Windmills, Tulips, and Fundamentalism

Have you ever been in a turbulent thunderstorm on a dark, rainy
night when suddenly a bolt of lightning illuminated the hidden landforms
and human-made structures? In a flash, for a microsecond, you
experienced what had been invisible. You were made aware of the
realities that surrounded you, some friendly, others hostile.

The first lightning flash for the Dutch came in 2002 with the
killing of Pim Fortuyn, the populist anti-immigration politician.  The
second, when controversial film maker Theo van Gogh was struck down
while riding his bicycle in the streets of Amsterdam and brutally
murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri, a self-defined Islamic radical, a holy
warrior. It shocked the entire European continent.  The Netherlands, as a
self-contained oasis of tolerance, prided itself on its mixtures of
cultures, a series of separate but equal entities, all supporting what
is known as the “polder” society. The “polder” is the land the Dutch
reclaimed from the sea. In the collective history it represents a time
when all the Dutch had to pull together against their common enemy, the
sea. Liberated from religious structures and rigid constraints imposed
by social conformity, the Dutch, especially in Amsterdam, the city with
red light districts and pot-smoking cafes, reveled in their unique sense
of personal freedom and equality.

The February 27, 2005 New York Times (page 7) reported that
a flood of people, primarily from the middle class, are threatening to
leave the country. Especially the elderly are being driven elsewhere by
fear. It’s as if millions both in the majority and the minority
populations are walking on eggs while wearing wooden shoes.

The Times queried, “Leave this stable and prosperous corner
of Europe? Leave this land with its generous social benefits and ample
salaries, a place of fine schools, museums, sports grounds and bicycle
paths, all set in a lively democracy?”

“The answer is yes,” the editorial concluded.

But the story has a much broader context; one that portends
serious trouble across all of Europe as Muslim populations, in search
for something better, are flooding into various countries in a major
land migration out of Arab and African contexts. We may well be seeing a
new chapter in a centuries-long struggle between Christendom and Islam
for the domination of Europe. “Many have taken up religion as a way to
define themselves against traditional European culture, whose values
they reject for economic or spiritual reasons,” reported the New York
Times on December 26, 2004.  Olivier Roy, a French scholar of European
Islam, added, “Islam has replaced Marxism as the ideology of
contestation.  When the left collapsed, the Islamists stepped in.” This,
combined with the high birth rate in first generation Muslim families,
will potentially, produce new population and power ratios and threats to
established “European” cultural cores and beliefs. And, with the
possible membership of Turkey in the European Union this in-between
country, with its open borders, may become a land bridge into safer
environs as more turbulence erupts in the Middle East. Certainly, those
whose expectations have been raised and are now searching for the
comforts and joys of modernity will be on the move.  How do we keep them
down on the sand after they’ve tasted the pleasures of London, Hamburg,
Amsterdam, and Par-ee?

Now, if we zoom out even further, out from the Netherlands to
Europe to the globe, we see cultural clashes virtually everywhere. It
is ironic that, today, we are more fragmented than ever before as a
global population, yet, thanks to migration and interactive technology,
we are more interconnected
. Like a huge planetary Rubik’s Cube,
everything and everybody are now distributed everywhere as national
boundaries have softened, social, economic and political migration has
been encouraged, and the Internet and CNN give people everywhere access
to each other in real time. We are straining to become
more global but without the available models that can handle the mesh of
diversities that now exist as close neighbors. We are desperate to
discover new forms of social cohesion that can address these explosive

Welcome to Tower of Babel II

Since colleague Peter Merry (who lives in The Hague) and I have
been working in Holland for a number of years, we quickly seized the
opportunity to address the growing threats and fears from a Spiral
Dynamics-Integral perspective. More people per capita have been exposed
to Spiral Dynamics in the Netherlands than in any other country. We had
long believed that we had encountered more complex thinking among the
Dutch (and Northern Europeans in general) than anywhere. We believed
that if we could assist our friends in dealing with this crisis within
their country, they could discover the models and processes for
confronting and dissolving ethnic/religious/cultural conflicts
elsewhere. Their collective pain would be everybody’s eventual gain.

All elements within Dutch society now appear to be in the throes
of dialogue. More “right wing” elements want to send people home and
shut down the borders. More “left wing” voices, believing that more
integration is essential and that hostility is being stoked by the
marginalization of Muslim neighborhoods, are calling for greater
patience and tolerance. We noted that the Ministry of Integration
recently ordered a number of the more “conservative” Imams out of the
country apparently in response to their preaching of hate in the Mosques
and religious centers. 

Without much advanced planning, we announced a special four-hour
session to address the situation.  It was held at a local conference
center on January 28, 2005. We expected 50 or 60 people but, much to our
surprise, more than 210 people packed into the facility. Energy was
high; everybody seemed respectful and open to our ideas.  We promised a
follow-up, not wishing to offer only a one-off session that viewed the
developments with alarm and then adjourned all of us back to our warm,
safe homes.

In September of 2004, through the influence of Dr. Maria Jeukens
(a very bright lady who works with the Police Academy) I presented the
Spiral Dynamics concept to 70 top executives in the Dutch Police and
important guests in the security chain.  My intent was to warn them of
trouble just ahead. My years of experience working within the difficult
South African transformation (l981 until 2002) heightened my sensitivity
to violence in the making, racial tension and the dangers inherent
within an “us vs. them” polarity.  Peter Merry, who is deeply involved
daily in the Netherlands, was also sending danger warnings to me.

Then came the van Gogh shock wave that set windmills spinning and
tulips bowing their heads all over the countryside.  In our two-hour
presentation, Peter Merry and I made the following four points:

The Spectrum of Intensity of Beliefs and Actions 

S- 7 Flame-throwers: aggressive, violent, and predatory, with intent to destroy, attack, and eliminate

S- 6 Radicals: extremists, thrive on edges of chaotic protest, enemies of moderates and compromise

S- 5 Zealots: highly doctrinaire, partisan, fiercely evangelical with causes, makes all-or-nothing demands

S-4 Ideologues: true believers, absolutists, with firm convictions and rigid boundaries

S-3 Moderates: softer beliefs, sees other options, less intense and ego-involved, more open

S-2 Pragmatists: practical and pragmatic, believes what works, advocates the art of the possible

S-1 Conciliator: search for consensus, common ground, place for everybody, inclusiveness for all

First, surface level categories, reflected in our definitional
symbols, generate stigmas and stereotypes resulting in dangerous
We introduced a new language of difference in the form
of spectrums of styles in order to shift the issues away from
monolithic religious, ethnic, and nationalistic definitions of people.

Rather than seeing and defining all Muslims to be the same, and
assigning the traits of Flame-thrower, Radical, and Zealot to every
member of every Mosque, this Spectrum of Differences allows individuals
to escape knee- jerk stereotypes by becoming deeply aware of the gradations and shades of beliefs.
Since these Degrees of Intensity will exist on the other wing of the
continuum as well (anti-Muslim as well as pro-Muslim), much of the
interaction between the two sides is really between these Degrees. Each
will beget and arouse its psychological twin on the other side of the
issue.  Typically, Flame-throwers, Radicals, and Zealots are at war, not
just with similar Degrees on the other side of the issue, but with
their own Ideologues, Moderates and Pragmatists. As these dynamic forces
spiral down on both wings, hostility blurs the filters and judgments
are made that push both wings onto the slippery slope to more dangerous
end positions.  This is why the “center” doesn’t hold. Even former
friends who are not extreme or committed enough are displaced into the
camp of the enemy. Slight insults catapult into dramatic and searing
attacks. The “either you are for me or against me” position, separates
humans into warring camps as both abstract their defenses “in the name
of God,” or “in the name of Allah”. Herein lies the origin of holy wars
with ghastly and inhumane acts of oppression and violence. (This
conceptual model is called, The Assimilation/Contrast Effect, and is
based on years of academic and field research by the late professor
Muzafer Sherif, formerly of the University of Oklahoma and Penn State

Second, we sought to uncover what we call the Mother Board: the
most basic value system codes that exist beneath cultures and impact
the surface level manifestations
. These worldviews, mindsets, and
complex, adaptive intelligences are awakened in response to life
conditions. The Dutch society has reached a level of complexity over
time, because of the manner in which these deep, developmental, adaptive
intelligences have emerged within their dikes. (See the schematic in
Bruce Gibb’s analysis of Collapse in this issue for a quick definition of these memetic codes.)

As compared to other European countries, the Netherlands can be
loosely described as being influenced by the Sixth Level (Green)
egalitarian, permissive, and tolerant value system. The Dutch police,
for example, pride themselves, and rightly so, on their reputation as
innovative, in-neighborhood policing. In my conversations with the
leadership, they reported being reluctant to return to law and order
based models of policing, in response to the presence of egocentric acts
and purists, absolutist threats. In forming the historic Dutch culture
of openness and inclusion, other elements of society sought out
immigrants, guaranteed them a certain level of income (in Guilders), and
made few demands on them in terms of a whole range of socials issues
and of conformity to Dutch standards.  This, of course, drew in
multitudes of individuals and groups who believed they could do whatever
they wanted in such a fully human rights-oriented, forgiving and
affluent culture.  As a result, the hard earned and historic attributes
that have elevated the Dutch society to such a high level of
civilization were under assault.
These “European values” are being
rejected by a growing number of immigrant groups who are seeking to
reproduce the cultural components and belief systems that dominate the
places they decided to leave in the first place.  Using the language of
biology as a metaphor, we have, here, a virus-like entity with its own
peculiar psychosocial DNA code. The virus has fixed itself to a host
(the open Dutch society) allowing it to grow and multiply.  In our view,
this “virus” may well threaten the very future of this stable and open
societal structure that was what attracted the “virus” in the first
place.  Remember, we are not typecasting Muslim beliefs as a whole;
rather, we are isolating only one strain of the religious expression.
One can find the identical “virus” within Jewish and Christian
traditions, or even in militant forms of nationalism. These are
universals across all religions, cultures, nations and in fact any group
that is contained within boundaries and threatened by those “from the

“There are obvious differences between the fanatical Christian,
the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical
Communist and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet true that the fanaticism
which animates them may be viewed and treated as one.”

                                                                               — Eric Hoffer

Third, we offered a challenge to the audience, asking them to
search for the basis of a new synthesis, a fresh model that can provide
the social cohesion essential if any country is to meet the needs of its
people and guarantee opportunity and justice for all.
This is no easy task. We examined, for example, cultures that are order-based with some manifestation of a rank system, or Hierarchy,
where the privileged, the elitist, the anointed, those with the biggest
sticks, or the lucky few, get to rein and rule. Further, we illustrated
some of the positive qualities of Egalitarian-Pluralistic
systems where every experience of life is given equal value, free from
discrimination, judgment, or isolation. Unhappily, this egalitarian
social contract is now under attack. In the case of the Netherlands, it
has been unable to handle the new volatile mixtures forged by the
asymmetry as a result of who is emigrating from where. This is not
because the new immigrants are of darker skin, or speak Arabic or
worship Allah. It is because of the diverse Degrees of Intensity and the
underlying value systems codes that create physical, psychological, and
cultural separation into hard-edged enclaves. This is clearly
undermining the uniqueness and elegance of the Dutch and European
experience and is, in fact, appearing all over the planet. As has been
the experience of many societies that have integrated differences over
time, the hard boundaries and exclusive beliefs of immigration groups,
will ultimately mesh and meld into the mainstream of the powerful social
system. This is happening rapidly in the United States as African
Americans are assimilating the common values held by the dominant
society. As this happens, differences based on skin color and
pigmentation, unique accents, food preferences, dress styles and even
religious-spiritual preferences all begin to morph and blend into a more
cosmopolitan society.

Fourth, we introduced a new organizing principle, Societal MeshWorks.
A MeshWork involves the integration, alignment, and synergy of multiple
elements, entities, interests and motives, all woven together to create
healthy, dynamic, and comprehensive solutions to complex problems
within rapidly changing and complex environments. MeshWorkers see the
cohesion in fragmentation, the simplicity in complexity, and the order
in chaos. They function more as Integral Design Engineers and do not
rely exclusively on conflict management or dialogue facilitation. In
this arrangement, there are elements of both Hierarchy and Egalitarian-Pluralism,
but each element is plugged into the Mother Board that itself contains a
spiral of emergence at its core. For it to work, this overall metaphor
for dealing with complexity, differences, and change, requires
sophisticated leadership, at national and local levels.  There must also
be an acceptance of superordinate goals that overarch the entire
society, and the mutual sharing of accountability and responsibility.
This common ground — the new Dutch Synthesis (actually it’s a spiral)
can be the basis for resolving differences, mediating conflicts,
enhancing sustainability while facilitating our inevitable emergence. A
MeshWorks will facilitate the vertical inclusion of the Pre Modern,
Modern, Post Modern, and now, Integral stages. In a horizontal sense, it
will show how to both tolerate and enhance multiple expressions of
culture, religion, life style, and personal choice. In all cases the
overall needs and interests of the new Dutch polder must have the
highest priority, and provide the touchstone for decision-making. 

The intent will be to seek the power of the Third Win (both
parties and the world society win) and embrace those universals that
flow through all healthy and responsive social orders and combines. This
will not come easily and it may take decades for it to be realized.
Yet, in this microcosm of human cultures in a small land area in Europe,
we may well see serious and mature attempts to turn potential cultural
tidal waves into synergistic flows that will benefit all. Obviously the
Dutch are world famous for their understanding of how water moves and
what happens when dams break, or holes appear in the dikes.

Peter and I have planned a follow up session for April 29th.
We are calling it Dutch Summit II. While we believe it will be up to
our many friends and colleagues in the Netherlands to create a new Dutch
Charter for Rights & Responsibilities, we believe, that as they do
so, they will be in a position to teach the rest of us.  We hope it will
not be too late.

For further developments contact