Memetic Essay Index - Updated Version
I've discussed pretendiansim elsewhere. I also wrote a short essay on coöption of nerd culture, which is a real issue, but also hopefully a fruitful analogue for the coöption of Native American culture by non-natives. The point is that all aspects of human behavior is governed by the laws and principles of macromemetics, and as such, may be attacked using macromemetic engineering techniques.
One such principle is memetic replacement or memetic atrophy (1). Invoking an undesirable meme in any way only serves to strengthen it, since it demonstrates that a memetic reward (2) may be derived from said meme. This is precisely the opposite situation the would-be memetic engineer seeks to create. So telling people "don't do that" brings up that and reënforces that in everyone's mind (3).
The First Law of Immunomemetics states that any stable memetic system must contain an immunomemetic system that keeps it stable, that resists change, that devalues the rewards of deployment of memes that are not part of the system, or more to the point, which are targeted by the immunomemetic system of the pretendian memeplex and the subsystems of the white memeplex that interact with the pretendian memeplex. What this means is that we must understand what those immunomemes are, in order to defeat them.
The Triple Narrative Model (4) may provide us a good way to model the pretendian megamemeplex, and how it interacts with the "white" megamemeplex. What does the conservative narrative have to say about Native Americans? Not much good stuff, of course. Is the defendian/pretendian submemeplex an example of Liberal Narrative at work? Pretendianism may be part of an overall conservative narrative, and thus Defendianism may be a Liberal (crypto-conservative) narrative that defends against attacks on the conservative (pretendian) narrative.
Alliance Theory (5) is another concept I'm working on which may have tremendous explanatory power in terms of groups that are able to push their agendas forward against other groups who are not able to.
Pretendians are committing fraud in a number of different ways. This translates into an inventory of memetic interactions involving publishers, university administrators, university staff, students, TV and movie producers, newspaper reporters and editors, and so on and so forth. In a perfect world in which the laws of macromemetics were somehow suspended, pretendians could be removed, fired, outed, unmasked, and so forth. Defendians are an example, and expression, if you will, of why this doesn't happen. More on this later.
Alliance theory (5) models things like how certain agents are able to deploy memes that make things work that would not work without the benefactors' influence. Obviously, pretendians get short-listed for university jobs, publication contracts and book deals, and media contracts for TV and movie shows and so on. The fact that these work tells us that there is resonance among the decision makers with the kind of fake Indian memes that pretendians are putting out (7).
Now we come to the Three Narrative Model. The radical narrative is that committing genocide (on Native Americans, or others) and of course the conservative narrative is full of memes and entire memeplexes that justify this action and the ongoing actions that flow out of it. To counter the minority voices that "that genocide was bad," a Liberal Narrative was created that Native Americans should get relief (jobs, short-lists for projects, publications, etc.) and that they "are cool" and "deserve special attention." This shields the conservative narrative from immunomemetic attacks like 'we mistreated the Native Americans' with "yeah, that may be true, but they get free medicine, and free university jobs, and free food, etc."
This is problematic, however. Liberal activity consists in changing the memetic configuration of those already close to the center of the system, rather than those who are to be "helped." Part of the reason that the abused and/or disenfranchised need "help" is that they have relatively less memetic involvement, fewer memes which they may successfully deploy in order to change their own relationship to the memetic fabric (8) in terms of access to resources, which according to Alliance Theory, is critical to self-actualization, upward mobility, what-have-you. This is basically my Three Narrative Model argument about the uselessness of Liberal movements and how they ultimately only server to strengthen, consolidate, and defend the Conservative Narrative.
Hence pretendianism. We have not sought out the Native Americans in need of help, but rather "raised the consciousness" of people close to the system of distribution of resources in a fairly generic way. "Give jobs, scholarships, etc. to people who say they are Indians," becomes the memetic subsystem. There's always polarization when such new memetic subsystems are introduced, e.g., people who think that Native Americans should be given help, and those that don't. The problem is that the "give help" faction is polarized to take some specific action in order to mark their membership in said faction, as opposed to something that actually helps.
This is a subtle yet important point, and I hope that I shall be able to illuminate it. The meme "we should help Indians" splits the cohort (or memetic fabric (8)) into two parts: the "we should help" and "we should not help" factions. Note that it does not create a "people who help Indians" or even "people who are able to recognize actual Indians." This gets down to some macromemetic basics, for one, marking and closure (9). "Recognizing Indians" and "helping Indians" are problematic because they tend to have poor marking, poor closure, and are hard to inject (11), which means that they are less agreeable to people who would otherwise adopt them (12). By contrast, "help/don't help" memes are readily distinguished, i.e., they have good marking and closure, and members of each are distinguished one from another. Good marking and closer also (theoretically) relates to the injectability and virility (13) of a meme. Obviously, people prefer memes that are virile and which are readily injected into other minds. Ironically, it's easier to look like you're helping Indians than it is to actually help them, and to pretend to help Indians, you need people to pretend to be Indians.
Pretendianism and the Liberal Narrative
We can see how the phenomenon of pretendianism can develop through the process of the Liberal Narrative. The Radical Narrative states that people should be treated equally and fairly, and that genocide is bad. Obviously this didn't work out too well, and the Conservative Narrative is full of memetic systems that justify the historical record and the perpetuation of the hierarchical power structures that allowed those historical events to transpire, and to continue on into the future unimpeded. The Liberal narrative typically operates by selecting memes from the Conservative Narrative, like that mistreating Native Americas was okay and continues to be okay, and construct new memes either by contradicting memes from the Conservative Narrative, and/or dragging in and combining memes from the Radical Narrative. For instance, "genocide is bad," or "the historical genocide of the Native Americans was bad," and "Native Americans should be given academic positions to compensate for genocide." Of course, this and other memes imply that giving out free jobs and free medical care (which was part of the initial treaties, by the way) somehow "make up for" previous atrocities.
So what? Now we look at the injections of these kinds of meme pairs into a population. With memetic injection, we worry about such things as marking and closure. Memes that are clear-cut, and which tie into lots of existing memes in the Conservative Narrative are readily accepted and spread well. Things like "recognizing who's a Native American" or "help a Native American" are not good candidates for reasons which I hope are obvious. "Give Native Americans jobs (as compensation)" however is pretty good, so long as working out who actually is a Native American isn't part of it (14). In sum, memes that get successfully injected and spread are memes that have good marking and closure, and by their very nature tend not to be those that actually help anybody.
Another critical aspect of memetic injection is resonance (15). Memes only survive and propagate if they get a reaction. This presupposes that some (large) population is familiar with the meme and are prepared to deploy one or more memes in response to it. This is helped by plugging into a system of existing memes, which of course is already widely spread, and resonates with large numbers of agents. For instance, memes such as, "Native Americans were in North America before Europeans arrived," "genocide was committed against the natives," "European descendants should compensate surviving natives," "Natives should be given preference for academic positions." Some of these might be widely accepted already, and others might be new. Every meme is going to tend to produce polarization (17).
But as I mentioned, the degree of polarlization is related to the degree of acceptance to a meme, in other words, the extent that the meme has been successfully injected into a population. If a meme is not especially virile (successful), then it will not polarize a very large swath of a cohort (18), or memetic fabric. So we might posit that the Pretendian Memeplex (21) is more viable than the "really do things to help Native Americans" memeplex (the Really Help Memeplex?) or even the "do nothing" memeplex.
Alliance Theory and Pretendianism
I have just begun to delve into what I'm calling Alliance Theory. The idea is that certain memetic agents "do better" or "get further" than others, and this seems to be due to their having "allies" who either deflect attacks (immunomemes (22)) or provide an additional set of memes that allow the "beneficiary/protegée" to move between memetic states to arrive at final states more easily or gain access to states which are denied to others (23).
One question in alliance theory is why do the benefactors do what they do? Is the influence over the king they help place on the throne the reason kingmakers do what they do? Probably not always. It may always be incidental. Do they garner some kind of "reputation" with others that they have the power to make things happen? What "risks" (vulnerability to immunomemes) does an ally run?
While the motivations of the ally may be unclear, the motivations of the beneficiary would certainly seem to be. We'll try to illuminate both of these. The first thing seems to be to identify what memes are deployed to the benefit of pretendians (to the exclusion of others), and also who deploys them. One important macromemetic principle that comes into play is how to decide whom to make a beneficiary and whom not? That is, how are the beneficiaries marked? If the special favors are done in secret, then the benefactor runs more risks of attack. If they can be done in public, such that other agents have no bullying opportunities (immunomemes) to deploy, then the benefactor is able to get whatever benefits he or she gets from being a benefactor, deploying the benefactor memes, while running few if any risks.
So this discriminating meme, the memeplex that gives the benefactor "permission" to act as an ally, to choose some protegees over others, would seem to be key. As with all things, if there is good marking and closure, then the system will flourish. If everything is ad hoc and case-by-case, then it will bog down.
Benefactors of Pretendianism
This comes down to "what benefits the benefactor?" in alliances, a topic that I'm still sifting through. This may require a bit of research by people who are close to the action in university departments, publishing companies, TV and movie production companies, etc. about those who have given aid and comfort to pretendians. Which exact benefits have been conveyed to pretendians by whom? Specific anecdotes would be useful, and would inform design of macromemetic countermeasures to pretendianism and defendianism.
Why Be A Defendian?
People always like to be in a situation where they can deploy memes in the confidence they will resonate and for which there will be no immunomemetic counterattacks. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say the quest for such an idyllic situation, usually impossible (24), describes the fundamental existential crisis of the human condition. The "Karendian" meme is interesting, because it wraps itself in the trappings of "punching up" and protecting some oppressed group (in this case pretendians). Of course, pretendians are not an oppressed group. They are privileged individuals engaged in fraud, defrauding their employers and the system designed to help Real Native Americans.
The "Karen" meme is one of a privileged person (upper-middle-class, white woman) "punching down" on people (usually of color) with less money, and more vulnerable to police mistreatment, etc. Part of this invulnerability is especially macromemetic in nature, in that the Karen is not readily counterattacked (she is "unassailable," a term I like to use in macromemetics) and her memetic inventory resonates much more strongly with the rest of society, especially with powerholders (such as the police). The "Karen Meme" turns this advantage on its head by painting the Karen (some might say rightly) as being pathologically selfish, deliberately cruel, passive-aggressive, wanton, motivated by the desire to cause harm in order to draw attention to herself.
Defendians use the Karendian Meme to try to turn the Karen Meme back on those who seek to expose pretendians (and defendians). The suggestion is that "karendians" are wanton, selfish, hurting those who don't deserve it just to draw attention to themselves. Obviously, the opposite is true. So-called karendians are not the ones "punching down" it's the defendians and pretendians who are doing so. One could argue that telling the truth is never "punching down." The real Natives and their allies are the ones punching up. Deploying memes to do with what it means to be a real Native is an uphill battle, because not everybody knows them in any detail, most don't. Deploying memes that contradict entrenched power and privilege is also an uphill battle. None of these resonate well, certainly not universally with the people and institutions involved.
Summary & Conclusions
People like memes that have good marking and closure. They like to be sure they've seen something and be sure how they're meant to react without drawing fire from anybody else. Memes cause the polarization of memetic fabrics, and the more well-marked and the more virile (contagious) the meme, the more complete the polarization.
Native culture is like any other foreign culture: complex, unfamiliar, rife with confusing details, and we also tend to stereotype certain aspects and use them to identify said culture or group of people, i.e., contact memes (24). Contact memes are important because there is an enormous amount of widely-held stereotypes about Native American in mainstream America (the Western genre, Cowboys and Indians, the magical Indian leitmotif, omnipresent Indian place names, among many others). One macromemetic result is that fake rubbish resonates strongly with most Americans, the real stuff doesn't so much (26), which is true of everything. The point is that there's a pile of fake rubbish already there, much like with, say, France, Russia, or China, but there are millions more of those folks, and they all have nuclear weapons, which of course First Nations don't.
Liberation movements all seem to go for directly attacking the status quo, making a point that something we've all been doing for a long time is now wrong and we've got to stop doing it. Unfortunately, this makes everybody think about all of the ostensible reasons why we were doing it, even ones which weren't top-of-mind until the movement kicked it up, and now everybody's thinking about all of it. Another problem is that introducing new memes (like, "Stop doing that!") into a memetic fabric causes polarization. One effect is that part of the people say, "Yes, maybe we should stop doing it," and part say "No, let's keep doing it." (27).
A problem is that optimal meme virility, marking, injection, and polarization all conspire to produce the hiring of people who are good (enough) at pretending to be Indians via the contact memes all Americans have rather than hiring real Native Americans, and by extension, defending this practice and the people who do it (defendians). Any solution must deal with these problems, and probably won't look like "it will all be solved when everybody knows what a true Native looks like," for example.
I need more detailed anecdotal data about how pretendians have gotten their way, particularly ways in which pretendian benefactors have helped out, in detail, and the sorts of things that defendians have done. Detailed anecdotes will help in building a description of the memetic system of alliances. With this information, countermeasures may be designed and injected, and pretendianism may be torn out by the roots. I feel the macromemetical alliance system is the key. Identify as many of the memes as possible, design countermeasures in the form of immunomemes and replacement memes, inject those new memes into the system, and continue the process until people in all positions are not so much embarrassed to support and defend pretendianism (some of that, perhaps), but mainly just being drawn to something else, and feeling supported by the community in that action.
(1) Memetic replacement is a technique whereby new memes are engineered to replace undesirable ones. The undesirable memes are then allowed to atrophy. People do not give up memes outright, and it is difficult to shame them into not using them, because they have emotional and social investment in them and rely on them for memetic rewards (2).
(2) Memetic reward. Humans like to exchange memes with one another. They are memetophilic. In other words, putting out (deploying) a meme and having receiving humans make some kind of memetic response gives a physiological reward, and humans cannot live without that reward. It is better to get a negative response than no response. The inability to get any response from one's fellow humans leads to violence. The feeling that one could deploy a meme and get a response, is reässuring (this has bearing on childrearing, by the way).
(3) One of the sources of strength of a given meme is the perception that everybody knows about it. The translates into the perception of a guarantee of a large reward. If I speak English in a group where I know everybody speaks it, I'm guaranteed that my message will be received. If I make a well-known political, sports, or joke reference, I'm similarly guaranteed a reward. If I make a novel reference, one that is sound, but requires thinking, I am likely not to get such a reward. Anyway, this is a fundamental principle of macromemetics.
(4) The Triple Narrative, or 3-Way Narrative Model, or Three Narrative Model contains a Radical (or Fundamental) Narrative, a Conservative Narrative, and a Liberal (or Pseudo-Liberal, Crypto-Conservative, or Status Quo Apologist) Narrative. These could also be called "the way things should be," "the way things are (or have to be)," and "the reason why things are the way they are (have to be)." The radical line is that people are all equal, everybody should have enough to eat and a place to sleep, etc., and the conservative narrative justifies the hierarchical systems that say "yes, but," and "some animals are more equal than others," and states that we will not be providing these things, and the liberal narrative is the most tricky, and defends, according to my theory, the conservative narrative even while appearing to attack/question it, based on a number of basic macromemetic principles which probably operate in a counterintuitive way to actually strengthen and consolidate the conservative narrative rather than dismantle it.
(5) Alliance Theory deals with how some memetic agents are able to succeed with the outside help from other agents while others fail without any such help (for example, getting a job, getting a book contract, or just succeeding at a task that requires some form of cooperation). I'm working on fleshing out the details how the "helpers" (allies, benefactors) also gain from the transactions, which may have something to do with memetic nexus (6).
(6) A memetic nexus is a network with a person or organization at the center to which a cohort of agents are "subscribed" by a short jump. The effect is that all subscribers are able to exchange memes, to engage in memetic interactions with one another using fresh memes coming out of the nexus, in the knowledge that all the other cohort members will be able to resonate with each other.
(7) Do real Indians get proportionally fewer jobs than pretendians? This appears to be the case. If so, this suggests that the pretend-Indian memes resonate more than real Indian memes with employment decisions.
(8) Memetic Fabric is a collection of "memetically interconnected" minds. Minds that are able to exchange memes with one another, i.e., are not cut off from one another. This implies, also that said minds have at least some memes in common (like a language). It can be a cohort (or minds, i.e., people, typically) that are connected by geography, same building, same company, commonly used network, game application, culture, etc.
(9) Marking and Closure are two basic macromemetic concepts, which have a lot of bearing on memetic design, by the way. Marking refers to how easily the deployment of a meme is about to be perceived by other agents. See papers about Blue Shirt Tuesday and the Koffee Klatch for contrast, also the short story Electoral College Professor from Other Worlds anthology. Closure is not unrelated to marking, in that it describes how clear it is that a memetic exchange is completed. This has bearing on resisdual memetic debt and memetic loops (10).
(10) Residual Memetic Debt and Memetic Loops. When an agent deploys a meme, she expects some kind of reply (could be a specific one, or any of a list of possible ones). Being ignored is the worst possible outcome. People would rather be hurt than ignored, and having no memetic recourse to response from other people can lead to violence. One way to prevent outbursts of violence is to ensure that at least some memetic channel is open for all people. A memetic loop is a completed memetic exchange. When an agent deploys a meme, she "opens a memetic loop" which is only closed when the transaction is completed. Opening a loop "incurs memetic debt" which the deployer carries until the loop is closed by some response. If the closure of the loop is somehow fuzzy, or either side is unclear about whether it is complete, there is residual memetic debt. This concept was discovered in the Koffee Klatch experiment. Residual memetic debt has a number of deep ramifications for human psychology and economics, including why inflation is such a problem.
(11) Injection refers to introducing a meme into a cohort (population, memetic fabric). see (13)
(12) People like memes that have good marking and closure because they produce reliable rewards. They also like memes which appear to have widespread injection (adoption), since that translates into reliable response from the rest of the cohort. A simple and silly example might be a meme like, "Give me a dollar!" If there are ten people within earshot (in the memetic fabric) and I know that each of them will give me a dollar if I yell for it, then I may go for it. If I have no reason to believe that anybody will, and maybe have a good idea that I'll be bullied for it, then I'll probably decide not to. It's simple: we don't do stuff that's unlikely to get us what we want (and by that I mean memetic response, since we often do things that don't help us materially).
(13) Injection and Virility (success): Injection is introduction of a meme into a mind or collection of minds (memetic fabric). Virility (or success) is how readily a meme propagates through a population (memetic fabric or cohort). See (11)
(14) Having to discriminate something, or having lots of people who are able to, makes for a meme that has poor marking and poor closure. A few people can tell if somebody's a Native or not, a lot aren't so good at it, and most are rubbish at it, makes for a meme with poor marking, not very black and white, for instance. Plus, a process for working out who's a Native or not might not converge very reliably or consistently, and so would be said to have poor closure.
(15) Resonance refers to how a population reacts to a meme deployed by an agent in that population. Reacting including doing nothing (which can be a meme) or any of a number of memes. A nudist disrobing in a nudist colony and nobody reacting is an example of no reaction being a positive resonance. Resonance may be positive or negative (16)
(16) The "positive" versus "negative" terminology is still somewhat in flux. No reaction, no resonance, is the worst outcome for a deploying agent. Being ignored is worse than being hurt. You could talk about "positive" being a reaction that one is expecting, one that "benefits" the initiator (whatever that means), or one that "harms" the deployer (again, whatever that means). So we have react/ignore and then harms/benefits and expected/unexpected. The most "significant" of these may be ignore/react.
(17) Polarization is where for a given meme, part of the population accepts it, and the others reject it, or accept some other corresponding "opposite" meme.
(18) A cohort may be thought of as a "population". The cohort of a meme or memetic inventory or memeplex is the group of people that are inured of that meme, in other words, those that are capable of recognizing it, responding to it, deploying it. A "memetic fabric" (8) in some ways resembles a cohort, but it is a collection of minds that are in memetic contact. So in principle there could be islands of agents (19) which share some of the same memes, but are not in contact such that they are part of a fabric.
(19) A memetic "agent" is an entity (typically a person, but these days could be a net bot or AI, for example, or even an institution such as the Catholic Church or the US Government) which is able to deploy memes, as well as maintain an internal memetic inventory and internal deployment decision system (20)
(20) A Deployment decision depends on memetic states which consists of a matrix of agents and memes, and the next state to which the system transitions when a given agent deploys a given meme. The state tells you that a certain collection of agents (a subset of the members of the overall memetic fabric) and a subset of the memes which those agents are able to deploy are all of the possible deployments that may happen in that state, and for each possible agent + meme deployment, what the new state will be. For languages, this looks something like a grammar. For instance, "The" could begin a sentence, and next comes a noun (from a subset able to follow "The"), like "apple." And all along there's the question of which agents are able to deploy which memes. Most agents might be able to deploy "falls" next, perhaps fewer "of my eye."
(21) A memeplex is a collection of memes, c.f. Susan Blackmore, et al. I use this term interchangeably with "memetic system." When I use the term, I mean a collection of memes that work together, in which every one of the memes interacts with the others to some degree. The words in a language are an example, and a random collection of words across two or more languages are an example of a collection of memes that are not a memeplex or memetic system, since they cannot all be used together and thereby do not support each other as part of a single system.
(22) Immunomenes (see also Immunomemeplex) are memes which become available as the result of "bullying opportunities." The First Law of Immunomemetics states that any stable memetic system contains an immunomemetic system (which prevents it from changing). The successful deployment of novel memes ultimately results in the mutation of a memetic system. If there are no memes which allow cohort members to deploy negative memes ("to bully") other cohort members for this, then the memeplex will be unstable. By contrast, if such novel deployments can be stopped, then the memeplex will be more stable, resistant to mutation over time. The "carrying capacity" of a memetic fabric is limited, so if new memes appear and grow, they will undermine existing memeplexes, weakening them if not replacing them outright. An interesting memetic design approach for preventing this is Packing the Memespace (22.1).
(22.1) Packing the Memespace. Early IBM pesonnel management affords and interesting example, by the way. The "memespace" is a kind of catch-all term, loosely interchangeable with "memetic inventory," but meaning the inventory of active memes in a given fabric. Brains can only hold so many memes for active use, so there is the possibility of memes pushing their way in and pushing others out. Packing the Memespace is about deliberately creating "junk memes" (like "junk genes" that don't code to any proteins) within a given memeplex. The object is two-fold: make sure that "our memeplex" is running as much as possible (if a brain goes into another memeplex, who known when it'll come back), and starve other memeplexes out of space in the memespace. These junk memes also serve to connect our "functional" memes together, which serves the objectives.
(23) There may well be a concept of "anti-alliances" in which there are agents or groups of agents, with special memeplexes, which do the opposite of what allies do. In other words, rather than making special opportunities and shortening pathways, creating special memetic states that help, "antagonists" would bring additional immunomemes to bear on the "victims" and even create "bad states" (being in jail, being held without charges, getting shot at, etc.) and funneling victims into them.
(24) Such are the dreams of people who have no power dreaming of what it would be like to actually have it. Of course, real people who have actual power still tend to find themselves in macromememtically murky circumstances, rather unlike those who try to imagine what real power is like.
(25) Contact memes, Memeplexes that represent a group to another group, eg, non-Mormons might think of Mormons as wearing black ties, short-sleeved Oxford shirts with name tags reading "Elder So-and-so" and riding around on bicycles. This imagery may be partly or wholly true, but there is much more of Mormon culture such as temple and Family Home Evening and so on that Mormons might consider "more important" and of which the non-Mormon might be ignorant and would not recognize as Mormon culture if presented with it. Interface Memes are memes which can act as ways for two cultures to exchange (limited) memetic information and can be thought of a superset of Contact Memes.
(26) The rubbish resonates. One fun example of how memes work is a pretendian could try is saying something like, "You know, not all native tribes say 'How' or use a bow and arrow or wear feathers in their hair." This comment resonates with how the listener may actually think that all tribes are the same on these things, and that the deployer must be some kind of expert by adding onto them. That's the way memes work. It's not how facts or logic or reality works, however, and that's partly the point.
(27) The ideal would be to design the polarization in advance so that the polarization is complete and that both halves are doing what I want. I call this the Miller Lite "Great taste, less filling" approach. You often find that only 5% of people feel one say, 5% the other way, 3% are aware of the question but aren't really sure, and the other 87% are unaware the question even exists. Liberation movements don't seem to do this much, though.