When I was younger, the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was on everyone's lips. By Kindergarten logic, "communism" sounds like it might at least have potential. I think of the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" and how it's been implemented in the 20th Century, and I imagine some would-be-dictator thug looking at the Communist Manifesto, skipping over all the great stuff about worker liberation and socialism and going straight to the bit about how during the transition from capitalism to the workers' paradise, there must be a "dictatorship of the proletariat."
The thug asks, "So, let me get this straight, all I have to do is dress up like a car dealership mechanic and I can order the trains with the food not to go to the people I don't like?"
And his advisors hesitantly reply, "Yes, that's true, but..."
"Just give me the suit."
Another example I like to cite is from my own town of Moscow, Idaho, Ordinance 2002-13, which says something quite similar, i.e., "...any woman....police discretion...6 months jail and/or $500 fine."
Of course, women "they" don't like, "they" being, of course, the police or whoever influences them, are the one's to be targeted by this ordinance, which of course, was the original motivation for its passage. One can easily imagine the targeting of women from out of State, women of color, women making a fuss or causing trouble for the authorities. Of course, the Ukrainian women's movement, Femen, would face immediate arrest were they to come to Moscow (pronounced "moss-COW").
I don't know as I think that's a good thing. Women should not be able to be silenced just because they are women by arresting them and throwing them into jail and/or making them pay high fines they can ill-afford.
That's just me, I guess.
There's an excellent film, simply titled 13th, which discusses the treatment of African-Americans after the passage of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution following the conclusion of the US Civil War, also known as The War of Succession, or the War Between the States.
The wording of the Amendment is as follows:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
In other words, hang a crime on somebody, and you are (once again) legally allowed to enslave them.
What does this mean for memetics?
Memetic Inertia or Resilience
I may be on the verge of a new unit of measure for macromemetics. We can imagine the pre-Civil War treatment of African-Americans (1). Supposedly the 13th Amendment changed all that, i.e., no more slavery, everybody free, black people and white people with same opportunities and protection and so forth.
That's the myth.
The assertion of 13th is that the focus immediately switched to fulfilling the "except" part of the 13th Amendment immediately after the end of the Civil War, i.e., arresting as many African-Americans as possible and convicting them of crimes so as to allow them to again be subjected to involuntary servitude, i.e., maintain the antebellum status quo.
Why might this be?
An interesting question might be whose bright idea was it to put the "except" clause in there instead of prohibiting slavery outright. That might be beyond the scope of this essay. However, one may well ask if there are memetic principles and forces at work at that level.
One implication of that "except" clause is that many of the memes making up the memeplex interfacing the African-American population to the majority (2) population can remain intact, almost without change, and the structure of the memeplex can survive unchanged.
Again, one important property of memeplexes is that they are conservative, and this is an example of how the behavior of the infected humans, the cohort, changes little, even down to small details.
We see how during the time between the end of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement (led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luthur King, Jr.), the status of African-Americans had not seriously improved. Indeed, there is still a very long way to go.
Noteworthy are the seemingly incessant reports of how police are confronting, accosting (often violently), and killing African-Americans, often young men. I've personally been involved in such an "illegal police traffic stop" and I can tell you it was frightening (3).
This shit be real, people.
What Are We Trying to Accomplish?
There's politics, and there's trying to make real change in people's lives. Just making some high-sounding pronouncement, like the obviously-flawed 13th Amendment, doesn't specify how people at the ground level are supposed to act, to alter their behavior. Such a brief, high-level "change" in a memeplex probably does very little, if anything, at least to what the system actually does. It probably does solve some transitory political impasse for whoever wrote it (4) or voted for it, but little else. It may well provide a tool for future efforts to make real change, to alter real behavior that impacts real people, which is what Dr. King was trying to do, i.e., actually apply civil rights legislation to real life.
It's perhaps cynical to think that one can make a single, simple high-level change to law, or make a proclamation, and leave it at that, expecting that the issue is somehow solved (5).
One idea I had was to contruct a narrative (6) that describes at all different levels of detail, and hopefully touching on and illustrating the activities of many, most, or all participants in the memeplex, i.e., all of the members, or member classes of the memetic cohort in question.
Conclusion and Summary
So, antebellum, we had chattel slavery, complete with chains, people working the fields for no pay, and armed police hunting down those who tried to escape or rebel and dragging them back or hanging them.
Post-Civil War, we had chain gangs of those "convicted" of "crimes" and sentenced to prison, sharecroppers working the same fields for no pay, but possibly some share in the crops they raised, with little real chance of bettering themselves or they or their children escaping the "croppin'" situation. People who "rebelled" by challenging legally-sanctioned racial hatred or segregation were put down harshly (by police), and often hanged ("lynched") by members of the public, with the police turning a blind eye.
Post-Civil Rights Movement, we still see police killing people with impunity (not unlike "lynching"), a manifold exaggerated arrest and imprisonment focus (against people of color).
|Time Period||No Freedom||Work for No Pay||Targeted by Officialdom||Murdered by Public||Murdered by Officialdom|
|Post-Civil Rights Movement||✅||✅||✅|
It seems that a new meme may have been added post-Civil War, and that is, "black people are always guilty of some crime." But this probably existed in one form or another since the beginning of slavery.
In other words, people being forced to, or terrified (7) into working for nothing or next to, and the enforcement organs of the state (police, courts, prisons, etc.) still thoroughly involved in maintaining this situation, has not changed over history. What is actually happening has changed little, but the memes that justify it have been adapted.
The idea of memetic inertia, or memetic resilience is something I'd like to qualify and even quantify if possible. Perhaps the amount of time, or the number of individually identifiable memes that change between an upset event and when it eventually acheives "stasis" again.
Another rather cynical direction of research is how the elimination of chattel slavery (black = slave)and replacing it with a "fuzzier" idea of (criminal = slave) and (black = [probably] criminal) actually resolved a lot of difficult contradictions in the memetic system. Theoretically, memeplexes don't automatically have a problem with logically contradictory memes being "unequally yoked" but this may not be a hard-and-fast rule, and "exceptions" (8) to it might prove highly instructive.
(1) All of these same principles, i.e., the systematic denial of rights and the sanctioning of all sorts of oppression including violence, applies to Chinese-Americans, Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, and even just poor people.
(2) Ethnic European "white" Americans
(3) and this is in Idaho, where we have almost no black people, yet somehow the behavior exists. The memeplex extends even up here.
(4) The Emancipation Proclamation is probably another.
(5) One concern I had with Barack Obama's election is that people might be able to say that "they [African-Americans] got a President, so they have no more reason to complain," when, of course, African-Americans still have plenty left to complain about. I don't know how this has panned out, one way or another, so far.
In other words, the proclamation only freed persons enslaved within the States in the Confederacy, and not in the Union, including "slave States" such as Kentucky and Missouri nor the counties of Virginia that broke away to become "West Virginia."
(6) This was what I was trying to get across with my comic, Running SCARE'd, and also my idea of "Internal Branding." The idea is of constructing a narrative, building a story, and then everybody involved in the "new memetic system" has a model for how they are supposed to fit in, rather than just interpreting some high-level thing. Otherwise people like the police can just "interpret" they high-level rule statements to justify doing basically what they have always been doing, or what they think is right.
(7) It's terrifying to be constantly reminded that members of your group are hundreds of times more likely to be killed with impunity by the police, or ten times more likely to be sent to prison, get longer sentences, or be sentenced to death, and less likely to get official help if attacked, robbed, etc. Just being pulled over or stopped by the police, which happens much more often to your group, brings all this on, moreover.
(8) American chattel slavery was and is full of a great many contradictions. The Southern euphemism for it was "our peculiar institution." Slaves were held to be simple folk who sang while they worked the fields because they were so happy (but they later invented The Blues), who couldn't've looked after themselves were they "free," couldn't learn to read, but on the other hand shouldn't be taught to read since it would give them ideas and help them communicate, would "kill us in our beds" if they weren't locked up, etc. The racist expression "A Good One" helped to paper over the fact of a certain person being "good" didn't change how the others were still all "bad." Of course also all of the ridiculous attempts to objectively classify who is "black" and who isn't such as the "paper bag test" and the "one drop test" and so on that inevitably crop up when one tries to build racism into a legal system. All of this and a mountain of other problems were dispensed with by the simple expedient of the 13th Amendment, i.e., replace a problematic racial discrimination process with making an individual criminal (9) out of whomever you want (effectively the same people as before).
(9) As they did with other American semi-legal innovations (10), the Soviets may have applied a similar technique to controlling and getting rid of their own undesirables, i.e., by making crimes up (counter-revolutionary, enemy of the people, etc.) and then putting their enemies through "kangaroo courts" and disposing of them, either by shipping them off to the gulags or "liquidating" them. It makes things less complicated to say "your father was a counter-revolutionary so you might be, too, but maybe not" rather than something like the Nazis or Apartheit racists saying something like "your mother was black/a Jew, so you definitely are" which leads to people trying to "pass" or super-convoluted discrimination systems and on and on and on.
(10) The USSR supposedly paterned their gulag system after the US Indian Reservations, for example.