An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

powered by TinyLetter
Today is:
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".

Mark EdwardsMark Edwards has an M.Psych in Developmental Psychology and a PhD in organisation theory from the University of Western Australia. He now works at Jönköping University in Sweden where he teaches and researches in the area of sustainability and ethics. Before becoming an academic he worked with people with disabilities for twenty years. He is the author of Organizational Transformation for Sustainability: An Integral Metatheory (Routledge, 2009) .

"The war on terror shares many similar characteristics to the war on drugs."

The War on Terror

Some Integral Reflections on Individualist Worldviews,
International Terrorism and the “The war on ...”

Mark Edwards

There are worldviews and then there are worldviews

Integral analyses of social events often focus solely on developmental levels as the primary generators of worldviews. With regard to the topic of international conflict and terrorism, for example, there is much discussion of the confrontation between mythic (blue) worldviews, feudalist (red) worldviews, pluralist (green) worldviews, the ethnocentric views of traditional (red/blue) cultures and the need for yellow (post-postmodern) leaders and so on. Explaining conflict and social events through the use of these levels is an important contribution of Integral approaches to social theory but our preoccupation with the worldviews of levels hides a central issue. Worldviews are not solely or even primarily generated out of levels. They are first and foremost associated with the epistemological dimensions through which those levels emerge – the quadrant dimensions that describe developmental emergence at all levels.

Figure 1 shows the relationship between some levels and their respective worldviews (and pathological forms of those worldviews) for an individual. Exactly the same might be done for collective social holons. In both individual and collective holons each developmental level generates a particular worldview and also has its own variant pathology type. This has been the standard way of understanding and presenting worldview in Integral approaches to how individuals and collectives see the worlds they inhabit.

However, this model does not include the foundational orientations through which all levels emerge. When we focus on the worldviews of levels and their pathologies our attention is drawn away from those distortions that can take place in the development of even more fundamental aspects of individuals and social holons. These distortions cause immense social damage as they flow through every level of development and upset the healthy and balanced emergence of the social spiral. I am referring here to the deformations and developmental maladies that arise when the growth of a holon is compromised in one of the foundational dimensions that provide the scaffolding framework for all developmental levels, all developmental lines, states and types, etc. This framework is described by the interior-exterior, individual-communal, and evolution-involution distinctions.

These basic elements each have an associated worldview. The interior-exterior dimension supports worldviews that relate to our perceptions of intangible intentions/subjects and tangible behaviours/objects. The individual-communal dimension relates to our perceptions of unifocal agency and multifocal relationship. The evolution-involution dimension relates to our innate regard for, on the one hand, expansion and transcendent growth and, on the other, healing and immanent integration. If there is a marked developmental imbalance or bias in any of the elements of this framework then all the level, lines and states that emerge through that framework will bear the marks of those distortions. Figure 2 shows the set of, what I will call, basic worldviews and their associated basic worldview pathologies.

Healthy or integrated basic worldviews hold in balance the interior and exterior, the agentic and communal and the evolutionary and the involutionary aspects of life. When any of these basic worldviews are seriously imbalanced and the holon experiences, behaves and interprets life through this distorted “lens” then pathology ensues and all subsequent levels and lines of development will display some aspects of that pathology. For example, when a social system develops a bias towards the exteriors and does not nourish its interiors, all levels, irrespective of whether they are red, blue, orange or green with pink poker dots, will display some exteriorist pathology in its collective consciousness and cultural, social and behavioural life. Wilber has called one form of this exteriorism pathology “Flatland” and rightly points out the catastrophic impact that such distortions in the collective spiral have on all individuals and collectives that are caught up in its biased and imbalanced worldview. We might also say that interiorist pathologies are also apparent in individuals and collectives and can be seen for example, in some aspects of the New Age movements and quietist anti-social sects that focus entirely on interior transcendent worlds. Similarly, Wilber has described the worldview pathologies that result from an imbalance in evolutionary-involutionary dynamics. When the evolutionary progressivism pole is dominant the result is the dissociative pathologies of the other-worldly “Ascenders”. When there is a bias to the involutionary regressivism pole then the retrograde pathologies of the this-worldly “Descenders” results.

So we have the exteriorist (Flatland) and interiorist (New Ageism) and the evolutionist (Ascenders) and the involutionist (Descenders) forms of basic worldview pathologies. This leaves two other fundamental worldview pathologies that can affect every developmental level and which are also causing immense damage to all levels in the spiral of individual and collective development. These are, of course, individualism and communalism and it is with the individualist pathology that I want to focus on in this essay (see Figure 2).

A typology of basic worldview pathologies

The six basic worldview pathologies might also be regarded as forms of reductionism in that, for example, a balanced view of the interior and exteriors aspects of life are reduced to just one side of the story. Wilber calls this type of reductionism “subtle reductionism”. Ken's insightful notion of subtle reductionism describes worldview pathologies that are actually immensely powerful and, unlike the worldviews that result from levels, can distort and deny not only other levels but entire quadrants of development. Ken reserves the description “gross reductionism” for the pathological process of reducing one level (or multiple levels) to another. And while gross reductionism can cause serious distortions to the way we see the world, subtle reductionism does away with whole worlds (quadrants) of knowledge altogether! Consequently subtle reductionism is bad news – very bad news. Wilber's well-known Flatland brand of subtle reductionism does away with most if not all of the interior worlds of development. Consciousness and culture get reduced to behaviour and social systems. Half the universe disappears and what's left is hardly worth considering. subtle reductionism might therefore better be described as “basic reductionism” because the left hand worlds and Right Hand worlds form the base territory for all subsequent development of emergent levels. From this point onwards I will refer to gross reductionism and level reductionism and subtle reductionism as basic reductionism.

The notion of basic reductionism can be a very powerful and helpful tool for analysing historical and social movements in both the individual and collective worlds. Such types of reductionism have been noted and investigate for many years (Alexander, Bernard, Münch & Smelser, 1987) and there have also been previous explanations of social and cultural phenomena which utilised similar concepts to that of basic reductionism. For example, there are, of course, the books that have considered individualist and collectivist approaches to social events. The individualist versus collectivist debate has raged in political theory, clinical psychology, and social theory for many years. There have also been much written about the battle between materialist worldviews (Exteriorism) and solopsistic worldviews (Interiorism), and the individualism-collectivism debate still rages through all political activities, public policy development, economics, the corporate world and international relations. Recently, there has been awareness of the evolutionism and involutionism approaches to contemporary life (Hamilton, 2003). Evolutionary pathologies result in “growth fetish” and mass consumption of self-development fads and “makeovers”. Involutionary pathologies result in the rejection of modernity, post-modernity, growth and development of all kinds and replace that with the retrograde desire for romantic fantasy and past Edens. So, in summary, an Integral approach to basic reductionism takes the four quadrants and the two basic integral dynamics and derive six types of basic reductionism that fall into the categories Exteriorism, Interiorism, Individualism, Collectivism, Evolutionism and Involutionism (see Table 1).

Table 1: The categories of subtle reductionism

Direction of basic reductionism Type of basic reductionism Examples
Reducing the collective quadrants to individual quadrants Individualism Thatcherism, market capitalism, laissez faire economics, rational economics, "war on" drugs/terror
Reducing the individual quadrants to the collective quadrants Collectivism Communism, National Socialism, some radical womens' and men's movements, cultural and political totalitarianism
Reducing the exterior quadrants to the interior quadrants Interiorism Solipsism, New Ageism, some fundamentalist movements, quietism
Reducing the interior quadrants to the exterior quadrants Exteriorism Wilber's Flatland, radical behaviorism, physicalism, narrow empiricism, logical positivism
Reducing the dynamics of growth and integration to simple growth of any kind – depth growth or span growth Evolutionism the growth fetish, corporate expansionism, self-development fads, personal makeovers, pathological consumption.
Reducing the dynamics of growth and integration to simple romantic integration. Involutionism the desire for romantic fantasy, hedonism, morbid nostalgia, regressivism, pre- forms of anarchism, anti-development.

In the following material I want to explore the implications of the individualist worldview pathology for topics related to terrorism and the political manipulation of this phenomena. On October 9 the Australian populace re-elected the conservative Howard government on a platform of enthusiastic support for Bush's “war on terror” (Australia has been one of the very few proactive members of the COW – Coalition of the Willing – in Iraq). The election of conservative governments in Australia, the USA, and other countries (e.g. Indonesia, Greece) at a time of multiple global challenges and international conflict says something about the state of “mind” of national populations, social institutions and their leaders. I want to consider, from an Integral perspective, the implications of the basic worldview pathology of individualism for dealing with some of these challenges and the following is a rambling assortment of Integral speculations, musings and rants on topics related to such topics as the “war on terror”.

What this is not about

The following essay is not about the cause of terrorism or how its should be dealt with. The answers to both these issues are rather obvious. The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and the loss of lives that resulted were dreadful criminal acts and were the culmination of a long line of terrorist attacks against Americans that had occurred in the previous two decades. To that extent they were not unexpected. Decades of geopolitical manoeuvring by the Western nations in general and the US in particular in the Middle East have resulted in embittered Arab populations, in the radicalisation of fundamentalist Islam, in the support of harsh dictatorial regimes and in the destabilisation of many Middle Eastern social and economic systems.

The US, to be sure, had its own very considerable interests and motives in interfering in the Middle East - Israel, oil and confronting the USSR – but, in all its involvements in that part of the world, the US generally put its own national interests first, daylight second, and the interests of the local national populations a very distant third.

The terrorist attacks on America were not carried out because of envy or because Islamic fundamentalists just do that sort of thing or because of the clash of civilisations or because of the “war of the memes” or any other “depth” theory. Frankly, I find such analyses historically naive. The terrorist attacks on September 11 occurred as a result of a history of 50 years of political violence, interference and manipulation in the Middle East by every US administration, Republican and Democrat.

People like Osama bin Laden and groups like al Queda don't emerge out of a vacuum and they are not the inherent result of particular cultures. It should always be remembered that it was the USSR military presence in Yemen and Afghanistan that radicalised Osama bin Laden and stimulated him to found his al Queda group. The USSR had meddled in Middle Eastern affairs in precisely the same way as the US and it is no coincidence that today both the US and Russia are still struggling to deal with the results of long decades of their geopolitical violence and manoeuvrings in that region. Russia meddled in the Middle East to sure its political influence over its underbelly. The US and Europe have interfered because the West is addicted to its oil. And like every addict we just want the hit and we are blind to the violence we cause to get it.

Like all treatment programmes the West needs to reduce its drug intake and to increase its involvement in positive activities. Accordingly, the basis of the solution to global Islamic terrorism will be found in, i) the cessation of self-interested American and European military, political and economic interference in the Middle East and South Asia, and ii) the furtherance of international and multilateral partnerships that aim to build up and protect the legitimate interests of all nations through fair trade, cultural exchange and mutual respect. It is completely naive to suggest that such things would happen under present circumstances, but that does not lessen the obvious fact that the fundamental cause of terrorism has been America's (and Europe's) strategic geopolitical and military interventions in the Middle East, where its own national interests (centred on securing oil supply) have been placed over and above those of the people who actually live there. Recognising this, does not mitigate the responsibility of those who committed the crimes on September 11, it merely helps us to understand what we should do in response.

An oily worldview

Like every addict the West needs to undergo a treatment programme to reduce its dependency and addictive consumption of the drug. Unfortunately America currently has a dope dealer in charge of its government. The Bush dynasty is an oil dynasty and they see the securing of access to the oil fields in the Middle East as synonymous with the securing of American economic interests. This has been standard American economic policy for many decades and the West's addiction to oil and the harm that this addiction has caused Arab nations is now returning to the West in the form of Islamic terrorism.

America and Europe are by far the world's biggest economies. This also means that they have much more to fear from an unstable world economy. Both economies are very heavily dependent on oil and when the oil production peak is reached some time in the next few years the price of oil will rise dramatically. This will have a huge impact on the developed economies. The really sad thing is that we are blind to the opportunity we have right now to reduce our dependency on Middle Eastern oil. Islamic terrorism is a symptom of our global addiction to oil. As many commentators have remarked, the West's reliance on oil is the primary reason for our meddling in those regions. It's the reason we backed Saddam and its the reason why the first Gulf war occurred.

The cause of Islamic terrorism is found in the historical situations that surround political violence and international meddling in the Middle East and not in some “Integral” analysis of stages, levels, memes and so on. Such analyses have their part to play, but the theories about “meme wars” and the “clash of civilisations” are all rather strained rationalisations for what otherwise are social problems with clear historical causes. Terrorism is not the result of West versus East or Blue verses Red or Red versus Green or any other memetic clash. Terrorism is the result of economic and military violence and, as we know, violence begets violence. There are more fundamental forces at work here that undercut all differences in worldview levels. When violence is perpetrated against our families we all quite rightly turn Mean (MGM, MOM, MBM, MYM, etc.) and, irrespective of what level of development we might be on a good day, when our family is attack we will respond with violence. Violence reduces all developmental levels and all lines to the condition of instinctive survival – the most fundamental level of identity. It lowers all developmental capacities to the level of survival and retaliation by whatever means are available. There are rare exceptions to this. Sometimes communities respond to violence with non-violence with dramatic and unexpected results. But generally, violence provokes violence and this has certainly been the pattern of events in the Middle East.

Explaining terrorism via characterisations that see Islamic culture at one particular developmental level and American culture at another ignores the economic and political histories that have existed for more than a century between these two parts of the world. These “centre of gravity” meme and developmental level explanations simply don't take account of the situational realities of history. So, I don't actually hold much faith with Integral analyses that are based on such distinctions. It's the simple histories of international power and the consequential political and economic involvements that shed light on these matters. The September 11 attacks occurred not because Islamic males are at some particular memetic level but because of modernity's addiction to oil and the political and economic actions it has taken to secure that supply. So the issues of why global Islamic terrorism has appeared in the last 20 years and what needs to be done to deal with it are rather straightforward, extremely difficult to implement, but rather obvious nonetheless. What I am really interested in, however, is trying to understand, from an Integral perspective, the motivations and causes for our response to terrorism and how these relate to the basic worldview pathology of individualism.

Individual and collective holons each posses four quadrants

To delve into these issues from an Integral view I need to make it clear that I represent and conceptualise the relationship between individuals and collectives a little differently to the standard Integral AQAL approach. I will make use of this distinction many times in the following. In my approach (which actually is consistent with many of Wilber's propositions on these matters) all holons can be seen as possessing four quadrants (be they individual persons or social collectives, be they families, communities, natural systems or whatever). Hence each person and each collective can be regarded as quadratic entities. This means that each collective holon with have agentic forms of collective consciousness and agentic forms of collective behaviour. It also means that each person possess cultural identity and social identity (see figure 3).

Representing the relationship between individuals and collectives in this way opens up many new possibilities for modelling the interactions between individuals and collectives from an Integral perspective.

The “beat up” of international terrorism and the political use of collective cognitive dissonance

To begin my speculations on the factors at play in responding to terrorism I'll make this observation. While international terrorism dominates the political and public agenda in Australia and America and other nations across the world, it has relatively little direct behavioural or physical impact on any of the people living in these countries. Although the world's political leaders, media and large segments of the public are obsessed with deliberations on how to deal with international terrorism (in contrast to the ongoing and deliberate neglect of the real beast - state terrorism), in terms of its direct impact on ordinary people across the globe, this social ill has, in itself, little practical consequence for the way people from virtually every country (with notable exceptions) live their lives. We are obsessed with international terrorism not because of its real impact but because of its imagined impact and the fears associated with those imaginings. Our fears of terrorism are promulgated, maintained and manipulated by the international terrorists organisations, that's why they have that name, but our “terror” is also blatantly manipulated by our own governments and community leaders for their own ends.

One key reason for international terrorism being the dominant issue in world affairs is that the media and our political, corporate and civic leaders, for both conscious and unconscious reasons, want it that way. They want it to be big, but big only for the interiors not for the exteriors. They want terror to impact on our imagination not on our behaviour. To put it another way, our collective interior fear about world terrorism is completely out of proportion to the actual concrete impact that it has, or might ever have, on our exterior lives. And our leaders and those in powerful and prominent positions, East and West, North and South, find that there are many advantages in keeping it that way.

The “We” needs to be kept in a state of interior fear, but not so that we let it affect our exterior behaviour, and particularly not our shopping behaviour. We must be “alert but not alarmed” as our government in Australia never tires of telling us. We should all be in a state of interior trepidation but carry out our national duty and keep up the patriotic behaviour of exterior consumption. There are many examples where governments deliberately manipulate this tension between interior fear and the minimal exterior threat that any of us will ever face from international terrorists. The manipulation of “national security alert levels” around election time is one simple example of this process (such a process occurred in both Australia and the US during their recent elections). Another is the manipulation of information about how certain countries or groups might have the capability and/or intention to attack our nation/people/security. Remember the hysteria whipped up by members of the Bush administration that Saddam might soon be able to launch a nuclear strike against the USA homeland. As the defence analyst David Pyne (2002) put it,

Aggravated by administration hype about the growing threat from Iraq, many Americans have expressed near hysterical fears that Saddam is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons to use against the United States.

In the 2001 federal election in Australia, the plight of asylum seekers was manipulated to scare the Australian public into believing that we were being inundated with criminals, terrorists, and child killers (the infamous “children overboard” affair). Photographs were tampered with, information withheld from the public, misleading statements made – all designed, with the unquestioning compliance of the national media, to raise the level of national neurosis over illegal immigrants. The strategy was a huge success and Howard's conservatives won. (The fear strategy was so successful it even convinced the hapless opposition Labor party to support the conservatives' harsh policy towards asylum seekers.) The declaration of the “pre-emptive doctrine” is also part of this maintenance of fear strategy. In all these instances there is a deliberate manipulation of interior levels of fear and exterior social realities.

Figure 4 shows in holonic terms this disparity between the level of interior fear and the realistic level of exterior harm for both individuals and collectives and how this fear-harm dissonance can motivate individuals and nations to wage and support war.

The disequilibrium that is set up when there is a big gap between a person's interior life and exterior behaviour has been called cognitive dissonance in the psychology of motivation. Leon Festinger developed this famous model of motivation which proposes that dissonance or mental discomfort results when an individual's attitudes and/or behaviours contradict each other or are clearly misaligned. The same theory has been applied to the collective domain where the gap or dissonance between a country's level of collective anxiety and its social reality also creates a national level of dissonance that also demands some form of resolution. In the case of international terrorism, we have the massive discrepancy between the high level of cultural fear and the fact that the West has never been so secure or dominant in either political or economic terms. This dissonance sets off a motivating drive that demands some resolution and the removal of the national level of disequilibrium. The reduction in dissonance can be achieved in three ways:

  1. Reducing the importance of the conflicting beliefs: people and groups simply turn off, distancing themselves from any belief or feelings about terrorism and the Iraq war, and turning to the comforting mundanity of “reality” TV and sports programmes, “the whole terrorism thing is one big turn off, let's just party”.
  2. Acquiring new views that resolve (rationalise) any conflict between existing beliefs and external realities: This means that we seek out information and invent interpretations that confirm our fear and so we justify our interior fear through the creation of external “realities” - that the terror is real, i.e. that Saddam and al Queda were brother in arms, that there is an axis of evil, that Saddam was ready to launch a nuclear strike against America/Israel, that the water supply will soon be poisoned (the “reds under the beds” syndrome).
  3. Align our exterior behaviour with our interior beliefs or vice versa. In the case of unsubstantiated fear this option for reducing dissonance has two possibilities. First, to change the cognitive beliefs and emotional affects that give rise to fear so that fear is reduced and aligned to the appropriate level of exterior risk. This is a rationalist approach to dealing with fear. It demands considered weighing of the evidence and openness to other opinions. The second possibility is to align external behaviour with the high level of interior fear so that they match and remove the dissonance. It is this second possibility that politicians generally aim for and manipulate information to achieve. This behavioural change takes many forms and can include the mobilisation of populations to enlist for armies, the support of voters for war-based policies, the support of the mainstream news media to retain high levels of fear, and the ongoing support of decision making bodies to support the diversion of massive resources and budgets to military uses. It's what Milosevic did to gain the Serbian people's support for his initial military action against Croatia. It's what Bush, Howard and Blair did to gain support and enthusiasm for the war against Iraq.

The reality is that our interior fears and cognitive beliefs were manipulated to motivate us to behavioural actions that support (vote for) and carry out policies (enlist in and fight wars) that do nothing to reduce the threat of terrorism, and which, to the contrary, are likely to increase the risk of terrorism.

International terrorism is, in fact, one of the greatest “beat ups” in the history of modern political journalism. Why are we so gullible to such fear mongering? Why are we so infatuated with terrorism when its actual physical threat to us is so minimal relative to other risks that our families and communities faced on a daily basis? Why are we so open to manipulation about the issue of terrorism while so many other dangers are confronting us? The reason for this is very simple – our infatuation with terrorism derives from fundamental fear-based aspects of our individual and collective identity. Awakening these fears serves the political ends of those who are hold power from one side of the planet to the other. The war on terror serves political purposes for leaders in the West as well as in the Middle East. It serves the purposes of those who govern large democratic nations as much as those who lead small terrorist bands. It serves the purposes of the corporate leaders of our domestic economies as much as it does the leaders of terrorists groups. It serves the purposes of those media autocrats, such as that great Aussie expatriate Rupert Murdoch, who now largely determine what images and information we get about “the war on terror” as much as it serves the interests of the propaganda specialists within terrorist organisations themselves.

From our side, terrorism serves to provide an indisputable rationale for our intervention in Middle Eastern affairs. Why do we need to interfere in the Middle East? Because life as we know it depends on Middle Eastern oil. I have already mentioned our addiction to oil and the fact that relatively few members of the public truly appreciate how precarious and vulnerable our economies are to fluctuations in the price of oil. The critical point in oil pricing is the point where oil production begins to fall. At this point supply and demand effects taken over from the blind avoidance of markets that pretend that there is no end to this finite resource. The last major oil field was discovered in the 1980's and there actually be no more major fields to be tapped. Energy and oil lie at the heart of our political motivations on this issue of the Middle East. No other energy source will fill the gap that expensive oil will leave. Our economies will falter in major and irreversible ways when our markets lose confidence that the supply of cheap oil will be endless. This is why our fears are being so heavily manipulated by our political, media and corporate leaders. The security of our addictive oil supply from the Middle east is essential for the maintenance of modern consumerism, low unemployment and market capitalism as we know it today. There are very major stakes at risk in all this.

Despite our interior perceptions to the contrary, the real terrors of contemporary life have nothing to do with al Queda or Saddam Hussein. There are many other sorts of terrorism that impinge on the reality of ordinary lives and communities to a degree many, many time more than anything related to international terrorism. To illustrate my point I'll take the rather obvious case of gun ownership in the United States and set some context for this notion of public “terror”.

Domestic terrorism

The destruction of the World Trade centre and the 2,800 Americans and 200 international persons murdered by the al-Queda terrorists was a heinous crime and indeed a momentous and tragic event of great historical import. But in terms of its direct impact on American society in such things as lives lost, it's impact on communities, social and public health and economic implications, the September 11 tragedy is eclipsed on a monthly basis in the US by a far greater menace. A tragedy that is accepted, championed, glorified and upheld as being quintessentially American - the terror of gun ownership. Gun ownership is the terrorism that should be the focus of every American's attention. The main terrorist killing Americans by the tens of thousands every single year is not al-Queda it's one of their own national institutions - the NRA. Gun ownership should be the number one security problem in America and not international terrorism. Why? Because:-

  • Each and every year, there are 34,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S.A.
  • Gun-related deaths among U.S. children (0-15) was 12 times higher than among children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (CDCP, 1997)
  • 13,053 American children were injured by a firearm in 2002 (CDCP, 2002)
  • Each year almost 1500 American children commit suicide with a firearm (CDCP, 2001).
  • In 2001 there are about 70 million handguns in the United States. About 2 to 3 million new and used handguns are sold each year. (U.S. Senate Statistics)
  • 40% of American households with children have guns. (Hart Research, 1999)
  • 34% of children in the United States (representing more than 22 million children in 11 million homes) live in homes with at least one firearm.
  • Two-thirds of students in grades 6-12 say they could obtain a firearm in 24 hours. (The Boston Parent's Paper, 1999.)
  • 6% of high school students said they had carried a gun in the last 30 days. (Hamilton Fish Institute, 1999)
  • Twenty-nine percent of high-school boys have at least one firearm; most are intended for hunting and sporting purposes. Six percent say they carry a gun outside the home. The National Institute of Justice, 1998.
  • The total medical costs of gun violence in America is estimated at $100 billion per year (Cook P, Lawerence B, Ludwig J and Miller T., 1999).
  • Nearly 500 children and teenagers each year are killed in gun-related accidents in the US.
  • Nearly 7,000 violent crimes are committed each year by juveniles using guns they found in their own homes. (Senator Herb Kohl, sponsor of the safety-lock measure.)

So we have the strange situation where not only thousands of adults but also thousands of children in the USA are killing themselves and others and terrorising whole communities with guns and yet this is not seen as a “terror” but rather a matter of maintaining American values and the right to bear arms. The public's understanding of what “terror” really is, in both America and many other countries, is being manipulated and reprocessed to accommodate two sad realities, i) the worldviews of our leaders and ourselves are completely out of touch with the real facts of violence and harm in real communities across the world, ii) there are many individuals and collectives in positions of power who have no interest in the real common security of families and communities and the “terror” beat up is one deliberate, one could also instinctive, strategy that these individuals and groups have for achieving their own ends. For some of these individuals and groups the “war on terror” is a tool that is manoeuvred to awaken fear. Because fear mobilises.

Awakening our Collective Fear

One way of defining pathology is to see it as a breakdown in the capacity to match interior and exterior realities. When internal perceptions of threat are high it is a healthy reaction to attempt to deal with those perceptions. This goes for collectives as much as for individuals. For millennia leaders have understood the energising role that fear plays in social life and the awakening of collective fear, in one form or another, is a ubiquitous aspect of political strategising. It is one of the most tried and trusted means that political leaders have for mobilising public support in both democratic and non-democratic systems. Conservative politics is particularly skilful at manipulating collective fear (although all political groups of every persuasion use such tactics) because the language of fear/trust comes out of conservative worldview of right and wrong, of us and them, of black and white, of “with us or against us”. The absolutism of conservative politics interprets all conflict as a battle between those who are right and those who are wrong and fear is simply the oil that lubricates such a worldview. That's why the language of fear and its dialectical companion the language of trust/hope (as in the overcoming of fear through hope and redemption), are so associated with conservative politics.

The language that awakens fear and trust/hope is the mother tongue of conservative individuals and groups of all kinds. That's why conservatives are so good at speaking to and manipulating people's fears and hopes during times of conflict. For this reason the potato farmer in Idaho, the steel worker in Pittsburgh and the fundamentalist Christian bank clerk in Florida can identify so powerfully with the millionaire son of a former President/oil tycoon. They know he speaks their language of fear and trust, of sacrifice and redemption, of evil and good, and of the enemy and the family. And they invite him into their lounge rooms every night to hear his words of redemption and condemnation and so they vote for him and for the members of his family.

The reason for the success of the awakening of fear tactics in the political arena is that all individuals and all collectives possess core developmental identities that have the fear-trust dynamic as a definitive feature. In many ways it even pre-dates our survival instincts of shelter, sex and food and might be regarded as our lowest common denominator. As Erik Erikson pointed out many years ago, the very first thing that we need to resolve in our quest for psycho-social independence is the fear-trust dilemma. In evolutionary terms the fear factor has immense survival value. Fear motivates the “fight-flight” response. Fear engages our psycho at an instinctive pre-verbal, pre-rational immediacy that needs no explanation, no shades of grey, no need for debate. I am afraid and I need to do what is required to remove the source of fear – run from it or make it run away. Fear cuts across all political allegiances simply because we all share that worldview in our developmental experience (see Figure 5).

While every stages of development, even transpersonal ones, have their own associated types of fear (and hope/trust/surrender), it is the very basic levels or archaic and mythic identities (SD's purple, red and blue structures) where physical and emotional fear have their true developmental locus. It is at these levels that fear evokes irrationality, instinctive reaction and the behaviour of the patriot who needs to defend their tribe/values/country. Because physical and emotional fear/trust is part of the development of all individuals and collectives it lies at the heart of each person at whatever developmental stage they may be. Given the right circumstances and/or information, each of us can deal with our fears in ways that are neurotic, irrational, instinctive and patriotic to defend whatever we regard as our “people” or our “homeland”. When we are afraid we retreat into ethnocentrism and the conservative policies of traditional values and worldviews. The new conservatism of Howard, Bush and Blair, i.e. the mixing of market liberalism with conservative social values is ready made to speak to peoples fears. Of this match between the new social conservatism and the language of fear political researcher Kanishka Jayasuriya (2004) says,

What makes this brew of social conservatism and neo liberal market reform even more potent is the new politics of fear that is so evident in the politics of liberal democracies. September 11, Tampa and Bali provided a set of circumstances around which submerged insecurities and fears are given shape by the language of values and social conservatism. It plays neatly alongside the new politics of risk and security that now buffet all liberal democracies of the western world. This is of course, a deeply illiberal project. There is a strong whiff about moral authoritarianism in the new language of values. But even more troublingly this authoritarian streak extends to the derision of any serious contestation over the terms of this new politics of values.

The conservative who manipulate the “politics of risk and security” and the fundamentalists who manipulate evangelical Christianity are the great orators in the languages of trust/redemption and fear/retribution. These languages reframe our understanding of what terror is, what causes it and how we should deal with it. Our conservative leaders speak these languages fluently and with great eloquence. Unfortunately they choose to speak of only certain types of “terror” – those terrors that their individualist worldviews can recognise and pick out from the crowd of terrors that besiege us. No matter how many times we see the towers collapse, the understandable terror raised by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists is not, by any means, the terror that should concern us above all others.

So the following comments are made within this context – International terrorism and the “war on terror” is a important topic for social analysis but is also one whose reality is completely manipulated by political and corporate groups, the media, specific interest lobby groups and others with social power who control the general public's understanding of this issue to serve their own self-interests. With this in mind I ask you to accompany me into the following.

The Mutuality of Individual and the Collective

Integral approaches draw very powerful connections between the worlds of the individual and the worlds of the collective. In Wilber's view the two are so closely linked that he uses them as the polar limits in one of his central dimensions of development. Wilber's individual-collective dimension sets the context for all his discussion of micro and macro level development. The AQAL framework for human development posits that individual and collective dimensions of reality (and their resulting quadrants) arise together and co-create each other. In this the dimension of individual-collective is no different to that of the interior-exterior dimension of development. Wilber says that (2003),

“The whole point of a quadratic approach is that all four dimensions arise simultaneously: they tetra-enact each other and tetra-evolve together.”

While I have a very different way of applying the individual-collective dimension, I agree completely with Wilber's statements here that individuality and collectivity are intimately “meshed” and that they “arise” together (Figure 6).

There are several ways that this relationship between the individual and the collective can be viewed. One is that they are linked in a holographic way. This means that the individual in some way reflects and has access to the total “information” of the whole, in the same way that each part of a holographic plate contains all the information of the whole holographic image. A second way of describing this relationship is to say that they are linked in a network of causal connections. This means that individuals impact on the nature of the collective in chaotic and complex ways through political and social involvements and through the vicissitudes of history. While individual actions are often regarded as having little or no impact on the activities of large social entities in many circumstances individual actions can dramatically change the course of nations and even global history. These circumstances include elections, revolutions, political assassinations, the personal circumstances of national leaders and celebrities, and even the impact of personal views through forums such as popular polls and mass media. A third way of connecting the individual with the collective and the part with the whole is through scientific modelling and theoretical investigations. It is now a formal part of most scientific disciplines to consider the connections between very large scale phenomena and those of its constituent parts. Quantum mechanics has its counterpart in quantum cosmology. Complexity theory and the complexity of macro-systems is based on the idea that small changes in very simple parts of a system can result in radical and dramatic transformations in the system. In the social sciences the connection between the individual and the collective are becoming increasingly recognised in the explanation and understanding of social phenomena (Alexander et al., 1987). This type of influence is seen in the case where the widespread publication of the polling results of a few people can exert influence on the opinions of the collective.

Integral Theory sees the interior consciousness of the individual – what s/he thinks, feels, experiences, imagines, desires, and understands – as intimately connected with the interior of the collective – its meaning-makings, worldviews, mythologies, memetic and values systems. Integral Theory also sees the behaviour of the individual – personal acts, bodily and physical actions and individual conduct – as intimately connected with the activity of the social systems they inhabit – the activities of bureaucracies, institutions, communal systems and organisations (Figure 7).

Whatever model or metaphor we use to illustrate the micro-macro connection it is clear that these connections are becoming more and more important in understanding why and how behaviours at every level occur in the way they do. With its great capacity for drawing out the inherent connections between the micro and the macro, Integral Theory is well suited to consider the relationship between the individual and the collective and the communication media that operate between the two.

In the contemporary world of mass electronic interactive communications and polling the connections between collectives and individuals is reaching a point of intense symbiosis. Collectives and their representatives are highly sensitive to the attitudes and behaviours of individuals. Individuals are also deeply influenced by the information, images, myths and fantasies that are communicated to them by collective structures and systems of communication. This feedback process tends to reinforce entrenched worldviews and ways of seeing the world. Far from meeting the diverse needs of individuals, contemporary mass media exerts a powerful conformist pressure on public opinion and behaviour. When there are basic and underlying pathologies in the society, this mass feedback system results in the embedding of the pathology in the core worldviews of the society in question. In the case of individualism, the collective-individual communications system promulgates and reproduces the distortions that characterise individualist worldviews. TV shows reproduce the mythologies that people choose their own lifestyles and ignore the fact that social systems and policies create communities. Consumers tune in to indulge in vicarious fantasies of individual wealth and fame and ignore the impoverishment of a society where individuals don't pay enough tax. It's very easy to show how individuals stuff up their lives on reality TV cop shows but it's quite difficult to show how economic policies result in crime. Its very easy to show pictures of the enemy as individuals in the form of terrorists suspects being rounded up somewhere. It's very difficult to show through the TV screen how generations of state abuse radicalise the youth of a people.

Some musings on power

In its elemental form Integral theory has it that one way of understanding the life of individuals and collectives is to view them as a dynamic interplay of agentic, communal, interior and exterior worlds. In the realm of political matters the relationship between individuals and collectives is crucial and the complex play of top-down and bottom-up influences is one of the great topics of debate in the social sciences. In many ways, studying how collective interiors and exteriors in their agentic and communal forms influence individual interiors and exteriors and individual agency and communion can be seen as the great task of the social sciences. In sociological terms this is called the micro-macro link (Figure 8).

Integral theory has lots of room for understanding the connections between individuals and the many ways people mutually co-create each other and interact. One important relational aspect of life that has received little attention to date is that of power relationships. Power is an inherent relational dynamic that operates in all social contexts and particularly in those between the micro world of individuals/small groups and large organised collectives. By this I mean such relationships as those that occur between citizens and the state, low rank soldiers and the chain of command, a child and their school, a family and the community they live in, workers and corporations, marginalised groups and the broader society, people and police forces. All these relationships are subject to contingencies of power. Sometimes the power consequences of these relationships are not evident or not exercised and sometimes they are. Usually it is in times of conflict and change that the power factor in such relationships becomes manifest and influences the interaction.

There are many types of power that operate between the micro and macro worlds. This can be expressed as a spectrum of power that reflects the developmental ontologies of the physical, affective, rational, pluralist, and spiritual levels of being/doing. These levels can each be expressed in individual and collective arenas and there will also be healthy and pathological forms of these power relationships. In the following I want to focus on the power relationships between individuals and collectives during times of national or international conflict. Figure 9 shows the spectrum of coercive power relations and some common applications of those forms of collective control. As with all holarchical spectrums these forms include each other so that the higher forms of control will always include some element of previous forms. By this I man that, for example, the control of ideas will necessarily include some element of control over the means of communicating those ideas, the mythologies that underpin those ideas and the physical infrastructures and “bodies” that are involved in generating ideas. This is a fancy way of saying, “when you've got them by the ... (pick your euphemism) their hearts and minds will follow”.

Although collective and political power is usually associated with physical power, i.e. power that comes “through the barrel of a gun”, it is more common in democratic societies for coercive power to be exercised through the control and manipulation of information, ideas, and mythologies (although physical coercion is also very common). Again, I must repeat that the administration of control and power is not necessarily pathological or even unnecessary. Coercive power, and the threat of it, is an essential means for maintaining governmental regulation over a national collective, but history also shows that the exercising of this power has often gone well beyond the justifiable goal of healthy regulation. Governmental agency often oversteps the need for national regulation and leaps into the realm of state oppression and state terrorism with devastating results. There are also forms of power that citizens possess over national collectives. In traditional societies this often took the form of public petitioning or withdrawing services. In democracies citizens have several means for confronting governments and exercising some level of constraint over national collectives and, in there healthy forms, these “people powers” are definitive of democratic government in one form or another. (The great advantage of democracy lies first and foremost in the citizens' ability to reign in state power through threat of electoral change. This is one aspect of the coercive power of the citizenry that holds state power in check.)

So there are many different forms of coercive influence that the macro-level of state and those who administer national power have over the micro-world of individuals. The state does not have to roll out its policing systems for coercive physical control every time it wants to influence a situation or control an individual or group. The manipulation of myths and information and ideas is often much more useful and more powerful than physical coercion. We see such effects and manipulations constantly during times of collective fear and war. When government leaders pronounce policies during such times they are instigating very powerful macro-micro links that directly influence the micro-world of citizens and soldiers. When aggressive policies are pronounced on high then aggressive actions are taken on the ground.

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners is a reflection at the individual/micro-level of collective/macro-level social policy of pre-emptive attack on foreign countries. Soldiers are merely implementing at the micro-level the macro-level policy of unilateral violence. In this it is no different to the individual terrorist act being seen as a micro-form of the violence suffered by a collective, e.g. a community, ethnic population or a nation. Putting this another way, the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib is linked to the violence suffered by the American people (and others) in the WTC attacks in precisely the same way as the murderous act of the suicide bomber is linked to the social violence suffered by the Palestinian nation. The violence of the individual suicide bomber encapsulates the violence suffered and perpetrated by Palestinian communities. The violent behaviour of individual US miliary personnel at Abu Ghraib is directly linked not only to the violence suffered by the collective American nation but also to the moral violence of policies such as the doctrine of pre-emption that was proposed and enacted by the Bush administration following the September 11 terrorist attacks. In all this the worldview of individualism plays a primary and, as yet, completely overlooked role.

In a previous essay on global development I presented an Integral approach to several forms of cultural pathologies that are driving some the more socially deleterious aspects of globalisation. I wrote at that time that (Edwards, 2002 , p. 30),

In terms of the very current issue of global terrorism, I see no possibility of reducing this social ill through a “war on terror” that targets individual terrorists, terrorist groups or rogue nations. Governments that attempt to halt terrorist activities through the policing of individuals will exacerbate the problem in the same way that the drug trade has flourished under such policies. The individualisation of the terrorist problem is evident in the worldview of many national governments engaged in conflict of one type or another. This is precisely what is happening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it will happen globally if the personalisation of terrorism continues. If the international response to global terrorism is to have any positive impact it must include targeted social interventions and strategies, collective agreements that address cultural-communal concerns, geo-political security and broad international and national economic inequalities.

I will expand on these comments and point out some Integral connections between such things as individualist worldviews, the doctrine of pre-emption, international terrorism and the “war on terror”.

“The war on ...”

The "war on drugs" approach to the problem of illicit drugs was instigated by Nixon and his administration in the early 1970's. There were some characteristically complex reasons why Nixon launched his “war on ...” approach to drugs. Pre-eminent among these was his paranoiac belief that the anti-war hippy generation were motivated and controlled by communists and that “war” needed to be declared on the hippies in some form. The close association between the counter-culture and drugs presented the Nixon administration with an opportunity to get tough on the counter-culture of that time, and the “war on drugs” was one of their political weapons for fighting the anti-war movement. There were, of course, many other more reasonable reasons for “upping the anti” against drug abuse – the desire to reduce drug abuse and addiction, the need to protect young people from harmful behaviour, the need to control drug dealing, etc. But it is important to remember that the basic philosophy of the “war on drugs” approach to controlling illicit drugs initially grew out of ignorance and fear and a conservative worldview that attributed the cause of all social ill to the behaviour of disaffected individuals.

Since the 1970's the “war of drugs” has since been supported and greatly extended by every US administration (of both persuasions). As a general policy for responding to the exponential growth of the illicit drugs trade and drug abuse, the “war on drugs” approach has been subsequently taken up by many governments around the world (again of both conservative and liberal varieties). While the continued popularity and enthusiasm for the war on drugs seems to be undiminished, at least in terms of the policies of the major political parties in the USA, there can be little doubt that the war on drugs strategy has been a complete failure. More than that it is regarded as a major, if not the primal, cause of one of the greatest human tragedies of modern times. That tragedy is, of course, the massive growth in the global trade in illicit drugs and the vast waves of human misery that have resulted from that trade. The illicit drugs trade is now one of the very largest commercial enterprises in the world. Many of you will be familiar with the social impact of the war on drugs but I'll mention some of the major outcomes because they will present a foretaste of the results that we will see from the current policies that are being prosecuted to address the issue of terrorism. The war on drugs has resulted in the following:

1. The creation of new drug markets: The war on drugs has actually stimulated the development of new illicit drug markets because, among other factors, it has made it highly profitable for organised crime networks to get involved in the production and supply side of the trade.

2. The creation of large international criminal organisations involved in the drugs trade: Just as the prohibition of the 1920's resulted in the economic foundation of modern criminal organisations such as the mafia, the war on drugs has resulted in the establishment of international criminal organisations of immense economic and political power.

3. An increase in drug use: After three decades and literally trillions of dollars poured into the war on drugs the USA remains the greatest market for illicit drugs in the world. There is a direct positive correlation between the amount of money spent on the war and the amount of drugs consumed. The more we spend on the “war on ...” strategies for drug law enforcement and incarceration the worse the problem gets. There is no clearer failure of government policy than that of the drugs war approach to controlling drug use, yet this clear failure has not affected many governments' determination to pursue the policy or the general public's or the commercial media's willingness to accept the validity of this approach.

4. Economic waste of vast proportions: The amount of money involved in illicit drugs and the subsequent costs to society are staggering to say the least. The total cost to US federal and state budgets of waging the war on drugs in the year 1995 was about $109.8 billion US dollars (NIDA, 2002). A report for the US government bureau - the Office of National Drug Control Policy - concluded that in the year 2000 Americans spent 63 billion dollars on illicit drugs (Rhodes, Layne, Johnston & Hozik, 2000).

5. The imprisonment of the marginalised: As is always the case, the policing and law enforcement focus of the drugs war falls onto those communities and individuals with the least political and economic power. In the US this primarily means the black community. The US has the largest prison population in the world with over 2.2 million incarcerated at any one time (Russia has around 800,000). Black males form the bulk of this prison population and around one in three African American males will be jailed for minor drug use at some point during their lives. The US district judge Charles A. Shaw points out that (Shaw, 2000),

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the [prison] population behind bars. Even though crime rates have steadily dropped over the past 20 years, our rate of incarceration has mushroomed. Nonviolent offenders accounted for 77 percent of the growth intake in our state and federal prisons between 1978 and 1996. The primary reason for such increase is the "war on drugs"

6. The impact on “producer nations”: The most devastating impact of the war on drugs is felt in producer countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan and it is in such countries as these that the war is most keenly felt. Not only individual people and communities suffer, but whole nations are threatened with civil collapse as a result of the “war on drugs”.

I have outlined these sorry outcomes because, of course, we have another “war on ...” that is being pursued with great vigour around the world - the “war on terror”. While there are many different causal factors operating in the cases of these two approaches to dealing with social ills, the war on terror shares many similar characteristics to the war on drugs. I believe there is a strong possibility that, if it continues to be waged in its current unfortunate form, the “war on ...” approach to terrorism will end in a similar catastrophic increase in terrorist acts of violence. As with the drugs war, the war on terror will result in i) the creation of new and more powerful terrorists organisations; ii) the criminalisation of terror (by this I mean that it will create organisations that are in the terror business primarily to acquire money and assets, this is already happening in Iraq); iii) an increase in terrorists acts and the proliferation of the means for acts or terror; iv) massive economic waste of public resources; v) the imprisonment and abuse of marginalised populations (this will particularly affect marginalised ethnic populations in countries that do not have developed democratic cultures such the Tibetans, the Khurds, the Chechnyans, the Palestinians, the Christian Sudanese and so on).

In short, I believe that if the “war on terror” continues to be waged in the manner it currently is, then it will produce generational terrorism on a global scale and that the greatest impact will be felt on the most marginalised countries in the world. More to the point, I will argue in the following that an Integral analysis of the war of terror strategy points to this being the case.

I recognise that there are a great many differences between the war on drugs and the war on terror. But the similarities are also profound and, I believe, speak of a common generative structure that can be analysed in terms of basic Integral Theory principles of cultural and social development. Even at the level of personal developmental stages there are commonalities between the psychological forces that create the demand for drugs and the demand for violence. Drug-taking is driven by our very natural developmental and psychological tendencies to explore and escape into altered states of consciousness. It is almost completely unrecognised that terrorism has a corresponding connection in the innate developmental drive for social and political freedom. Reagan labelled the terrorist violence of the Contras as acts of “freedom fighters”. In a precisely identical way many in the Arab world acknowledge the terrorist acts of the Palestinian suicide bombers, the international Jihad network and of the insurgency in Iraq as acts of liberation or, at least, in defence of freedom. The cultural and personal factors that turn the desire for personal transcendence into drug abuse and the desire for collective transcendence into terrorism are very closely associated. In the same way that drug abuse is a health issue, international terrorism is much more about global social health than about fundamentalist Islam or crazed individual terrorists with a grudge against the US.

At the sociological level the connections are even more profound. The macro-level cultural forces that drive the war on drugs, and which subsequently have resulted in the monstrosity of the illicit drugs industry, are now being unleashed through precisely this form of waging “the war on terror”. I believe that recognising this core similarity between the two “war on ...”s and how those similarities stem from the collective pathology of individualism is central to our understanding of global terrorism in both its state and stateless forms.

Levels of security and terrorism

Let's look at the varieties of security and of terror(ism) from an Integral perspective. There are many forms of terrorism and many levels at which terror is used to gain and maintain power. From the outset let me make it clear that I see terrorism as existing along a spectrum of levels, all the way from the micro- or personal level, to meso- or communal/national level, to the macro- or global level. Keeping this spectrum of levels in mind, terrorism is any social act that is perpetrated by one social agent to gain unauthorised, illegitimate and excessive physical, economic, mental, political or spiritual power over another.

At the micro-level we have the terror that is used in domestic violence to achieve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual power over another person or over several family members. At the meso-level of the group or neighbourhood we have communal terror where group terror can be used as a pathological means of group identity formation, a right of passage for abused and abusive peer groups or organised crime networks, or simply as a way of achieving group or communal power. At the regional level terror takes on a truly political purpose, as is the case with sectarian violence. At this level it is often the result of widespread social oppression as is the case with violence within indigenous communities.

At the national level terror can be used as a direct means for illegitimately maintaining state or dictatorial power as in Saddam's Iraq or Stalin's Russia or for more covert political manipulation as was the case in Milosavic's Yugoslavia before he ordered the tanks off to Bukovar. The dynamics of terror can flow in a top-down direction as in state terrorism or in a bottom-up direction as in, what I will call, group terrorism (where group is any stateless social entity or individuals that use(s) terror for political ends). Most definitions of terrorism that are currently in vogue assume that terrorism is only perpetrated by individuals and groups as in this definition used by the FBI. The FBI define terrorism as,

"the unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

Or this example from the US State Department. Terrorism is,

“premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” (emphasis added).

Notice that no mention is made in either of these definitions of state terrorism, i.e. illegitimate violence used by the state against innocent civilian populations to achieve or maintain power or other political ends. Under the FBI's and US state department definitions the killing of many thousands of innocent Chechnyans by Russian defence forces is not a terrorist act. Yet it is clearly a massive use of terror against civilian populations for political ends. And this is exactly the point. These definitions allow for state terror to be practiced without international scrutiny and actually justify and endorse state terror as part of the “war on terror”.

Although one could be forgiven for assuming the opposite, the great majority of terrorist acts are, in fact, not carried out by “subnational groups or clandestine agents” but by the governments of nation states. The current crisis in the Sudan is a very typical example of this. More people are being killed in the Sudan every week via state terrorism than were killed in the World Trade Centre attack. For me, the date of September 11th carries the dreadful burden of both forms of terror. On September 11, 2001 the terrorist group al Qaeda killed 2,800 innocent Americans and 200 innocent internationals. On September 11, 1973 the US-backed military coup occurred in Chile and ushered in the period of national terror that resulted in the death of perhaps as many as 30,000 innocent civilian Chileans. The 2001 date stands for the bottom-up terror of the stateless group/network and the 1973 date stands for the top-down terror of the nation state. The proportion of casualties from these two types of terrorism reflects the actual level of deaths resulting from global terrorism – state sponsored terrorism is responsible for many, many more deaths than any other type of terrorism. Both forms of terror, of course, feed each other and, in a very real sense, live off each other. The pathology of state terrorism needs the group terrorist to proclaim its raison d'etre. The individual and group terrorists need governments to oppress and brutalise communities and innocents in order to gain recruits and money and the psychological and social support of the “people”.

Group (or bottom-up) terrorism and state (or top-down) terrorism are two dynamics within a pathological holarchy that gains and maintains political and social power through terror and violence. As I described earlier, these dynamics run through the spectrum of collectives, all the way from the family to the global community. In a sense this progression can be seen as a holarchy of terror and, as with every holarchy, the higher levels in the holarchy are built on the lower levels in the holarchy. In a very real way state terrorism, i.e. illegitimate and unjustifiable political violence sanctioned by governments and their administrative bodies on lower level social holons, is only possible when built on domestic terrorism. For example, the terror that gripped the Soviet Union for more than 50 years reached right down into the interactions that occurred within and between families and neighbours. Family members and neighbours denounced their own (“dobbed each other in” as we say in Australia) to the NKVD and the KGB for personal or ideological reasons. There was no safety and no trust even at the level of personal relationship among family members in Stalin's USSR.

Figure 10 presents an overview of the holarchy of security and terror. This is a very simplistic representation because it does not show multiple relationships between separate holonic systems, eg. separate nation-states or ethnic groups, but it does give a general indication of the dynamics that are crucial in maintaining the security of a holarchy, or the converse of creating terror within a holarchy. (These dynamics relate to what Wilber calls the super-agency and (I add) the super-communion of holons – see AQAL Eyes part 5). The main point of the diagram is that terrorism moves in both directions – from macro to micro and from micro to macro and that the dynamics of emergence-evolution and integration-involution are central to the issues of security and conflict.

This simple diagram has some very profound (albeit obvious) implications. One is that the way to deal with bottom-up terrorism, eg. the Northern Ireland “troubles”, is to create secure conditions for the normative development of junior holons, i.e. support the conditions that create secure and healthy families, neighbourhoods, communities, cities and regions. From the perspective of the state holon this means adopting integrative and involutionary means to support the health and well-being of junior holons. While this might seem bleeding obvious, the typical state response to bottom-up terrorism is to actually create conflict and to destabilise its fundamental holons of families and communities. This is precisely what Israel in doing in the Gaza strip and the West Bank to everyone's detriment including the state of Israel. The state seeks out the “criminal individuals” and in doing so blunders through whole communities and neighbourhoods bringing havoc upon the very holons that form the stability and legitimacy of its base. Just picture an Israeli or Chinese or Russian tank rolling through and smashing all the transport, water and electricity infrastructure in your street while they attempt to capture some terrorists and you'll get the picture. The situation in Fallujah is also an example of this “overwhelming force” approach to defeating terrorism (see this site for a personal view on how this approach to fighting terrorism actually creates the exterior and interior conditions for its proliferation).

Where the nation/state does not recognise the validity of lower holons to be part of its holarchic community then the regressive pathologies of wall-building and ethnic-cleansing ensue. The West Bank “security wall” is an example of this divided holarchy solution. It is being built in an attempt to divide the Palestinian holarchy from the Israeli holarchy so that the Israeli state can provide “security” to just those junior-holons that it sees as its members. Given that fully 20% of Israeli's are Palestinian, that the Israeli economy relies heavily on the West Bank and Gaza workforce and that the geographical constraints make such a division ridiculous, then such attempts to divide the two holarchies are completely misguided and quite unsustainable. The much weaker group will lose out in the short term. Both sides will loose out in the long term. Suicide bombings may be reduced but the cultural factors that drive them will grow stronger. Palestinians need their own functioning state as do the Israeli's but only through a formal and mutual recognition of their interrelatedness and interdependencies will there arise a long-term solution to this cycle of violence that currently engulfs the region.

As I pointed out earlier, there are fundamental human qualities that drive terrorism. In contrast to what the established view would have us believe, ignorance, envy, stupidity, thugery, beastiality, psychosis, or criminality are not the qualities that motivate the terrorist. Terrorists are often educated and privileged people. Leaders and the media across the globe continually push the line that terrorism is the result of some really evil people. President Bush's speeches are littered with references to “terrorist thugs”, “thugs and criminals”, “terrorist criminals”, "evildoers". All that is completely accurate is far as it goes. But there is also the lie of omission happening big time here. Terrorism is also the result of the thugery of the state, the criminality of the state and the violence of the state perpetrated on civilians, families, communities and other countries to pursue its own political and geopolitical ends.

People commit acts of terror because of the interaction of extreme political and psychological violence and the human desire (however, misplaced) to achieve or defend freedom and fullness in life for those with whom they identify. Terrorism, of all varieties, is a complex pathology that has both interior and exterior, individual and collective causes. When we localise the cause of terrorism within the psychological pathology of the individual person or group then we are well down the path of actually fostering its growth. To summarise, I am arguing that it is state terrorism and group terrorism are intimately connected, feed into and reinforce each other. To look at terrorism in terms of the criminality of individual terrorists or individual leaders or individual countries is to not see the complicity of the state in that pathological symbiotic relationship. We see this so clearly with Russia and Chechnya. Why don't we see it so clearly with the US and the Middle East or with Australia and its Aboriginal youth (for, if you Aussie weren't aware Aboriginal youth have been carrying out an undeclared terrorism on urban Australian culture for many years now to the complete blindness of our leaders and our culture).

It is the individualisation of the source of terrorism that allows it to flourish and that hides it's true cause – state violence and geopolitical manipulation by the politically powerful (and that includes nations West and East, North and South). So let's move onto this issue of the individualisation of terrorism.

Individualism as a pathological worldview

As I propose at the very beginning of this ramshackle paper, contrary to common interpretations of Integral approaches, the levels of development are not the primary source of worldviews or worldview pathologies. The dimensions that generate the quadrants and the basic dynamics of evolution and involution are the most powerful sources of worldviews. The most pervasive and harmful developmental worldview pathology that currently impacts on global and local affairs is not the Mean Orange Meme or the Mean Green Meme or some other Mean Meme. Its the worldview pathology of Individualism (with Exteriorism/Flatland and Evolutionism/The Growth Fetish also vying for top place) Individualism is a biased and often pathological worldview that comes prior to all worldviews that result from emergent levels. When individualism is present it infiltrates all levels from beginning to end. Purple, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, turquoise, coral and so on are all under its sway. The health of the spiral is impacted on first and foremost by the fundamental dimensions that co-create the quadrants of development. (NOTE: Integral theory unlike Spiral Dynamics proposes that all levels can display both individualistic and collectivist biases. The SD notion that alternating levels display individual (warm) and collective (cool) has very little support in the sociological literature. Take, for a very obvious example, the fact that an SD analysis of the Republican Bush administration would be identified as basically Blue Meme America and that this Blue meme in a political context would be expected to evidence collectivist orientations in its problem solving, international relations, economic activity, and social policy!).

A central aspect of the developmental framework of Integral Theory is the spectrum of levels that all individuals and collectives encounter and work through in their life-cycle. These levels include the well known archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and transpersonal levels. In the analysis of socio-cultural phenomena much time is spent on describing and interpreting the worldviews that are associated with these levels. However, in focusing on the worldviews of development levels, Integral Theory and other developmental models that employ staged-based models of growth (such as Spiral Dynamics) often neglect the fact that there are other factors that also generate worldviews. In my reading of Integral Theory, there are fundamental structures in our personal and collective psychologies which are even more basic to the expression of worldviews than the levels themselves. These factors relate, of course, to the fundamental quadrants and dynamics that form the foundational landscape on which development through the levels proceeds. The Quadrants themselves map out the fundamental developmental domains and as such they also specify the grounding worldviews that are present in every developmental line at every developmental level. Quadrant worldviews are the most ubiquitous, pervasive and influential forms of worldviews and it is a major aspect of worldview analysis that neither Wilber nor Beck have so far acknowledged.

The innovative and very important work that Wilber and Beck and others have done on worldviews has perhaps overlooked the point that, even before considering the worldview of developmental levels, we need to consider the worldview orientations generated by the dimensions of interiority-exteriority, individuality-communion and the drive of evolution-involution. It is not the distinctions between purple, red, blue, orange and green worldviews that we need first to consider when analysing the sociocultural interactions involved in terrorism (or any social phenomenon for that matter). We must first look at how the six fundamental worldsviews influence the state of affairs that we have created - i.e. individualism (e.g. market capitalism), collectivism (e.g. Leninist communism), interiorism (e.g. new ageism), exteriorism (e.g. materialism), evolutionism (the Ascenders) and involutionism (the Descenders). I have written elsewhere (Edwards, (in press)) on how these six social pathologies are currently driving many of the social ills that are associated with globalisation. In that paper I propose that a core principle of an Integral approach to social analysis is that social health is the result of a dynamic balance between three factors - the worlds of interiors-exteriors, the worlds of agency-communion and the drives of growth-integration (evolution- involution). When one pole of any of these dimensions of social life overpower their counterpart then social pathology results. And at the moment the globe is in the grips of a rampant and unbalanced individualism that has not existed in such an extreme form before. I am not talking here of the individualism associated with SD's ORANGE level or Wilber's rational-egoic level of Wade's achievement level. I am talking of an individualism pole that is prevalent at ALL developmental levels (see Figure 11).

Individualisation is a worldview pathology that affects all levels of development be they red, blue, orange or otherwise. It infiltrates the views of children, adolescents, mature adults and spiritual guides. It affects the ways leaders view the causes of and solutions to social problems, moral issues, education and health matters. Individualism is apparent in the operations of institutional systems, public policies, educational practices, corporate behaviour, market reactions and international relations. The US preference for bilateral agreements as opposed to multilateral ones on issues such as greenhouse gas emissions is a classic example of individualism at the international level.

It is individualism that is driving the “war on...” strategy for dealing with international terrorism (bottom up or group terrorism). From the individualist standpoint, the “war on terror” is about killing individual terrorists. This is all very straightforward if you believe that the cause of terrorism can be located within the crazed actions of individuals and that it has nothing to do with the histories and activities of social collectives such as communities, cities, societies and international communities. There seems little doubt that the blundering destruction of communities in Fallujah resulted in the deaths of many terrorists. To the individualist this is a victory. From an integral perspective that sees social events in multiple levels of activity, including the levels of the family, community, tribe, city and society, the destruction of Fallujah will result in the short-term killing of terrorists and in the middle-to-long-term proliferation of violence of all kinds including what will undoubtedly be labelled as “terrorism”.

The socio-pathology of individualism needs can be disclosed and diagnosed through applying a more balanced and integrated perspective that includes the causative impact of collectives on the complex social issues that drive terrorism. Once we see terrorism in collective social terms, we are forced to confront the need for interventions that restore health to the social systems that generate it (I would, of course, include the need to restore health to international relations, world trade, geo-political terrorism and general state terrorism in all this). It is the nexus between the micro-world of the individual and the macro-world of the social that we need to become bring into public consciousness to truly see where political violence emanates from. Let me explain this a little more.

The war on drugs is characterised by the individualisation of the whole drugs “problem”. Individual adolescents just need to say “No”. Individual junkies just need to straighten up and get a job. Individual addicts just need a rehab programme. Individual parents just need to be stricter with their kids. Individual schools just need to keep drugs off their playgrounds. We just need to show TV advertisements to individuals sitting in their lounge chairs. Individual drug takers just need to be locked up for a few years. Individual growers just need to have their land confiscated or poisoned. Individual dealers just need to be sentenced to death or put away for a very long time. Individual shipments of drugs just need to be intercepted at the border. Individual behaviours of various sorts needs to be prohibited. This is the rhetoric of the individualistic worldview.

The individualistic madness that these strategies come from never sees the social connection between communal health and addiction, between social violence and criminality, between structural unemployment and drug taking, between international trade and the international drug market, between societal ennui and substance abuse, between mass media and children's drug taking behaviour, between state and federal laws and law enforcement and the proliferation of the drug industry, or the links between the social benefits of harm reduction and the cultural expression of morality. Similarly, international terrorism is not only the result of the violence of individuals but also of the violence that communities, societies and nation suffer from and generate. As such, terrorism needs to be understood in terms of cultural-historical forces as much as psychological ones. In integral theory terms it needs to be understood in terms of collective holons as much as individual ones.

An Integral mapping of such a worldview finds the individualist seeing the cause in terms of the Upper Right quadrant of individual behaviour, e.g. individual terrorists killing civilians, individual leaders providing money and safe havens. Similarly his response will be to stop that particular murderous behaviour. If a collective happens to be in the way of that objective (as we see in Fallujah) that is unfortunate but the individuals must be stopped from carrying out their terrorist “acts”. Associated with this focus on individual behaviour we have the associated language of individual psychopathology and criminality, “crazed terrorist”, “thugs and criminals”, “wanted dead or alive”.

Figure 12 shows the difference between the pathological bias of the individualistic worldview and the more balanced approach of the Integral worldview. Individualism sees the individual person, leader, or nation are the source of all good or evil. Consequently the solutions to any problem will be seen in those terms. Collective causes and consequences are not recognised or are drastically under represented in the consideration of any social problem. In the instance of international terrorism, the language of the individualist is full of references to pathological intent, criminal behaviour, cultural fanaticism, of the terrorist social outlaw. This language reflects the nature of the how the individuals sees the cause and the solution to the problem. Wage war against the individual terrorist. But, as every soldier knows, wars are not fought against individuals. They are fought against social systems and, as such, communities are always brought into the conflict. The Integral approach sees cause in both its micro-individual and macro-social scales. However, the nature of the solution changes dramatically when the collective nature of the sources terrorism are recognised.

The Individualistic worldview can always be used to supports the myth that violence is started by the individual “other”. And that it is never a result of social interactions. Once the collective and interactional sources are acknowledged, it becomes obvious that people and communities do not resort to violence in isolation from social contexts. This tips us into considering how our actions feed into the sources of violence. This does not mean that we are responsible for that violence 9although that may also be the case). It means that we see how we can act in ways which do not support its continuation. In seeing both individual and collective sources of violence we limit those factors that generate it, for example we do not attack communities or wage war in order to kill individual terrorists. Warfare is essential to the individual because they do not see any other option for removing the individual terrorist from their communities. But individualists can be very rational people. Individualists don't want to kill the innocent. To resolve this dilemma – of needing to kill individual terrorists who always exist in social communities while not wanting to kill the innocent – the individualist invents a new type of warfare. Donald Rumsfeld calls it transformative war.

Individualist warfare

In this brief section I want to connect how the war in Iraq is actually fought with the problems that the individualist encounters in trying to achieve their goals. Rumsfeld's embracing of transformative war is a direct result of the individualist attempting to resolve the dilemma outlined above. It is a very new way to waging war and includes not only the well-known technological innovations of satellite targeting and surveillance platforms, intelligent munitions, laser and infra-red weaponry but also strategic innovations. These strategies include using local rebellious forces (as in the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan), the specific targeting of the enemy into order to procure information (as in Abu Ghraib), networking strategies to develop a “system of war fighting systems” (as in the “networked battlefield”), the control of all mass media images concerning the war (as in embedded correspondents, no pictures of body bags/coffins) and the limiting of sources of information on civilian casualties (as is “we don't do body counts of civilians” – general Tommy Franks).

Transformative warfare has two central goals i) to reduce “good guy” causalities and ii) to reduce civilian casualties. These are both very defensible goals. The problem is that that they completely ignore the reality that terrorism is a social ill. In the attempt to solve the problem of killing individual terrorists while not killing the locals, this new type of warfare has provided an option to the individualist leader who does not want to kill civilians. Transformative war is hiding the bloody result of the individualist's worldview pathology. In combination with the control on media images and information the transformative war approach of the individualist provides both the technical option of warfare, the communication means to stop public knowledge and concern over the community violence and death that results. In summary, the way the “war on terror” is fought and the accompanying media strategies are intimately tied in with individualistic worldview pathologies.

Transformative warfare enables pathological individualism to maintain its blindness to the communal impact of “just killing the individual terrorist”. But occasionally the truth surfaces and we see the true workings of transformative war and the ways that pathological forms of individualism are shaping what we see and don't see on our television screen.


The forgoing has been a rambling and rather indulgent set of speculations of the relationship between the basic worldview pathology of individualism and the war on terror. My central points are that Integral approaches that analyse social events have focused too much on the worldviews of levels and have not recognised the deeper worldviews that support all emergent forms of identity. Wilber has already identified Flatland (exteriorism), solipsism (interiorism) Ascenders (evolutionism), Descenders (involutionism) and I want to include Individualism and collectivism in those basic worldviews. When any of these basic worldviews become highly biased and imbalanced then individual and collective pathology results. because it forms the basis for all developmental potentials these pathologies can impact on all levels including the most developed ones. I believe that we are currently in the grip of a severe individualism pathology that is distorting the ways that both collectives and individuals are viewing social events. As always, pathology manifests most clearly during times of conflict stress and crisis. We can see this most clearly with the “war of terror” and the rampant individualism that simply does not recognise the social causes of violence.


Alexander, J. C., Bernard, G., Münch, R. & Smelser, N. J. (1987), 'The Micro-Macro Link', University of California Press, Los Angeles.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Rates of Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm-Related Death Among Children -- 26 Industrialized Countries," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 46(05): 101-105, February 07, 1997.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, "National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program," 2002.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, 1992-1998, 1999-2001.

Cook P, Lawerence B, Ludwig J and Miller T. (1999). The Medical Costs of Gunshot injuries in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 282(5): 447-454.

Edwards, M. G. (2002), 'Through AQAL Eyes, Part 3 - : Applied Integral Holonics: The Example of Developmental Health and Pathology in Personal and Social Holons', [Online] Available from:, [1st August, 2002].

Edwards, M. G. ((in press)), 'A Future in the Balance: Integral Theory and Global Developmental Pathologies', In, Knowledge Base of Futures Studies Volumes Three: Directions and Outlooks, (Ed, R. Slaughter) Foresight International, Brisbane, pp. (forthcoming).

Hamilton, C. (2003), 'The Growth Fetish', Allen & Unwin., Sydney.

Hamilton Fish Institute, "Weapon Carrying, Gun Carrying, and Fighting among U.S. High School Students," November 1999.

Harvard School of Public Health, cited in The Boston Parent's Paper, August 1999.

Jayasuriya, K. (2004) Howard's third way. Australian Policy Online. Available at:

Krug, E.G., Dahlberg, L. L., & Powell K. E. 1996, Childhood homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths: an international comparison. World Health Statistics Quarterley, 49, 3, 230-5.

NIDA (2002), 'The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the United States - 1992-1998', NIDA-National Institute on Drug Abuse Bethesda, MD.

Peter Hart Research Associates, 1999) "Americans' Attitudes on Children's Access to Guns: A National Poll for Common Sense about Kids and Guns," July 1999.

Pyne, D. T. (2002) Bush Administration Exaggerates Iraqi Threat to Build Support for Invasion. The American Partisan.

Rhodes, W., Layne, M., Johnston, P. & Hozik, L. (2000), 'What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs 1988–1998', [Online] Available from:, [August 1, 2004].

Shaw, C. A. (2000), 'War on Drugs Unfairly Targets African-Americans', April 12, St Louis Post-Dispatch.

Wilber, K. (2003), 'Excerpts from the Kosmos Trilogy - C: The Ways We Are in This Together: Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos', [Online] Available from:,

Comment Form is loading comments...