It seems Conservative Party leader Michael Howard has once again indulged in an announcement of policy deliberately designed to court controversy and to wind up liberal thinkers.
The latest in Howard’s increasingly-desperate Dirty Harry-esque hard right wing policy announcements would have the Tories not implementing a key recommendation of the 1999 Macpherson Report – namely that police officers have to document all instances of ‘stop & search’ that they carry out. Howard’s proposition is that, assuming the search of the person stopped indicated no further action was required, the average 7 minutes required to document the action would deter officers from investigating potential suspects.
On one level it was an entertaining piece of political theatre – very RED! It is also seems to confirm the view of some commentators that Howard is either incredibly self-referenced or else caught in some form of groupthink that insulates him from any common-sense opinions external to his closest advisers.
At another level, Howard is tapping into the sense of many that the country is ‘going-to-hell’. “The clear distinction between right and wrong has been lost in sociological mumbo-jumbo and politically correct nonsense,” he said when making his policy announcement. “There is now a palpable sense of outrage that ‘so-called’ human rights have tipped the balance of justice in favour of the criminal and the wrong-doer, rather than the victim and the law abider.”
The crumbling of rigid BLUE morality under pressure from ‘do-gooder’ GREEN is a common theme in a number of analyses of what’s going wrong with Western society. It’s an issue that Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck has drawn attention to several times in the past few years; and it is reflected in my own ‘A Downward Spiral…’
Beneath Howard’s moral concerns, however, he is, perhaps unwittingly, giving cause to the deep xenophobic PURPLE tribalism that always lurks beneath the surface in any kind of multi-culturalism in society, ready to undermine it.
Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered black schoolboy, Stephen Lawrence, at the centre of the Macpherson Report, seized upon this aspect straightaway. Within hours of Howard’s announcement, she was denouncing the policy to journalists and broadcasters. If the Tories carried through this policy, she stated, it would put community relations with the police back by 10 years.
The Nature of Racism
Lord Macpherson found the Metropolitan Police to be riddled with ‘institutional racism’. His proposal to document stop & searches – with the searched person retaining a ‘receipt’ from the searching officer(s) – was one of a number of recommendations aimed at de-institutionalising that racism and driving it out of the force.
In Spiral Dynamics terms, ‘institutional racism’ means that the ‘higher authority’ and organising structure of BLUE have effectively licensed and enabled the racism that is natural for PURPLE. (see: Is Racism Natural…? )
Let’s be clear here: PURPLE is not racism. Racism is one of the manifestations of PURPLE’s not-of-our-tribe ethic. Not-of-our-tribe sentiments are not just about colour of skin but can relate to any aspect of ethnicity. More than 500 years after the Wars of the Roses, the lingering distrust between some Yorkshire people and some Lancashire people is due to PURPLE thinking. The PURPLE vMEME is active as a principal driver in the desire of many Scots and Welsh to be distinct – even independent – from the English. And when the monolithic BLUE structures of Communism crumbled in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, repressed PURPLE tribalism produced a whole series of vicious ethnic wars and reintroduced the world to ‘ethnic cleansing’. PURPLE is an element of what’s going on in Darfur, even as I write.
Wherever one set of people distinguishes their collective Identity from another set of people with feeling (rather than intellectually), then the PURPLE vMEME is at work.
This ‘not-of-our-tribe-ism’ by default denotes the ‘other lot’ as lesser beings and this makes PURPLE very vulnerable to manipulation by more complex vMEMES. Slobodan Milosovich’s RED warlord use of tribalism in Kosovo and the British National Party’s very BLUE intellectual justification of racial division are just two examples of the way PURPLE gets used in this way.
The GREEN-BLUE Conflict
In the same way that racism is a manifestation of PURPLE thinking, egalitarianism is a product of the GREEN vMEME.
So GREEN egalitarianism stands opposed to PURPLE ‘not-of-our-tribe-ism’. GREEN, being a far more complex vMEME, can use the BLUE legal structures to repress PURPLE not-of-our-tribe-ism. Hence the raft of equality-oriented legislation in Western societies in the latter half of the Twentieth Century as GREEN thinking increasingly dominated intellectual debate.
It is this GREEN using BLUE to repress undesirable PURPLE that underlies Lord Macpherson’s proposal to document stop & searches.
The scenario would be that the police officer’s I-can-do-whatever-I-want-to RED, including indulging my PURPLE not-of-our-tribe-ism by harassing young blacks – and all under a facade of BLUE authority – is constrained by subjecting the officer to real BLUE accountability: the documentation of the stop & search.
Unfortunately, statistics show time and time again that young black males are convicted of a very high percentage of crimes committed in areas where they live or are in close proximity to. Leaving aside prejudice in the judicial system, there are a whole series of sociological factors (unemployment, lack of opportunity in the white world, imported cultural traditions, etc, etc) linked to a whole series of psychological factors (confusion of cultural Identity, low self-esteem, poor self-efficacy, negative identity, etc, etc) which explain why a disproportionately high number of young black males end up with criminal convictions. But the inescapable fact is that a significant number of young black males in inner city areas do commit crimes.
Purple/RED rap culture actually celebrates this and the ORANGE entertainment industry promotes it in films and music.
Thus, the media stereotype of the young black ‘gangsta’ becomes an element in the demographics of the ‘fear of crime’ – and it is the fear of crime which Michael Howard’s policy announcement is playing on.
One of the downsides of the ascendancy of GREEN thinking in intellectual debates has been the progressive undermining of rigid BLUE morality in Western society – embodied in the permissive hippie culture of the 1960s but actually beginning in the 1950s. The decline of BLUE morality has led not so much to the ennobling freedom of the human spirit, as many hippie ‘gurus’ intended, but to the unshackling of RED lusts and self-indulgence, with the energy focussed on instant fulfilment – all exploited to the hilt by ORANGE consumerism. The knock-on effect of all this has been the undermining of traditional PURPLE ‘family values’ – including some of the rituals and taboos that form the fabric of a healthy and functional society.
Just some of the results of this are a virtual epidemic of broken marriages and one-parent families, gangs of unruly teenagers terrorising estates, wide-scale drug abuse and alarming rises in crime rates – with ‘gun crime’ now an established modus operandi in many inner city neighbourhoods
No wonder the ‘blue rinse brigade’, who comprise a substantial section of what’s left of the Tory vote agree totally with Michael Howard’s assertion that “The clear distinction between right and wrong has been lost in sociological mumbo-jumbo and politically correct nonsense.” Howard is absolutely correct in that statement…but he’s only got part of the bigger picture and making police officers less accountable, with the potential for re-unleashing PURPLE/red abuse of young black males, is hardly the answer.
What is needed, as Don Beck has frequently stated, is the need for more BLUE structure in society.
We can’t put the GREEN genie back in the proverbial bottle and you can’t turn the clock back. Nor should we. The large-scale emergence of GREEN thinking has brought with it many benefits. Without GREEN, women would still be ‘chained to the kitchen sink’, blacks would still be officially second class citizens, blue/ORANGE capitalist industry would still be polluting the planet with complete abandon, and there would be an awful lot more wars.
But we can re-emphasise BLUE values to redress the balance somewhat. Tony Blair is onto some of this when he talks about rights and responsibilities. He’s also on the right track when he talks about being “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”.
At a BLUE level we do need effective and efficient policing. We also need to punish wrongdoers – and for them to be seen to be punished as a deterrent to others. Michael Howard has dusted off the litany from his days as Home Secretary that “Prisons work”. Reoffending statistics make that supposition highly dubious; but I will never forget a police inspector in South East Wakefield telling me: Prisons do work for the first three months on a person’s first incarceration. After that they learn to adapt.” So perhaps we need much shorter sentences in much more unpleasant conditions? The kind of experience no sane person would want to repeat in a hurry? The kind of fist-in-the-face encounter that RED does actually learn from…?
The problem with prisons is that GREEN, with its concern for ‘human rights’, has driven much of the agenda in recent years. While prisons are far from pleasant places, few convicted felons are actually terrified these days of a further sentence. GREEN needs to be in a background monitoring role, making sure prisoners can actually survive the experience both physically and psychologically and then resourcing them for life beyond the prison gates.
At a PURPLE level we need to encourage couples to work at marriages, to regard ‘playing away from home’ as taboo (especially for men) and to learn how to be responsible parents. (Even OFSTED – the Office for Standards in Education – has started to turn its attentions to parents as the next ‘big step’ in improving performance in many schools.)
And we need to restrain ORANGE’s manipulation of RED’s desire for indulgent thrills and instant excitement by glamourising violence and promiscuous sex. (When was the last time you saw a television drama portraying a middle-aged couple, happily married for 20 years, having full-on, naked, uninhibited, multi-orgasmic sex….?)
As to racism, we need to create a bigger PURPLE Identity that all the tribes can buy into. Creation of such an Identity almost certainly requires macro-working the Spiral to involve the RED, BLUE and ORANGE vMEMES.
An example to model which could give us more ideas on how to do this might lie with those youths who were shown in the audience at a televised England vs Pakistani cricket match last year. Undoubtedly of Asian extraction, their faces were painted in the red and white of St George and they were cheering on the England players. When questioned by reporters, they revealed their parents or grandparents came from Pakistan. Somehow these young men had made the transition in Identity that made them see themselves as ‘English’.
Michael Howard’s problem is that he keeps trying to out-BLUE Tony Blair. What he should be doing is learning to out-Spiral Blair!