Ethical Intelligence Transforms Culture

The unawakened mind tends to make war against the way things are.

– Jack Kornfield

It’s all so dizzying: too many news stories to follow adequately and seismic cultural shifts to integrate. As I write this, the United States is casting votes in what will undoubtedly be the most pivotal election in my lifetime . . . and the collective breath-holding is palpable. And so goes the new normal in our age of rapid-fire change, climate/economic/political crisis, and global pandemic. But what does it mean for you? In what ways do you need to keep up? And what are the implications if you do or do not?

What’s happening culturally is a reflection of the striking inner shifts that are taking place in humanity during this extraordinary time. We’re living through the evolution of consciousness of our species at a rate that is unprecedented by historical standards. We’re in a paradigm shift that is wholly dependent on each of us: choose love or choose fear. And the most amazing consequence is that by embracing this dynamic consciously, we’re in a position to shape a new reality almost as quickly as we can shift ourselves.

Right now, culture is both the reflection of our collective shadow side, as well as what’s possible when we shift to a more heart-centered focus.

A remarkable and extreme chasm has opened between worldviews: those who choose a path of fear and hatred and those who choose a path of inclusion and love. This radically polarized dynamic affords us the knowledge of extremes and their consequences. It affords us a glimpse of what’s possible, both in a positive and negative sense in a tangible enough way for us to be able to apply that knowledge directly to our own lives, in near to, or real time.

We’re no longer experiencing great upheavals from a distance, divorced from consequences, where their impact to us is minimal, if at all. Plenty on this planet have had up close and personal trauma on a daily basis as a way of life. But the vast majority of us, have lived with the luxury of distance. This luxury is over. Real issues are taking place in our communities, with our friends, our families, and ourselves. Our global reality is touching each of us personally.

The result of bearing witness and struggling to make sense of these changes wakes us to the potential for extremes within ourselves.

It affords us the opportunities to be introspective and to gain clarity about who we are and what we really value. And because it’s happening on such a grand, global scale, people are starting to wake up to the failures of the past and opportunities for a better future in numbers previously undocumented. We’re all waking up to the awareness that we’re all connected, all dependent, a global community of beings that thrives together . . . or not.

Allow anger to only be momentary outrage over the egregiously unjust.

I hear a lot of folks who get and stay angry over what’s happening . . . anger isn’t misplaced, but don’t use it to define yourself in relationship to your external reality. Anger is what fuels us to take action towards ensuring better outcomes.  But it should only be experienced momentarily and surrendered, otherwise it becomes toxic and infects us at the core of our being. While I know how difficult that can be to do in practice, there is a divine order to what’s happening with humanity right now.

Our human minds cannot comprehend the whole picture or how time plays a role in how drama unfolds, but that doesn’t make the big picture any less relevant.  The silver lining, the reason consciousness has had to go to the extremes of what’s possible, is to wake up as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Only when we experience polarized dynamics, do other options become consciously available.

Human beings, for the most part, are more than content to rest on their laurels, allowing the passage of time to move along accordingly, so they can adapt slowly to the circumstances that act upon them. Unfortunately, the destruction our species has wrecked upon natural biodiversity, and our perception of separation from both each other and the natural world has now reached a crisis point, where we no longer have the luxury of just waiting it out and slowly adapting to whatever external changes require us to make inner and outer shifts. We have to consciously choose the inner work of waking up.

Inner work fosters ethical intelligence.

Not to get too technically psychology-directed, but I want to address this in a graspable context and I find Ego Development Theory creates a good framework. Basically, Ego Development Theory teaches us that the evolution of our consciousness moves along a trajectory of growth with plateau stages at various levels of development. Each subsequent new level has a broader, more inclusive perspective that subsumes and expands upon the previous level. Once a higher level has been attained, one can look back and understand all previous levels of development and how they build on each other. However, this hindsight perspective is unique to the more advanced levels in that, lower stages of development cannot look ahead to stages yet unreached and grasp an understanding of them.

Development Theory teaches us that the more advanced stages of development move towards altruism; they’re more inclusive, compassionate, and ultimately serve humanitarian love. So, if you’re dealing with someone who is very self-absorbed and is only looking out for their own interests, they’re operating from a lower level on the developmental scale and they will surround themselves with like-minded people. This in turn, keeps them stuck in their current developmental level until something, usually catastrophic or traumatic, stretches their comfort zone and they’re forced to confront a more expanded perspective. This doesn’t happen on anyone else’s terms (and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all), so when and if someone is ready to grow, they do. It’s based on a break in their own consciousness, experienced because they can no longer contain even the denial of potential expansion . . . because operating in denial takes energy they can no longer apply.

You have no morally persuasive power with people who can feel

your underlying contempt. – Martin Luther King Jr.

So here’s where it gets tricky culturally. Right now, we’re faced with the kind of chasm that absolutely necessitates bridging the divide. But there is no way to actually do that except by example. Bear with me . . .

There is a group of people in power, who are obviously playing to a more self-serving agenda. They’re operating from the basest instincts connected to their survival and their own perceived best interests. They operate from fear and hatred and they spew this into our cultural narrative with things like policies that hurt the most vulnerable among us, slinging insults because of their own inner judgment, and refusal to maturely show up for constructive dialogue because it potentially poses a threat to their identity. Operating in this way, Ego Development shows us that they’re not far enough along the developmental trajectory to be reachable with transcendent concepts like humanitarian love.

On the flip side, we have many people coming together as a community to oppose oppression, work for the greater common good, and ultimately serve a more long-term humanitarian agenda. Trouble is, this group has set itself up as the opposition (obviously not all, but some and certainly many of the ones who are getting the most media coverage). While it’s very important to stand up for what’s just, it also serves to remember that if you stand for inclusivity and love, you cannot use the same name-calling and marginalizing tactics as those you oppose. You cannot stand in judgment even if you know their motivation is misguided. You’re further along the developmental scale when you get to inclusivity and humanitarian love, so your leadership needs to be a reflection of this truth.

 We’re in a chaotic node that demands immediate engagement and action!

Now is the time to explore the co-dependency between justice-minded, sustainable, and loving communities and deep, purposeful self-reflection. When we work to shift ourselves into our hearts, we show up to lead with our hearts. What is happening culturally doesn’t ultimately define you. But, it does inform you and you have not only an opportunity, but a responsibility to inform it. The best way – the only way – that has been proven by the leaders that changed nations, I’m referring to examples like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr., did so by taking the high ground and adhering to it with conviction. They led by example, so the world could see clear as day that their position was the more mature and evolved.

Not everyone will get it . . . they may be too far behind in their personal development to ever get there . . . but the more of us that lead by this example: being the embodiment of humanitarian love, the more people will show up for a revolution based in love. Name-call, throw hatred around, act with violence and destruction and love will never get through. Stop trying. I see it, every damn day on social media and in the streets. Let the politicians play dirty if they must. But when we resist the powers that be, we do it best when we self-actualize and can walk our talk with conviction. This is ethical intelligence; this is real power for cultural change.

Regardless of the outcome to the United States election, there is work to be done moving forward. The paradigm of the heart will not create itself. We must show up for each other; we must create new systems and structures that support meeting the needs of everyone on this planet with dignity and respect. We must speak truth, most especially to power. We must commit to the renewal of our biodiversity. We must start with healing what is broken inside each of us, because everything follows from within.