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>Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 07:45:09 -0800
From: "Grant Callaghan" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: ply to Grant
>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
> >the "mapable code," for instance?† And why do you call our linguistic
> >I've personally run into the problem of being called a "barbarian" in
> >and a "foreign devil."† This xenophobic attitude pervades China at
> >level, with villagers I encountered sometimes coming up short, taking
> >step back and exclaiming, "Aiyo!† Yang Gui." which means
> >my.† A foreign devil!"
>I will try to answer both of your questions in brief as my time is
>with caring for my mother, renovating an old house, helping with my
>grandchildren, preparing for my doctorate and trying to have a life
>Unlike many on the list i think that we have only a few memes.† These
>are the fundamental building-blocks of sense-making within a culture.
>culture has its own modes of making sense of their circumstance and
>these on in the form of narrative elements. These narrative elements
>pervade all of a culture's artefacts and, I would suggest, identify
>ethics and behaviours as valid or invalid within that culture depending
>the presence or lack of the element in the artefact.
>I can send you, as a Word6 attachment, an excerpt from my honours
>which shows the 'map' of the cultural memes for the English colonists
>the Australian indigenes. It is based on anthropological, cultural and
>Your second question is linguistic and I would like to dodge a long
>on an area in which I have only moderate expertise. However you could
>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
>seen in Western cultures as normal rhetoric. Or you could try some of
>Chomsky's earlier works.
>As for being a "foreign devil" in China, your observations of
>should also include such friendly usanian terms such as 'slopes'
>and 'chinks'. Maybe you just weren't on the same meme team as each
Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to reply.† I, too, have
been interested in the way we divide ourselves in order to create an "us
them" dichotomy.† In my estimation, it is not a linguistic
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
affiliation, social status (rich or poor, management or labor), the
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
and for what reasons.† On the street, it's gangs.† In the workplace,
company against yours.† If it's a big company, it's management against
or engineers against salesmen.† And the thing they all have in common is
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
way to mark their tribal loyalties.† In Hongkong, I've seen Cantonese
speaking waiters give lousy service to Mandarin speaking customers
"they don't know the difference."† And the waiters assumed the listener
wouldn't understand what they were saying.† They also separate
according to rich and poor, country and city, educated and illiterate,
Anything we do to an outsider is ok in most societies and anything they
to us is an outrage and must be avenged.
On the subject of memes, right now it's a linguistic question.† How do
divide our culture in order to understand it?† The problem we are having
how to separate memes from things that are not memes.† In other words,
definition of a meme.† Everyone wants to draw the line in a different
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
formulaic method of predicting how memes are created and propagated.† Is
idea you borrow and use really a meme?† Or is it just the original idea
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
replaced old ones and the old provided the material from which to create
what never existed before.† Methods and materials were created that
how we organize ourselves and the kinds of dwellings we live in, how we
from place to place, and the kinds of food we eat as well as the
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
everything else in our environment.† We think we won't be able to do
until we understand exactly where to draw the line.
That, at any rate, is my take on the situation.
I am not keen on sending back huge chunks of repeated text, but some times
it is difficult to know what to leave out.
On the us vs them phenomena, it is also alive in the British Hindu culture.
A friend of mine, who is Hindu told me that Hindu shop keepers had three
prices. One for those born in India, one for those who were Hindu but born
in Britain, and one for the rest (black, white, muslim etc), because they
thought the two higher paying groups where too ignorant to know they were
The us vs them is also a form of memetic filter or defense to stop the
adoption of memes into a culture from outside. So is the us verses them
genetic as you maitain or is there a memetic component to this? I believe
there is. Biologically, if you are to maintain diversity and hence survival,
inbreeding can be a problem in small groups. To bring in new blood causes
the problem that utill there is some offspring, the outsider has no bond to
the group. If. however, there is some idea of group identity for all humans,
the problem is not as great. But this does not, to my mind tell much about
whether it is genetic or memetic.
I donít share your opinion that memes are just a linguistic problem at the
moment, though i do agree this is a very important area to examine. There is
still the question of the extent of biological behaviour, where memetics
takes over from biology, and what i would term the gene/meme feedback loop
that that gave rise to society in the first place. (For anyone interested,
an interesting article can be found at www.des.ucdavis.edu / faculty /
richerson / speed, where they talk about the effect of enviroment on the
human body and brain, and the beginnings of cultural adaption to the
enviroment. This in turn could lead to the meme/gene feedback loop. The
article is The Pliestocene and the Origins of Human Culture: Built For
Speed, Boyd and Richerson, UCLA).
On the last paragraph i agree. Once the memes started there was no stopping
them, and that our culture is built upon memes. - all we have to do is agree
upon a definition. :- )
Both Grant and Jeremy seem to have some knowledge of the Far East, so you
may be able to help me. In an essay for a tutor a few years ago i argued
that, contrary to her assertion, Japanese racism that was displayed in WW2
was not the result of capitalism, but that there was a much earlier source.
ie one of the reason for the closure of Japan,s borders to the outside
world, which pre-dates the rise of capitalism, was due to the perception of
outsiders as barbarians with no honour, a form of racism. Needless to say it
was not well recieved. :- )
What are your thoughts (or anybody else for that matter) on this?
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