culture (building from the bottom up), many other integralists are focusing on building new integral governance, education, and resource management systems from the top down. (Such as new ideas about “Collective Individualism” and what that might look like in theory and practice.)


Currently we are not just dealing with a single idea, person, or system, but a dynamic spectrum, and so It is my opinion that BOTH of these approaches are important and that for either of them to be truly effective they must inform each other and work together in an unfolding way. This is the importance of integrating the long-term and short-term approaches of integral translation and transformation. 


To focus only on the short term is to take action that is not informed by the big picture. To ignore the short term can be seen as a form of integral inaction and paralysis, building castles in the sky in a world that needs us NOW.


I would like to think that as integralists we could see the importance of both approaches and find some way of establishing a means of working on them both together, refining them over time, and unifying them into a REAL integral understanding of “Integral political theory and practice” in an unfolding context.


Each of us may have our own ideas and want to focus on particular areas based on our personal passions and interests; but we must be open to, and have great respect for, anyone who is truly working towards healthy integral translation and transformation. Lets come together with a method and take it further.


David Long

For more info on a more transformational approach check out videos by Troy Wiley especially “Integral Zeitgeist” and “NeoTribal Zeitgeist – Supreme Ordeal“.

Nice summary, David. You are doing good work!
— Don Beck