A couple of questions might be able to be answered by a concept which I have been kicking around, i.e., "memetic debt". This is a concept which I'm going to try to define as I develop possible explanations for example interactions and transactions, and some of these questions include: "Why does forced compliance lead to revolt?" and "What causes apathy?" and "Why does 'social bullying' work to enforce collective behavior (and does it always work in the same way)?" and so on.
First off, we take as a point of departure a working definition of a meme as an iconic behavior which one individual may identify another as "performing" or "executing" and which the second individual may then "imitate" with the idea that they reach some kind of "threshold" whereupon they be considered by the first individual and society in general as having imitated it "correctly". Further, I posit that the human animal is driven to imitate other humans by some kind of memetic "reward"1,2. When one identifies a meme, or imitable behavior, then successfully imitates it, one gets a rewards, and a further reward when this is recognized by the memetic cohort as having been successfully imitated.
One problem with coersion is that this reward system is broken down. A boss or leader may dole out recognition for underlings behaving as desired, but there is usually no social recognition, which greatly undermines the memetic reward that drives the organism. If the leader gives no such libidinal rewards at all then this memetic reward system, the natural system for rewarding the imitation of desired behavior, is lost. Indeed, if the cohort adopts a memetic system or memeplex that favors "rebelling" against the leader's agenda, e.g., taking too much food, not cleaning as thoroughly, not doing work properly, not disciplining other members of the cohort, etc., then the cohort will supply rewards to its members for rebelling against the leader's desires, rather than adhering to them.
Obviously, if this theory is correct, the implication is that any leader or organization wishing to evince a given set of behaviors from its membership, e.g., from a group of employees, should create a memetic system in which members are somehow motivated to imitate each other in performing the kinds of behaviors desired by the leaders, and, importantly, rewarding each other for doing so. The leader need not be in the picture, and indeed, it may well behoove the leaders to remain out of the picture. It's important to note, too, that even if the system contains a lot of "superfluous" behaviors, i.e., not contributing directly to the ostensible goals of the organization, this is irrelevant so long as they support the rewarding of the desired behaviors, even if very indirectly.
So how can we make a distinction between free behavior and coerced behavior? If it's a question of employment, military service, imprisonment, non-elective education, and so forth, are there and options other than coercion? We probably want to touch on the subject of immunomemetic social bullying as a negative feedback mechanism to drive behavior away from "bad" behavior, but also from apathy.
Motivation to behave like the member of a memetic cohort, that is, to perform in-group memes and immunomemetically bully out-group behaviors may be the fundamental definition, or defining factor in differentiating participation and membership in a memetic cohort or community.
Let's take the simple example of the "Blue Shirt Tuesday" memeplex, where employees are made the deal that if they wear a blue shirt on Tuesday, then they are allowed to have the doughnuts which are provided for free on that day. Access to the doughnuts is, by the way, socially enforced, which is perhaps a separate question again. That is, there is no policing of the doughnuts by anybody except by other employees.
You could say that this is a contrived example because eating doughnuts is "optional" as contrasted with an employment contract where one is obliged to show up and work. We have the concept of memetic polarization, where the memetic fabric is divided between people who make sure to wear blue shirts to get doughnuts, i.e., to be "members" of the society, and those who deliberately don't (and yes, they exist), i.e, "the rebels", and then the apathetic ones who don't pay attention and among those are the "cheaters" who have doughnuts even if they don't wear blue shirts, and despite the social judgement (the immunomemes from other members of the society).
No matter what, each person has to fall into one of these groups.
Why does membership in one group make one feel coerced and another not? What does this mean?
I want to try to put forward an idea of a "residual memetic debt" as a deciding factor in whether an individual considers himself to be a member of a memetic cohort, or even that that cohort exist at all for him to be a member of. I think we can almost dismiss the idea of "choice" in entering into a given memeplex -- these are dictated by one's environment and to escape them one almost has to choose the life of a refugee and go elsewhere, as we see in the concept of memetic polarization. You are always part of a memetic fabric which is polarized to some degree, even if it's only which sports team you like, and even if you are apathetic and 98% of everybody else is mostly apathetic as well. You are part of it, and there is no choice.
More on apathy later. This may also be strongly related to this "residual memetic debt" concept.
Back to our example. You wear the shirt, you can get the free doughnut. You see other people getting the free doughnut and getting the recognition of imitating the simple behavior. There is a sort of "closing the loop" associated with executing a meme, even if it's just "getting away with it." For example, in a religious fanatic cell, or a group of racists, or nudists, for example, an individual quoting scripture or saying something dogmatic3, making a racist comment, or walking around naked in front of others and having this behavior just being accepted by the group one is with is, in and of itself, a reward. By the same token, taking and eating a doughnut which one did not pay for nor chip in for in front of others simply for wearing a shirt is a reward, and others are observing one to check for orthodox behavior, i.e., the correct blue color of one's shirt, and allowing the behavior if the immunomemetic test is successfully passed.
The individual executes the behavior, gets the libidinal reward (bribe) of the doughnut, and also gets the memetic reward of successfully executing the meme and the approbation (reward, orgasm) of his fellows, in this case, the non-deployment of immunomemes of disapproval. He takes the action, incurring "memetic debt", for which he expects a reward, not only the bribe of the doughnut itself, which is ultimately also perhaps more importantly a social symbol which elicits the reward of social recognition from his fellow members of the memetic cohort, reinforcing the fact of his act of participation in the memeplex by wearing the blue shirt, enacting the meme, and thus obtaining the memetic reward. In this way, the "memetic debt" is "paid off" and there is no "residual memetic debt."
In salaried employment especially, the employment contract has already been "paid for" so to speak. Is there too much disconnect from the act of working and the reward of being paid after the fact? If he takes the doughnut and feels adequately rewarded, that there is no residual memetic debt incurrect by his participation, then he regards Blue Shirt Tuesday as a reliable was to receive memetic reward. If he participates in a system, such as employment, and does not feel that he is able to enact behaviors which resonate with the cohort, even to the extent that they evince immunomenes, he feels alienated and does not see the memetic cohort as a reliable source of memetic rewards, or even as a recognizable memetic cohort for him to be a member of at all.
This gives us a working definition of an oppressed group, by the way. A group that consistently evinces what the majority mainstream (a labile definition, by the way) sub-cohort regard as immunomemes can be regarded as an "oppressed group" vis-a-vis the second group. Racial, religious, gender or other discrimination and bigotry express themselves like this. The "ruling" group enacts immunomemes towards members of the oppressed group. Note that this is distinct from an "alienated group" which evinces no memes whatsoever, or very few, from groups within the cohort. In other words, oppressed groups may be oppressed, i.e., they are subject to immunomemes from other groups, but they are nonetheless functional members of the memetic cohort.
Should salary be considered the "reward" for the work done in the workplace? Is that somehow a flawed concept? More on this later...
1Also termed "memetic orgasm" to drive the point home.
2some kind of biological, endocrinological, neurological, or other, similar to the reward of food or sex, that drives one to imitate and feel good about having successfully done so.
3Indeed, this in and of itself may be the motivation for being a member of a fanatical cell, religious or otherwise, i.e., the cost of alienation from society at large may be gained back in the form of a greatly heightened intimacy with others and access to a much greater palette of memes to choose from.