The Source of Genocide

Ken Wilber
December 7th, 2011
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In this fascinating talk, Ken reads from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's recent New Republic article, entitled 'Ending Our Age of Suffering', which takes on the issue of genocide—arguably one of the most intractable issues staring in the face of our collective evolution. Ken reads directly from the article, punctuated by comments about what an AQAL reading of Goldhagen's points might suggest.

As you've come to expect, Ken's teachings feature a preponderance of talk about the coming of "an integral age at the leading edge". But, while he often speaks of a wave of culture and consciousness based on or defined by what could best be described as integral principles, he is sometimes accused of having less to say about the intractable hurdles we face in the journey toward that age of integral super-abundance. A recent talk by Ken featured an exciting change of pace—one which was inspired by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's recent New Republic article, entitled "Ending Our Age of Suffering." Despite what the title suggests, this is not an article about the affordances of contemplation. Rather, Goldhagen takes on the issue of genocide, arguably one of the most intractable issues staring in the face of our collective evolution.

Ken reads directly from the article, punctuated by comments about what an AQAL reading of Goldhagen's points might suggest. To start, he recognizes the extent of the issues: upwards of 100 million people have died at the hands of genocide, a number that's significantly higher than the death tolls of modern warfare. He correctly frames our collective responsibility as not merely stopping genocide, but first coming to a place of deeper understanding of how and why it's continued to be such a rampant concern.

Ken offers a framing of Goldhagen's points that sheds some light on these questions. By conceiving of genocide as primarily Lower-Right problem of systematized killing behavior, one misses it's root cause, which is found not in the behaviors but in a Lower-Left cultural systematization of eliminationist beliefs and values.

Eliminationist beliefs, rooted in the left-hand quadrants and driven by collective shadow projections onto the "other," drive the five functionally equivalent means of eliminationist strategy: forced transformation, repression, expulsion, prevention of reproduction, and extermination. Each is expressed through Lower-Right behavior, but finds grounding in people's shared ethnocentric beliefs.

Ethnocentrism is incapable of conceiving a world with more than two categories: black vs white, us vs. them, Bosnian vs. Serb. This developmental limitation allows for everyone not like us to become a sub-human "other," setting the stage for collective projection and providing the justification for elimination. Add this to the fact that most ethnocentric beliefs are almost wholly owned by the world's religions and eliminationist strategies acquire a religious backing that further vindicates even the non-lethal methods as "God's work".

It is at this point that Goldhagen's view diverges from Ken's, but also where the two arguably need to come together the most—Goaldhagen argues that eliminationism ought to become the primary focus of international policy efforts, while Ken argues for the need to free the world's religions from their absolutistic prisons. In the end, we could simply argue that without movement toward both aims, both solutions will ultimately fall short.

Written by Clint Fuhs



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