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From the Dark Ages of ISIS to Post Modernism

Social Development of ISIS vs modern Democracy

There are many different levels of social development that can be prominent in different parts of the world at the same time. D. E. Beck (Stages of Social Development) hypothesizes that the social developmental stages are spirals that evolve one layer into the next and are intertwined, rather than stages with rigid edges that have no connection to the previous stage. Stages increase in complexity as they evolve. The stages include:

  • Stage 1 - Survival mode, which equates to prehistoric man
  • Stage 2 - Kin Spirits, tribes, traditions, and folk ways (tribal areas of Africa and the Middle East)
  • Stage 3 (red) Power Gods in which people live for now, are impulsive and driven to conquer others through brutality. ISIS fighting by the inhumane societal rules of the “dark ages” is the prime example
  • Stage 4 - Truth/Force in which authority, meaning, discipline, and morality are prime drivers of the social order (Victorian era and some Middle Eastern moderates)
  • Stage 5 - Strive/Drive consumerism, status and growth (parts of the US and Europe business community)
  • Stage 6 - Human Bond, characterized by sharing, caring, and community found in parts of US and Europe and those seeking a democracy in the Middle East. A stage where there is humane treatment of others and where problems are solved by discussion and problem solving in a caring community
  • Stages 7–8 - Global humanitarianism and wise stewardship of the planet (staff of UN humanitarian projects, Doctors Without Borders, Samaritan’s Purse)

ISIS, which is at Stage 3 (Power Gods), intentionally and brutally kill non-combatant women and children in order to terrorize their enemies. They have been characterized by some writers as taking us back to the “dark ages.” At this level of social development, groups fight each other for power and resources. Winning power over others and owning the majority of the resources is a major goal. They are only focused on the well-being of the self (and their affiliated group). Power can be won by terrorizing others, which is seen in the brutality of the ISIS fighters killing all that stand in their way. For ISIS, the well-being of others does not matter as long as power and control is achieved for their chosen group. When all in an area are in a similar stage, it is a survival strategy. When multiple social developmental stages are present, the solutions are more complex.

The people working for the UN, and other aid organizations, risk their lives to help the Palestinian people caught in the war zone in Gaza and humanitarians helping refugees in Iraq ans Syria. Their motivation is altruistic and compassionate. Their social beliefs are based on giving resources to those less fortunate, even if it means sacrifice for themselves and their families. They are likely in Beck’s social developmental levels (7–8) characterized by concern and active stewardship for the well-being of all people and of the planet.

The question is whether a modern society at levels 6–8, using peace talks, can “convince” a pre-modern society, such as ISIS at level 3, to share power and solve problems through talking. People living with Stage 3 social norms must evolve through stages 4–5 to reach level 6 and the desire for a caring community. This is likely to take decades for a group like ISIS. Probably the best that can be done is to contain as much of the level 3 conflict and brutality as is possible, until the group evolves through the next 2–3 levels of social development. In doing so, the ruling social group must give voice to most cultural groups in a coalition while contolling or eliminating those that use inhumanitarian and socially unacceptable brutality.

Isolationists say that Middle Eastern conflicts are not our problem and have nothing to do with people in the US. It is said that the clash of social structures as global society matures is inevitable. However, this is a power and control social structure (win/lose ISIS) vs. a power and resources sharing social structure (win/win Humanitarians), the outcome of which is potentially important to us all.

Written by: Dr. Kathryn Seifert

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