Several dozen people, perhaps 200, will come to the ZOA House in Tel Aviv this morning to study a method that has yet to be tried. The Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi) group in Israel has invited the CEO and founder of its mother organization in the United States, Dr. Don Beck, to peer into the depths of our conflict and prescribe one of his medications.
The theory was formulated by the late Dr. Clare W. Graves, a psychologist from Union College in Schenectady, New York. Beck, who worked with Graves in the 1970s, continued to develop the theory after his death. The method involves developing a model for understanding the evolutionary transformation of human values and cultures of human consciousness, which determines how society will deal with challenges in all areas of life, including community relations, government and religion. The development of human consciousness is described in the form of a spiral made up of eight stages. Each level of this value system is identified by a name and color of its own, and characterizes different societies:
b "Survival" (beige) characterizes a social structure common in survivalist groups, such as Haiti.
b "Security" (purple) characterizes animistic tribes that create their own gods for themselves, like those scattered throughout South America.
b "Power" (red) applies to a feudal structure, like that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
b "Authority" (blue) describes empires with a strong centralized government, like Singapore.
b "Progress, liberty" (orange) describes industrialized countries like the United States.
b "Harmony, equality" (green) describes "societies with values and self-awareness," like Holland.
b "Integration, development" (yellow) and "holism, universality" (turquoise) describe "societies that are still developing;" according to adherents of the method, no societies have yet to reach this stage.
No value is thought to be better than the others, and each leads to different behavior among individuals and groups. Each of the stages is inevitable, and it is not possible to skip over any in the course of human development.
Groups throughout the world like SDi Israel, which was established in 2004, investigate the meaning of the integral worldview of human growth at the individual and collective levels. Psychologists, philosophers and experts from various fields in the humanities and natural sciences meet every week to try to understand the complexity of human development. The intention is to include everyone in an "inner integral map" that all aspects of the universe. In the meantime, the group will be glad to try the SDi method in this small, but problematic part of the world.
The security check
Beck, who served many years as a psychology professor at North Texas University, has a proven track record, after having applied the method successfully in South Africa. His 36 visits to that country between 1981 and 1988 greatly influenced the thinking of political leaders, key businessmen, religious leaders and the general public. Beck also served as an adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "policy unit," as well as helped former U.S. president Bill Clinton on racism issues, the Chicago municipality in dealing with poor neighborhoods, and the World Bank on Afghanistan's future. Beck also has assisted boards of directors of aviation companies, large banks and government institutions. Even the Danes have inquired whether he can help put out the flames of the current controversial cartoon affair.
Beck presented his method in Bethlehem this week. He said that this time around, his first visit to the area, he is mainly listening and learning. In the spring, he plans to return here mainly to spe ak and teach. A few hours after arriving in Israel last Sunday, he was ready to promise that the formula that he will propose will neutralize tensions on a national, religious, economic and political basis. The method does not look for who is to blame and does not put history at center stage.
However, when he mentioned the security check his partner, Elsa Ma'alouf, an American of Lebanese origin, underwent at Ben-Gurion International Airport, more than a hint of blame crept into Beck's tone. In a preliminary document he wrote prior to his visit, Beck argues that there is a destructive dynamic, expressed in a vicious circle of injury and counter-response, between the two hostile camps here. This dynamic exists on the backdrop of polarization between different sectors in each of the two societies. And if this were not enough, interested parties, both domestic and foreign, are exploiting the situation to their own advantage. The media fan this polarization, along with the feeling of opposition between "us" and "them," even further.
Beck argues that in these circumstances, any attempt at bridging the gap and negotiating, even if it is done by a side not directly involved in the conflict, cannot be sufficiently neutral. He prefers to look at the different value systems prevailing in the region, and seek bases for technological, economic and environmental growth and progress for each of the societies. "Instead of coexistence, live and let live," he says. "I prefer prosper and let prosper, grow and let grow." He says that in order to reach this goal, it is necessary to map the dominant groups in the two societies, and identify the common denominators in values between them. He views the huge popularity of the Kadima party as a very encouraging sign that Israeli society is abandoning nationalist and racist tendencies, which are characterized by extreme emotions of anger and aggressiveness, in favor of a broader common denominator, relatively free of transient interests.
Like a dance of death
Beck has been working with authorities in Holland in recent years in an effort to calm the ethnic tensions between Muslim immigrants and Dutch natives, which increased after the 2004 murder of film director Theo Van Gogh by an extremist Muslim. He says that shortly before the murder, he met with 70 Dutch police officers, and warned them that their plan - unarmed community policing - would not solve the problem. "The relations between the Europeans and the Muslims are like a dance of death, in which the sides grasp each other to the bitter end," Beck says. He says tensions between Europeans and Muslims, or the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians, are a symptom and not the sickness itself. He compares the fanatic Muslims who attack the West to a virus that attacks the body, and hints that his method does not have an effective prescription against them.
He says that negotiations at the Camp David summit in 2000 were tantamount to a foreknown failure. As long as the two sides are putting their history, religion and national aspirations on the table, the process is doomed to additional failures, he says. In this type of approach, any concession by one of the sides invites a demand for more concessions by the other. He proposes the following exercise, which has been tried successfully in other conflicts: "Leap to the year 2020 and present yourselves with two mock-up newspapers. In one headline there will be reports about acts of hostility and your grandchildren who are leaving the country. The headline of the other newspaper will be about economic prosperity and a report about your grandchildren's wonderful achievements at school." Beck says that he will never forget the astonishment on the faces of the South Africans, blacks and whites, at the sight of the two newspapers.