Mean green, terrorism, tiers and Spiral Dynamics

I found this FAQ at, a site of “old school” Spiral Dynamics. I notice that several points on the FAQ aims at differentiating their understanding and approach from that of Ken Wilber.

For me, it was very helpful to read as it addresses a few (relatively minor) questions that has come up for me around KW’s presentation and use of Spiral Dynamics.

Mean green?

One is his focus on the mean green meme.

Meanness, however we see that, can of course be found for each color of the spiral. And this meanness can take any number of flavors and forms, each one filtered through one or more spiral levels. There is not just one mean amber, or orange, or green, meme. There are infinite versions of each. So there is a question of how useful the whole mean meme idea is.

Even if we adopt the language of mean memes, then we see that the green versions of meanness are typically relatively harmless compared to many of the other ones. I would much rather be exposed to most, if not all forms, of the mean green meme than the mean amber meme in the form of a crusade, ku klux klan or a terrorist group.

One example of where green can be quite unhelpful is if there is a blind insistence on a nonviolent resolution, when that almost certainly is suicide and a limited form of violence could prevent large scale violence. But it is difficult to see that as a “mean” expression of green, it is just a little limited, as all colors of the spiral are.

Mean green is typically among the most harmless of them all, so why single that out for attack? And why attack it in the first place? That seems among the least effective strategies for change.

The FAQ has a much fuller explorations of issues around this idea of the mean green meme.


This one is maybe not so important, but I have been puzzled when KW places terrorism at red.

Terrorism can be red if it is in the form of street gangs similar. But this is more terror or terrorizing, and not the way the word terrorism is most often used.

In the way most people use the word terrorism, it seems to refer to amber (blue in the original SD model). The amber of group loyalty, absolutism, blind adherence to ideology, and ideology set above human lives.

And again, this is what I found in the FAQ under Is terrorism red?

To be honest, it seems that terrorism is possible at just about any turn of the spiral, and maybe especially those more prone to idealism such as amber and green. Not many orange examples of terrorism comes to mind (unless you include state sponsored terrorism), but I can think of lots of amber examples, and a few – relatively innocent – green ones.

First and second tiers?

A third question that has come up for me in the way KW talks about SD is his strong emphasis on the difference between first and second tier. It seems fine and clear cut on a model level, and maybe even relatively accurate. But when I look at real life, I can’t very easily find such a clear distinction.

It seems that many of the characteristics of second tier, such as appreciation for the levels, a relative absence of fear, release from many of the survival issues and so on, can be found at many first tier turns of the spiral as well.

It seems more related to an attitude that can be found at many levels. And reversely, it seems that the opposite traits – such as a lack of appreciation of the other levels, and fear and contraction, can be found among some of those who see themselves at second tier.

So although many of these traits may be more common at second tier (which seems true), they are certainly not absent at earlier turns of the spiral, and certainly not guaranteed at second tier.

Again, here is the much more detailed FAQ on this.

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