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imperialism & war

- Memes and Memetics for Activists -

A brief understanding of memetics by people in the anti-war movement comes in handy as a shortcut to exposing the propaganda all around us. At the same time it can help in getting our own messages across. A minimal study also adds insight into how through corporate/Govt. control of public consciousness, America has become what it is.
"Support the Troops!!"

A phrase, which strikes a look of frustration onto the faces of even the most rational anti-war activists. Not because it counters any of our arguments, but because we know much of America thinks on a level where such a simplistic catch-phrase IS an argument and all that needs to be said. We also know such a phrase spreads like fire, permeating our culture in days.

Like "You're either with us or against us", "regime change" and even "No blood for oil", "Support the Troops" is a 'meme'

What's a meme?

Basic definitions:

'Meme'- rhymes with cream - (Merriam-Webster): an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.

'Memetics': "An approach to understanding the evolution of cultural behaviors"

-- "Since its initial conception, the term 'meme' has been used under very different meanings and in very different contexts, infecting a wide variety of disciplines." (*)

-- "The essence of the meme idea is just that evolution no longer takes places on the level of the genes, but on the level of culture." (**)

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A brief understanding of memetics by people in the anti-war movement comes in handy as a shortcut to exposing the propaganda all around us. At the same time it can help in getting our own messages across. A minimal study also adds insight into how through corporate/Govt. control of public consciousness, America has become what it is.

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Caveat: There is a range of theories of cultural evolution in the field, some completely preposterous.

A particularly nasty thing to watch out for is that a few theorists suggest that memes have a will of their own. In some, that view leads to even nastier fallacies that some people have stronger memes than others (something akin to 'Social Darwinism'). Those views come from a minority of theorists thankfully, but creep-up enough to mention.

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My view is that memetics is only useful (especially for activists) as a 'shorthand' for understanding how ideas are communicated.

Memetics also seeks to explain the fact that although humans stopped evolving physically around 1/4 million years ago, our intelligence has continued to evolve.

The upside there is it counters the mindframe that states "people will always war, kill etc.." since because our minds are still evolving, human society has the capacity to evolve towards world peace.

=-=-=-=-=LINKS=-=-=-=

here are links to good intros in plain language:

Steven Pinker; Evolution of the Mind (essential):

 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/07/2/l_072_03.html

Susan Blackmore; Memetic Evolution:

 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/07/2/l_072_05.html

(Suzy is one of those 'memes have will' folks, so I don't recommend reading any more than that introduction)

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Slightly more involved but essential

Memes in the media:

 http://www.atl.ualberta.ca/downes/threads/column052599.htm


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Beyond that it gets really geeky;

Journal of Memetics, comprehensive with lots of additional links(*):

 http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/

Discussion, articles and links:

 http://memes.org/


Memesis symposium:

 http://www.aec.at/meme/symp/index.html

(Although good background on a developing field of study, I'm almost afraid to include that link since I disagree strongly with both proponents and opponents in the symposium - they both go too far. Proponents lose me when they suggest memes are anything but a 'shorthand' for observable thought-processes, and as always, some opponents of anything try to negate even reasonable points.)

If you read anything from there, I suggest:

Francis Heylighen; In defense of "Memesis" - where he points out faulty logic on both sides of the debate (**):

 http://www.aec.at/meme/symp/contrib/heyligh.html


The Evolution of Communication:

 http://www.thinkquest.org/library/lib/site_sum_outside.html?tname=26451&url=26451/frames.html


And of course a net search for meme could keep you reading for days

~enjoy

WAR IS PEACE
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
yadda yadda yadda

homepage: homepage: http://pnac.8k.com

Good STUFF 06.Apr.2003 01:42

forward command poster

I might steal some of these links for my cognitive toolkit.


+ Viruses of the Mind:

 http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Dawkins/viruses-of-the-mind.html

Another source 06.Apr.2003 09:36

Peace Friend

Thanks for the info. My introduction to the concept of memes was through reading "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins in an Animal Behavior biology class. Fascinating how our minds become instruments of natural selection (de-selection?) through psychological programming. Good stuff in these days of having to arm ourselves against the media apparatus of the state. Agree that one must not over-intellectualize subject. But it is good to know how our gut "knowing" (instint, intuition, impressions) are formed, and how to protect and nuture our best-thoughts, and thus, our best actions.

Love and Peace

another site 06.Apr.2003 19:55

don't forget

Don't forget the smartMeme project:

 http://www.smartmeme.com/

They just launched their website on the spring equinox; expect more updates soon. They have some good energy and some cool ideas.