RE: Civilisations as a System of Memeplexes

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    Subject: RE: Civilisations as a System of Memeplexes
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    >Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 08:21:39 +0000 (GMT)
    > John Croft <> Civilisations as a System of Memeplexes
    >Hi folks
    Memeplexures, or systems composed of mamy memeplexes, are found in the individual; civilizations are vast agglomerations of individual memeplexures.
    >Just joined the list but I have some thoughts I'd like
    >to share.
    >Firstly about the nature of civilisation. What is a
    >civilisation? Civilisation is a word used we tend to
    >use very loosely. Here, I define "civilisation" to be
    >a special kind of human culture in which a minority of
    >people are not engaged in food production, industry or
    >trade, but are supported in various ways for other
    >purposes, by that society. Generally these purposes
    >are involved in the preservation, duplication and
    >dissemination of the memes that give that culture
    >coherence and allow it to "hang together". In a
    >civilisation, those people not engaged in productive
    >activity or trade, amongst other purposes, are thus
    >usually expected to create a vision, a set of
    >coordinating ideas or "memes". It is the duplication
    >and dissemination of these meme complexes, or
    >"memeplexes" that justifies and petpetuates the form
    >of social organisation that allows that civilisation
    >to survive.Generally, the people engaged in such
    >activities are gathered together in centres, often
    >described as cities. It is from the Latin word for
    >city - "civilis" - that civilisation takes its name.
    >Every great urban civilisation that has ever existed
    >on Earth, therefore, has had at least one psychic or
    >spiritual centre upon which the "memeplexes" specific
    >to that culture focus. The psychic centre for the
    >Tibetans for centuries, has been the great Potala
    >Palace in Llasa, For Muslims it is the black rock of
    >the Kaba in Mecca, for Jews the Wailing Wall of
    >Herod's Temple in Jerusalem. For China, it has been
    >the heart of the Forbidden City in Peking. It is these
    >centres that provide in "space" the symbolic core of
    >meaning for that culture. Today, in the globalised
    >corporate capitalist world culture its psychic
    >"centre" in a very real sense is that area in New
    >York, close by the New York Stock Exchange, that was,
    >until 11th September 2001, occupied by the World Trade
    >Centre. This was the primary optimistic focus from
    >which the "memeplexes" that sustained and gave meaning
    >to the corporate industrial civilisation have fanned
    >out via institutions effecting global finance and
    >production systems across the planet. The terrorist
    >attack on this centre has left our culture in a state
    >of shock, shaken in a way not experienced by the West,
    >since perhaps the the attack on Pearl Harbour.
    >Such an event was also found with the fall of Rome,
    >the Eternal City, to Alaric the Visigoth, an earlier
    >Osama bin Laden, in 410 CE. The shock of this event
    >was described by Augustine Bishop of the City of Hippo
    >in modern Algeria (354-430 CE) in his great spiritual
    >memeplex of a work, "The City of God". Rome was the
    >center of the world, its literature and culture
    >presented a society in which a visible civil
    >institution, the Roman empire, embodied all the hopes
    >and expectations of reasonable men. The sacking of
    >this city provided Saint Augustine the chance to
    >suggest that the world of the Empire was a fantastic
    >dream, an illusory fantasy world built upon a
    >collective delusion. Out of this great work, came the
    >chance to build a set of memeplexes, embodying a new
    >civilisation, that of Western Christendom, out of
    >which a new Rome was to develop. For Roman Catholics
    >the centre of this new civilisation is the crypt of
    >the tomb of the disciple Peter, the rock (petros) on
    >which Christ would build his church, at the heart of
    >Saint Peter's Basilica, in the Vatican in Rome.
    >Our circumstances today afford us the opportunity to
    >re-examine the framework of our lives and the
    >dream-factories from which the memeplexes that
    >undergird the global industrial civilisation emanate.
    >The need to engage in this self-analysis is urgent.
    >All civilisations that have ever existed, have
    >depended on the extraction of a surplus, beyond the
    >requirements of biological survival. It is this
    >surplus which has allowed the survival of the
    >non-productive groups that maintain its organisation
    >and structure. This surplus has been extracted from
    >the ecology and biology of the region in which the
    >civilisation has dominated. To a large extent, the
    >size of this surplus has determined how many people
    >can be involved in establishing and maintaining its
    >core memplexes, how large a civilisation can be, and
    >for how long it can survive. This extent in space and
    >time varies from place to place and has changed and
    >altered throughout history. In every case, however,
    >cilvilisations come under threat when, for internal or
    >external reasons, it exceeds the carrying capacity of
    >its environment.
    >Of the 40-50 civilisations that can be historically
    >recognised, the vast majority collapsed when, through
    >their memeplexes structure and organisation, they
    >undermined the ecological system upon which their
    >culture depended. When this has happened, there have
    >been five possible responses.
    >Firstly, when people of an area of a civilisation, or
    >part of a civilisation, cannot any longer secure a
    >livelihood which allows them to fulfil the potential
    >offered by the cultural vision of the memeplex, they
    >will be forced either to lower their expectations, or
    >seek emigration to somewhere else which allows them to
    >survive. We cannot begin to guess the millions who
    >are forced to revise their expectations downwards. On
    >those who seek to escape through emigration, the
    >United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today
    >estimates some 22 million people, in more than 120
    >countries, world wide are affected by this problem.
    >Generally, those refugees fleeing economic or
    >environmental collapse is growing, and there are also
    >increasing numbers of "internal refugees" within
    >countries too.
    >Secondly, through deliberate action, for example, by
    >birth control, abortion, infanticide or voluntary
    >euthanasia, or through the forces of nature; through
    >plague, pestilence or famine, populations may be
    >reduced to levels that the environment can sustain.
    >History contains many hundreds of examples of such
    >events. Such limitations in population run counter to
    >the expectations of biological survival, but if they
    >assist the survival of the cultural memeplexes they
    >can proliferate. Earlier cultures, lacking the modern
    >forms of transport, were greatly affected by the
    >vagaries of weather patterns, in which an El Nino or
    >La Nina event, a regional collapse of the harvest
    >could occur. Recently, as this book will show, such
    >climatic reversals, some lasting just for a few years,
    >others lasting for centuries, could cause the collapse
    >and depopulation of a whole civilisation. Any
    >structure which minimises the negative impact of such
    >events will tend to spread.
    >Thirdly, often as a result of these first two factors,
    >levels of coercion and expropriation of the resources
    >of a population by its elite, or of a civilisation or
    >part of a civilisation over its neighbours, can also
    >increase. Militaristic expansion, through capturing
    >the resources of others, may temporarily prevent a
    >collapse, giving a brief chance for a civilisation to
    >reorganise and restructure itself to secure its
    >survival. But this usually does not happen. The
    >resources often continue to be wasted on vainglorious
    >examples of conspicuous consumption, and the respite
    >is only temporary. Eventually the situation becomes
    >too complex to manage effectively, the numbers of
    >disenfranchised grow to such an extent, that the tools
    >and weapons of the dominant culture get turned inwards
    >upon itself, and violence becomes endemic.
    >In some cases a civilisation can reorganise itself,
    >and its central memeplexes, to use its available
    >resources more intensively. This can be achieved in a
    >number of fashions, either through technological
    >change, or by forcing dependent groups in society to
    >work longer and harder for less return. Examples of
    >the former tend to predominate during the early
    >gestation and germination of a new civilisation.
    >Examples of the latter happen when people feel that
    >there is "no alternative", and creativity begins to
    >diminish. These two alternatives, however, are, like
    >the others often compatible with each other, or indeed
    >with any one or more of the other five factors.
    >Finally, in some cases, option four may result in a
    >fifth situation, where a civilisation may specialise
    >in producing goods, labour or services of a kind not
    >available to neighbouring cultures. Intra-and
    >inter-civilisation trade can result in a regional or
    >global economic system, what Emmanuel Wallerstein and
    >World Systems Theory describes as a "World System"
    >which can, if conditions are right, allow a higher
    >population with a more complex culture, to be
    >These five alternative options may interact and
    >reinforce each other in different ways. For example,
    >our dependence upon the non-renewable resource of
    >fossil fuels, or a culture's non-sustainable use of a
    >renewable resource (for example - Rome's use of the
    >soils of Southern Italy and North Africa), can
    >temporarily produce highly complex cultures, but
    >ultimately one of the five strategies will be
    >required. Recent history, the Gulf War, and many other
    >struggles offer examples of these events. The War
    >against Iraq can be interpreted as an attempt to
    >prevent a vital resource, oil, being expropriated by a
    >state, Iraq, in danger of collapse. To ensure its
    >uninterrupted flow to the benefit of corporate
    >industrial culture, over half a million Iraqis have
    >perished. The growth of an economically and
    >environmentally destitute population is seeing the
    >attempts of large numbers of people to emigrate to
    >more favourable locations. The increase in Iraqi
    >refugees is the direct result.
    >Today, the situation across Africa, the Middle East
    >and the former Soviet Union, where unstable coercive
    >regimes attempt to survive in conditions of worsening
    >economic and ecological conditions, with burgeoning
    >populations and increasing dependence upon
    >non-renewable, non-sustainable resources is perilous.
    >It offers us in miniature, for the majority or Third
    >World, of the possible conditions to be found in a
    >civilisation like our own, whose core memeplexes have
    >vastly exceeded the carrying capacity of their
    >biological environment. Unfortunately, history does
    >not give us a single example of any culture or
    >civilisation, which has continued to exceed this
    >limit, that has long continued to survive.
    >Today, outside the "core" areas of the Corporate
    >Industrial civilisation to which we belong, life in
    >the future is beginning to look very grim. Popular
    >culture of the Hollywood Dream Machine, in its
    >portrayals of this future, tend to reflect such an
    >apocalyptic view. Given current trends, it would seem
    >impossible to avoid the conclusion that our culture
    >has got itself into a literal "dead-end". Unless
    >things change quite radically soon, it is quite likely
    >that we will see our civilisation increasingly enter
    >its death throes - as levels of consumption world-wide
    >begin to plummet to what a depleted ecosystem can
    >Interested in other's thoughts on these matters.
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    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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