BBC had a few stories last night about the death penalty, including interviews with a few people. It seemed quite clear that this is one of many areas where the Spiral Dynamics filter could be useful, as one way of looking at it.

From a red level and below, we are probably more likely to support the death penalty. We may see it as a way to get revenge, to inflict on the criminal what she/he inflicted on others. It’s an eye for an eye. Arguments from orange and wider levels appear naive, soft, nonsensical or too abstract and rational.

From a blue level, we may support the death penalty or not.

Supporting it, we may see it as a consequence of just laws, necessary to maintain order in society and to protect honest people. We split the world up into law-abiding, good and honest citizens, and criminals and bad/evil people who get what they ask for. Here too, arguments from orange and wider levels may appear soft, naive and too abstract and rational.

Not supporting it, we may again reference laws, although maybe deeper ethical laws such as the commandment of not killing.

From an orange level, we are likely to not support death penalty. We know that research finds that it has no deterrent effect and that hardly any criminologist support it for that reason. We can also step back and see that the death penalty is irreversible, and that many people are wrongly convicted, which means that innocent people will die. We also see that by supporting the death penalty, we ourselves engage in exactly what we condemn them of doing. Emerging into an early world-centric view, we uphold universal human rights. Revenge here seems a primitive and dangerous motivation.

Individually and all together, these reasons makes the death penalty seem a less than reasonable choice: It does not work in terms of deterring crime (not beyond long prison sentences). We will engage in exactly what they are doing. Innocent people will be killed. The only reason left is revenge, which is a dangerous path for a more civilized society.

At a green level, we emerge at an even more deeply world-centric and life-centered view. Here, it becomes obvious that killing anyone – for any reason – cannot be justified.

At second tier levels, we (again) are more free too support it or not, although now from more complex reasoning. In almost all cases, we will most likely not support the death penalty – for the reasons arrived at on orange and green levels. In some rare and exceptional cases, we may support it – although not from revenge or an “eye for eye” view.

As most people in Western Europe are at orange and green levels, they look at the blue elements in the US and see something that appears incredibly primitive (barbaric, immature) and – in many cases – stupid (not based on research and reason). They see something that they do not expect to see in any modern and civilized country, and are happy to point out that the countries that execute the most people include China, the US and Iran.

And those in the US at blue, look at the orange and green Europe and see a dangerous lack of moral footing (as interpreted at blue), naive views and softness (again as interpreted at blue).

One thought to “Spiral”

  1. Excellent analysis! I’ve long believed that if we want Second Tier politics to emerge in this world, we need to start building a Second Tier ideology and a set of issue related principles or rules to guide behaviors and policies. This little tidbit you wrote is a good example of how this ideology can be built from a set of issue specific analyses. I’d love to see it done in ever more detail for ever more issues.

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