Integral Practical: Integral Strategies for Middle East crisis – Don Beck’s Fresh Start Initiative – I

by editor

The Middle East. A zone of constant political disruptions, of suicide bombers, of cordite smell and human martyrs. Sophisticated air-borne rockets, tear gas and hidden car bombs that vanquish lives like anything. A world politics that watches the loss of lives and bloody battles without not being able to lift a finger. Two countries (Israel and Palestine) that sit at the negotiation tables only to plant more revenge and incur more guilt. An intense crisis that is full of blood lust, vengeance and animistic behavior. A land where mass killing is a daily affair and holocaust is ghastly history.

Integral Politics Middle East: Even after having evolved over several ten thousands of years, the human species is unable to find a “Third Way” to sensitive issues and wars waged in the name of race, color and ethnicity. The Middle East is just one of them. Be it the George Tenet method or the George Mitchell effort, everything has its only set of missing elements which has let go of the important factors that flame both the sides along the Green Line. To use the Integral lingo, there have been several “partial truths” expressed, several partial solutions discussed, but there has never been a complete and comprehensive solution to ease tensions and put down passions. With the emergence of Integral world view, it is time that we apply the ideology of Integral politics and worldcentric consciousness to the Middle East crisis. A few Integral scholars have attempted this and Don Beck (the man behind Spiral Dynamics) is just one of them. This post will explore the Integral solutions offered by him to resolve the Middle East crisis and reach a consensus that is favorable to both the Israelites and the Palestinians.

Why an Integral approach? Simple. All the approaches – Left and Right – have failed in the Middle East zone. Some approaches just call for the negotiation tables and when things begin to take shape, die half way without find any way out. Sometimes they trigger off more vengeance. As Beck himself puts it, “We often refuse to deal with the hard truths until all sides lie bloody, exhausted, vanquished” with destruction of even the relationships and physical resources that are needed to invent a better future. “The mythical phoenix that rises from the ashes is too often a vengeful vulture.”  The Integral approach is an emerging approach that promises to look into all aspects of the issue. It is not a “partial truth” (like the others) but a theory that unifies all partial truths. Applying the Integral approach would also testify the approach’s practical application. In fact, “Integral Practical” is a series which will focus on all such practical, day-to-day application of Integralism in the fields of politics, general life, business or education. Don Beck, Ray Harris, Jeff Meyerhoff and a few other Integral scholars have taken pains to find an Integral solution to the Middle East problem. Let’s first see what Beck has to offer.

Don Beck’s Hard Truths: Don Beck offers a strategic solution to the Middle East problem in his essay titled, “Hard Truths and Fresh Start: A Bold, Comprehensive and Integral Strategy for the Middle East”. What is so special about this lengthy thesis is, Beck puts facts across fiction (assumptions) in order to let people understand the core issues or beneath-the-surface triggers of the land. He opines that the “Hard Truths” of the land need to be accepted and if anything, a solution need to be chartered after analysis of the hard truths.

Don Beck says that there are several “hard truths” in the Middle East crisis which we need to acknowledge. Once this is done, embarking on a fresh start will be easy and simple. Below are the list of hard truths stated by Beck:

1. No leader of the land will be able to solve the crisis – especially the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Beck opines that there is no point in bringing leaders of the land to negotiation tables. This is because both the leaders are overcome by emotions like rage, blood lust and revenge and hence it is impossible for them to come to a peaceful solution. Also, both the parties try to blame the other camp for the current situations. Incidents are pinpointed and the past is narrated with vengeance and fury so much so that the other camp is overcome with guilt. While Israel is filled with ghastly memories of a holocaust past, Palestinians are “trapped in a life of misery while the rest of the world moves ahead.” Both the parties feel the power of the adversary in different ways – while one (Israel) is technologically superior and sophisticated, the other is low in high-tech weaponry and hence resorts to simple yet devastating techniques like car bombs, suicide bombing, human martyrs and other forms of disruptions. This kind of asymmetrics in warfare leads to further frustration, fear of the enemy and rage.

What is actually the problem? Are peace-keeping motives or methods competent enough to tackle the ground realities? Instead of ending up playing the blame-game, one should look at this on a psychological developmental level. Beck says, the Israelis with their advanced societies, represent the First World in the Middle East, while the Palestinians, still struggling to come up, represent the Third World. The hatred between the two can be triggered because of general hatred against the developed First World. But inspite of being in the First World, the revenge instinct is still immanent in both the countries.

2. Paralyzing and polarizing dynamics: Both the societies exhibit what Beck calls, “paralyzing and polarizing” dynamics. A single violent act on one side will trigger the other to act in the same kind.  Eye for eye, blood for blood instinct is still prevalent even in the most advanced of societies. Israel leaders who are moderate are threatened, abused or assassinated. So, leadership grows from open and progressive to hard-nosed ideologies to red in tooth and claw. If a leader has to exist in his role, he has to forget being moderate and talk for his society. Leaders in both the societies are subjects to intra-social problems also. “Massive intrigue, fragmentation, and recriminations” are some of them. A “virulent jihad” smothers all moderate voices of the Israeli or Palestinian tribe and only those who support the jihad get to survive as leaders in the society.

3. The crisis is a symptom, not a main act: This view is the most “Integral”. Beck sees this crisis as a symptom of global transformation instead of an act of communal disharmony. He sees there are several undercurrents beneath this crisis. He opines that people want to break away from the “predator-prey” set up and hence the crisis. “One powerful and relentless current, triggered by the end of the Cold War, is driving billions of people to escape the predator-prey existence from forms of social and psychological feudalism. The search is for meaning in a transcendent purpose, often captured in puritanical religious forms or patriotic displays of unquestioned loyalty.” Another current tries to break away from the impositions of  “-isms”. All people want is a secular, individual life. There is a third current which is against the growing materialism – a world where the developed nations’ minting money while the underdeveloped Third World without to a penny to spare for the next meal. The last current is against all the materialist nations, be it Israel or the United Nations or some developed country in Europe.

4. Explosive conditions are exploited for self-gain: Another hard truth is, explosive conditions are exploited for self-gain. “Demagogic leaders and rogue-driven states” play a huge role in this. There are many individuals who exploit these conditions and manipulate them for their personal benefit – be it a capitalist motive or a political motive. As Don Beck puts it, “We often see the effects of the brutish hand, or the tainted pay-off or the clandestine arms shipment or the insidious “deal” as individuals protect public persona through pious displays of religious fervor, ethnic pride, or cultural identity. The Hall of Shame has many contemporary candidates.” Since these elements are present in both sides of the Green Line, there is no high moral ground in both the societies.

5. Media coverage makes things worse: A crisis situation should be handled with prudence by the media. But the global media is not such. And there are many players in the television world who want to skyrocket their TVR than be concerned about fueling feelings of revenge and hatred. Most of the media takes sides – it is always “us” and “them” and there is no third perspective. Past is excavated at the expense of future. By replaying past incidents, they fuel further riots and encourage implantation of suicide bombs. Beck says this “bipolar format” of the media should be strongly condemned and a new third view point should be showcased. Beck calls this a “flatlander” perspective. A perspective that is of no use to the media or the people and triggers only further riot.

Beck’s Strategy: Beck has started with the statement of hard truths instead of approaching the problem directly. Under these “high ego-involvement”, even third party “neutral” voices lose both “credibility and objectivity in the minds of the ideologues and extremists”. Though a world full of think tanks are involved in resolving the crisis, and everyone tries to find common ground and healing waters of forgiveness, the crisis remains and continues to get worse. Beck’s strategy for the problem is  lengthy and involves consideration of a lot of aspects. We will look into his strategies in our next post.

This is a series of posts on the Middle East crisis. You can access here the Part I, Part II and Part III of the post, “Integral Practical: Integral Strategies for Middle East crisis – Don Beck’s Fresh Start Initiative”

Reference Links:

1. Don Beck’s “Hard Truths and Fresh Start: A Bold, Comprehensive and Integral Strategy for the Middle East”

2. Ray Harris: “Integral Notes on the Israel/Arab conflict”

3. Nader Said: “Being an Arab in Israel: An Integral Perspective from the Inside”

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