From: Keith Henson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri 18 Apr 2003 - 19:11:54 GMT
At 09:27 PM 16/04/03 +0200, Kenneth wrote:
>So, where you see, IMO simply economical reasons as the major
>point of the troubles, where indeed in the end it is like so, I think
>you ought to look deeper for the political background.
>A minority ruled, had all the power, the nicest jobs and had access
>to all kinds of resources and facilities_ and don 't forget the role
>of Europe, in casu Belgium.
Definitely good points on the Hutu/Tutsi conflict. But my argument is that
such matters are superficial. The particular historical background *looks*
to be causative, but is not. A starving population will become diseased
with some pathogen, but the cause is the starvation, not the opportunistic
In bad economic times we see historical grievances (i.e., memes) amplified
into major conflicts (or mob actions) by a long evolved psychological
characteristic that is "turned on" in humans by hard times. But the hard
times are the cause rather than the history, though the history certainly
contributes to the details of how the sides line up.
I commented about this long ago in one of my meme papers (without at all
understanding the evolutionary psychology behind it) when I mentioned the
rise of neo-nazies in the midwest of the US during an economic
downturn. Near as I can tell, all such movements can be summed up as
"blame some other group for our problems." That "justifies" killing them, or driving them out as happened in Kosovo.
Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo, and others have amply demonstrated that
humans have dehumanization mechanisms and that they are not hard to turn on
by social pressures. It is easy to imagine that we live close to "the edge
of chaos" in this respect. In good times "blame memes" about some section
of the population or some neighboring population don't have the spreading
or behavior influence they do in bad times.
As I think more about this proposed psychological mechanism, I see no way
it could have *not* been selected for. We are the genetic survivors of
millions of years where every few generations the rains failed, or an ice
age came along, or the population grew till there were too many people for
the land to support. These are good reasons for increased susceptibility
to spreading memes that dehumanized a segment of the population or a
neighboring one in preparation to attacking and killing them.
This psychological trait needs a name like other evolved psychological
characteristics such as capture-bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) and the
attention-reward (status) mechanism cults use. Both of these mechanism are
behind the spread of certain classes of memes. Privation driven memetic
dehumanization kind of captures the essence but doesn't even make a good
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