Monday, June 12, 2006

Wilber Criticism part II - Turn in your badge

I think I'm going to have to turn in my fancy 'second-tier' hat and badge, because despite a mammoth explanation of his original post by Wilber, outlining in detail his reasons for behaving as such, I'm still not convinced.

Firstly, if Wilber thinks that it's necessary to post such a long explanatory post, doesn't that suggest that the original post was a bad idea in the first place? It's like telling an edgy joke, then having to explain for 15 minutes why you're not a racist/misogynist/homophobe. Then, in the same breath, he turns the tables and blames it on the recipients, that would be the 98% of the blogosphere (myself included) who weren't particularly impressed. Notice how that figure so conveniently aligns with his various statements that only about 2% of the world is truly at an Integral level.

And again with the all too familiar tropes: Shadow, Mean Green Meme, 2nd Tier. This criticism consistently falls flat because of who it's aimed at: Say what you want about Dallman and Falk, but they're most definitely not mushy mean green memers, even if you accept that as a valid category to begin with. Then there's the multitude of integrally interested bloggers, who have defended Wilber in the past, who aren't too impressed with the latest outpouring. [Ebuddha's doing a fine job on this issue].

Most of these bloggers haven't been too concerned with the 'suck my dick' line, or the various other 'colourful' metaphors. They're open to the suggestion that IntegralWorld isn't the wonderful utopian repository of valid criticism that it could be. But they do realize that many, many legitimate criticisms are ignored or distorted by I-I. If Meyerhoff's criticism is that easy to take apart, then surely Wilber, or one of his students or associates or DA's, can take the necessary two hours and do the legwork, so that the issue is confronted (if not settled) once and for all? (And as a sidenote, isn't it a little bit hypocritical to harp on about how hard it is for Meyerhoff to get published, when The Spectrum of Consciousness was rejected by so many publishers? That is to say, it's hardly a comment on the merit of the book. The Postman Always Rings Twice anyone?)

So, let's spell it out. A lot of bloggers don't have a problem with Wilber's attitude, his 'playing with crazy wisdom' approach, or any of that jazz. Ebuddha has some interesting things to say about that. For those who do have a problem, let's suspend disbelief just for a second. The problem with Wilber's post is that he doesn't actually address any specific criticism, and when he does, he distorts what has been said. His rant is like an Andrew Dice Clay joke, all bluster, no punchline, even if that bluster is in the service of Big Mind.

I'll repeat what I said in my previous post: If I-I is that concerned with IntegralWorld, have they taken the time to ask, why does IntegralWorld exist? To which my answer would be, because criticism, be it the dreaded 'dialogue' or cut throat polemical interchange, or something in between, is not happening elsewhere. Or rather, it's 'happening' inside a sealed circle, with a very generous definition of what constitutes criticism.

Memo to I-I: You cannot always have total control over the nature and tone of criticism that you deal with. If you geniunely want 'integral' to grow and be a force in the world, it's going to be exposed to a lot more criticism, and it's not going to be as genial or as well intentioned as the folks at IntegralWorld (even Meyerhoff). Furthermore, the fact that substantive criticism has not been responded to (not necessarily individual critiques, but criticisms that keep appearing: Wilber's endorsement of Cohen, his blaise attitude towards biological evolution, the lack of evidence for SD, etc.) isn't going to look fabulous.

So here's my suggestion, lest it be said that I'm just tearing down and spray painting on the ruins: In a time not so long ago, Wilber used to respond to criticism. See, for example, his 'response to Habermas and Weis', 'Do Critics misrepresent my position?', and of most interest to this discussion, the original 'Wilber Watch' (scroll to the bottom) featuring responses to critics from Ken's students: Daryl Paulson on Jorge Ferrer, assorted students dealing with spirituality in psychotherapy, and Sean Hargens taking on Christian de Quincey. So if Wilber wants to spend his days writing books, building a spiritual empire and namedropping Tony Robbins, with no time for detailed responses, fine. Might I suggest that he get some of his students to actively respond to criticism? Perhaps even incorporate Visser, as DA, he can compile a digest compendium of monthly or bi-monthly criticism. If you're worried that this will 'legitimate' a bunch of cranks, then it can be done in the abstract, to some extent (referring to repeated criticisms across authors rather than specific critiques). But also, tough shit, you're going to have to get your hands dirty someday.

Because I would much rather pay money (not that it should cost anything) to read decent, structured criticism than pay yet another fee to be a member of whatever group I-I is shilling this fine month. Membership in I-I, and ISC, with a LOOK at IU? Thanks, but no thanks. Then Wilber has the audacity, or if you prefer, big compassionate fluffy balls, to go after the detractors (that would be me) who complain about deadlines being missed:
Apparently you’re not supposed to mention proposed launch dates because it gets expectations up and then when it doesn’t happen, everybody gets really annoyed and blogs about how rotten I-I is.
That's exactly right, you're not. Because it does get hopes up, and when deadlines are consistently missed, as they have been, it doesn't look good. Particularly when it happens with regards to services that have been paid for (the MyILP site is not up and running). This is not to say a bad word about the apparently overworked and underpaid staff members at I-I (except Paul. I have bad words for Paul. Lots of them!) but rather to draw attention to the somewhat... unfocused nature of developments there.

So, Wilber Watch pt III anyone?

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