First, a definition. What do I mean by vMeme?
A meme, plural memes, is some content of consciousness, e.g. a thought. More broadly, it is “an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.”After “Memes in digital culture” by Limor Shifman, and Cambridge Dictionary
The V stands for values.
Value memes in the context of Spiral Dynamics are cultural value systems, which are shared by many people. They are worldviews. These are patterns of thinking and acting that contain solutions for specific living conditions.
I think that this will be most obvious when we look at the vMemes we know today.
These vMemes were discovered by Clare Graves and color-coded by Don Beck, making them easier to remember – making communication easier.
vMemes show up in every human being during one’s lifetime, but also in the history of humanity. The human mind has evolved over time, and each individual is replicating that process.
The vMemes are large-scale discoveries in this development, which are characterised by certain living conditions and the solutions and needs, which humans have developed in this phase to cope with those conditions.
Beige is about survival. Man is not yet fully aware of himself and does not distinguish between himself and his environment.
Babies, but also people with dementia or addicts can be found here.
Security is sought and found in the group when it comes to working together against the world out there. Being aware of yourself also means recognizing the dangers. Hunting communities and ancestral gods characterise this vMeme, but also family and community spirit.
The toddler, the family as a retreat, the community of the tribe, the circle of friends, fan clubs, the family business with a patriarch.
This community of purple is in danger from other tribes and must be defended. Also, for some, it is too tight and they dare to explore what is “out there”. If the habitat is in danger, there are two solutions: alliance or submission. Here, concepts such as war, tyranny, but also the lust and courage for adventure develop. But I still experience myself as part of the community and am only valuable as this part of the whole. Power becomes the measure of value, worth is given to the hero, the soldier.
Children become high-chair tyrants, but also venture out into the big world. Sport becomes the place to measure power and a substitute for war. Warlords, dictators, adventurers, heroes are part of this vMeme. Companies have a commander.
How do you get that raw red power regulated? Exactly – through rules and order. It is important that these rules are not set by the tyrant, but an act of God. That way, the boss must also stick to the rules. The result is monotheism. Hierarchies are no longer based on physical power but on birthright and vocation.
The big three monotheistic religions with their absolute truth develop here, unfortunately often enforced by red violence.
Children enter education and go to school. But also important socializing steps happen here: living together with people who do not belong to my own tribe becomes possible. Connected by common interests, not consanguinity.
There are clubs, churches, but also many philosophies, which are often enforced in a “we against them” fundamentalism, as well as hierarchically organised companies with managers.
Blue has a share of about 30% of the population in Switzerland. Other names are: traditional, conservative or premodern.
Blue is the first rational vMeme: it takes the mind to develop such complex rules and philosophies. Red still works instinctively selfishly. But now, rational thinking continues to develop into logic.
Instead of just believing everything, humans start questioning things: how does it work? Are statements and assumptions of blue correct at all?
The Reformation, the beginning of modern science, and the industrial revolution are creating new patterns of thought. The God-given mythical explanation of the world is replaced by science, the fatalistic acceptance of one’s own position in society and abilities by individual thought, the value of the individual, its right to success and development.
Orange drives a high percentage of the population in the west and currently dominates most of the industrialised nations in terms of values. Other parts of the world usually know Orange only because of globalization in the sense of modern colonialism.
Adolescents often grow into this thought pattern during apprenticeship or higher education. Many however who grow up in traditional circles develop the mindset to a degree – otherwise they could not survive in the business world – but opt for blue as life-defining pattern, their center of energy.
This vMeme is often called Modernity. Scientists, specialists, factory workers, technology, entrepreneurship.
Orange with its idea of “everything is possible” did not think about the consequences. The exploitation of the earth, but also cheap labor, the exclusion of the unsuccessful are direct consequences. Green therefore develops a sense of harmony and tolerance.
Green differs from blue in that it no longer believes in the only truth, neither in the sense of religion, nor in the sense of the orange science. Truth is subjective.
But if truth is subjective, we must tolerate the truth of the other.
And if we destroy the environment, we must save it to save ourselves.
Young adults, often financed by solid orange-anchored parents, live on a romantic understanding of green, which often turns out to be purple in its almost magical sense of attachment to nature.
Postmodernism, teamwork, harmonious joint decision-making, self-fulfillment, personal growth, psychology, psychiatry, personality testing, ecology, NGOs, people managers and tolerance towards everybody but the intolerant are keywords.
Yellow recognizes that each of the preceding vMemes is valuable. Until now, the vMemes fought each other. The old way of thinking had been overcome and dismantled when somebody launched out into the new vMeme. On the other hand, somebody in a previous vMeme did not understand the thinking of the new vMeme, because he did not have to face the new living conditions – or one had explicitly decided against it, both ways not developing the complexity of thinking.
Blue does not understand how to live as void of values as green does without the absolute truth. Green despises suppression by blue and orange hierarchies. Orange perceives blue as naive, to accept everything simply in faith, and green as unable to make decisions in its addiction to harmony.
Yellow however sees that every vMeme is necessary and important for human development. The stages should be well developed, integrated and transcended, not traversed and ticked off.
Of course, humans must survive (beige), need a safe haven (purple), courage to dare to try new things (red), structures and fixed values (blue), the urge for knowledge and success and the ability to think logically (Orange) , but also the tolerance for the different (green).
Thus, Yellow develops systemic strategies and integral solutions to the survival of humanity and its habitat using all available options without prejudice.
Self-managed companies (reinventing organization), international networks, Spiral Dynamics.
A problem of yellow is that it perceives things more complicated than they are, and leaves emotions out of the picture. Other than that, we do not yet know which living conditions yellow will create which then again call for new approaches and patterns of thinking.
Turquoise is not yet tangible, but will lead to an even greater view of unity and thus continue the development.
The horizon of the human being evolves from the family (purple) to the community of interest (blue) to humanity with exceptions (green), from the egoist (red) to the successful individual and specialist (orange) to the solution provider, but somewhat lonely wolf (yellow). It fluctuates between community oriented and self oriented viewpoints and value systems.
There will be more stages. It will be interesting to discover what they will look like.
I am a ValueMatch certified Spiral Dynamics practitioner and do both assessments and coaching using their tools.