Toxic Memes of Modern Culture

The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.* If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. As my colleague N. K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter: ‘… memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically.* When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn’t just a way of talking—the meme for, say, “belief in life after death” is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.’

 — Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene” 1976

Unrelated Robin

If you take a long view of history, you can see patterns, where opposing ideas struggle for influence within society.

I’d like to explicitly call out some of these memes, and the impact that they are having on our society today, as well as similar examples of these memes causing problems in history.

Culture is a way of examining the behaviors of humans as a group. When a given group is following beneficial memes, the leaders reflect those values, and then the people will follow them because they are all in agreement.

When a given culture adopts toxic memes, it behaves in toxic manners with toxic results. People impacted by the toxic results fight back, which can escalate to violence if the two sides are not able to find a compromise that works for all parties. Any solution other than addressing the toxic memes is likely to fail over time.

Humans are inherently evil, and need to be made good using force.

This is the core of my understanding of strict father morality. It assumes that the father knows best, which is certainly not always the case.

When this mindset acquires power, it is authoritarianism.

If the people are in agreement with the individuals in charge, force is unnecessary, even if the position is a benevolent dictatorship.

If the people are not in agreement, then force will be used to keep the status quo that benefits the individuals who acquired power.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

 And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

 and to walk humbly with your God.

— Micah 6:8 (NIV)

There’s a number of problems with this idea. This idea is addressed in most major religions that I’m aware of, although many modern preachers instead preach prosperity gospel which justifies it.

If you are encouraged to do whatever you can get away with, then you must have a strict set of rules which prevents you from doing anything wrong. This can only be achieved through an authoritarian regime.

In the security world, there’s a concept of default deny versus default allow. The most secure system is a default deny, where you explicitly enable anything you wish you allow. Attempting to just block the resources you wish to secure includes a weakness where a new service may be allowed by default unnecessarily.

If you’re talking about a society, default deny would be a strictly regimented dystopia.

A default allow with explicit denies in a society would be a growing set of rules applied primarily to the people without the resources to fight back. Combined with a culture that refuses accountability of those with power, it results in the drain of real wealth (self-sufficiency, land, resources) over time with a growing police state to keep down the increasingly angry people.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

 — Frédéric Bastiat (1848)

Money is just an Asset

The Fed has been dumping cash on the market since the start of the Trump administration.

Money is a way of measuring wealth, rather than being wealth itself. Real wealth like land has real value for survival. It provides provides a place for shelter, and can be used to grow food. The real value of the land remains constant, but the cash value changes based upon the availability of cash within the surrounding community.

Adding more money to part of a community increases the cash value of the properties in the community, which increases property taxes for those on a fixed cost of living.

We don’t need constant growth. We need enough changing hands to keep things moving. That is incompatible with a wealthy class taking as much as possible.

A Person’s Time Is Only Worth What Someone Is Willing To Pay

Underemployed Americans are our number one underutilized resource. We have talented individuals who are unable to find a reasonable paying job.

Investing in a person can give a substantial return to both the employer and the employee. It just depends on someone taking a chance, and helping someone else develop valuable skills by solving your problems.

That person’s value does not increase when you are willing to pay them more. The value is intrinsic.