Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Barack Obama's Inspirational Value Meme

The way you see the world affects how you understand problems and which solutions you think will solve those problems. Listening to Barack Obama's inauguration speech I was fascinated to hear him tap into important traditional core values, recognise the inter-connectedness, diversity and changes happening in the modern world, and weave a steely determination to defend key principles against violent enemies at the same time as offering friendship hope, and a sense of common aspirations.

It was also fascinating listening to UK TV commentators attempting to 'make sense' of this complexity. One commentator struggled to 'label' President Obama. She agonised as she tried to place him one side of the fence. 'What does he really stand for?' she pondered.

A while back I was introduced to the thinking of Clare Graves he was a colleague of the more well know social psychologist Abraham Maslow (Maslow's hierarchy of needs)Graves classified a range of 'world views' that explained how people understand how the world works, key causes and effects, key guiding principles and values.

Grave's ideas were taken up by writers Don Beck and Chris Cowan. They developed Grave's classifications into a range of memes which they called Value Memes.

Two things are significant. Firstly they made a division between what they called first and second tier thinking. Secondly they noted that the more developed the meme someone has the more they are able to 'transcend and include' less developed memes.

Second Tier thinking (yellow meme and above) is characterised by an ability to grasp systemic complexity and interdependence, accept diversity, emphasise individual responsibilities, and yet take decisive and definite action even if it might clash with a minority view.

Second tier memes are difficult for first teir thinkers to make sense of. Communitarian first tier memes have trouble with the decisiveness, individualistic memes (hello Bankers)have trouble with social responsibility. Be sure Barack Obama has taken the USA and the rest of the world to a different level.

Beck and Cowan predicted a global meme shift around this time. This is when a significant proportion of the worlds population begin to think in a different way. President Obama leads the hope that this will happen. As he said...

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them"

"We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."

"With eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

With thinking like this there is clear Hope.


  1. Obama is just a man. And I have a tendency to be apprehensive and almost consumed with skeptism. He's also a neo-con which scares me to death, RR.
    Take a gander at this well thought out post written by Jake Young an MD/PhD medical student at Mount Sinai Medical School. Jake tackled all the points that have kept me leery, weary and skeptical throughout the whole campaign.

    Two things I AM grateful for is that Obama isn't Dubya additionally, he's not John McCain.

  2. Thanks for this. I will follow up the Clare Graves link. There's something here around transformational leader theory. (But it still won't break its way into consciousness for me).

    Best wishes

  3. Thanks 'grand*ma' I'll check out the link. Yes you're right to be skeptical. My heroine is Mandy Rice Davies because of the phrase she uttered at the Profumo Trial 'well he would wouldn't he'

  4. Hi Tudor! Thanks for commenting. How are you. It was John D. at uni' that put me onto Clare Graves. I don't know though, does he write all his own material. Do you agree with grand*ma about his neo con credentials?