How #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe Can Avoid Death by a Thousand Paper-cuts

Posted on December 21, 2014

The Green vMeme

I'm seeing a lot of evidence that the #blacklivesmatter community is operating very strongly in the Spiral Dynamics green vmeme. When operating in this meme you'll:

  • Explore the inner beings of self and others
  • Promote a sense of community and utility
  • Share society's resources among all
  • Liberate humans from greed and dogma
  • Reach decisions through consensus
  • Refresh spirituality and bring harmony

This is spot-on what America needs right now. They're pulling the orange center of gravity up (and what better place to do that than in NYC? It's the orange vmeme capital of the world!)

The Risks

The risk is that green tends to see see the community as more important than the individual. Because consensus is important to green, disagreement can be seen as toxic. In the extreme cases you'll see green communities reject individuals or pocket groups with differing ideas. I see this in anarchist groups all the time. "So-and-so doesn't believe in X so they aren't a true Y. We don't associate with them." This idea of toxicity in activist communities comes to a head when things get tough; under pressure the group can fracture. Eventually the groups become too small to be able to be effective against a more powerful adversary.

Sub-group X wants to do A and sub-group Y wants to do B. Because green values consensus so much, green groups would often rather fragment into smaller self-consistent groups with consensus than find common ground. Green discovers the immense power of the community: strength in numbers, sharing of resources, diversity, but then tragically can sabotage it by not taking its inclusivity far enough.

The Green Solution

For green to survive on its own terms, it needs to push inclusivity as far as it will go. It needs to keep the community together. It needs to avoid making value statements that will fracture the group. It can't say things like "you don't believe in X so you aren't with us."

The Second-tier Solution

A second-tier community, in the Spiral Dynamics sense, would respond by finding points of commonality. Rather than rejecting people who have different ideas to reach consensus, a second-tier community would allow sub-groups to be autonomous in the ways they are different, but would collaborate and unify where they are common.


  • Group A are hard-line pacifists. They do not resist when they are arrested. They do not strike first. They naturally have a cozier relationship with the media and the general population. They use their strength in community to their advantage.
  • Group B are not pacifists. They carry weapons. They strike targets that have strategic and symbolic value. They use their strength in autonomy to their advantage.

Group A might be inclined to censure Group B for using tactics it considers to be offensive. This would be a mistake. These two groups can benefit from forging a loose alliance where their interests intersect. While Group A generally can sustain non-violent attacks like arrests and legal proceedings, they aren't at all prepared should these formalities fall apart. Group A's pacifist techniques only matter when the other side agrees that they matter but. If things go sour and bullets start flying, Group A will need the support of Group B in order to not be steamrolled. If an alliance can be forged between Group A and Group B where they provide, say, intelligence, humanitarian resources like food, water, and medical care, and where they can avoid defaming each other, both groups can enjoy the benefits of both community and autonomy.

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