Spiral Dynamics: The Structure of the Blue (Amber) Stage

The "amber-stage" type is always under the thumb of authority -- and also wants to be the thumb of authority. Being the chronic adolescent, (s)he seeks to escape being under the thumb of authority by taking the position of that authority with others. Thus, (s)he becomes an oppressive influence over others equivalent to the oppressive influence over him or her.

Because that type of person cherishes the position of being in authority over others, he or she also clings to the values of the authority that hangs over him or her, from which he or she derives justification for acting like an authority. He or she cherishes authority because of two things:

  1. His or her own spirit has been involuntarily shaped or even crushed by external authority.
  2. He or she has an inherent need for his/her spirit to feel full and whole.

Since his ("his", for the sake of brevity, includes "her") authority derives from external authority and not from his or her own sense of wholesomeness, discerning intelligence or fitness (or rather, because that sense of wholesomeness or fitness is distorted by external authority), his authority is inauthentic. He is a pipsqueak wearing the garb of authority. He is not a true authority, but an authoritarian -- one who consumes authority the way a vegetarian consumes vegetables.

The ersatz/phony authority, the puffed up, self-important facade of authority exercised by the "amber-stage" authoritarian is partial but really unsatisfactory compensation for the involuntary crushing of spirit he or she experiences. Thus, he endlessly seeks more power.

Thus, as Thomas Hanna wrote in his charged work, The End of Tyranny, the authoritarians are "the great unweaned of the world". They perpetually suck the teat of authority above them and derive their authority from that "teat of authority".

We see them as fundamentalist religious leaders and fundamentalists of all types, political herd-followers, bureaucrats and government operatives, law enforcement and military personnel; corporate executives and managers, and "political Conservatives". All have in common two things:

  1. They place limits on thinking for themselves or exercising original intelligence and confine their thinking to the "herd" thinking of their peer group and its authorities, while looking for approval from their superiors. 
  2. Their sense of self-worth depends on telling people what to do and what not to do.

Religious fundamentalists are particularly interesting in this regard. They don't exercise their intelligence about the teachings of The Bible or other religious texts, but rather, follow the interpretations of those texts given to them by their religious authorities as to what those texts say, what they mean and what is important to pay attention to. They consider that kind of conformity, "religious values" or "family values", and consider themselves, "children of God" -- and then seek to bully others to conform to their views.

More than that, because their spirit has been repressed and they want to feel on top of things, they oppose and oppress all those who do exercise discerning intelligence, "critical thinking", original intelligence, and progressive values, repressing them as they, themselves, have been repressed, sometimes calling them, "enemy", or "liberal".

The "amber" authoritarian is taught and trained by his superior authorities that his intelligence is untrustworthy and unworthy ("... rely not upon your own understanding ...), that he is intelligent and worthy only if he reinforces the views of those who think for him. He imagines it is so -- because he has been trained to imagine it is so -- and he believes it. Thus, he diminishes his own intelligence while assuming the greater intelligence of his authorities, who, themselves, practice diminishing their own intelligence. Thus, the chain of stupidity goes -- authoritarians all the way up and authoritarians all the way down the chain of command. "Chain" is an appropriate word.

Such "amber-stage" authoritarians are, "the great unweaned of the world", perpetually adolescent. The applicable term is, "arrested development".

The pursuit of "the almighty dollar", "The American Dream", by those already wealthy is a case in point. They were taught by their Daddy that wealth brings status and power and that to pursue wealth (sometimes by whatever means -- moral or amoral) is itself an honorable occupation. To place that pursuit as First Priority is properly the concern of young adults starting out, poor immigrants, and the poverty-stricken; those already economically stable should be concentrating on developing their unique gifts and abilities, their contributions to society, with increasing their wealth being a secondary resultant of their personal developmental efforts.

The problem is that such individuals don't know they are in a state of arrested development. They know nothing different. In their state of arrested development, they impose themselves upon the world by force, legal or violent.

What do you do about someone in authority who exists in a state of oblivious arrested development, who believes that he is mature and competent? What do you do about it, in yourself?

Can you recognize it, in yourself? How?

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