Re: ply to Grant

From: Steve Drew (srdrew_1@hotmail.com)
Date: Sun Feb 03 2002 - 21:05:20 GMT

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    From: "Steve Drew" <srdrew_1@hotmail.com>
    To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    Subject:  Re: ply to Grant
    Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 21:05:20 +0000
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    >Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 07:45:09 -0800
    From: "Grant Callaghan" <grantc4@hotmail.com>
    Subject: Re: ply to Grant

    >To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    >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
    >system
    > >"binary?"
    > >
    > >I've personally run into the problem of being called a "barbarian" in
    >China
    > >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,
    >"Oh
    > >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
    >partner.
    >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
    >Grant.
    >Cheers
    >Jeremy
    >
    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.

    Grant<

    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
    getting ripped.

    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?

    Steve

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