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Chapter 13:
Repairing The Road

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THE FOURTH GREAT AWAKENING gave us a wakeup call.  It called Americans to witness a new generation of people struggling on the road to the middle class, worthy people acquiring for themselves through enthusiastic Protestantism, an education, and a rigid regard for rules the earnest culture of respectability that beckons like a shining city on a hill to those who struggle in the shanties and the slums of the industrial city.  The proud elitists who banished enthusiastic Christianity beyond the Pale at the beginning of the twentieth century and confidently ordered its tombstone have been humbled by humble folk.  It is not yet time to retire the road to the middle class, if indeed it will ever be so.  Instead, the proud elites better understand that ordinary folk want to keep the road to the middle class in good repair and open to all.  For when the ordinary people call for a return back to basics, they are merely calling for a return to “the three major achievements [of the western tradition]... the Greek theory of knowledge, the Hebrew doctrine of salvation, and Roman law and political theory.” (Gebser 1984, p 74)

The Spiral Dynamics perspective tells us where the elitists went wrong.  The green communitarians who dominated the politics of the United States for most of the twentieth century thought that the red proletarians could be converted into peaceable citizens of an industrial society purely through material assistance.  The nuclear family, fathers, discipline, and belief in Jesus Christ, they knew, were artifacts of a superstitious Protestant ethic that no longer applied in modern society.  Nor was the stern schoolmarm of the early public school movement relevant to modern conditions.  Children could direct their own education so long as they possessed a sufficient sense of positive self-esteem.  But many Americans felt that this was all wrong.  From the bottom, ex-rednecks like Mary Johnston organized their lives around a faith in Jesus Christ and a passion for traditional education and ex-homeboys like Jesse Lee Peterson grew from rage to responsibility, and, from the top, conservative writers and policy analysts showed why these ordinary people were right and the experts were wrong.  Even liberals like Robert William Fogel realized that something had gone wrong with the egalitarian dream. 

What these people understood was that there is no shortcut on the road to the middle class.  For the redneck from Appalachia, for the roistering Irishman, for the inner-city homeboy, the road to the middle class is the uphill road out of rage and victimhood to competence and responsibility.  It cannot be skipped over or marginalized.  It isn’t a mere cultural artifact of western hegemony.  It’s the next step beyond the culture of power and impulse, of rage and victimization. 

The idea that that religion, education, mutual aid, and the rule of law pave the road to the middle class has been made to seem old fashioned, or even reactionary.  It is not.  The idea is timeless, and as American as apple pie.  It shines through the story of every immigrant who ever went through Ellis Island, for it was the faith that sustained the huddled masses that came to America, yearning to breathe free.  It was the faith that sustained Jane Addams and Hull-House.  It informs Michael Barone’s The New Americans, an essay that showed how powerfully the American ethos works on each immigrant surge, welcoming them, yet powerfully molding and adapting them to the ways of the American family.

In the early twenty-first century, Americans are again worried about immigration.  They worry, as they did at the turn of the twentieth century, that the great tide of immigration will turn out to be a tsunami that wipes out the American Way.  Michael Barone reminds us that the immigrants that came to America around 1900 and that the better classes of the time worried about—the Jews, the Italians, and the Irish—all managed to succeed in adapting to life in the city, and all today live squarely in the mainstream of American life and culture.  What then, Barone asks, of the immigrant communities of 2000: the Asians, the Hispanics, and the blacks about whom the professional worrying classes worry today?  Will they repeat the success of their predecessors, or not? 

He compares the immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century with the immigrants struggling to make it at the turn of the twenty-first century.  He finds the Jews of 1900 similar to the Asians of 2000.  Both groups came to the United States with a well-developed tradition of education.  He finds the Italians of 1900 similar to the Hispanics of 2000.  Both groups tend to mistrust government and have developed strong family bonds to provide the social cohesion that government in their homelands had failed to provide.  Finally, he notes the similarity between the Irish and the blacks.  Both groups had suffered grievous oppression in their homelands, in rack-rented Ireland and the slaveholding South.  And both groups have faced a hard struggle to adapt to the culture of the city, casting off only with difficulty the culture of victimhood and violence and accepting the culture of education and law.

A century ago, when the Jews of Eastern Europe arrived in New York and piled into the teeming slum of the Lower East Side, they were thought to be unintelligent and inferior.  But Jews were people of the book.  They already had a high level of literacy, encouraged by a rabbinical Judaism that encouraged literacy and Torah study.  The core of rabbinical Judaism is the idea of living by the Torah (literally, the law).  Supercharged by this culture, the Jews surged within a generation into eastern colleges at such a rate that their administrations, then as now devoted to quotas, limited the number of Jews to be admitted.  In the 1990s, similar quotas were limiting the number of Asian-Americans admitted to the University of California at Berkeley.  Most Asians, like the Jews, are people of the book.  Both Jews and Asians have benefited from dense undergrowth of self-help and mutual-aid organizations, including most critically those that loan startup capital to people opening new businesses.

When the Irish began to immigrate to the United States after the disastrous potato famines of the 1840s, they were not yet people of the book; they were people of oppression.  So miserable were the Irish in the nineteenth century that some contemporary commentators reported that the rack-rented tenant farmer in Ireland was worse off than the African slave in the American South.  Nor were they people of the law.  The Irish had been pummeled by oppressive British power for centuries, and by the 1840s land ownership had been changed by wholesale confiscation several times since the punitive expedition conducted by Cromwell two hundred years before.  (Bethell 1998 p254) When they came to the United States, they knew only suffering from unfair laws.  Education, to these Catholics, was indoctrination in the oppressor’s Anglicanism.  Suffering from this dual disability, the Irish were slow to prosper in the United States, and looked to politics and ethnic solidarity to raise them up rather than law and education.

The variation between the Jewish experience and the Irish experience in America shows the grain of truth in the Marxist narrative.  Oppression does make a difference.  But light-to-moderate oppression is an obstacle, not a barrier.  Given a modicum of opportunity, every American immigrant group has worked its way to success in the great American mainstream.  Jews succeeded against the Jewish quota in the universities and against anti-Semitism in the corporate suites.  The Irish succeeded against “Irish Need Not Apply” hiring discrimination and against a public school system inaugurated, in part, to cure them of their Catholicism.  African Americans, most worthily, succeeded in building competence and respectability during a century of Jim Crow in the South and frank discrimination in the North.  All immigrant groups succeeded in working into the American mainstream, and all managed to succeed against discrimination and stereotyping.  But some immigrant groups did better than others.  Jews and Asians, the people of the book, did better than Italians and Hispanics, people of the family.  And Italians and Hispanics did better than Irish and blacks, the children of oppression, who were actively prevented by their British and Southern masters from acquiring education and the experience of living under law rather than the knout.

But even the Irish, disadvantaged as they were by the weight of oppression, managed to thrive in the city.  It took a century-long struggle, from the squalor of the “shanty Irish” culture of the 1850s to their present competence.  But the Irish made it.  Given the similarity between the situation of the Irish in 1850 and the African-Americans in 1950, Barone encourages his readers to hope that the struggle of the African-Americans will result in the same happy outcome as the Irish experience in the United States.

The testimony of Barone confirms the argument of this book: that the United States already had by 1900 the institutional framework to empower people to acquire the skills and the culture they need to thrive in its cities.  It didn’t require the welfare state, and it didn’t require squadrons of policy experts to help the poor navigate the road to the middle class.  The immigrants had the tools they needed and they were eager to use them.  On the other hand, the well-intentioned efforts of the enthusiasts of the welfare state actually hindered people in their advance to competence in the city by encouraging them to retain their peasant, pre-industrial culture rather than modify it, in the grand American tradition, and adjust to the realities of life in the city.  The welfare state gave them material sufficiency, as Fogel celebrates, but stripped them of the opportunity to forge for themselves a workable culture that could sustain them and lead them to competence and success.  Thus many indices of social disease, of violence, family breakdown, and the like, all worsened between 1900 and 2000.  Crime, juvenile delinquency were said to be driven by the “root cause” of poverty and the rage sparked by oppression.  Unfortunately, when the burdens of material want and oppression were reduced, crime rates went up.  Maybe the root cause of crime is not poverty, but something else.  At last, in The Fourth Great Awakening, a liberal was ready to grasp this nettle. 

Fogel takes up the themes that conservatives have developed: culture, character, and response to incentives.  To talk of a maldistribution of vital spiritual resources as he does is to say, using center-left policy-speak, that character matters.  Fogel recognizes that culture and values are an essential ingredient of success in modern society, and his book is an attempt to imagine how that agenda could be reconciled with the progressive vision of an egalitarian society, what we have characterized as “green communitarian.”  But he is unable to free himself from the hold of the paternal state.  The welfare state will continue, only now it will concentrate on eliminating spiritual inequality rather than material inequality.  The new egalitarian state will still empower the government and the “other-directed” New York intellectuals of Riesman’s Lonely Crowd with the supervision of society.  Like Plato’s guardians or Huxley’s controller, they will direct the lower orders with paternal wisdom.  And the irony is that American liberals, the champions for a century of the separation of church and state, the triumphant differentiation of the City of Man and the City of God retreat, in defeat, to a reactionary recombination of spiritual and political power, hankering like Osama bin Laden after a return to ancient glories in which divine and temporal powers were combined in a single Caliph and all the messy politics of the modern era were avoided by divinely inspired commands from the throne.

The attempt by Fogel and others to attempt to rescue their movement is understandable although, according to his own theory, they ought to allow it to die out as a spent political movement that arose out of the Third Great Awakening of 1900.  They are responding to the political realignment that has followed upon the Fourth Great Awakening and that has put their egalitarian program in jeopardy as new spiritual needs and new political forces have reduced their authority and prestige. But all their special pleading and sophisticated analysis doesn’t alter the fact that the United States already has the institutions it needed for unlettered immigrants to find the road to the middle class.  It had them in 1900, and after the egalitarians wrecked them with their too-powerful government, it took another spiritual outburst to put the United States back on track.  The Reagan revolution and the Bush presidency are merely the political consequence of that spiritual outburst, the working out of a spiritual movement in political reform to clear and restore the road to the middle class.

But the Fourth Great Awakening was not just an outburst of enthusiastic Protestantism, and the United States is not just a nation of red proletarians struggling to get into the middle class.  What about all the people who are already middle class, as 95 percent of Americans consider themselves to be?   What about the Beats of the 1950s, the New Left and the flower children of the Sixties, and the New Agers and the postmodernists of the 1980s and 1990s?

The Spiral Dynamics perspective makes sense of the other outbursts of the Fourth Great Awakening.  It interprets the spiritual outbursts of the present era as the consequence of people struggling to achieve a transition from one consciousness level to another.  People experiencing the red/blue transition are attracted to enthusiastic Protestantism.  Young professional people negotiating the blue/orange transition in London are attracted to the Brompton Oratory or to the Alpha Course, while similar young Americans are attracted to the success ethic of Norman Vincent Peale or Stephen R. Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or the burgeoning suburban mega-churches.  Educated women who want to transcend blue convention and become orange creative artists are attracted to the books and seminars of Julia Cameron and Sonia Choquette.  Scions of wealthy families find themselves on the cusp between orange and green, and are attracted to environmentalism, organic agriculture, NGO activism, and anti-discrimination, searching for a genuine democracy of sharing and caring instead of the vision quest of the creative ego. 

Political thinkers and leaders understand that they must develop a politics that responds to the spiritual outburst in its rich diversity.  Tony Blair in Britain developed a politics to center the Labour Party on “Middle Britain,” the people “not privileged or deprived... but struggling to get by” (Gould 1999 p3) that Labour forgot for a century as they appealed exclusively to the working class and the chattering class.  He also declared that Britain needs more entrepreneurs.  Braving a storm of controversy, he sent his son to a religious school, the London Oratory.  He reduced the Conservative Party to railing about the betrayal of the pound and the perils of immigration.  In the United States George W. Bush, recognizing that Republicans are losing well-paid, well-educated college graduates to the Democrats, first tried to extend the Republican party from its blue/orange base to a green universalism with his “compassionate conservatism” and then, in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, he moved to occupy red and purple territory, as the powerful commander-in-chief of the American tribe, and blue territory as the representative of good versus evil, while still maintaining green territory by insisting on the universality of the United States—it was not in a war with Islam, but only with terrorists.

The Third Way politics of Tony Blair and the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush gave heartburn to many of their base supporters.  Left-wingers hated Blair’s betrayal of their socialist vision when he told a BBC interviewer that he didn’t see anything wrong with British people making millions of pounds a year.  Conservatives in America were non-plussed by the “compassionate” side of compassionate conservatism.  The Spiral Dynamics perspective shows what these politicians are up to.  Tony Blair’s New Labour party was consciously moving to expand its support from the red proletarians and the green communitarians, the coalition of the solid working class and the middle-class loony-left core that kept the party out of power for twenty years in the last quarter of the twentieth century.  It moved to appeal to Middle England, the blue conformists who were frightened by the old Labour party of red and green, and also to Young Britain, the adventurous young people, orange creatives, who wanted to pursue a career and get a chance to win the glittering prizes.  George W. Bush’s Republican party was trying to move beyond its core blue and orange supporters and appeal to the green communitarians, people committed to a universal creative community.  Bush went to great pains to make the Republican convention of 2000 an inclusive affair, with plenty of minorities, women, and gays on camera to show that the Republican Party wasn’t just for conformist, white, heterosexual suburbanites.  Both Blair and Bush are trying to make their parties into political malls, still defined by their anchor tenants but also crammed with specialty shops for the exotic taste.

Blair and Bush are politicians, practitioners of the art of the possible, attempting to reform the gigantic government establishments they have inherited.  But their successors will need a new vision to inspire them, one that takes a bolder step towards imagining a political world illuminated by the Spiral Dynamics perspective.  In creating such a vision it is well to start with the words of F. A. Hayek, one of the earliest and most penetrating critics of the welfare state.  In Law, Legislation, and Liberty he wrote about the difference between a spontaneous order such as “society” and an organization such as “government.”  A spontaneous order such as society is millions of people acting independently, and yet interconnected to each other in a web of transactions that aggregate into astonishing complexity.  Government, on the other hand, is an organization, and is designed precisely to limit spontaneity.  Society, we could say, has almost unlimited bandwidth, but the U.S. Congress has the limited bandwidth of a committee of 535 individuals.  Hayek writes:

[It] is impossible ... to replace the spontaneous order by organization and at the same time to utilize as much of the dispersed knowledge of all its members as possible. (Hayek 1973 p51)

The welfare state of the twentieth century was precisely an attempt to replace the spontaneous order of social interaction with specific organizations planned and controlled by government to do specific tasks.  Its efforts and accomplishments were limited and disappointing because, by replacing spontaneous order with specific organization in the execution of education and welfare, government radically reduced the bandwidth of knowledge and energy that could be brought to these tasks.  In contrast, the Fourth Great Awakening was a phenomenon of spontaneous order, a social outburst of millions of people responding to a sense of uneasiness.  It is trying to tell us that the society of the future must not be founded on the organization model but founded as a spontaneous order in which millions of human actions are all brought to bear upon the national political space, and mediated there by the venerable institutions enshrined in the U.S. Constitution to write laws that will allow the spontaneous order of society to solve problems rather than the privilege the rigid organizations of government for tasks beyond their competence.

This book has made much of the needs of the people on the road to the middle class, how their need was for religion, education, and law.  It argued against the micro-management of people on the road to the middle class and the painstaking organization of basic human needs and services related to education, health, and welfare, upon which the welfare state has strained so mightily.  Government is needed to maintain the road, uphold and enforce the rules of the road, and keep it clear of brigands and robber barons.  It did not need to nag and nanny every American to eat their broccoli.  But even if this were stipulated, and the welfare state were abolished in favor of a compassionate and spontaneous order that respected religion, encouraged parents once more to take charge of their children’s education, and taught them how the law defended the weak against the strong, only one group of Americans would be satisfied, the people struggling on the red/blue transition.  There remain the people on the blue/orange transition, people preparing to attempt a life of adventure, and the people on the orange/green transition, those moving beyond rules and beyond ego to caring and sharing.  A restored road to the middle class will not be tolerated if it destroys the road to creativity and the road to community.

As this book has shown, the previous attempts to build roads to creativity and community have been highly unsatisfactory.  Nineteenth century Romantics imagined a world in which bourgeois structure would be destroyed and only creativity would reign.  Nineteenth century socialists imagined a world in which bourgeois enterprise would be smashed and only caring and sharing would remain.  The Romantics and the socialists failed because they tried to break up the road to the middle class.  The Spiral Dynamics perspective predicts the result of these experiments.  By denying the rules, the Romantics declined into Decadence.  By denying creative spontaneity, the socialists declined into mindless bureaucracy.  Instead of crying with Victor Hugo “No more rules... genius conjures up rather than learns,” (Grana 1964 p54) the Romantics should have cried: “Transcend the rules!  Use the precious gift of creative intuition to vault from the shoulders of the present to the unimagined heights of the future!”  Instead of marginalizing the creative egos of capitalists and entrepreneurs, the socialists should have harnessed their inventiveness to devise how networks of caring and sharing could transcend creativity and enterprise instead of replacing it.

There was a reason why the Romantics and the socialists wanted to destroy the status quo. They were afraid.  The Romantics were afraid of the bourgeoisie.  They feared that the bourgeoisie would come and put a stop their naughty goings-on, like the British army officer who puts a stop to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  And the socialists were terrified by the capitalists that they experienced as robber barons trying to take over the world and exploit it.  How could there ever be a world of voluntary caring and sharing until the capitalists and their mad cult of Individualism had been smashed?  So the green communitarians were afraid of the orange capitalists; the orange creative artists were afraid of the blue bourgeoisie.  And the bourgeoisie?  They were afraid of the mob, the red proletarians.

The fear of the mob is an old friend.  It was the spirit that moved the government to limit “combinations” of workers in the nineteenth century and the reluctance of the bourgeoisie to extend the franchise to the propertyless.  But the bourgeoisie overcame its fear and passed legislation that institutionalized the right of workers to form unions and in their right to be included in the national political dialogue as franchised voters.  The times called for men and women to champion the rights of the workers, and to insist that, backward and ill-adapted as they might be, the workers were still human, and had a right to participate in politics and to have the middle-class society of the United States adapt itself somewhat to their needs.  It was the Social Gospelers and other green communitarians who defined this problem as the Social Question, and championed the rights of the workers, and they deserve credit for their work.  Then the workers needed to advance from their peasant, power-based culture to the culture of the city.  Yet, while they remained unassimilated, they still had rights, and should not have been bullied onto the road to the middle class against their will.

But now the shoe is on the other foot.  Now the problem is that creative artists sneer at the bourgeoisie, and fear them.  They rail at the Religious Right and try to chase middle-class, Christian culture out of the public square because they fear the “chilling effect” of traditional rules and roles on their creative process.  Now the problem is that green communitarians fear the power of multinational corporations and the creative egos that founded and grew them, and want to curb their global reach because the corporate culture of global creativity seems to threaten their own dreams of global community.  The problem is the same as the old Social Question of the nineteenth century.  The “advanced” communities are impatient and fearful of the backward, and resent having to accommodate the “superstitions” and primitive culture of the ordinary middle class.  And they have preached a creative crusade, a Culture War to defeat the superstitions of the stolid Christian middle class.

This new problem, the Culture War, needs to be solved in a way similar to the old Social Question.  A movement of elitists is needed to champion the rights of the Mary Johnstons, the blue purposives in flyover country, from the scorn and the intolerance of the orange and green elitists just as, in the nineteenth century, a movement of elitists championed the rights of the working class against middle-class intolerance.  As you might expect, this has already happened.  The U.S. conservative movement in the 1970s transformed itself from an elite coterie of writers and activists into a broad-based movement that came to feature as its core supporters the meat-and-potatoes middle class of flyover country and the striver suburb.  The battles of this war are the social issues like abortion, school prayer, and gun rights over which elite opinion in the media and the university sharply differs from the common-sense opinion of ordinary Americans. 

The settlement of this culture war is still some way away, as the orange creatives and green communitarians still fail to understand that they have a problem or that there any reason to compromise with people they consider to be bigots.  They have defined themselves as the culmination of civilization, rather as the bourgeoisie of the late nineteenth century experienced itself, in the words of Max Weber as “this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”  The modern elites will likely need to be rocked onto their heels by a severe shock before they will be willing to discuss compromise.  At the turn of the twenty-first century, they expect to define the future.  The idea that they ought to share the future with dull routinists who go to Bible study meetings on Wednesday evening has not yet penetrated their consciousness.

In its noble defense of religious, married, child-raising America, the conservative movement has developed a set of policy initiatives that defend the right of the ordinary middle class to live a life of purpose and direction, but to opt out of the orange disturbance of creativity and rule changing, and the green dream of universal brotherhood and global community beyond the limits of kin, of race, and of nation.  But it has not developed a cultural vision that transcends the vision of the orange creatives and the green communitarians, and that illustrates the poverty of the left-wing world view with its own broader and more compelling world view, one that combines the agenda of red/blue base with a vision of creativity and community that could attract the support of the creative classes.  In consequence, the conservative movement has lacked a cultural strategy and has found itself perpetually on the cultural defensive.  Without such a vision it is trying to defeat something with nothing.

The great failure of the left has been its failure to admit the immense difficulty of all creative work, and the specific difficulty of changing society for the better.  The moment of creative insight is the beginning of work, not its end.  The brilliant idea must be made to work—in a painting, a book, or in society, and all the mistakes and omissions in the original flash of insight painstakingly identified and corrected.  The reality is that, out of the thousands of creative artists in any generation, only a handful is fated to produce anything of lasting merit.  The work of the rest will be deservedly forgotten.  And social change is notoriously difficult, as the twentieth century proved.  The bold vision of Marx and Engels, when implemented in the bold strokes of Lenin and Mao, led to unimaginable sufferings for the Russian and the Chinese people and for millions of others as well.  The Greeks knew the danger of hubris, and warned how it led to disaster.  Would-be world saviors should not practice on society at large but in carefully controlled experiments far from the public square.

There is, of course, already a path for world saviors to follow, if they want to avoid the pitfalls of hubris.  It was studied by Joseph Campbell in his huge study of world mythology in which he attempted to catalog all the varied myths about redemptive heroes, the uncounted attempts of humans to imagine how to build a better world without succumbing to all its temptations and distractions, resolving the interplay of power and law, of creativity and destruction, of community and diversity, of the human yearning for greatness into a single narrative.  Campbell called his path the Hero’s Journey.

The hero’s journey starts when the hero responds to the call to adventure and sets forth from ordinary society to the threshold of adventure.  He goes into the kingdom of the dark, undergoing severe tests and yet receiving magical aid from fortuitous helpers.  At the nadir of the underworld he undergoes the supreme ordeal and gains his reward.  Then the hero returns from the underworld and re-emerges into the everyday world.  “The boon he brings restores the world.” (Campbell 1968 p246)

This hero, the hero of responsible freedom, is a very different individual from the nineteenth century Romantic who declaims: “Down with rules!”  And he is utterly rejected in the hubris of the Marxian socialist who imagines he can construct a perfect society de novo from a single inspired blueprint.  Campbell’s hero knows that to improve the world he must first learn about himself.  He must confront his personal demons before he engages the monsters in the everyday world.  To be able to put himself in the place of the other, he must experience his personal other.  And the painstaking process must not be done in public, in shameless exhibition, but privately, away from society, so that as he acquires his new powers he does not hurt or damage the world he hopes to benefit through careless use of his new powers, or by inexperience and clumsiness.

The Spiral Dynamics perspective understands who this Campbellian hero is.  He is the one who lives in responsible freedom in yellow consciousness.  It is only at this level that people learn that there are all kinds of people in the world, reds, blues, oranges, and greens, that they all have a piece of the truth, and that they are all doing the best they can.  Here is a credo of yellow:

The purpose of living is to be independent within reason; knowledgeable so much as possible; and caring, so much as realistic.  Yet I am my own person, accountable to myself, an island in an archipelago of other people.  Continuing to develop along a natural pathway is more highly valued than striving to have or do.  I am concerned for the world’s conditions because of the impact they have on me as part of this living system. (Beck 1996 p275)

If this seems unexceptionable, it is because the reader already possesses a yellow consciousness and has already internalized the idea of an integrated life, combining reason, feeling, intuition, and community.  The power of this consciousness, this vision, is that it allows its believer to understand how to tolerate the narrow worldviews of the red, blue, orange, and green consciousness, all of which experience reality in true, but limited perspective.  And it is only by understanding the legitimate aspirations of the reds, oranges, and greens that we can construct a road to the middle class for aspiring blues that meets their needs for religion, for education, and for law without violating our own needs and search for meaning.

The crucial base course of the road to the middle class is religion, specifically monotheistic religion, epitomized by Protestantism and Judaism, but also represented by Islam and by Confucianism.  These religions began to emerge in the Axis Time around 500 BC as they replaced the face-to-face culture and instinctive tradition of tribal and village ethos with self-conscious tradition and rules: The Ten Commandments, the Five Pillars of Islam, the Beatitudes, the Five Constant Relationships.  But can these traditions compromise with people exhibiting orange or green consciousness? 

Orange creative consciousness moves a step beyond the personal surrender to self-conscious tradition expressed in the One True Way.  It now experiences life as a game to be won, and the rules of the game not as immutable divine law, but as pragmatic norms that must justify their authority with efficacy or be subject to amendment or replacement.  The appropriate strategy of orange creatives towards the rule-and-role culture of blues is to accept the right of blues to tie themselves up with rules, but to deflect their attempts to make rules for the orange creative who lives to create, not to follow rules with the herd.  Green communitarian consciousness moves even further away from the One True Way.  For greens, the idea of a fixed, immutable truth is anathema.  Truth is relative, and questions of the spirit, insofar as they penetrate to societal affairs, should be resolved by voluntary and bilateral dialogue in a spirit of accommodation and good faith.

Of course, the opposition of orange and green consciousness to the One True Way of blue consciousness is not quite the open and enlightened vision it imagines itself to be.  Orange creatives believe that their gospel of creativity is the One True Way, and are impatient with the blue purposive who merely extols rule following.  The green communitarians believe that the gospel of non-judgmentalism is the One True Way, and are impatient with the unenlightened that lack the understanding to celebrate and practice universal community and caring.  But most will allow that people ought to be allowed to practice their religion provided they do not force their enlightened betters into their superstitious practice.  In the end, however, it is the responsibility of the enlightened to understand and tolerate the ignorance of the unenlightened.  It takes work, the work of putting oneself in the position of the Other.  The advice of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the Edwardian actress, still remains as the counsel of wisdom: Do anything you want, but don’t frighten the horses in the street.  For when the horses are frightened, they may bolt, and trample the small party of the enlightened ere they can leap to safety.  Plato was sanguine about this at the end of the Parable of the Cave.  What will happen to the enlightened one once he descends from the mouth of the Cave to his fellow prisoners and tries to educate them to the wonders he has seen?  “If they could lay hands on the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they would kill him.” (Cornford 1945 p231)  The enlightened ones must tolerate the compact beliefs of the unenlightened, both from principle and from pragmatism.  The people on the road to the middle class need their old time religion.  With a little care and strategy, their religion need not cramp the style of the orange creatives and the green communitarians.

Education is the wearing surface of the road to the middle class.  The people on the road to the middle class want this wearing surface to be hard, durable aggregate that emphasizes the basics—reading, writing, and arithmetic, with Bible study thrown in.  The orange creatives want a bracing education for adventure, and the green communitarians want a road with a soft, adaptable surface, suitable for an education in creativity, in self-discovery, and in awareness of other cultures.  In the mid nineteenth century, when education was driven by parent opinion, the schools focused on the basics, and the reformers who agitated for government education were also interested in basic literacy, because they were frightened by the hordes of illiterate immigrants in the cities, and wanted to teach them basic literacy and American culture. 

But as the nineteenth-century wave of immigrants became literate and assimilated, the schools began to change.  They started, under the influence of John Dewey, to deliver a “progressive” education, less focused on the basics, and more focused on creativity; they began to focus on the educational needs of the middle class rather than the working class.  This development would have been beneficial if the school system had developed a balanced menu of schools, from the basic literacy mill in the inner city to the invitation-to-creativity in the professional suburbs.  Of course, if the schools had been independent private institutions, marketing themselves to various market niches, they would have responded more or less to the needs of children as perceived by their parents.  Instead, the schools remained in the public sector, becoming highly bureaucratic organizations rather than a spontaneous, Hayekian order.  They responded to the most articulate and politically adept and, after the nature of large organizations that strive to avoid the complexity and confusion of a large menu of options, tried to establish a uniform system of one-size-fits-all that failed to satisfy anyone.  Thus the United States of the early twenty-first century has a one-size-fits-all education system controlled by the class of green communitarians, who confess a faith of relativism and diversity, yet demand that all children be sent to the “common schools,” whether they need drilling in literacy and numeracy, an invitation for adventure, or sensitivity training in other cultures.  The government program that began as a deliberate attempt by the dominant political interests to socialize the children of immigrants to literacy and Americanism to help them negotiate the red/blue transition has become a government program driven by the latest dominant political interests to socialize children to green communitarianism and cultural relativism.  Viewed from the Spiral Dynamics perspective, this policy makes a lot of sense—for the education of the children of college professors, museum curators, and foundation officers.  But it makes no sense for the children of city immigrants, who need help negotiating not the transition from orange to green, but from red impulsiveness and victimhood to blue purpose and discipline.  The current system works well for the well born, indifferently for the middle-class, and disastrously for the lowly born.  This is borne out by contemporary cultural commentary at the turn of the twenty-first century.  David Brooks reports in Bobos in Paradise that the bohemians and the bourgeoisie have merged into an upper class that celebrates achievement and creativity.  In “The Organization Kid” in the April 2001 Atlantic Monthly he describes how the current crop of achiever high-schoolers are remarkably focused and goal-driven.  Meanwhile the average test results of American school children come in below the average for western nations, and the inner-city schools remain a disaster area with high drop-out rates, violence, and low academic standards.

The problem with public education is that its supporters fail to differentiate between society as a spontaneous order and government as an organization.  Wanting to socialize children to be worthy and useful members of society, they propose that society establish norms about how to socialize children.  Then they jump to the conclusion that only government can implement social policy.  They lack the vision to understand that social and cultural policy is much bigger than any government and much more complex.  In a spontaneous order like a human society, social and cultural norms form out of and dissolve into the words of thousands of commentators and millions of listeners.  Public opinion is like a cloud, with no real beginning and no end, a vague form sometimes more, sometimes less than the sum of its parts. 

What the advocates of public education fear, of course, is that the end of the “common school”—by which they mean the government-run school system—would result in a balkanization of society, and an increase in child neglect.  They fear that the diversion of children from government schools into class, race, and religiously segregated schools will ultimately break the social fabric if different sub-cultures educate their children in separatist ghetto schools that foment hatred and exclusion.  They fail to establish whether this is more divisive than the present system, the one that Andrew Coulson showed forces parents into conflict.   Whether it was the early public schools forcing the Protestant Bible onto their students, or French state schools favoring republican or royalist views according to the whim of the government, or traditionalist parents protesting whole language reading programs, “government-run systems ...have been the chief cause of school conflict throughout history.” (Coulson 1999 p319) Government schools force parents to fight with each other for control of the one-size-fits-all school curriculum. 

Public school advocates also worry about the fitness of parents to direct their children’s education, given the lack of involvement of parents in the activity of their children in their local public school.  But why should parents try to involve themselves in a system that does not give them control over the school their children are assigned to, over the type of education their children receive, and which can use the power of the state to compel attendance?  Parents do get involved when they get a chance to make a difference.  The record shows that when government actively discouraged education in England in the early nineteenth century, literacy was increasing rapidly, and many poor parents were willing to sacrifice so that their children could acquire literacy and numeracy in the local village school.

Parents struggling on the red/blue transition want basic literacy and numeracy for their children.  Parents in the lower middle class like Mary Johnston want their children to go to “the best schools, first grade through college.”  Upper class parents want their children to go to a selective college, or they want them to rise above ticket-punching careerism and learn to develop a true devotion to the global community.  Different parents want different schools for their children.  And why not?  There is no body of research that compares class or race origin with type of school and educational outcome.  There is no body of research that compares the agendas of parents with the agenda of education experts and compares the educational outcome.  Instead the anecdotal evidence indicates that experts should not be trusted.  They backed school busing to achieve racial balance.  They backed whole language over phonics instruction.  They relaxed discipline and stood by as violence in schools increased.  Given the mediocre results of the government school system in the past century there is no compelling reason why parents should not be given control of their children’s education and permitted the freedom that a barely lettered mother enjoyed in the mid-nineteenth century: the right to send her child to the school of her choice.  And this is to ignore the issue of government involvement in religious or moral education, which is inherently problematic, and the issue of school discipline, which, if administered by government officials acting under the color of compulsory attendance laws, inevitably raises civil liberties issues.

There is no reason why the need and desire of red/blue parents for education in the basics and in discipline need disadvantage orange and green parents who want and need other educational alternatives for their children.  All that is required is to give parents the right to send their children to the school of their choice.  All that is required is for orange and green parents to release their stranglehold on the politics of education, to practice the tolerance they preach, and allow a little diversity to bloom.

The third component to a strong and durable road to the middle class is the experience of living under law.  Law is the drainage system for the road, unremarkable but vital.  Until it rains, the ditches and culverts along a road seem meaningless.  But when it rains, the drainage protects the road from washouts, and keeps the water table down to protect the road-base from liquefaction and frost heaving.  So it is with the law.  Until conflict arises it seems meaningless and superfluous.  But when conflict occurs, law guides it into storm channels, and protects society from an inundation of passion.

The importance of the experience of living under law is shown by the experience of immigrant groups to the United States.  Some groups did well, rising quickly to prosperity; others did not.  As we have seen, when the Irish first came to the United States in flight from the disastrous potato famine of the 1840s, they were ill-prepared for life in the burgeoning cities of the Atlantic seaboard.  They lived in shanties and slums, and became known for their fighting and their drinking.  Even with the help of leaders like Archbishop John Hughes it took a century before they brought themselves to full competence and respectability.  But the Jews, who came from equal misery from the Pale in Eastern Europe, vaulted immediately to economic success.  A major difference was the experience of living under law.  The Irish had seen law used as an instrument of oppression, most notably in the impermance of land tenure.  The Jews had a cult of law in their religion: the Torah.  In studying the history of immigrants to the United States, economist and historian Thomas Sowell found that the experience of living under law was a prime indicator of economic success and cultural assimilation.  When law is absent, disputes and conflicts are settled by force and feud.  The only way to live in peace, at the household level, the village level, the regional level, or the national level is to be stronger than any adversary.  But the law removes the necessity for physical strength.  By virtue of the King’s Peace, conflicts below the level of nation are settled according to written law and precedent and enforced by the police power. 

Of course, the fact of written law does not eliminate injustice or oppression; powerful interests arrange to have the law written and interpreted to their benefit.  But even though the weak are at a disadvantage, the law still operates to their benefit, because the enormous expense and risk of physical conflict is replaced by the lower risk of legal conflict.  This is an important point: even though a nation with a fully functioning legal system still retains monstrous injustices, the people, especially the poor people, are better off than under a system of force and feud.

Every system of laws cries out for improvement, and those agitating for change are often tempted to describe the current situation as close to lawlessness.  Sometimes they have argued that a flawed legal system is tantamount to no legal system at all, little more than a velvet glove that hides the mailed fist of power.  Marx had such little regard for law that The Communist Manifesto has no discussion about it beyond noting the political constitutions that accompanied the emergence of free competition.  His mechanical metaphor clanks like a steam locomotive; everything is force and power: feudal lords over peasants, and bourgeoisie over proletarians.  Property, whether the property in slaves of the masters, in land and peasants of the feudal lords, or in factories and workers of the bourgeoisie were an expression of power, not of freedom.  The absence of law in Marxism is not surprising.  If history is a class struggle, then laws are but the peace treaties in the breathing spaces between episodes of open class warfare.  With Lenin, who had read and approved Clausewitz, war is no longer the continuation of politics by other means, but politics the continuation of war by other means (Odom 1998 p15).  Whereas historian Paul Johnson characterizes the great achievement of the last millennium as the idea of bringing of government under law, in the Soviet Union a Communist Party member was above the law and could not be brought to trial in state court until after expulsion from the party (Odom 1998 p19).  In the Fabian Essays on Socialism, the British socialists envisaged sweeping away the Individualist laws and replacing them with socialist laws.  In Discipline and Punish, Foucault contrasts the legal process of the ancien régime and modern society.  He pictures the violent public executions of the ancien régime as frank demonstrations of royal power.  In the legal system of the bourgeois era, the government hides its power behind prison walls and faceless bureaucrats.  But it is still all about power. 

These ideological theories may seem to have little importance for everyday people, but eventually these ideas may debouch from the rarified air of the ivory tower into the street in the form of rabble-rousers like Rev. Al Sharpton.  His slogan: “No Justice!  No Peace!” brilliantly encapsulates the meaning of Marx and Lenin for the average inner-city proletarian.  Meanwhile left-wing activists continually attack the criminal law as unfairly biased against the poor and minorities and designed to harass and oppress them.  Center-left politicians routinely rail against unjust laws and argue for the substitution of government power for private property relations.  All these activities hinder the progress of the pilgrims on the road to the middle class.  They reduce the prestige of law and confirm red proletarians in their natural instincts.  They discourage them from making the cultural step of abandoning their tribal culture of force and feud and learning the remarkably sophisticated culture of law and contract. 

The understanding of the relationship of power, law, and community in modern society is a fine muddle.  The proletarians experience only power, and do not understand law, except as another tactic to exploit them.  The left extols community, and marginalizes law as the velvet glove of power, yet proposes to base its ideal community on the naked power of a elite answerable only to itself, and maintains itself in power by a resort to class warfare.  The right loses sight of the reality of power in its dreamy love affair with the rule of law, reciting Maine’s apothegm about the progressive societies moving from status to contract as though law were a force of nature rather than a political program.  It regards the left’s vision of universal community as a hallucination.

The Spiral Dynamics perspective avoids these mistakes, because its way of seeing is precisely to regard modern society not just as a problem of power, or of law, or of community, but a problem that involves power, law, and community.  It recognizes that power is real.  Even after a society changes from a regime of power to a regime of law, it does not mean that power is vanquished.  Power remains, reflected in custom and law, but it begins a retreat from open display.  Law is also real.  It is not just the velvet glove of power.  The bourgeois citizen living under the rule of law derives real benefits from conducting his affairs under law.  He does not have to confront power in every moment of his life.  His property is secure, his business is lightly taxed, and he may sue for damages when he has been harmed by another’s tort or negligence.  Community is also real.  It is not just the hallucination of left-wingers, but the quality of mercy and caring that transcends the worlds of power and law, offering the practical benefits of social cooperation without conflict.  It understands the finding of Frederick Turner, that in the contractual relations of commerce, businessmen learn to give and take.  They learn to transcend the mechanical terms of a contract and understand that in an atmosphere of trust give and take can occur.  He can be merciful to his contractor’s mistake if he trusts him, and he expects similar forbearance when he makes a mistake.  The quality of mercy is not strained, forced into the clauses and sentences of a contract.  It transcends mere words and rules, falling as the gentle rain from heaven.  Law transcends power, but does not abolish it.  Compassion transcends contract, but does not nullify it.

Of the three ingredients of the road to the middle class, the experience of living under law is perhaps the most obscure, the most subtle, and the one least understood by those on the road to the middle class.  A functional legal system is a social artifact that is, more than religion and education, necessarily crafted by the elite.  The U.S. Constitution was developed by an elite and survived because of the faith of the American people in the leaders of the Revolutionary generation.  As we have seen, the elites in the West have played hob with the rule of law in the twentieth century.  They have reduced the prestige of the law of property—to make it easier for government to use private property for public benefit.  They have distorted the law of torts—to benefit their political supporters.  They have elevated the power of government over economic transactions, the judiciary over the legislature, and the arbitrary power of the government over the lives of citizens.  And this is just to enumerate their malfeasance at the micro level, leaving aside the massive inflations and confiscations that governments have conducted in the twentieth century under the influence of elite ideas.  These depredations necessarily fell hardest, in their concrete impact, on the people at the red/blue transition, devastating their modest savings and property holdings.  But worse, they were naked displays of political power, advertising to the world that power is everything, discouraging the potential blues from abrogating their ancient surrender to the brute facts of power and developing a faith in rules, the critical act of faith that empowers them to succeed in the city.  The failure of the elite to extol the law led to its devaluation in the opinion of ordinary people.  It is a more serious matter than their other crimes: their scorn of religion and their support for the vandalism of public education. 

With regard to religion and to education, the demand upon the elite is merely one of inaction, of laissez faire, laissez aller: to demand that they stop doing harm.  The people of the red/blue transition are competent to follow their own interests without supervision, especially since the advice of the elite is heavily influenced by its own needs and interest.  But with regard to the law, things are not so simple.  Sowell’s phrase “experience of living under law” illustrates the problem.  The ordinary people are consumers of law, not producers.  They live under the law; they are not yet competent to write it or change it.  The producers of law inevitably come from the propertied classes and the articulate classes, and it is not enough merely to insist that they stop doing harm.  They must change their philosophy of law so that it includes the needs of people at the red/blue transition, and not merely their own selfish class interests.  There is no doubt that the modern world is a complex place, and the law must grow complex to deal with it.  But the ordinary people live a simple life.  They do not direct great enterprises and public institutions.  They need a law that has simple measures for simple lives, in the criminal law, in employment, property, inheritance, and in family law.

When presidential candidate George W. Bush won the South Carolina primary in 2000 and rescued his campaign from oblivion, he did not, as many supposed, win by pandering shamefully to the bigoted views of rednecks and racists.  As Hanna Rosin showed, he won with the votes of people like Mary Johnston, ordinary people living in striver suburbs trying to consolidate their personal beachheads on the great continent of the middle class.  Like many people who have risen from humble beginnings, Mary is deeply ashamed of her redneck past with its disorganization, its powerlessness: the shame of a life on the margins.  With her simple tenacity, she determines to create a better life for her children, “the best schools, first grade through college” and she honors the Bush family as the ideal that she strives to emulate: a large, loyal, accomplished family that still reveres the symbols of faith, family, and education that she instinctively trusts to power her own precarious climb from the Appalachian hills to the burgeoning suburbs of the new economy.

The demands of the Mary Johnstons of the world are rather modest.  All they want is a safe, secure road to the middle class, with guardrails on the curves.  They have never demanded a superhighway, slashing with ruthless efficiency through mountains in massive cuttings and over grand embankments.  Their road to the middle class only needs a solid base, good drainage to keep the water table down, and a strong wearing course to prevent damage from the traffic.  For the pilgrims on the road, it is all about the journey, not the destination.  It is the experience of the difficulties, steering through dangerous curves, toiling up hills, and controlling the rapid descents that teaches the pilgrim how to become middle-class, and finally reach that city on a hill.  The modest requirements in freedom of religion, in a right to choose education and not be forced into educational programs tailored to green communitarians, in experience of living under law do not threaten or have a “chilling effect” on the agenda of those traveling other roads.  All that is asked of the better classes is a little tolerance for the unenlightened and their simple religion, a little faith that people can be trusted to know what is best for their children, and a little respect for the West’s towering edifice of law.  This is not very much to ask.  The recurrence of the spiritual outbursts like the Great Awakenings demonstrate that, in the United States, the hearts of the people are in the right place.  It is certainly hard to argue, as many have done in the twentieth century, that the enthusiasm for religion in the hearts of ordinary Americans must be damped down lest it inspire bigotry and hate.  Nothing inspired by enthusiastic Protestantism ever approached the religious ferocity of the twentieth century’s twin scourges, socialism and fascism, elite belief systems that lacked the honesty to admit themselves as religions.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


©2007 Christopher Chantrill