Index of Memetic Materials
What is Memetic Destituion?
Memetic destitution (2) is the lack of memetic inventory sufficent to engage in a "satisfactory" manner with the prevailing memetic system (or ideology). We assume (as does Slavoj Zizek) that this leads to outbursts of violence.
How does Memetic Desolation lead to Violence?
What is the mechanism that links these two together? What is the lack of the ability to enact memes, either immunomemes in response to "mainstream memes" or the ability to evince a memetic or even immunomemetic response in the mainstream cohort?
Is there a concept of pent-up memetic energy? Or a starvation effect to do with memetic reward, perhaps related to the concept of residual memetic debt? Theft, physical violence against the person, vandalism, striking or other forms of failure to work at jobs, etc. could all be expressions of this memetic destitution? Is there some kind of "memetic threshold" or "minimum rate" or "minimum reward level" after which violence ensues. This may be problematic (see Tokyo resident example below).
Can we say that the ability to communicate memetically is our human way of diverting violent tendencies? Can this be a general principle and the basis for a theory of violence from the level of the individual to the international, e.g., war and genocide?
I am very much intrigued by Slavoj Zizek's assertion that alienation leads to violence (1). This seems like a very memetic statement, one that could be elucidated in terms of macro-memetic theory.
Oppression v. Alienation
It's worth noting that alienation, (due to memetic destitution) and oppression are two separate things. For example, an oppressed minority in the United States (they have those, in case you didn't know) may in fact have many, many memes and MIAOs with which to interact with mainstream culture. The nature of these may be worth exploring. Gays, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, lesbians, and transexuals, perhaps in that order, are oppressed by stereotypes, among many other things, but such stereotypes could be said to be MIAOs with many memes attached, and so we can see how many oppressed minorities have more memes, i.e., a larger memetic inventory with which to interact with the mainstream cohort than even members of the mainstream cohort themselves have.
Native Americans, on the other hand, may be both alienated (suffer from memetic destitution) and oppression. We might want to say that in spite of that, there has been little or no resort to violence (3).
An example with which I'm familiar is the American or British expatriate businessman living in Tokyo, Japan. He may not know any Japanese, have no knowledge of Japanese culture, and may live in a foreigner-oriented Homat apartment ("moon colony" as a friend of mine once described them) and have WoWow TV channels providing foreign media. This person has absolutely no way to interact memetically with almost all the people around him, nor they with him, and yet he may be making a quarter million dollar salary and living very comfortably indeed.
In other words, his needs are all met, even though he is completely alienated (has zero locally-useful memetic inventory).
Another example might be a severely disabled person who is unable to speak, or move, or perhaps blind or deaf and thus the use of a number, perhaps a great number, of memes are denied her. She may, however, live in a supportive environment with helpful friends, relatives, or other caregivers to meet her needs as they come up. Again, alienation without oppression.
On the other hand, an oppressed minority may have serious problems obtaining work (and this could be exacerbated by language issues, which is another memetic destitution, by the way), getting full access to resources, finding suitable housing, getting education for himself or his children, and so on, due to the actions or inactions of the majority.
How does this lead to violence? Or how may violence be prevented?
You Get What You Need
As in the case of the expatriate alien or the well-seen-after disabled person (4), memetic destitution and oppression are distinct. Is this a rare set of circumstances, however (5)? We must remind ourselves that memetic systems are Darwinian in nature, and that they do not exist for the purpose of fulfilling the material or spiritual needs of individual human beings or human society as a whole. In other words, memeplexes please themselves. People are content, it seems, to suffer no small amount of privation (7) so long as they get some level of memetic reward ("orgasm"), and these rewards may even take the form of oppressive memes, e.g., racism or sexism, being enacted on them.
However, it may be true that once a people are truly reduced to the point that their survival is threatened (and how this is perceived is a telling question), they resort to violence (13). More research required here.
So, perhaps more interesting than the question of how memetic destitution leads to violence (8) is the question of how the opposite of memetic destitution (9), could prevent violence by providing (creating, engineering) a "sufficiently rich" (12) memetic system acting within an at-risk community and allowing interaction (interface memes) with the majority memespace and cohort.
This all points to a great deal more research needing to be done.
(1) The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, see the London Riots
(2) There may be a better term, but I actually like this one.
(3) There has been considerable violence, however, but for the most part directed from the outside (the colonizing British and Americans) against the natives, e.g., the ongoing DAPL protests by the Sioux (Dakota, actually pan-tribal, including peoples outside of North America), the AIM protests of the 1970s, and of course the "Indian Wars" of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Theoretically, this genocide, this loss of life and destruction of culture could've been avoided by the French approach in North America, i.e., intermarriage and cooperation, leading to exchange of language and development of a novel culture, i.e., creation of large numbers of memes and MIAOs permitting wholesale interaction/participation and avoiding resort to violence.
(4) It's worth mentioning that in the 1970s and before in the US, prior to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), the picture was not pretty, and the access by the disabled to employment, services, resources, and venues was severely impaired.
(5) Women (in the US, Japan, and possibly elsewhere) may be, at certain points in history, at least, an interesting example. Oppression of women seems to be the rule rather than the exception, women are often alienated, e.g., denied the vote (6), denied a public forum in more pernicious and subtle "unofficial" ways, denied full access to employment. Yet in other ways, the "system" recognizes, at some levels at least, that women are "more important" and gives them a number of advantages, some of them ex lege, e.g., not being legally obliged/forced to to serve in the army, mandated "maternity leave" ("paternity leave" is much rarer and restricted), "sei-ri-bi" 生理日 or "menstruation holidays", and then less officially, easier access to the public dole (welfare), and highly favorable treatment in divorces and indeed all court cases in general. Women are 50% of the population yet only 10% (or less) of the prison population. There is only one "men's shelter" in the US (near San Diego?) while there are thousands exclusively for women. Women supposedly tend to work lower-paying jobs (the reality of which is a point of dispute and interpretation), but women are also free of the shaming associated with working a low-status job, or with staying at home (even if they are not mothers), whereas men are highly shamed for not "bettering themselves" or working as hard as possible at a high-paying, high-status job. Staying home (to look after the kids or do art or other non-paying activity) is very much looked at askance when men do it. It may no longer be true in the post-Reagan era, but George Orwell observed in Down and Out in Paris and London that only a tiny fraction of hobos are women. While it's absolutely true that women have been highly oppressed in the US, in terms of denial of free access, etc., and that huge effort has been spent toward changing that and much remains to be done, it's impossible to seriously deny that this is such a thing as female privilege. What this all means for the concept of memetic destitution and it's connection to violence remains to be seen.
(6) Swiss women got the Federal vote in 1971, and in some cantons, such as Appenzel, the local vote was even later (I understand women have the vote in Appenzel canton now).
(7) I see the "hipster movement" or "hipster culture" and even the "nerd counterculture" in the US as an interesting example of this, and possibly an example of a memetic system forming/adapting to match the resources available and thereby actually prevent violent outbursts. We see a subculture where it's "cool" to be poor, work low-status, low-paying schlubby jobs with bad hours (so long as they are the "right" sort of jobs), wear thrift store clothing, and so forth, so long as one enacts the memes of the given culture, e.g., the manner of speaking, the "right" ratty clothing, watches the right animes, often smoking tobacco (in an affected "gourmet/connoisseur" manner), play "role-playing games" (RPGs) which last hours and involve mainly talking and rolling dice and often very little other matierals, and so forth. In other words, living a low-cost lifestyle garners memetic rewards, since a memetically very complex culture is built around it, and thus avoids a feeling of oppression and changes what it means to get one's needs met.
(8) possibly as simple a relationship that people perceive that they are being deprived to the point of actually dying, and so rise up to get the basic resources (food, housing, clothing, etc.) they need.
(9) which would be a higher level of memetic inurement, a higher number of memes and MIAOs created for interaction within one's own group (10), and with the greater majority cohort. In other words, efforts to increase memetic inclusion, as opposed to actually providing resources or even any effort to reduce any real oppression.(11)
(10) which we see with communities of oppressed people all the time.
(11) this could form a basis for discussing the problem of "assimilationism", e.g., assimilated Jews, Native Americans, and perhaps even the efforts of such historical figures as Cardinal Richelieu and Spain's Franco to impose a "national language", as opposed to promoting "diversity".
(12) what this could possibly mean is a topic for further research and discussion. This could lead to an elucidation of a "memetic destitution threshold" or suchlike which could lead us to the application of memetic engineering principles to actually design violence out of society, without actually having to directly consider things like redistribution of resources or (immediate) modification of statues.
(13) The horrible example of Nazi Germany's genocide of the Jews (and probably also the United States' genocide of the Native Americans), may represent a gradual "dialing up" of the oppression, all the while increasing the memetic complexity (14) , until finally large numbers of people were, of their own will,
stripping themselves naked, neatly piling up their clothing (so it could be given to the next crop of victims), and walking
right in front of firing squads and into mass gas chambers, and even
helping to bury the people killed right before them in mass graves
before walking into oblivion themselves. Somehow accepting this mass murder seems to have afforded a memetic reward, driving one to continue it, even up to the very moment of one's own extermination. It might be argued that these
horrors were the product of careful memetic engineering as much as
(14) through gradually but steadily increased bureaucratic means, such as identity cards (or "treaties"), restriction of employment (or hunting grounds), moving to special neighborhoods and ghettos, executions of some members for petty violations of regulations (smuggling, curfews, religious practices (e.g., the "ghost dance"), etc.), and finally deportation to concentration camps (reservations), often outside the country (the unincorporated West of the Mississippi), and so forth such that each new level of deprivation was not only just slightly less than the previous one, it was also accompanied, perhaps more importantly, with a mass of new memes and MIAOs to make the new oppression "acceptable" since it afforded memetic rewards.
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