Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why So Many Cannot See Obama

(Obama and Clinton just post-Benghazi)
Why can't people see this man? Nancy LeTourneau, aka Smartypants, has just completed a three-part blog series very ably addressing this question (Part I,  Part II, and Part III). She looks at three "lenses" that cloud the perception of many:
  • The Patriarchal Lens - The Daddy versus the Mommy Party. Independent, get-it-done, aggressive male versus communal, nurturing, working-in-support position female. Authority and hierarchy versus shared leadership and communion-in-circle-space. Dominator versus partnership as leadership models. Using this lens you can "see" Obama when he kills Bin Laden or clobbers Republicans by refusing to negotiate in a Government Shutdown; but most of the time he is simply "invisible". "Leading from behind" is utter nonsense to this lens or viewpoint. Multivariate but still linear Chess works for this lens; the more fluid, slow, emergent, intuitive game of Go is nearly impossible to master. Nuance and complexity must be eliminated. Paradoxes must be "solved" or fixed, never engaged as Teacher.
  • The Racial Lens - Few of us are able to acknowledge our Racial Lens; and because we can't, we endlessly generalize about the strengths and weaknesses of another ethnic group or race. We may even think we really like Blacks, or Asians, or Latinos, but as long as the ethnic character of the individual is what we see first, then we look through a Racial Lens. It's not a Person we see first; it's a Black....person. If we can admit to ourselves that we do wear, albeit unconsciously, a Racial Lens, we can then notice what generalizations spring unproven from this lens. The two Nancy points to are competence and luck. Obama is always demonstrating incompetence, or he's about to. And when a success is achieved, it's luck. There are a few people who credit the Syrian CW success with foresight and strategy (WaPo's David Ignatius), but only a few. And watch closely as the ACA proves to be a huge success over the next three years, and the evidence becomes incontestable that the Healthcare delivery system has undergone a transformation, due to the ACA; that the cost curve has been bent, and we no longer have an entitlement or debt problem in this country. The GOP will have enormous trouble seeing this because it would require both Obama and the Government to be judged as "competent", and the scale of the system change is simply too large to call it "luck".
  • The Cultural Lens - Traditional media are in the process of splintering and transforming. Truth has lost its luster in the mass media. Ratings, polls and profits rule. Our media has become as polarized as our politics - each contributing to the developing extremism of the other. There are no wise men any more; no true arbiters; no revered institution seen to be "objective", above the fray. Even science has lost its credibility. Everything is up for questioning. All we can possibly tell for sure is who won and who lost; and even that is subject to question. The story with the strongest link bait - the explosive, possibly prurient innuendo that calls us back, like addicts, to the conversation - is the story that carries the day. This is a strange new world, where street fighters and celebrities are the ones talked about and admired; where our attention span has shrunk to nearly zero; and where the sensationalism has dulled our senses and we yearn for larger and bloodier spectacles. If we put this lens on, we will never pick up or see this man Obama, the long game player, the "no drama Obama", who leads from behind, is relentlessly decent and kind, and never strikes out in anger.

What I would like to add to Nancy's outstanding conversation is this: lenses are largely developmental. As we grow and develop, they change. Following the works and model of Ken Wilber, let me posit five developmental levels, each succeeding level representing a higher level of consciousness and awareness:
  • Egotistical (typical of adolescence; win/lose; I win/you lose; scarcity consciousness;"what's in it for me" morality; he who has the gold, rules; world is dangerous; power rules; magical thinking).
  • Traditional (early adulthood; social self has emerged; where feelings ruled in the prior stage, now roles and connected rules do; concrete, linear thinking; myths carry power; identification with group/nation membership).
  • Modern (mature adulthood; focus on developing an autonomous self; formal operational thinking allows consideration of different perspectives; reason, rationality, science are king; universal rights of all men; democracy; ethnocentrism transforms into ethnorelativity; systems approach; the free market; market capitalism; God is mostly dead; profit rules).
  • Postmodern (the sensitive self; interiors matter again; 25-30% of US adults make the move to this creative, world centric level; truth is relative; reality is language-defined and context-driven; focus shifts from market economics to the rights of marginalized groups; the Earth is respirited, resacralized; powerful environmental/green movement arises; deep democracy/Occupy movements develop; finance and institutional capitalism under heavy fire).
  • Integral ( the self-transforming self; the mind sees patterns and thinks holistically; many perspectives can be internalized and held in awareness; paradox is seen as something to embrace, to engage - as a gateway to learning and truth; deep listening; leads from behind; fearless; access to intuition; lives in the now; the first level that understands that all prior levels are necessary in the Great Chain of Life; a Peacemaker; unshakeable conviction that Spirit underlies everything, that all of this and we came from Spirit, and evolution has a direction for us to grow in consciousness and return to Spirit; truth is no longer relative though the understanding of the centrality of context and language is not lost; according to Wilber, 5% of the US has achieved this level).
The patriarchal lens, as all lenses, are created within our minds unconsciously during childhood. This one tends to soften in the adult, modern stage, and is generally let go of in the postmodern stage, as we become acutely aware of all the non-dominant groups, obviously including women, who have been marginalized by the dominant male culture. The same is mostly true of the racial lens. The cultural lens can stay in place right through the postmodern stage, because its main driver is the absence of unifying narratives and organizing truths; and these don't reappear until integral.

Obama is an integral leader. Large numbers of people at each of the prior levels cannot truly "see" him:
  • Egotistical thinks he's a latte-sipping, unintelligible, "those-people-loving" wimp.
  • Traditional often thinks he's a Muslim, probably born in Kenya, and not a "real American". This is where the height of the racial/ethnic antagonism resides.
  • Modern is where his support base is, but they don't get leading from behind or transforming the entire healthcare industry through offering and securing agreement on key new incentives, that start a self-organizing system in motion.
  • Postmodern either loves him or hates him. Hard left liberals think Obama is a Manchurian candidate, sort of a sleeper agent supported by finance capitalism sent here to defang and depower the Progressive movement. The other half of this mostly liberal stage love what he has done and is trying to do for the LGBT community, for women, for Hispanics, for African Americans, for children, for international peace, for the environment.
Since so many people cannot "see" him because of a variety of lenses they unconsciously wear, and since argument will not convince them to change their perspective, I have tried to focus on highlighting particular policy areas - healthcare, immigration, the economy, the energy and manufacturing sectors, Iran, other international engagement - where accomplishments can be identified, measured, and to some extent authenticated in the world. All of these areas are showing exciting growth energies and movement.

2014 is possible, but probably too early. But many, if not all of Obama's integral initiatives will come to flower by 2016. The extent of this man's mastery and transformation ofAmerica's political economy will be seen in the thrashing the GOP will receive, most likely at Hillary's hand, in November, 2016.

I can hardly wait!


  1. Looks like the entire right wing is stuck in egotistical. I call it being stuck in adolescence.
    I really really do not agree with your assessment of post-modern occupants who hate him and think he is the Manchurian candidate. These people, the 'hard left' aren't actually even liberals. They're libertarians, or as I'm fond of calling them, emotarians. There is no way these people have achieved the growth you describe in the definition of post modern. Libertarians are still stuck in adolescence so I'd put them in the egotistical category. That includes the Occupy movement. Talk about people who don't get leading from behind.

    1. Went to your website, and read your wonderful entry from 2012. Any chance you'll start posting again? Can't find you on Twitter. Would love to talk with you by phone or email about the developmental path laid out in Ken Wilber's work. Suffice it to say that the Postmodern level has much in common with the Egotistical level -Take the hill; Run into the house on fire - and there are key differences. Drop me a note

  2. There's quite a bit of the left-wing that is in the egotistical category. They just think they aren't because they think they are doing it to benefit everyone when really all they are interested in is being the ones who pass out the largesse.

    Egotistical Altruists.