Do you ask yourself sometimes, “What could they have been thinking?”

Sometimes this happens when the other person is just in a different place. I recall a conversation I had with a friend who was a businessman, and another who was a whitewater river guide / college student. We were talking about how deforestation in the rain forest was a bad thing; I had mentioned the statistic that the forest coverage is actually increasing now due to less deforestation and more planting and preservation (this was many years ago, I don’t know the current numbers.)

The river guide said that there was never a reason to clearcut the jungle.

Then the businessman spoke up. He said, “You might want to think about that. If you are a native living in the jungle (We called the rain forest a ‘jungle’ then, I’m sure it is somehow politically incorrect today) and you need to feed your family, clearcutting some land to plant crops makes lots of sense, when the alternative is starving to death or not being able to provide housing, clothing, and other neccessities to your family.”

Things can make so much more sense when we put ourselves in the shoes of other people who we are having trouble understanding. (There is an NLP technique that helps with this called Perceptual Positions, and I highly recommend taking a look at using it when you don’t get where someone is coming from)

Let’s look a little deeper, though, and think about our worldviews, and the worldview of someone else. I am generally an entrepreneur; I have several businesses, and I am mostly focused on how to keep them alive and profitable. So I don’t spend much time thinking about violence, for example, and rather than being a strict rule follower, I often look for loopholes or places where I can push the rules to gain a competitive advantage. For me it is a negotiation – I was at a zoning hearing in Pinal county recently, because I had just purchased a property to flip. I knew there was trash on the lot, and I was in the process of getting it cleaned up. I didn’t know that a zoning officer had already inspected it before I purchased and had filed a complaint with the previous owner.

So I got a summons to appear at the zoning hearing, and there were a couple cases ahead of me. It was interesting to watch, as mostly the people told their story and immediately accepted what the hearing judge determined.

When it was my turn, I told my story and then started a negotiation with the judge, and got a little more than he initially was offering, but ultimately he said “I have ruled! This is how it is!” The whole hearing room laughed – because I was still in negotiation mode. Pushing the boundaries. That’s just how I appraoch things. Everything is a negotiation, right?

I have a dear friend who is very much NOT about this; rules are rules, and there are no real grey areas. She would be absolutely horrified at my approach to negotiation with an authority figure. In her world, they are the rulers and you do what they say. In mine, they are a resource to be negotiated with to get the best outcome.

I have another friend who is very concerned with the environment. He has a Prius, he very meticulously separates out his recyclables, never throws used batteries or CFLs in the recycle, etc. He comes from a different point a view, and he would have issues understanding what he perceives as my insatiable drive to make a buck at any cost. For me it is not that, but I am passionate about what I do and work many hours at it — in my world it is not at any cost, and it is not (well maybe not) insatiable.

And because I know him well, I don’t think of him as an environmentalist whacko, but that is a term that other entrepreneurial-minded people might use, as we/they might see him as someone who would sacrifice their business, their income, their family for the environment. His view of my “level”, and my level’s view of his “level,” are likely both inaccurate and lead to many heated facebook discussions (We have all seen them, right?)

What I have been describing here can be modelled pretty well with something called Spiral Dynamics, something I have previously written about. Here are the “levels of consciousness”, briefly, and some examples and rules about them. No level is “better” or “worse” than any other, and we all exhibit the characteristics of the various levels depending on the situation and mood in which we find ourselves. For example, if someone breaks into your house, depending on who you are, you might go Red (power god) to defend yourself, or you might go Purple (Survival) to do whatever they want to protect yourself; or you might go Orange (Achiever) and start negotiating with them. Blue (Rules/Authoritarian) might call the police and hide and wait. And in different circumstances we might all do different things. Green – Take all my money just don’t hurt my plants…

1. Beige – Animalistic – biological urges – Instinctive: as natural instincts and reflexes direct; automatic existence. About self. Example: A very young child.

2. Purple – Physical world and realm of spirit beings overlap. Collaborate for safety and survival. Ancestral ways, customs and kinship offer answers. Succumb easily to authority; about the family or tribe.

3. Red – Power god. My way or the highway. Do anything it takes to get what I want. Egocentric: asserting self for dominance, conquer nature. Exploitive; concern with shame, no guilt. Impulsive and immediate. No sense of the future, of consequences from actions taken today. Example: Gang leader, warlord, gang banger.

4. Rule based – Controlled by obedience to a Higher Power that directs living, punishes wrongs and eventually rewards good works and righteous living. Conforming to norms; feel guilt; search truth, meaning, purpose. Examples: religions, military, the postal service?

5. Orange. Achiever, entrepreneur. Resources to develop and opportunities to make things better and bring prosperity for those with initiative and willingness to risk. Act pragmatically and calculate to get desired results; maneuver through competition and comparison. Example: small business owners, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates when he was younger.

6. Green. Cares about the world, the environment, all people, all life. The shared habitat wherein humanity can find peace and purposes through affiliation and appreciating life’s diversities. We all know people like this.

7. Yellow. Flex flow, big picture, manager. A chaotic organism with underlying order where change is the norm and uncertainty an acceptable state of being as knowledge evolves. Finds interconnections and layered causes; learns constantly; puts function over love, status, rules, or power. Examples: Yoda, Walt Disney.

8. Turquoise. Spiritual. Holistic. Collective consciousness; Oneness. Examples: think of the world’s spiritual leaders, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama.

So what does this have to do with anything? I got to thinking about how this might apply to ISIS, to Al Queda, to the tribes and warlords that are causing so much strife. And the statements made by some of our political leaders and aspiring ones, that we need to be tolerant, or that we need to understand them and … well, we have all heard the rhetoric.

The truth is, people rarely move more than one level up or down in the Spiral in a lifetime. And people of one level have a really hard time understanding the life circumstances of people more than one level removed from their own.

ISIS and related groups seem to be run by Reds, and they use their organization (Blue) to recruit others. They are driven by a religious purpose; failing to obey means not just death, but that they will burn in Hell forever (and not get their 21 virgins.)

I think that much of that part of the world is Purple, or Red, and it is a natural evolution to Blue (rule based) that makes order out of the chaos. But there is Blue and there is Blue… As Orange achievers, we can relate to the Blue rule based folks. We might not agree with their rules, but we can understand them. We don’t really understand the violence, why so many are driven to beheadings, torture, denigration of women, and all that. And if we are Green or Yellow, we have lots of trouble with this.

The higher levels encompass the lower ones; so a Yellow or Green has a much better chance of appreciating the Red, Blue and Purple; but the lower levels have almost no shot at understanding the higher levels. A Red will come to appreciate that they need rules to survive in the society, but it is a leap to becoming an achiever and near impossible to get to Green from there.

So while we in the Western world, who are generally blue/orange/green, can have some appreciation for the deplorable conditions that exist in some areas of the Middle East (and in the inner cities of the West!), the predominantly Purple/Red/Blue societies in the middle East will be hard pressed to relate to us. This is why the woman who was helped by a clinic for free later returned to blow it up along with the Doctor who treated her. No sense of the future, no sense of responsibility beyond this moment, following the Rules set forth by her worldview, in spite of a Green physician who just wanted to help her.

To win the war on terror requires the near total eradication of the levels of consciousness prevalent in their society. The best way is through education and example. Their environment needs to change. They need to evolve from a primarily tribal/Red society into a primarily rule based Blue/Orange achiever society. But they have been in that place for thousands of years, and not much has changed.

Negotiation and treaties won’t work, because most Reds have no sense of the future, and treaties are about future behavior. Negotiation doesn’t matter, because they will say anything to get what they want in the moment. Sure, they have a rule based Blue organization, but the leaders are Red. The rules apply to the members, not the rulers. (Sound familiar?)

This frustration with constant broken promises is what leads many to want to bomb them into oblivion. But that won’t solve the problem, because the next generation will be in the same place again, in the same levels of consciousness, acting the same way. History shows this to be the case. It will solve the problem temporarily, but not permanently.

The only permanent solution is education and indoctrination into a society in which most of the people are at a higher level of consciousness. Right now we have the opposite happening: the terrorists are infiltrating our society and indoctrinating people to become like them. We don’t need to understand them; we need to convert them, to educate them.

Until our leaders figure this out, we will continue to think about military solutions, or negotiations and treaties that cannot work. Further, unless we stop the indoctrination of children into a mostly red religion, this problem will continue. More about this in a future post. But think about this: What part of muslim society has the greatest chance of influencing their children?