Re: Ever Since Jeremy Bradley

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 02 May 2003 - 03:20:25 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Ever Since Jeremy Bradley"

    At 07:41 PM 01/05/03 +0100, you wrote:

    >Keith Henson wrote:
    > > Dees wrote
    > >
    > > >Hokay. I would just like to point out that the US had to play dirty pool
    > > >with friendly dictators in order to effectively contend with the
    > Soviet bloc
    > > >in the world arena, where they were doing the same thing in spades.
    > >
    > > To point this discussion back to memes, particularly *religious memes* what
    > > went on between the Soviet bloc and the rest of the world was really a
    > > religious war--against communism. I think it will eventually be recognized
    > > that communism was in competition for the religious meme receptor site in
    > > human mental "space" and that the wars were a continuation of a very long
    > > series of religious wars.
    > >
    > > Of course, the root cause for such wars is economic, falling wealth per
    > > capita. It is interesting that for all the build up, the US and the
    > > Soviets never directly fought a war. The Chechen war since the soviet bloc
    > > broke up is likely due to relatively high birth rates there which
    > > translates into falling wealth per capita, but I have not researched the
    > > numbers yet, and am not sure where to start.
    > >
    > > >Once their totalitarian hegemony crumbled, that unfortunate necessity
    > > >was removed, and our post-Soviet interventions have been mainly
    > > >about toppling despots and providing needed humanitarian aid.
    > > >Virtuous interventions (or attempts at them in the third case, or urging
    > > >and support for them in the last one) since then: Bosnia, Kosovo,
    > > >Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Panama, East Timor. Also notice that
    > > >the majority of these were in assistance to, and not in oppression of,
    > > >Muslims.
    > >
    > > I think we would have let Afghanistan starve (which they were on the verge
    > > of doing) if they had not been the base for the 9/11 attack.
    > >
    > > In the "good old days" attacking a stronger tribe was better than starving
    > > because some of your tribe's women (carrying the tribe's genes) would
    > > usually be incorporated into the stronger tribe if they killed all the
    > > males. I suspect (on evolutionary psychology grounds) that decisions made
    > > by modern "tribal leaders" like Ben Ladin are biased by accent
    > > psychological traits that lead them to attack the very powerful, something
    > > close to assisted suicide.
    > >
    > > It actually works out for the average person in a "tribe" like Afghanistan
    > > to attack the US and get fed.
    >It is unclear how far arguments can get that are based so much on
    >metaphor. My
    >own view is to tune out when these kinds of generalisms are raised. They seem
    >guaranteed to let one slip into mindless Usenet-type assertions:
    >“religious” war ­ but the subject was economics

    What I am talking about is not metaphor. My argument is that humans have psychological tendencies that are turned on by economic hardship today just as these same tendencies were turned on by the effects of a drought on the food supply a million years ago. Privation sets up the psychological conditions where memes (religious and otherwise) that psych people to go to war with neighbors more likely to spread and affect behavior.

    >“war” but there was no direct combat between the principal protagonists.

    I don't understand your objection here. WWII was certainly a war even if Churchill and Hitler didn't personally beat each other with clubs. What was actually in a contest for minds was the communist meme and the western meta meme of (limited) tolerance. Memes being abstract information can't engage in wars, though (if conditions are right) their holders will.

    >Each side had different views about who the protagonists were and what the
    >was about.
    >It would be helpful to start differentiating characteristics and types of
    >religious memes, war memes, and other types.

    Memes are sometimes difficult to classify. That's why I use a test for religious memes of how well one meme excludes another. If the exclusion is high, as it is for being a communist and a catholic, then since we clearly rate catholic memes as religious, communism must either *be* a religion or in a more inclusive group that competes with religions.

    >Is there a different academic cultural and tolerance for this kind of language
    >between US ­ UK ­ EC? Some theoretical rigour might be in order. One can of
    >course say that the “winner writes the history” but talking this way
    >positions oneself and seems to be departure from the function of academics at
    >least as I understand it. Is the purpose of this to come up with a good
    >for what one side is doing, (and why the other side is wrong) or is it to be
    >empirically accurate, (if such a thing is possible).
    >But here are some thoughts, admittedly rambling, but maybe will show some
    >ways to
    >talk about highly contentious things in a non-contentious way: (it helps
    >if you
    >unpack yourself from the society in which you grew up)
    >Keep in mind that in the Western world the response to the Soviet and Chinese
    >systems was to imitate them with their [“our”] own forms of social
    >programmes ­
    >unemployment insurance, public pensions, public health care, either
    >universal or
    >means tested. (The “West” then was scared as it is “scared” today, or more
    >neutrally it is "responding to a perceived threat"). The “communist” side
    >on the
    >other hand did not generally introduce “free markets” reforms in fear of
    >“western” inroads being made on their system until fairly late in the
    >struggle. The reasons for this could probably be described from many
    >points of
    >Curiously, today, the “loser” in the war might be seen to have been proven
    >correct to the extent that having been “victorious” in its battle against
    >“communism” ­ in the “west” what were once the necessary social incentives to
    >keep their own populations content, are being withdrawn or are threatened.

    There are various levels to this argument. One can say in a neutral way that the communist meme lost its followers to the western capitalist meme. There are certainly fewer communists today and they wield far less power over the course of nations than 20 years ago. Why? Communism is a very attractive meme--in theory. It strongly appeals to minds shaped by millions of years of evolutions in tribes that had a lot of features of communism.

    The problem is that groups larger than a tribe can and are exploited by group members who obtain power over others. It is difficult to prevent this exploitation from parasitizing the whole society to the point it becomes non functional. Or as someone one said about the USSR, the state pretended to pay the workers and the workers pretended to work.

    The end of communism came about partly because of communication technology. The disparity between what communism promised and what it delivered could be ignored as long as there was very limited communication into the communist world. When, for various reasons, the communist world could no longer keep out the true situation of the west exploiting technology advances that made them ever richer, while they stayed poor, the communist meme lost its influence.

    >who are the winners going to be? The recent US proposed tax cut gives some
    >indication. This point can serve as an axis for the US-EU debate. What the
    >Europeans know is that if they try to retrench to American levels of social
    >programmes there will be riots in the street. Political consciousness in
    >the US
    >seems to be less evolved at a mass level and more easily identifies with
    >patriotism-related concepts. Many reasons for this, for sure.

    The US population puts up with vast disparities in income partly because there is an attitude (a meme) where people identify with lotto winners. They don't want to tax such people heavily on the theory that one day they might be that wealthy. Not rational, but that's to be expected.

    >Another line of investigation concerns how, during the height of the
    >of social welfare measures across the west from say the 1930s to the
    >1960s, those
    >who were ‘right’ wing and ought to have been against these measures were swept
    >along in the prevailing fear of the other side’s social and economic system.
    >They never disappeared completely, but were caught up in the “threat” of
    >communism ­ which, whatever one may think of the reality, promised things to
    >ordinary people ­ health care, education, that Western countries mimicked.

    Public funded education (in the US) considerably predated communism being a concern.

    >We ought to keep in mind that just as the right-wingers were a latent force
    >during the period when social programmes were being introduced back then,
    >the left wingers remain a latent force while the programmes are being
    >dismantled. They have not disappeared completely. How far the right will be
    >able to take “western societies” back to the 19th Century levels of social
    >spending is an open question. Plot these things on a graph and there is a
    >when the pendulum will shift.

    The problem with *this* analogy is that the place where the pendulum is hanging is moving faster and faster due to technology. A powerful meme starting to have a lot of influence is "the singularity." Look it up in Google.

    >I don’t know how you can avoid talking in terms of elite groups versus popular
    >groups (on both sides) and an asymmetrical relation between economic
    >interest and
    >popular support on at least one side. (There were not millions of people
    >in the
    >west, for example demonstrating for war ­ why is this?)

    The polls supported going to war based mostly on 9/11. But there was very wide spread feeling that we just had to do an unpleasant job, and not much in the way of rah rah fervor. Of course, I speak this second hand since I am actually an escaped refugee from the US in Canada.

    >Look at where the money
    >goes and who benefits one hand, and look at the popular rhetoric, on the other
    >hand. Compare, country by country. Find contradictions. Take
    >yourself out
    >of the equation ­ if you can.
    >In terms of the present day, there is an economic and social dimension to
    >as well as religious. It is not just a religion, it is a social system as

    In memetics terms, a culture. Unfortunately Islam is a culture with a lot of memes that are no better suited to the realities of the current state of technology than communism was. High birthrates are just incompatible with current western culture.

    >The concept of the individual is Islam is different than in the US, and the US
    >concepts of the individual are different than say, in Canada, or France.
    >A good study might be to compare the “communist” “capitalist” struggle up
    >to 1989
    >with that of the emerging “Islamic” and …( - what is the proper term here ­
    >“capitalist” “Christian” "western" ???? ­ to chose the wrong word is to
    >misunderstand the situation, misunderstand Islamic values, and to
    >one's own society and the competing tensions within it) [fill in the word]
    >forces. This is not simply a battle between Islam and the West - a
    >number of westerners have no grudge or are positive towards Islam,

    That fact alone is a sore point, Islam culture/nations aren't worth worring about. Western culture is largely unguided, unpromoted. It tends to be coupled to gadgets that are turned out at ever lower prices. The gadgets, particularly computers and networks, tend to spread the rest of western culture, including the equally unguided English language. The whole thing reminds me a bit of farming people pushing hunter-gatherer tribes into adopting farming. (A clear case of a memetic takeover.)

    > just as there
    >is a significant pro-Western dimension in the Islamic world. Many people
    >who are
    >anti-communists and are anti-terrorist find that both communism and
    >Islamic views
    >nonetheless have worthwhile things to say about the relationship between the
    >individual and the collective that provides alternative for the run-amok
    >individualism that is the prevailing ideology is some western countries.

    No question about it. Memes harking back to tribal ideals are *very* attractive. The reality is not so attractive when it results in keeping
    "improperly" dressed women from leaving a burning building.

    Keith Henson

    PS. I think all this could be modeled. I expect the models would provide exceptional insights.

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