Red – myths and realities

The third level, C-P Red, often gets painted as the root of violence. People thinking in this way, both as individuals and societies, are certainly responsible for their fair share of it, especially impulsive acting out and violence for its own sake. But that’s not a complete picture. Violence and aggressiveness arise in many levels for various reasons. Our chimp-like aspects are still very a part of human nature at this stage in our evolution, not merely at the third level.

Consider inter-tribal warfare, authoritarian aggression and sectarian battles around religion, nationalistic expansionism, and racial/ethnic conflicts. Also consider cut-throat self-serving business practices that exploit people mercilessly and lay waste to large swathes of the planet, or even eco-aggression in defense of animals or to protect natural resources. Or the sanctioned violence of professional sports. Or professional militaries trained and paid “to kill people and blow things up” to extend power. Or video games and films with their virtualized expressions of pain and death which bring pleasure to millions. There are many variations and justifications for violence, so to call all of these things “Red energy” because they involve violent acting out is failure to differentiate among the reasons people behave as they do, the rewards they get from it, and the shape of the action.

Sometimes Red is confused with sociopathy, psychopathy and mental illness. It is not; it is a normal part of human nature and necessary to development; it can lead to creativity and exploration. (The sociopath and psychopath may be found at many levels with the pathologies expressing in ways congruent with those states.) It is the break-out from dependence into individuality and a self clearly differentiated from parents, siblings, or tribe. Red is an adaptive coping system matching specific life conditions with a neurology that fits what is perceived to be a rough-and-tumble, jungle-like world of predators and prey, dominators and dominated with a sense of self surging. It is useful in its time and place which is usually localized ‘turf.’ There is an internally consistent logic to it based on the Gravesian double helix at work. There will be a code of conduct and even morality that fits. Red, in its context, is normal human behavior and a rational approach to living, though one which fits less and less in a complex, interconnected world. Problems arise when the perception of reality does not match the actuality, or at least the reality as generally experienced by others. But in a C world, P works.

Other coping systems exhibit violent behavior. Purple can become violent in defense of its home and its totems and push back against perceived threats from “not-us.” (The first photos of a previously uncontacted Amazon tribe show them launching arrows at the airplane, perhaps seeing it as a demon or a predator.) Then when Red begins to surge there can be more individualized egocentric and impulsive aggression, as well as submissive passivity in acceptance of a social contract that defines social roles through power relationships, haves and have-nots.

Red C-P liberates the ego and breaks the apron strings of custom and ritual. Thus, the Gravesian name “Egocentric”. The person thinking in this way is often both intelligent and creative. When the world is truly C, then the activation of P neurology as a sense-making approach fits. If one is thusly centralized with a narrow view centering on the self, and the reality at hand is perceived to be “Red,” then appropriate adjustive behavior is congruent with the C-P level of psychological existence.

People functioning at more complex levels will have passed through some degree of C-P expression, though the duration and intensity are quite variable. Those who are centralized there might well believe it is the totality of existence, the pure form of the mature adult human being in operation. C-P thinking is narrow and short-term – more cunning than calculating, more impulsive and reactive than considered, much less strategic. Think of the crude street fighter, not the slick boardroom manipulator.

Graves described Blue D-Q is both the most peaceful and also warlike of systems. Authoritarian aggression has slaughtered millions of people, just as authoritarian submission has stood by in the belief that those of higher position deserve to make decisions and be obeyed. Indeed, absolutistic, polarizing Blue thinking fuels today’s battles among religious fanatics and rigidified political ideologues. The beliefs can be absolutes, whether to turn the other cheek and forgive or to smite the non-believers to the death. The violence and aggression of radicalized fundamentalists in D-Q, often but not always wrapped in some version of God-speak, continue to rattle our world.

When obedience to rightful external higher authority with missionary zeal is called for, someone centralized in the D-Q zone is a good fit. Sometimes, that applies in groups that resort to terrorism. While someone at E-R will have passed through some degree of D-Q, their world is more focused on expressing individuality, challenging authorities (instead of revering them), and testing ideas in their own minds rather than finding things in which to believe and build a life around.

Orange wreaks massive violence against peoples and ecosystems in quest of resources and dominance – usually excused as a greater good. Competition for economic and political dominance drives many violent conflicts. Often such violence is committed remotely and through agents, allowing the appearance of “clean hands” to endure. Orange aggression is frequently confused with Red. The difference is that Red tends to be impulsive, guiltless, and without regard for long-term consequences – “I felt like it.” There is often emotionality attached to Red acting out and inability to recognize impacts on others. In the case of Orange, aggressiveness is calculated and strategic – “It needed to be done.” There is some understanding of consequences, and awareness of guilt which is handled and rationalized. Emotions are controlled and managed, not crudely expressed.

Green can become defensively violent, though physically and knowingly doing harm to people is a last resort, often scarcely possible to conceive. Instead, Green F-S violence tends to be emotional and relational which can be as painful as a punch in the nose. When this system is active, the preference is to restore balance and help people meet their needs harmoniously since many viewpoints coexist in equivalence. (Adamant non-violence and pacifism can come from Blue, as well as Green and other levels for their own reasons.) And Yellow can take strong action if strong action is needed for life to continue, or for harms to be diminished. The Yellow approach is first to come to understand, but then to accept that action is sometimes warranted to be congruent with the problem and players functioning in different levels. Making space for all is important, but all are not alike and there’s no need for tolerance of dysfunction just to maintain harmony.

So violence is a part of human nature, not a system-specific trait. Using Red as a catch-all for any aggressiveness or violent acting out is a misconception. Ask, instead, why the person is behaving thus and how the behavior comports with their view of the world.

Red and Terrorism

Since there’s a recurring confusion of C-P Red with violence and aggression, follows the widespread terrorism = Red error. Again, ask if one is seeing impulsive, guiltless, and uncontrollable acts without regard to long-term consequences or deferred rewards – whether done in joy or anger. What’s the payoff? Egocentrism does not make for a good follower, or believer in a grand cause. Instead, look for some obedience to higher authority and self-sacrifice in the name of a mission. Sort for ability to draw sharp us/them lines and to demonize a collective enemy. These are more common when Blue is awakened and feeling the need to defend its righteous position against the challenges of multiplistic, individualistic, often disobedient Orange which threatens the rock the fundamentals to the core. Then consider the transitional states around Blue (C-P/d-q and c-p/D-Q), nodal Blue (D-Q) with closed-minded fanaticism and singular focus, and especially to those in failed transitions between D-Q and E-R who regress to nodal Blue because E-R was blocked to them as bases for terrorism. This is where religion-based and nationalistic justifications arise.

Terrorism is a tactic people choose. Terrorist is not a type of person; it is a description of behavior. Even the lone actor has a guiding purpose that differentiates terrorism from self-serving criminality. The question is why might a person or group decide that creating fear by either killing or threatening to kill is a viable action. What kind of sense-making and justification are at work? What options are missing? What principles justify it? What is the perceived deferred reward, the payoff for creating mayhem? Terrorism is a social stimulus demanding responses. Looking through a Gravesian lens illuminates some of those answers.

According to this point of view, the more elaborated thinking systems will retain elements for coping with C problems as part of the developmental process. However, the person centralized at a level is often the ‘expert’ in dealing in such a world, and someone who has awakened more systems might not have equivalent competencies at hand; their attention and expertise will have shifted to a different system’s reality. P thinking is custom tailored for a C context. Natives of a level are most effective in coping with it because it’s their natural habitat; others are merely psychosocial tourists who must draw on resources to deal.

Emotionality and violent acting out can arise with many systems, for their own reasons, and with their own reasoning. Attributing violence to the P neuronal system is a common mistake, e.g. when the aggressiveness and authority-challenging aspects of E-R’s entry phase are compared with the cruder C-P where raw cunning and impulsive acting are the norms rather than cold calculation and performance art to achieve desired outcomes. Likewise, the conflating of obedient absolutism wrapped in sociability (kindly, loving D-Q) with the relativism and interpersonalism at F-S, or projecting D-Q certainty and purposefulness through tricked-out language to call it B’-O’ (Turquoise) lead to misinterpretations. The spiral is deceptively simple looking, and it takes effort to cut through symptoms to begin to recognize causes.