When the driver looked at those people jockeying for position around his truck, hoping to find work, what did he see before detonating the bomb that killed 56 of them and maimed others? When Dylann Roof studied the worshipers at the Emanuel AME Church before massacring nine of them, what did he see? When the Hutu and Tutsi massacred one another, when the Muslim Bosniaks were slaughtered by the Bosnian Serbs in Srebenica; when the Jews were shot over open ditches and herded into gas chambers; when the trucker plowed his truck into pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice? Orlando? Charlie Hebdo? Club Reina? What is it people are seeing that makes it a reasonable act to murder them?
Is there some light that our Power Lab experiences can shed? A key learning from those experiences is this: Our consciousness is shaped by the structures we fall into. (I maintain that in that simple awareness lies our hope for the future.) The Bottom experience in the Power Lab is distinctly different from the experiences of the others, the Tops and Middles. The Bottom experience regularly is one of Love internally and Power externally – a strong feeling of commonality and connectedness with members of their Bottom group – and an equally strong experience of difference and separateness from the others. In the Power Lab, that sense of difference and separateness has never led to Bottoms murdering Middles and Tops, yet the sense of otherness has been reflected in various aggressive actions.
If we asked Bottoms about their feelings for themselves and others, they would assure us that these feelings were based on reality, that is, on substantive differences among the groups in the character or temperament of their members. We Bottoms were just a very special collection of people. Yet we know that this experience of Love internally and Power externally is an illusion of the Bottom space. In the worlds beyond the Power Lab, we’re not aware of having fallen into any experience; we might easily convince ourselves of the substantive merits of our killer group and the deserved inferiority of those we murder. In the Power Lab, though, that delusion is not possible since there people are assigned randomly to the three positions. With another shuffle of the deck, a very different set of substantive “realities” emerges.
What drives these and other murderers today and throughout the ages? The common element is that they all experience themselves as Bottoms in the great Power Lab that is the world. They all experience themselves as being oppressed by others. They are the victims of a war being waged against them. It’s a war against their religion, or their ethnicity, or their heritage, color, or way of life. There may, in fact, be no war, nothing more than life moving on and bringing change with it. Yet it is the perception of war that triggers the Bottom reflex response – Love internally, Power externally, which sets the stage for the justified battle of Good versus Evil. When one is in the grips of this illusion, it all makes sense, the bombings, the massacres.
There are real issues to be faced and worked on: income inequality, racial conflicts, immigration, the consequences of globalization, changing demographics, environmental degradation, among them. There are issues to be worked, but no war may be warranted.
There is a learnable lesson to be gained. A difficult lesson, yet we can learn it.
Our experiences of ourselves and others are not always reflections of reality – of who we and they really are. What we see is not all there is. Our experiences are the result of the pattern we have fallen into. Change the pattern and our experiences will also change.
In the Power Lab, we run a second exercise in which all the Loving Bottoms now find themselves in Top, Middle, and Customer roles, and Love quickly gives way to Power in all its myriad forms. A humbling experience. And, I hope, instructive.
So, teach our children science, technology, engineering, math, literature, and the arts. And teach them this.