Thursday, 24 February 2011

Is this the worst definition of meme ever?

This "definition" of a meme was in the 'about' section in a Facebook quiz about how many of the top 100 literary books you may or may not have read.  It has to rank as the worst attempts at defining a meme I have yet come across.

A “meme” is a little chain-letter-like game that people send around the internet.

Is it?  I couldn't resist... here was my reply.


Oh man that definition up top of 'meme' makes me bristle.  In one hundred years time cultural evolution, through memetics (or whatever the fuck you petty academics want to call it), will be recognised as equally significant as genetic evolution; it is what makes us, us.

Without memes there would be no identity.  We would be animals of pure instinct. Memes are all human-made products, all language, all artifacts, all culture. They are the basis for our morality, the vehicle of our progression, the network from which History emerges.  When shared, they are what give us our humanity; when not, our inhumanity.

Dawkins name will go down with Darwin's as the two most influential individuals to avow and propogate evolutionary ideas.  Once humanity comes to understand the power of the meme, we will understand the conceptual darkness humanity has suffered under, the false notions of the self as soul and external, interpretable moral codes born of a time of memetic infancy, where the 'other' prowls relentlessly and power was held by the few over all civilisation.

We are now coming out of that darkness, the illusion of 'other' dissapating before our now global eyes. We will soon recognise our true responsibilities and our true sense of self within a complex network of equal individuals.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Internet, global identity and the overthrow of power.

The world is beginning to fracture, dissonance is building and if nothing is done by those in power the fault-line will snap.  The world may be talking of an Arab revolution, but History will, I believe, see this as the birth of something bigger: the emergence of the first global identity founded on equality and a rejection of power.

Why do I think this? Throughout my writing, one thing stands out as crucial: Morality is correlated with communication technology.  That we empathise with that which we know, that we connect with, has been known a long time yet it's ramifications have yet to be fully understood.  It is clear that the accelerating pace of technological change was responsible for an accelerating pace of emancipation, inclusion into societies moral sphere. Now this advance has progressed beyond national boundaries, we are seeing the first generation in History able to form an identity that was not of their masters creation.  And what do they see? They see others of their generation around the world cheering them on, helping them at risk of arrest, connecting with them far more deeply than they do with their own rulers.

Lets be clear. We are relative beings. Its all very well having lots of material goods, but if your 'advanced' nation has extreme wealth inequality then happiness it will not bring. Every nation on earth is governed by corrupt people who share more in common with each other than they do with their own citizens.  Let me explain why this is so important.

Imagine taking all the people in the world and splitting them into two groups. In the first group, you have all of the people with power: the wealthy, the politicians, the capitalists and all the resources they command.  In the second group we have everybody else: the dispossessed, the relative poor, the oppressesed.  Seems fairly one-sided right? Well you are right... the powerful don't stand a chance.  Here's why.

Imagine these two groups as two circles whose size is proportioned solely to the number of individuals. Now see the people tower over the powerful (at least on paper).  But, those resources I mentioned earlier are also people: the army, the police force, lower ranking officials who decide they don't have enough to risk their own lives... an awful lot of their family and friends may well be on the other side of the divide.  Those not fully indoctrinated, once confronted with a huge fucking circle that aint afraid no one no more, will switch sides, aware of their kingmaker status due to the reliance that power has on them.

Where it gets messy is when you consider those 'old-school' elements of society, potentially numerous, who have been subjected to living an identity constructed by others, be it religion, nationalism or free-market ideals.  These people know no other identity, literally.  They are unable to empathise with the 'other', unaware that all around them their children are coming to identify with them more than their own parents. This largely generational divide has never been more evident than now, the young having evolved beyond the power schemas of their elders, disgusted at the immorality of outdated politics.


N.b This is very generalised but, since I'm making judgement calls solely on systems theory, I don't feel like I'm being offensive in what is to come.  After all, I'm not actually passing judgement at all here, merely talking History.

America is an interesting memetic sandwich.  Down the coasts it is highly multicultural.  It is here we also find the most liberal, open-minded, largely Democratic individuals.  Through the middle and down south you have a more religious, largely Republican society with little memetic mixing at all.  If one looks at the different memes inherent in these two polarised views, you simply have to come to the conclusion that Democrats represent the most recently emancipated ideas. After-all, Republican dogma is wrapped up in religious ideas whose age is measured in thousands of years.  Their most recent dogma is that of the free-market, an unobtainable ideal decades old, long disproved, that is successful solely because of it's undoubted facilitation of greed.  These are ideas whose time came when communication technology was still limited to a state monopoly!  They may have been moral then, but in the face of an opposition whose ideals extend further they appear ever more selfish and immoral.

The problem is that there has been such limited mixing in many Republican heartlands that identity there is still created with mental tools that are decades old at best, retaining the 'other' of that time. History does not swing back as far as republicans want.  Not without major repression.  They are desperately clinging to certain ways, certain of God, certain of the possibility of the chance of the dream of becoming Rich; indoctrinated to blind subservience and supplied with pre-packaged, logic-defying ammunition with which to insult dissonance away. Group-think, positive and negative bias; a cultural bubble unto themselves where the unknown is riduculed in an unknowing way.  Whatever narrative Fox news says, is.

On the other side, Democrats too are now on the wrong side of History. They share more in common with their Republican counterparts than either party has with the citizens they represent.  Both comprise a Duopoly of corruption self-legitimised by unquestioned capitalist ideals of the primacy of wealth and misguided social Darwinism. Neither talks about the real issues: military spending, corruption, bought-power, a re-evaluation of what it means to be a state in the globalised world, because it is both parties that are guilty of forgetting their place.  The choice of social destination is a sham, a mirage; it is merely whether you take the scenic rout* to repression or the highway.

Yet through it all comes a youth that by human nature seems to grow into technology as if it has always been there (which to them it has).  This ability to adapt is leading millions of youths to plug in, along with like-minded individuals around the world, and witness global events of shared importance.  Images and voices of Tunisia and Egypt, Libya and Bahrain, have seared themselves into minds the world over, especially in the wired-up West, marking the beginning of a global identity that will countenance the universal use of the 'other' by states everywhere.  This breaking free of nationally enclosed, officially-manufactured identity will coalesce into a global moral force that will rally around the one issue that unites people everywhere: Corrupt Power.  Rationality will act as an attractor, and rationality derived from global communication structures will be global in its conclusions: One people, One planet.

When people see freedom, they yearn for it.  The opening up of social spaces into a global communication network will, without doubt, mark the greatest revolution humanity has ever known.  Until now, revolutions have been subject to limited, nationalistic worldviews, the oppressed becoming the oppressor because, like the abused becoming abusers, it was all they ever knew.  Global communication and the explosion of comparative data it brings marks a turning point, the first expressions of global identity no longer bound by the grip of the few.  Here dissonance begets cynicism and the very concept or 'power' begins to go the way of racism; a social ill that will no longer be tolerated.  This is the first generation for whom their moral common denominator is that of humanity as a whole, and that is something that the inherently nationalistic state, a concept born in ignorance of the wider-world, was not built to cope with.  

Read Anonymous's latest statement.  Tell me that social schema isn't way more moral than the racist, wealth-obsessed, real-politik of the status-quo.  That shit's contemporary, that shit's on the right side of History.

* (sic)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The out-dated mindset of the Social Contract and it's support for exploitation

Since I haven't posted in a while, I'd thought i'd share this rant I was compelled to write in reply to someone my wife knows back in the states...

History is not one continuous, unchanging line. Humanities empathy is determined by what we know; our fears determined by what we don't know. This means morality is determined by the extent of the communication infrastructure that capitalism is responsible for building.

As exploitative as it is, at least capitalism is thereby sowing the seeds of its own downfall.

You see, militarism makes sense when communication structures were limited to national borders (except for the republic of letters during the enlightenment). In that age, everyone was an 'other', a potential enemy that meant governments had a duty to protect their citizens with strength. During this time, xenophobia was a virtue and racism acceptable.

That is no longer the age we are in.

Communication is global. Global influences through the internet are generating a youth who, more than ever before, incorporate humanity as a whole as equally worthy of rights and respect. But where does that leave nationalist duties of government? What was once a virtue: wealth grabbing, resource plundering, national security entailing military bases all over the world, propping up repressive regimes because it suits (i.e for money, or access to it), being a superpower... these things are no longer the moral imperative. They unquestionably assume that whatever is best for ones own population must be done, no matter the cost to 'others'.

There are no 'others' anymore.

Violence begats violence. Unquestionably, the U.S has been the single leading sponser of terrorism for the last 60 years, no corner of the globe has been left untouched.  Whether it was directly in proxy wars with Russia or beating on Latin American countries who dared defy the corporations that held them to ransom, or indirectly through scores of dictatorships, armed by U.S companies, trained in the U.S and sent to subjugate people like those in West Papua, suffering cultural genocide whilst their land is sullied and raped.

 Imagine.  Look at Americas response to 9/11. You rightly, as did I, got amazingly upset and angry. The 'other' of which you are scared are human too. They fear, they get angry, and then you have the gall to wonder why?

"It's because they hate our freedoms!" - The most insulting soundbite of them all. It is because they want your freedom but the U.S. denies them this chance.

Seriosuly, what Human does not want to be free?!

The safest thing America could possibly do is to practice what it preaches. Stop the militarism, stop the exploitation, stop determining peoples futures like they are pieces on a chesssboard. Because it isn't the 'other' that will be the threat when it all gets too much. No, the 'other' will have actually have joined with the increasing millions of Americans and people around the globe that have seen their humanity and empathise with them. It will be corporate apologists that will become the 'other' as people fail to understand how such one-sided, exclusive empathy could exist in such an unjust world.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Good luck Egypt, the world is cheering for you.

Atheists, to my regret, have thus far failed to coin a phrase more resonant than "God help them", exclamation being so infused with religious terms.  Instead, I hope with all my heart that Egyptian helps Egyptian today, the 'Day of Departure', a 21st Century civic D-Day.  Will they march on the palace? Will the army finally flinch? Will Mubarak be forced to step down and would the people settle for Suleiman?  Having done my back in, I shall be watching the bravest example of journalism since Bradley Manning leaked those files, that of Al Jazeera (English Version). It will be an emotional ride as I cheer the brothers and sisters I never knew I had on their struggle to end the nightmare of dictatorship.

Whatever the outcome, we are seeing a seismic shift in Geo-politics.  Don't think for a second that with the Euro still in danger, the utter failure to reform the financial system, the widening inequality and the like, politicians the world over aren't thinking to themselves just how far this could spread.  This fight for freedom (a stunningly rare occurrence given that some would have it used as the subtitle for edited highlights of the last decade.) is being watched worldwide, the majority cheering for those who have finally had enough with living under a dictator.  They outnumber armchair Mubarak fans by thousands to one.  It provides empathy through shared memes (#jan24: symbol for 'freedom') in just the same psychological way that sports fans bond.  That isn't to belittle the situation; that's to accept humanities beautiful capacity to empathise.  And it's that which is going to win us this battle against corruption and abuse of power everywhere.

If the protest groups that gained freedom in Tunisia can gain political representation of some description and reach out to (we hope) protest groups that gained freedom and political significance in Egypt and beyond, then they have an amazing opportunity to form bonds from the unique (in the multinational sense) position of already having a strong bond.  Has this happened before?  There is a certain anti-politics in the expressions of the last few weeks, unless the manifesto from the Gaza Youth has influenced subsequent views.  Has dissonance simply got to a point already whereby political reality and social reality are now too far apart, creating a generation of cynical, sceptical youth?  It is clearly on the rise in West, and I'd put money on a lot of people in Greece being inspired by Egypt at this very moment.

But today is Egypt's day.  We must do everything we can to help.  Phone your congress, phone your MP, offer words of hope and encouragement online and continue to develop this shared, global, imagined identity.  Everyone is linked now, in ten years time: ten times more so, a crowd-sourced, democratised (pray* it stays so) global identity.  If all those who legitimately support freedom continue to support it, be assured that when your time comes, the people of newly, truly, democratic Egypt will have your back. 

* See what I mean?