Purple lives on in the US

In integral circles people are convinced that the Western world has its center of gravity in the traditional worldview “blue”, in the modern worldview “orange” and in the postmodern worldview “green” (Colors from “Spiral Dynamics” which stand for the respective levels of development).Other countries are “red” and “purple”, “not developed” and somehow primitive. We consider tribal countries like those in Africa or South America as far behind in comparison to what our standards are and we believe that we need to help them to become like us, to save them from their primitive ways of being ,and to bring them into higher” stages. We are completely convinced that that would be good for them and that we are kind and gracious to help them develop. We are still living the mindset of Christian missionaries, with the only difference that now it is not about religion to be exported, but economy and life style.

In our generalizing arrogance we overlook that the different levels don’t only exist in other countries, but in our own Western countries as well. We have forgotten that people with different mindsets exist among us . The “red” fighters might still be seen, as they often loud and cause upheaval and damage. So we become aware that those people exist, most of them considered criminals in one way or other. But do we see “purple” among us? People who care for their family and tribe, who are happy with what they have, who don’t want to step out of their limits, who are loyal and community building, caring for everyone in need, not letting others be alone with their problems.

Yes, people with a purple mindset exist, probably far more than we would think. And they exist right among us. Here in Italy, where I live, and in the US where they don’t feel seen and cared for by the ruling class, where they and their loyalty are getting exploited by a president with a “red” egocentric mindset. They have voted him because they felt addressed,and seen, finally. But as always, the politicians lie when they hunt for votes. Purple people don’t find any party in their country who speaks for them, who they could gift their loyalty. They can chose only between the bad and the worse. And they did, from their perspective.

I spoke with Heather McDowell , whom I met at the Integral African Conference, about her upbringing in a purple family, about the beauty and the challenges which “purple” lives and faces in the US. About politics and leadership, about the spiral and the conviction, that only leaders in second tier consciousness would be able to do justice to the whole country and to the situation in the world. I have learned a lot about America which I didn’t know before and I would love to visit Montana where these purple communities are widespread.

Video Conversation  for August 28th, 2019

Time stamps

0:00 INtro Heidi

0:53 Heather introduces herself, her upbringing in a purple family in rural America. She doesn’t consider herself as purple. She is a lawyer, married to a doctor, which is a tragedy to her Cowboy father. Generous people.

5:10 A surprise to find purple in Western Society

6:55 Family centered life on a ranch, she is still helping her father, the patriarch, whenever she can. Mother also works physically on the ranch + doing cooking etc. Children co-operate trying to make the parents work life better.

8:50 An international travel in US would never find a place and reality she is talking about.

9:40 How to get out of that? She has developed grit by her growing up. When you want to get out of purple you won’t necessarily get the support you need. What about purple people in poverty and not educated and don’t come in contact with people other than purple.

12:30 Now internet is everywhere, for getting out it might be hard for the child to get enough support. 

14:30 How come you did law school? Her school history. She engaged in Rodeos, races with horses, passionate  until she went to college, still then people were much like her. Only in law school she met different people, interested in academic topics instead of purple topics.

17:50 How did you meet integral and Spiral Dynamics? In the corporate world she met psychometrics which opened up her mind. Meeting Rica Viljoen brought her to the spiral and answers to her questions. It is not necessarily the personality type which tells why people are how they are.  Talking about the Spiral in connection with US and its president.

23:00 What is going on in Heather’s world view? Purple clash with Blues and Green, especially with educated Blues. People find meaning in being purple. They feel to have no choice, but being judged by blue. She wants to sart a “normal party for normal people”. Most people are socially liberal, but now she believes they have to chose 2 levels lower on both sides.

26:00 Heidi’s experience with purple people in Italy. Difference to America where the distances are much bigger?

28:40 Heather doubts in the need of developing. She sees that her purple people remain there for a choice, they find meaning where they are, no reason to change. = Valuable in rural areas. Can we let purple just be purple? But how to support those who want to get out? This would be great leadership for the world = people trained in purple.

31:15 Heidi’s story from the life in the countryside, finding meaning and joy in nature. In purple you still have connection with nature and what is meaningful. 

33:20 Heather: The result of the tasks are immediate. So many good things about purple.

34:30 Purple is a “blame” in academic integral circles, You have all the levels at disposition and you can change from minute to minute. We didn’t value purple enough. Heidi’s story with countryside and the meaning by nature. Satisfying tiredness.

38:50 Many people would like to get back to purple, find out their purpose for not burn out. In purple you have meaning and don’t burn out like by doing upper level things.

40:30 How do you preserve your purple? The spiral alleviates the guilt of not being completely loyal to the family. What she learnt. “Whatever happens I will survive” (purple). How can she give that to her children? They grow up totally differently. 

43:10 The beauty and importance of purple along side with the beauty and importance of the other levels.

44:00 Maybe their children will go back. She can only help them to be who they are. How do we support the people who DO want to lead a different life?

45:05 They can go back into the purple reality, from a different level, which then can emanate to purple people around and help them to open up and having the conscious choice to stay or get out.

46:55 Need to have leaders who don’t take advantage of purple who are in apatriarchical setting. So a red patriach (Trump!) can prey on purple.

48:30 The future: If we had a leader who wants the good for purple would resolve. The 2 party system: 2 not desirable choices. So much could be done by a leader who knows rural America. Collaboration instead of 2 parties. Chosing between the Bad and the Worse.

50:35 A wise leader, we need a second tier thinker, first tier cannot understand purple and the capabilities they have.

51:45 Heidi wants to help people to get into second tier. Enough people need to be knowledgeable and wise enough for “saving the world”. 

Heather: Purple value system is important for the world betterment, but cannot operate outside the family structure. Needs someone who interprets the wisdom of purple and gets up to make it happen, purple does not take action.

54:35 Returning to “purple” in second tier turquoise. We need “patriarchs” who sees the whole world as the “family”. Heidi’s idea of what the best leadership system is: a wise leader, not necessarily democracy where the choice often is between poor alternatives.

57:45 We need to iuncorporate the purple mindset in our ways of being and thinking. The immense capacity for care translating that from the family to all other humans. Purple creates a deep bond which is missing in all other levels.

59:30 Heidi has learned more about America! CLosing

About Heather McDowell

Heather McDowell is the VP for Legal, Environmental, and Government Affairs at Sibanye-Stillwater’s US Region, which is headquartered in Montana.  In that role, Heather is responsible for managing the company’s legal matters, interfacing with regulators and elected officials, and managing the team responsible for the company’s Good Neighbor Agreement, an innovative framework that balances environmental protection and responsible economic development. Heather began her in-house legal career in the utility business and before that was a trial lawyer.  Heather is a native of Bridger, Montana where she was raised on her family’s cattle ranch.  She lives in Billings, Montana with her husband, son, twin daughters, and her horses, dogs, and sundry other animals.


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