Sunday, January 17, 2010

U.S.A.: Has a Three Culture Moved to Six?

Most Enneagram experts have identified the United States as a Threeish culture. We as a nation believe in success, productivity, and the power of image. Our cosmology could be summed up in two of our more successful ad campaigns: Nike’s “Just Do It” and Canon’s “Image is Everything.” As a whole, we ‘ve traditionally been an upbeat, can-do country, if a little too self-absorbed and self-congratulatory.

These days, however, the USA looks much more Sixish, boomeranging between counterphobic and phobic, fearful of just about everything. We could blame the press (which has always been counterphobic) or the 24-7 “entertain-news” on television.

We could foist responsibility on eight years of a counterphobic Sixish administration advocating certainty as an admirable leadership trait or a distinct “us vs them” philosophy in dealing with other nations, cultures, or religions.

We could point to the shock of 9-11 as the beginning of our move from Three to Six. All of these may indeed be factors. However, it is likely that there is more to it.

Six is not the stress point for Three; that would be Nine. Still we can access the high or low side of any of the points available to us: heart, stress, and wings. And right now the U.S. seems solidly in the low side of Six.

We citizens have become cynical and pessimistic. We don’t believe our government officials are trustworthy. And we look for every opportunity to debunk them as authority. We are similarly disillusioned with our free market and private enterprise given the recent meltdown of our economy.

The government itself suffers from analysis paralysis and very little seems to get done. (Although we may actually get health care reform......)

When I talk with friends and acquaintances of any political leanings, they profess fear of change and fear of the status quo in the same breath. When I ask what we as a nation should do in any given situation, they blink like deer in the headlights or reiterate what is wrong with any idea put forth by government, private enterprise, or pundits.

We are lost in an “us vs them” mentality, both abroad and here at home. It’s the U.S. against jihadists and those who won’t stand with us. It’s naturalized citizens vs illegal (and sometimes legal) immigrants. It’s Republican vs Democrat and liberal vs conservative. And we are not even civil in our debate or certainty.

Does the U.S. need to return to its former Threeness to recover? Perhaps not. We might be able to avail ourselves of the high side of Six for starters. The ability to unite and work tirelessly for a cause, loyalty to a higher purpose, trouble shooting to avoid pitfalls while moving ahead toward an ideal worth manifesting, egalitarian acceptance of others, and a deep understanding of the strength in numbers that can bring us all together.

Has America lost its Three overlay? Are we solidly in the Six worldview? Is there a prescription for what ails us and what might it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts.