RE: Rumsfeld Says He May Drop New Office of Influence

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Fri Mar 08 2002 - 15:30:45 GMT

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    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: RE: Rumsfeld Says He May Drop New Office of Influence
    Date: Fri, 08 Mar 2002 07:30:45 -0800
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    > >
    > > My main point is still the question of whether territoriality and
    > > possessiveness is natural/genetic or nurture/memetic.>>
    > >
    > I think you're conflating territoriality as a social concept (e.g.
    >nationalism), with territoriality as a reality of natural selection (i.e
    >competition for, and defending of resources). Think about it this way-
    >you're sitting in a restaurant about to tuck into your favourite food when
    >someone walks in, comes right up to you and picks up your plate and walks
    >off with it. That initial feeling- 'hey, that's my food!'- that's the
    >territoriality I'm on about.
    > In some societies this kind of response is extrapolated out to
    >levels of families, villages, nations etc., in others it isn't, but
    >kind of society one's in, it's an inherent trait in individuals.
    > Another example might be conceptions of personal space (instead of
    >stealing your food, the stranger comes and sits right next to you, despite
    >there being plenty of empty tables in the restaurant- what's your initial
    > Socio-cultural factors may enhance, surpress or distort such things
    >but, IMHO they don't create them.
    > Vincent

    There is a whole range of behavior we share with other species that may be
    built into us. Territoriality is only one, but it is one of the strongest.
    The memetic aspect of such behavior is what we decide to do about that
    impulse. That is usually decided by cultural norms.

    That restaurant example above reminded me of my days in the classroom. When
    the semester started, everyone would straggle into the room and pick a seat
    in which to sit. At that point, all seats were up for grabs and choices
    were dictated by what part of the setup appealed to me. The next day,
    however, if I came into the romm and found someone sitting in "my" seat, I
    felt a twinge of resentment. I even found myself rationalizing that no seat
    in the room belonged to anyone. It was not "mine" so there was no need to
    feel that way. But the next day I usually found myself getting to class
    early enough to make sure I got "my" seat.

    To my way of thinking, the rationalization I used to overcome the feeling of
    resentment was a meme I chose to mitigate my feelings -- a tool I used to
    change the way I looked at the situation and to keep my feelings from
    flaring up into a confrontation.

    Since that time, I have found myself using that technique a lot to keep from
    letting small issues boil up into confrontational behavior. If I start
    getting angry about something, I take a step back and mentally ask myself
    what it is that's making me feel that way. Once I realize how trivial the
    thing was that aroused my feeling of hostility, the feeling goes away. Over
    time, I have come to have nearly complete control over those feelings and I
    almost never get angry anymore. Or if I do, I am able to quickly damp them
    just by thinking about what's going on and how foolish it is.

    To me, this is how the nature/nurture relationship plays out in society.
    Nature supplies us with the feelings that need to be controlled and memes
    give us a way to deal with those feelings. In his book, Descarte's Error:
    Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Antonio R. Damasio seems to suggest
    that even the desire to control our feelings is hardwired into our brains.
    He cites cases where people with dadmage to the frontal lobe of the brain
    sometimes lose part of this behavioral constraint, as was the case with
    Phineas P. Gage, who had a rod driven through his brain. Brain damage
    caused behavioral changes in Gage that made him more verbally aggressive and
    less able to control his behavior than prior to the accident.


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