FAQ Green issues

Why is F-S (Green) so confusing?

The F-S (Green) level is confounding to many people. Despite lots of talk of evolutionary consciousness and great leaps in human nature, thinking in the fourth or fifth level ways often prevails, even when wrapped in “existential jargon” or the comfortable fuzz of post-New Age spirituality.
Pulling this sixth system out of the mix is not easy. It appears that many scholars have missed it and conflated the F-S way of thinking with either an E-R transition equivalent or even entry into G-T. Apparently, it’s hard for some to accept that such a human being as this exists in this world, so skepticism prevails. If we take the ‘tier’ perspective, then this is the final stage in the First Tier systems, the culmination of sacrifice-self ways of being. Dr. Graves proposed that it is a short-lived system that is hard to sustain, but also crucial to creating the problems which activate A’-N’. If we reject the ‘tier’ hypothesis and assume that there is a series of systems in which each leap from one to the next is significant, then this one adds important new components to the human mix.

To many, even F-S is still “a bridge too far” in that it is a way of thinking they can’t comprehend from an arrested base in a lower level that is actually more congruent with their life experience. People thusly stuck might demonize it, glorify it, or otherwise distort the sixth level. Trying to stretch forward to grasp onto “Green” over-stresses their thinking, often producing a backlash because of projection of traits from their own systems onto a caricature of F-S. If we fill in that FS outline with a Blue or Orange brush, we’ll get a distorted picture. This becomes an even bigger problem when people have convinced themselves that they are unusually enlightened, 2nd Tier, trans-Turquoise and such, but are actually looking at FS through Blue or Orange glasses. They’ll tend to be sensitized to artifacts and traits hanging around the system while overlooking the core of F-S, and try to apply the judgments and criticality of their own base way(s) of thinking to F-S.

We are struck by the frequency a 1:1 conflation of “Green” values – sociable, progressive, politically left-leaning, eco-conscious, affect-sensitive, relationship aware, sociable, etc. with the FS coping system – context-sensitive, relativistic, attuned to human factors, empathetic, situational, non-linear, collective, etc. Without digging into the theory a little, distinguishing them can be tough (as long-term followers of this list and our students who’ve worked on certification well know). It was a mistake we made in the Netherlands for years by failing to recognize that accepted norms, even norms codified as laws complete with punishments for violating them, can be very sociocentric or populist in tone, yet applied in a very absolute, even subtly authoritarian ways. Intentions and origins don’t always follow through into the execution of policy. There are many ways of thinking about at thing, whatever color it ‘sounds’ like.

The confusion of content with conceptualization of content (meme for vMeme) is a pervasive trap that’s hard to avoid. (It’s a mistake made in parts of the Spiral Dynamics book, one reason we say that it’s imperfect, dated, and not to be taken as literally as some would wish – a useful simplification and application of Dr. Graves’s point of view, but with many part-time examples too easily confused with full-time systems and without adequate explanation to show the difference.) The same trap lies open on the ground in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) just waiting for the unwary to step into it and categorize values as if they are equivalent to valuing systems and thus to ignore the why’s and wherefore’s – clang.

Dr. Graves’s own explications of F-S are rooted in data and observations gathered in the 1950’s through 1970’s. Many of his examples and clarifying opinions are based on first-hand experiences he had with people whom he considered typical of functioning at the 6th level or F-S. Some are derived from other scholars studying similar things and offering similar judgments. It’s an attempt to balance the theoretical and abstract with the practical and applicable, a blend aimed at increased understanding but one not easy to achieve. While Dr. Graves’s work was both elegant and prescient, it was also of a time. That doesn’t mean it’s out-of-date and passe, only that culture-specific, times-specific examples need to be taken as just that.

Like many academics whose work migrated from WWII to Beatniks to Hippies and beyond, Dr. Graves watched the rise and fall of the “counter-culture” in the ’60’s and early ’70’s, and experienced the campus upheavals and social turmoil (Beta and Gamma?) of those decades, he was impacted by his students and friends, by vast cultural transformations, and by events far beyond Schenectady. If we get trapped by date-stamped premises or try to turn Gravesian examples into a literal body of fundamentalist truths instead of putting them into historical and socio-cultural context, we limit ourselves greatly. That means reading with an informed and critical (not cynical) eye. It doesn’t mean that Graves should be rewritten – he said what he said, much of it brilliantly. But his open-ended, work-in-progress perspective does invite further study, reconsideration, corrections, exploration, and refinement since it’s clearly not a final report ready to put under glass. Today’s characterizations and examples, like those from 1996 and 1969, will need to be viewed in context, too. Indigo kids, Screen-Agers, Millennials, the Net Generation, Tweeting and Facebook will have to be explained as artifacts of ‘now’ (which apparently lasts about 2.5 seconds).

While we can argue that F-S/1969 and FS/2009 ought be quite similar if there is agreement as to what an F-S level of psychological existence (or coping system) describes, it’s not so easy to support a claim that Green/1969 and Green/2009 are equivalent if we distinguish values from systems. We could also include geographical/cultural expressions like Green/Norway versus Green/New Zealand or Green/Canada. “The map is not the territory” has become cliche. “The overlays are not the map” ought to be added, suggesting that the filters through which we look at maps change them – at least our views of them – by adding or covering up information. The idea that Green/1969 must be equivalent to Green/2009 falls into question since the territory might have changed, the mapping might be different, and new layers might have been added across both. Failure to recognize such is to pretend that 40 years of human learnings might not change things. (A teaching case of subjunctivitis?)

The point is that trying to force opinions and judgments from Dr. Graves’s day onto events of today in a 1:1 relationship is shaky; in fact, it can lead to blind spots and missing important new stuff, just as imposing one’s own experiential filters as if they were valid for all – now, then, and forevermore – is a sign of closedness. We could also debate about changes in F-S and whether there have been transformations within the system itself; or the importance of recognizing transitional systems in addition to nodal states – E-R/f-s, e-r/F-S, F-S/g-t, f-s/G-T around F-S; or the awakening of other new systems which take it a step further and add new components as the theory predicts; or whether we’re looking at combinations of systems such as F-S+D-Q/er or D-Q+f-s that pop up in cognitive complexes rather than a trajectory at all. Many discussions of F-S-like systems suggest more of the ER-FS transition with its elements of affect-awareness mixed with emotional manipulation, feigning interest in other out of self-interest (but not necessarily greed), right-thinking mindedness, generosity (often with deferred fees), and green-washed pragmatism in play rather than nodal FS.

Imagine two parallel scales which can move relative to each other (like a slide rule). On a top scale we’ll put values (memes). On the bottom vMemes by the numbers. A construct like “green values” can be localized, paired, or even fitted within a whole range of systems since the scales are not locked together (and other scales might be involved, as well).

In example #1, the stereotypical alignment applies with green values and F-S together.

#1                                 green values
1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10   11

But in #2 we see the relationship that has confounded so many bright people – green-sounding ideas slid back into an absolute, authoritarian, dichotomous way of thinking about them, maybe even into an aggressive and rigidly dogmatic form. That’s not FS in operation, but it can certainly look Green at the surface.

#2             green values
1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10   11

In #3 we see a concept set adopted into two ways of thinking, each painting with its own tone and sometimes at odds with the other. To see through this, ask where the observer is standing and how the concept is framed by fans and foes, and how the systems in between can play to both.

#3             green values   green values
1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10   11

Finally, #4 suggests that a concept set can be compatible with a range of systems – if it is framed in ways that make it sticky to them – so it might appear progressively advantageous, righteously truthful, socially aware, and ecologically appropriate at the same time. A good application of green-wash can do wonders.

#4                       g r e e n   v a l u e s
1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10   11

This same phenomenon applies to all the Gravesian systems. It is a common problem around F-S because it is what’s ‘next’ for many people who follow this point of view if we take a developmental trajectory approach. If we work from a congruent systems approach wherein ways of thinking awaken as called up but without a necessary sequence, then those with strongly expressive systems which focus on individualism, autonomy, intellectualization, and control will tend to had difficulties recognizing the sixth level. Those with strong sacrificial D-Q might identify with the meme-set, yet have great difficulty with the relativistic, situational thinking and try to force the memes into a more linear and structured container. In both cases, we should not be surprised to see confusion about F-S.

This is important because many prominent issues revolve around so-called green values – sustainable business, eco-sensitive living, social and community engagement, consensus decisions, reciprocity, etc. The ability to differentiate the content from the thinking becomes all the more important as constructs like these become more commonplace, either as sincere efforts to function in less consumptive ways or as green-washing to promote ideas and wrap them in more socially comfortable ribbons.

At the same time, confrontations among those seeking stability and order at any price, those seeking dominance and personal success at any cost, and those hungry for peace of mind in a confusing universe full of alternatives preoccupy out time. Since none of those reaches the levels required for our world to remain viable over the long term, it is vital to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each so as to move forward with the best of all.