Boomeritis or Bust
finally located and bought a copy of Boomeritis,
Ken Wilber's latest: Yankee Doodle Dandy-fied eastern philosophy meets
postmodernist social criticism and more. Reading more like Bootie-ism
than Buddhism, the novel is set up around the SD spiral and
language which Wilber exploits to go after things he doesn't like in
contemporary culture and to justify the things he does with contrived
theoretical support. By putting his words into the mouths of
characters this time, there's plausible deniability throughout. With
usual immodesty, the promotion-savvy Wilber, newly-converted
missionary for the Second Tier, sets up his thinly veiled cohorts and
their "integral" institutions as the solution to what he
sees as a spiral-stopping malaise the supposed dead-end at the
sixth level of human existence the
dreaded and fuzz-filled Boomeritis. He proposes an 'integral'
workaround to locate the truth that's MIA in the
relativism/subjectivism wars, complete with treatments for the
egocentric, narcissistic postmodern syndrome hes incubating.
he caught the virus while writing Boomeritis.
The clearest symptom? Toward the end he actually claims he's written a
bad book intentionally. OK, that's an understatement. Actually, it is
awful. In a smirking self-exculpatory way, Wilber suggests that it was
all meant to be pretentious, repetitive and shallow as an illustration
of the ills that have come into the world since Derrida (rather than
Pandora) opened the postmodern box of evil uncertainties. His apologia
proposes that it was planned to be a mess of inept prose, egocentric
and shallow dialogue, misapplication and sloppy interpretation of
others' work, annoying and puerile sexual fantasies set off in Homer Simpson "D'oh!"
boldface, and everything else that is, in his view, wrong with
postmodernism. On those fronts he succeeds admirably.
by imagineering a sound-alike pack of authoritarian stage-bound
teachers, obviously wanted Boomeritis
to be instructive for the Gen X/Y crowd. He would have done well to
get more feedback from them and listen to it before allowing this
embarrassment to go to print. Editors, where art thou? Shambhala legal
department, where art thou? Friends of Ken, where were you? Much of it
reads like the fantasies of a preachy refugee from Pleasantville enroute
through beatnik to hippie to the consciousness confessional, but not
much in tune with the far more complex-thinking and problems of young
people today. But wait. Of course. That, too, was part of his grand
plan to reach down for the coolness of absolute mediocrity all along.
How utterly with it!
dialogue is forced and the character development - what character
development? - is flatlander as a pancake - and clich, to boot. It
repeats over-used materials time and again. Of course, that repetitive
redundancy illustrates another point about Boomeritis and
postmodernism, doesn't it? Thus, what we have here is what Wilber
seems most comfortable with - self-reflexive meditations on the
mirrored ceiling of his consciousness - and yet another protracted
interview by Ken Wilber with Ken Wilber about Ken Wilber - a portrait
of the narcissist as a young man.
the often annoying style and very unWilber-like absence of either
notes or responsible citation of materials he's copied (readers are
instead referred to his website for the save-a-tree
concordance), the principle reason we find Boomeritis
troubling is simply this: he does a consummately lousy job with Spiral
Dynamics, again. Hes dead wrong as often as not about
the little bit of theory that he includes which is not typology, and
even that is distorted. Boomeritis
is full of revisionist theory, bias, and presumption. As far as
Graves/Spiral is concerned, its a pitiful waste of good paper and a
Wilber tries to apply but doesnt actually understand Gravesian
theory, he confuses the levels/colors like a novice. He doesnt know
Green from Orange or Yellow. Thus, the elaborate arguments he lays out
are constructed on quicksand because he fails to recognize the
essential nature of the eight nodal states, much less the transitional
phases which are actually what hes often trying to describe, or the
forces that energize any of them. By bollixing up these fundamentals,
many of the well-reasoned and potentially useful discussions begin
with false premises, so the conclusions point to the wrong place. He's
bombing the wrong targets brilliantly. And because he sounds
authoritative, newcomers to our approach will believe they're getting a valid
overview of Graves from Boomeritis.
Quite the contrary theyll have been led down a rabbit trail
into a labyrinth of all quadrant, all level nonsense. For the people
who really know the Gravesian theory, reading it is a cringe a minute.
of F-S (Green) are attributed to the hyped-and-mighty Second Tier
the second loop through the six basic Gravesian themes. It is not the
two-step short cut to godliness and salvation-revisited that Wilber so
desires; and no, Coral is not the portal to the third tier and life
eternal with God and her silicates. That's a very different spiral.
Frequently confusing E-R (Orange), F-S (Green), and A-N (Yellow)
he lays claim to the good stuff from each, especially F-S!, and
promotes that to Integral status. Much of E-R (Orange) is framed
as mean Green drawing on
E-Rs individualism, autonomy-seeking, and right-thinking
express-self perspective - not Green at all. Then he tries to drag in
C-P (Red) as if anger, indignant emotion, and aggressiveness somehow
reside mostly there. The cyclical aspect of the theory is ignored, and
he dismisses the double-helix and concentrates on categories. When he
pulls in other developmental/emergent theorists to lend support, he
sticks them at the wrong places on the SD model. In the confusion of
hunting down his enemies, Wilber has misidentified what he wants so
much to expose and transform. Boomer -it -is: sometimes nearly
poignant, sometimes very scary; but at all times making a mess of the
some reason, Wilber still insists on calling virtually anything a
"meme," thereby befuddling both himself and the reader. He
apparently fails to recognize that his own promotion of a "mean
Green meme" [sic] is the spreading of a meme about a vMeme,
just as his Boomeritis is a meme integrating a hodgepodge of vMemes' traits. The Typhoid Mary of Cerebral Boomeritis
doesn't appear to care very much about accuracy in language, but then
that's just a symptom of pluralistic relativism, egocentrism, and
postmodernism in the virus he's spreading, isn't it?
the propensity to lift others' work in ways that verge nigh unto
plagiarism and then to misinterpret outrageously and high-handedly
after doing so is another of the postmodernist traits Wilber intends
to spoof. Perhaps he does understand SD quite well and is just
pretending a shallow, distorted view - a slick writer trying to be
instructive by modeling his points instead of one with a chronic blind
spot and a wide-reaching but fundamentally made-up mind. If that's the
case, he's accomplished his goal, though not very ethically.
the theoretical blunders are carried over from his previous
renditions, not new with this one. Thus, his butchery of Gravesian theory
and rudimentary confusion about the nature of the levels of
psychological existence (vMemes) is a chronic condition
that his integral cures seem unable to remedy. The bastardized
version in Boomeritis will
mislead the novice and both surprise and offend those who know these
models from other than the Wilberian skew. What a waste.
doubt this very criticism will be turned as an argument against the
critic: "Aha! A typical first tier Boomeritis victim who just
doesn't get it - point made. Told you so. See? Humorless. Gotcha'!
Only some closet deconstructionist infested with Boomeritis wouldn't
appreciate this brilliant classic of revisionist re-construction -
clueless and Blue-less. What's the problem? Hurt your feeeeeelings?
Want to dialogue? Chill, dude. Booooooomer alert!"
that's been a darned clever strategy of Ken Wilber's for some time:
'anybody who doesn't like me is a mean Green; everyone who does is a
Turquoise or better.' That works when dealing with people centered
around D-Q/E-R (Blue > Orange) and looking to discover self at the
feet of a righteous master, and others who believe that Green is human
nature's anti-matter to Blue instead of a complement. It
works with E-R/F-S (Orange > Green) minds lining up to join
that exclusive "second tier" club the mile-highers of
the spirituality biz - definitely a winning tactic since they
integrally make the Omega sign and sing in lockstep: Hello, logos,
here I come, right back where I started from!
of the "integral" approach Wilber describes is expansion in
the E-R to F-S transitional zone with some rah-rah religious zeal from
D-Q/e-r thrown in for good measure. Much of the frustration given
voice in Boomeritis could well be an expression of inability to make the step
to F-S from the E-R/f-s and e-r/F-S states - hardly a lamentation upon
looking back from second tier, of course. Some expresses
the guilt and needs of mortality-driven D-Q (Blue) in a sad and almost
desperate call to "grow" and be beyond self, to build a
legacy, and to glow in cosmic consciousness.
is nothing wrong in that tens of millions of people are in the
Orange-Green transition and need guidance and hunger for gurus to
teach transcendence. It might even come from seeing evidence of the
more elaborated systems from within the D-Q/E-R zone and believing
that Green, rather than a necessary and neutral stepping stone on the
path to further emergence, is a boulder blocking the way to progress,
to perfect enlightenment, to a fulfilled selfless self. Its hard to
tell; so much is mushed together in the Wilberian blender that it all
comes out Bass-O-Matic brown. (Boomer humor.)
wrap this up, the book recognizes its awfulness and seems to hope the
reader will stick around long enough to get the 450 page joke. 'Hear
that laugh track, folks? Nyuk, nyuk' Devoted Wilber fans will; and
people recovering from multiple fractures in full body casts just
might. Boomeritis does offer
its share of interesting insights; Ken Wilber is no fool. That's the
tragedy of it. And his normally soporific prose is mercifully broken
up with attempts at dialogue and interspersed with some keen social
observations and occasional laughs wrapped up in the usual Greekish
words and philosophical mini-treatises that sound impressive as hell.
What he sees in today's world is noteworthy and often rings familiar.
His reach is wide and he remarks on many foibles and possibilities in
modern times. Debate his opinions, his politics, his bigotries, his
competitive consciousness, and his conclusions; but give him due
credit for breadth.
is where he loses it. From an SD perspective, Wilber still fails to
relate all of these observations accurately to the model he
uses as a centerpiece. Since his take on the theory is so far
off base, everything else becomes suspect, especially the insultant's
heavy-handed lessons for Green and the glorification of a second tier
he frames as separate from the first. That's our recurring frustration
- all that brilliance missing the mark so badly. To use language
typical of Boomeritis: If he
wants to fuck with something, let him fuck with himself and his own
integral shit. If he's going to keep exploiting the Spiral/Graves to serve his
own ends and support his claims, why not do it right so his writing
adds constructively to the body of knowledge instead of promoting the
SD brand on one hand while undermining the essence of the theory
shamelessly with the other? Maybe he honestly doesn't understand the
difference; and maybe he just doesn't give a damn.
is absolutely no doubt that Wilber cultists and those waiting with
tickets in hand for a ride on the train to the land of
consciousness-chic and a reserved seat at 'third way, Second Tier'
will climb aboard and find Boomeritis
inspirational, empowering, and revelatory - "we are the champions
of the world - toot, toot. Next stop, Third Tier. All aboard!"
Those 'Green swamp' dwellers and others without the delusions of
second or third tierrany and who worry about schemes by elite crowds
devoted to reforming the world on their own authoritarian,
self-righteous more-conscious-than-thou terms will, as the engineer
acknowledges, be derailed by this book early on. They're the lucky
ones because the concluding section is a train wreck.
critics (who know or care nothing about what's covered in SD programs) might well buy into
Wilber's argument that he's created a brilliant postmodern anti-novel
rather than cleverly rationalized an unholy mess. Readers who expect
even satire to be competently structured and written in a way that
amuses through subtle wit rather than sledge-hammer blows to the
genitals will find it a dreary go. Those in search of another
philosophical compilation that skims over vast domains will not be
disappointed; Ken Wilber is an impressive synthesizer.
who knows the models covered in Spiral
Dynamics training or understands Dr. Graves' work will find
the theory applications at first old hat, then laughable, then bizarre
and embarrassing, and finally irritating and uncomfortable - not
because they hit so close to home, but because they stray so far from
it. In that respect Wilbers great postmodern parody of a novel
backfires the supposedly deliberate fuck-up actually does fuck up
the theory so badly that the joke becomes a reflexive satire of itself
the joke is on the jokester - but you only get the big one if you
know the model well.
meta-postmodern strategy appears to be: baffle them with bullshit and
convince them they're ignorant fools or anti-integral - if they
say it smells other than sweet. It worked for the emperor with the new
clothes; the crowd cheered his nakedness and believed something was
wrong with themselves because they couldnt see the nothing there
until an honest kid spoke up and broke the trance.
the long-running strategy will continue to serve the Bodhisattva of
Boomeritis as his speed-reading imagination swings naked on a
chandelier, too, though anyone who actually knows the Graves theory
and have taken Spiral
Dynamics Levels 1 and/or 2 will see his bare butt hanging out after trudging through this
"novel" exercise in male/female integration. Bottom line: it
then, the whole thing was just a cosmic dreamnyuk.