Re: ply to Grant

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sun Feb 03 2002 - 15:45:09 GMT

  • Next message: Lawrence de Bivort: "RE: memetics-digest V1 #916"

    Received: by id PAA11774 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Sun, 3 Feb 2002 15:50:50 GMT
    X-Originating-IP: []
    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: Re: ply to Grant
    Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 07:45:09 -0800
    Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed
    Message-ID: <>
    X-OriginalArrivalTime: 03 Feb 2002 15:45:09.0417 (UTC) FILETIME=[C2789190:01C1ACC9]
    Precedence: bulk

    >Subject: Re: ply to Grant
    >Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 22:36:55 +1100
    >At 07:52 AM 14/01/02 -0800, you wrote:
    > >Hi, Jeremy.
    > >
    > >I like most of your ideas but I'm puzzled by some. What is the nature of
    > >the "mapable code," for instance? And why do you call our linguistic
    > >"binary?"
    > >
    > >I've personally run into the problem of being called a "barbarian" in
    > >and a "foreign devil." This xenophobic attitude pervades China at every
    > >level, with villagers I encountered sometimes coming up short, taking a
    > >step back and exclaiming, "Aiyo! Yang Gui." which means approximately,
    > >my. A foreign devil!"
    > >
    >OK Grant
    >I will try to answer both of your questions in brief as my time is occupied
    >with caring for my mother, renovating an old house, helping with my
    >grandchildren, preparing for my doctorate and trying to have a life with my
    >Unlike many on the list i think that we have only a few memes. These memes
    >are the fundamental building-blocks of sense-making within a culture. Each
    >culture has its own modes of making sense of their circumstance and pass
    >these on in the form of narrative elements. These narrative elements
    >pervade all of a culture's artefacts and, I would suggest, identify items,
    >ethics and behaviours as valid or invalid within that culture depending on
    >the presence or lack of the element in the artefact.
    >I can send you, as a Word6 attachment, an excerpt from my honours thesis
    >which shows the 'map' of the cultural memes for the English colonists and
    >the Australian indigenes. It is based on anthropological, cultural and
    >narratological works.
    >Your second question is linguistic and I would like to dodge a long debate
    >on an area in which I have only moderate expertise. However you could check
    >out baby Bush's State of the Union Address for examples of linguistic
    >binarisms ( with us or against us, good v/s evil, etc). These binarisms are
    >seen in Western cultures as normal rhetoric. Or you could try some of Noam
    >Chomsky's earlier works.
    >As for being a "foreign devil" in China, your observations of xenophobia
    >should also include such friendly usanian terms such as 'slopes' 'gooks'
    >and 'chinks'. Maybe you just weren't on the same meme team as each other
    Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to reply. I, too, have long
    been interested in the way we divide ourselves in order to create an "us and
    them" dichotomy. In my estimation, it is not a linguistic characteristic
    but a genetic one that pervades the entire human race. If we have no
    obvious differences, we create them. We choose up sides based on religious
    affiliation, social status (rich or poor, management or labor), the place
    where we live (the right and wrong side of the tracks), jocks and geeks,
    etc., etc. There is no end to the ways we invent to create small tribes
    within our society and emphasize the differences to create a feeling of
    belonging within "our" tribe.

    It starts with the family and from there it goes to who we associate with
    and for what reasons. On the street, it's gangs. In the workplace, it's my
    company against yours. If it's a big company, it's management against labor
    or engineers against salesmen. And the thing they all have in common is the
    defence of the tribe against outside threats, perceived or real. The
    Chinese divide their world in pretty much the same way we divide ours.
    Language is a natural barrier that clearly defines them and us.

    As I said in my previous post, the Taiwanese used price discrimination as a
    way to mark their tribal loyalties. In Hongkong, I've seen Cantonese
    speaking waiters give lousy service to Mandarin speaking customers because
    "they don't know the difference." And the waiters assumed the listener
    wouldn't understand what they were saying. They also separate themselves
    according to rich and poor, country and city, educated and illiterate, etc.
    Anything we do to an outsider is ok in most societies and anything they do
    to us is an outrage and must be avenged.

    On the subject of memes, right now it's a linguistic question. How do we
    divide our culture in order to understand it? The problem we are having is
    how to separate memes from things that are not memes. In other words, the
    definition of a meme. Everyone wants to draw the line in a different place
    and include things other people won't accept. Is a meme an idea? Is it
    behavior? Is it something you can name? Or is it all of these?

    Mostly, the people who concern themselves with this problem are
    reductionists. They are searching for the smallest unit from which the
    whole of culture is created. They want to use this dichotomy to create a
    formulaic method of predicting how memes are created and propagated. Is the
    idea you borrow and use really a meme? Or is it just the original idea we
    can call a meme?

    What we all seem to agree on, though, is that the culture we have built
    around us to support us was created in bits and pieces that emerged into
    something greater than the sum of its parts. It evolved as the new parts
    replaced old ones and the old provided the material from which to create
    what never existed before. Methods and materials were created that changed
    how we organize ourselves and the kinds of dwellings we live in, how we get
    from place to place, and the kinds of food we eat as well as the utensils we
    use in the process. All of civilization is a result of this memetic
    evolution and we want to understand it so we can use it, just like we use
    everything else in our environment. We think we won't be able to do this
    until we understand exactly where to draw the line.

    That, at any rate, is my take on the situation.


    Send and receive Hotmail on your mobile device:

    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)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Feb 03 2002 - 15:59:29 GMT