In this episode of The Ken Show we explore five themes near and dear to the liberal heart — tolerance, nonviolence, power, privilege, and gender — celebrating the healthy aspects of each that we want to include in a more integral embrace, while weeding out the unhealthy regressive narratives that most of these have devolved into.
Issue #1: The Paradox of Tolerance
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Liberals like to think of themselves as the party of tolerance and inclusion, with a massive index of various intersectional identities that it likes to parade around as evidence of its radical inclusivity. And yet, most liberals seem to find themselves either stuck either in what Karl Popper called the “paradox of tolerance”, or else regressed toward an exclusionary and condescending “us vs. them” mentality that, while using the familiar slogans and soundbites of tolerance, have become every bit as ethnocentric and discriminatory as the most conservative groups they criticize. What is a more integral approach to tolerance, inclusion, and diversity? Watch to hear Ken’s thoughts.
Issue #2: The Spiral of Violence
Martin Luther King Jr. famously described the “descending spiral” of violence, a sentiment that is frequently shared by many on the political left. And yet, liberals often have a somewhat naive relationship with violence and nonviolence, either shying away from violence in all its forms, or less commonly, using violence to impose their views and values on others. What is the most appropriate use of violence and/or nonviolence in today’s world? Is there any place at all for violence when it comes to political dissent within our own nation? And is there such a thing as an “ascending spiral” of violence that can actually be aligned with Eros, or is violence always the shortest path to Thanatos?
Issue #3: The Power Lens
When we live in a world as dominated by plutocratic forces as ours is today, it is essential that we learn how to more skillfully relate to these power dynamics. And yet, because Green liberalism is typically so allergic to all forms of power, it is often the case that the “power lens” only lens they use to make sense of the world, through which very person or group of people is seen as either victim or oppressor. Regressive versions of liberalism, meanwhile, try to surreptitiously exert their own power over others by controlling speech and virtue signaling. Does the integral lens reveal anything particularly important about how to better navigate the genuinely oppressive systems and structures of power in the world?
Issue #4: Privilege vs. Predisposition
Like most liberal values, the notion of “privilege” originally came from a legitimately good and healthy place, and represents an important but fairly nuanced cultural injunction for all of us — to simply reflect on how much of our lives have benefitted from unseen advantages that come from being born into a particular race or gender or economic class, and to also reflect on how there are others people in our society have not benefitted from those same hidden privileges. However, like most liberal values, it is a notion that very quickly became abused and misused by regressive leftists and conservatives alike, both of whom use the term “privilege” as a bumper-sticker euphemism for “I hate white people”. Is there a way to enact the idea of privilege that remains useful at the integral stage?
Issue #5: Sex and Gender
One of the legitimate triumphs of the postmodern stage was the fact that it successfully differentiated the concept of “sex” from that of “gender”, offering a far more sophisticated and nuanced view of our sexuality than the “there are only two genders” attitude of previous altitudes. On the other hand, this conversation tends to very quickly slide from one form of quadrant absolutism (only biology is real) to another form of quadrant absolutism (only culture is real). And when that happens, gender itself gets deconstructed into oblivion. While it is perfectly fine to bring some more granularity to the various categories of sexual attraction, sexual identity, and sexual behavior, the minute we begin to deny or downplay any of the other fundamental dimensions of our sexuality, we only compound the confusion and create more division between us. What is a more integral approach here?
Toxic Masculinity and Toxic Femininity
The idea of “toxicity” is another concept that seems to be almost entirely misunderstood by culture at large, which needlessly fuels the culture wars. For many, terms like “toxic masculinity” are interpreted as an attack against all men, as if masculinity was itself inherently toxic. For others, it’s clear that only certain expressions of masculinity and femininity can be seen as truly toxic, and this is not an effort to write off an entire sex or gender or polarity. This conversation often devolves into dangerous platitudes like “believe all women” — which, in an attempt to combat toxic masculinity, only ends up enabling toxic femininity. Can an evolutionary or developmental approach help us make more sense of these sorts of typological dysfunctions?
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.
About Corey deVos
Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.