Re: applied memetics (ignore last)

Ton Maas (
Thu, 3 Sep 1998 19:06:34 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102801b214790fed85@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Thu, 3 Sep 1998 19:06:34 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: applied memetics (ignore last)

Mark wrote:
>I think scam artists will always be worthy of memetic study. Their
>processes have no merit, but 'survive' via continuous mutation. Such
>behavior is clearly of memetic interest and there is generally no
>difficulty maintaining objective distance.

Very true. But let's emphasize once again that this too should always be
viewed in context. There are no "universal" schemes, although the
spectacular successes of some scam artists might suggest otherwise. I heard
a nice example the other day. The context was an hour of talk radio, with a
roman catholic bishop sitting in as the main guest. His debating point was
that our economic "way" (most notably the free market and other typical
modern forms of capitalism) cannot and should not be parachuted by the West
into societies like Indonesia, because their effects can be quite
detrimental to the social fabric. One of the people who phoned in, related
a wonderful story which is quite illustrative of my point. She had lived in
the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) herself during colonial days, and
when she and her husband arrived, they "inherited" the estate of her
husbands predecessing administrator. All of a sudden she found herself
running a large household, with servants and all, including a "babu" or
nanny. When she learned how little this woman earned, she felt terribly
ashamed and at the first possible opportunity, presented her with a raise,
which in effect more than doubled her monthly earnings. By her own,
standards this was still an incredibly meager salary, but she hoped that
the nanny accepted her gesture gracefully. To her utmost surprize, however,
the nanny reported to her the very next morning to resign. Since the Dutch
woman sensed the nanny didn't particularly _like_ to leave, she probed into
the motivation for this puzzling decision, and the nanny told her she was
more or less forced to leave, because now she didn't need any money for the
next couple of months or so. And in such a situation, it was simply "not
done" to continue working. The supposed "laziness" of people from certain
cultures, takes on a very different meaning here! The nanny in this story
was far from "unwilling" to work, she just felt she had to to the "right"
thing - by the implicit code of her society. The sort of eagerness Western
societies thrive on, is frowned upon in other parts of the world. "More
money" is not a universal scheme to make people work for you, although in
"our" part of the world it's pretty effective :-)


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