MEMES (Second Article Entitled “MEMES II” is attached at the end)

http://ghandchi.com/09-Memes.htm

 

 

It seems to me that Iran is going thru big changes and I believe looking at new theories that have tried to evaluate major changes is useful in analyzing the current situation of changes both within Iran and also in the context of the global changes. One interesting theory is about Memes. First let us see the difference between a community of individuals and mass.

 

There is a BIG difference between the community of  INDIVIDUALS and what is referred to as MASS. The former is much more powerful and acts much more smarter than a  single individual, whereas the latter can even be worse than a single individual. Look at the MASS of the NAZI fascists Look at the MASS of the STALINISTS. Look at the MASS of CRUSADERS. This mass is like a sheep. They have not independently come up with the conclusions that their group (or MASS) is subscribing to. They only share the prejudice.

 

Of course everything is relative. There is nothing wrong with following the orders of a good dermatologist when you have a skin problem, but only if you have the necessary skills to recognize a genuine dermatologist, otherwise not having a dermatologist may even be better than following one because of GROUPTHINK. So it depends.

 

A group, which is a group of independent thinking individuals, is very powerful and self-conscious; whereas a group, which is a MASS of people, in the sense of sharing a prejudice, is not really acting out of consciousness. It acts usually out of ignorance. That is the evangelists and moonies, and name it, all these cults that are in abundance in the West, i.e. ideological cults in the West and political cults in the East.

 

Some people like Dawkins even think this is related to a disease which is spreading *MEMES*. In his Selfish Gene of 1976, he argues for that as the bottom-line reason of intolerance spreading like a plague in the world. I am not really sure if how verifiable this theory is, but I think he has seen the problem, even if not having necessarily found the solution. Here is how this is viewed.

 

We know that thru reproduction, a life form can pass along to future generations its own bundle of genetic information or messages. Dawkins argues that over the course of evolutionary  history, it has proved highly adaptive for life forms to develop ways to transmit information nongenetically, as well. The type of communication can take many forms: the complex patterns danced by honey bees to tell each other the location of pollen; the releasing into air of pheromones-chemical substances that influence other members of a species; the songs of birds and whales; the subtle resonances of human speech, writing , music, and art.

 

If genes are molecular bundles of self-replicating information, these apparently nonmolecular, bundles of self-replicating information that use minds to get itself reproduced are called MEMES (rhymes with themes) by Dawkins. He sees these patterns as existing in all human societies and the central law of meme evolution, as in genetic evolution, is survival of the stable.

 

He sees that the world has been like long-isolated tribes and the globalization of the world has caused the intolerance memes to become to act like a plaque. He sees that fear of unpredictability is what is preventing the growth of tolerance memes. This issue of unpredictability was demonstrated in an article by Michael Huchison in July 1990issue of New Age journal. It was at the time when George Bush was faced with the uncertainty of the upheavals in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe:

 

He says that we are presented with the image of George Bush, televised around the world, as he confronts the extraordinary changes taking place in eastern Europe and central Europe "the enemy," he cries, is unpredictability! The enemy is instability".

 

Then the article argues that in our urgent desire to eradicate the threat to civilization posed by intolerance, it is tempting to attack the carriers of intolerance memes. But that is to mistake the victims of the disease for the disease itself. Then it says to improve the immune system for prevention of memes susceptibility is to attack anxiety, poverty, fear, violence, inequality, despair, and alienation.

 

Finally it says "I am struck by an image, a fable of our tree-dwelling primate ancestors, threatened by the receding of the African forests caused by climatic changes. Some of them have come down from the trees and begun to go out onto the savannas in search of game, tentatively rising onto their hind legs. DON'T BE FOOLS, COME BACK, cry their brothers and sisters in the trees, OUR PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN TREES, AND ALWAYS WILL; WE ARE MEANT TO BE TREE-DWELLERS. BEYOND THE TREES LIES MADNESS."...For them THE ENEMY IS UNPREDICTABILITY.

 

This is like the ones who were afraid what the break up of the Soviet Empire would destroy everything they had created. This is like the ones who are afraid Iran can split into multiple countries and nothing remain if the changes continue and happen. How should one go about change? What are valid concerns?

 

Sam Ghandchi

May 7, 1994

 

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* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on May 7, 1994.

 

MEMES II

http://www.ghandchi.com

 

 

In my first article about Memes (attached below), I referred to Richard Dawkins' book entitled "The Selfish Gene".  I really do not know how scientific his book is, but I find his "Memes" theory, an interesting idea.

 

We know that thru reproduction, a life form can pass along to future generations, its own bundle of genetic information or messages. Dawkins argues that over the course of evolutionary history, it has proved highly adaptive for life forms to develop ways to transmit information nongenetically, as well. This type of communication can take many forms: the complex patterns danced by honey bees to tell each other the location of pollen; the releasing into air of pheromones-chemical substances that influence other members of a species; the songs of birds and whales; the subtle resonances of human speech, writing, music, and art.

 

If genes are molecular bundles of self-replicating information, these apparently nonmolecular, bundles of self-replicating information that use minds to get itself reproduced are called MEMES (rhymes with themes) by Dawkins. He sees these patterns as existing in all human societies, and the central law of meme evolution, as in genetic evolution, is survival of the stable.

 

I also noted a related article that I quoted where the author wrote the following that "I am struck by an image, a fable of our tree- dwelling primate ancestors, threatened by the receding of the African forests caused by climatic changes. Some of them have come down from the trees and begun to go out onto the savannas in search of game, tentatively rising onto their hind legs. DON'T BE FOOLS, COME BACK, cry their brothers and sisters in the trees, OUR PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN TREES, AND ALWAYS WILL; WE ARE MEANT TO BE TREE- DWELLERS. BEYOND THE TREES LIES MADNESS."...For them THE ENEMY IS UNPREDICTABILITY.

 

I am wondering if we can trace traits of memes in Iranian culture that can explain some of our fundamental belief systems, which have actually worked against us in the recent history.  One example is the way Iranians are scared of foreign influence, and have ended up supporting Islamic Republic of Iran.  If the image that Iraj Mirza draws of a woman, who is holding tight to her veil, while she is giving "it" out from below, can be applied here, it seems to me the pseudo-nationalism and worrying about Iranian image in the world press, when cutting lips of women for using lip stick is still in our memory, is in the same vein. 

 

When one considers the Germans, who worked with Allies during WWII, as traitor, and thinks Iranians should support the IRI, when facing the West, I think one is showing a meme, which has nothing to do with love of a nation, and is about justifying defense of fascism, as long as it represents one's "land".  [I am referring to an individual who is very vocal against Islam and the Islamic Republic but called Germans who had worked with Allies as traitors and thought in front of the West, Islamic Republic must be defended].  I think worrying about usage of Persian words rather than Arabic, or whether Persian Gulf is called "Persian", are rituals of a meme that has become the pivots of such pseudo-unities of Iranians, and these rituals help the meme continue its life in our collective consciousness. 

 

I know what I am discussing above is very sensitive, just as it was so sensitive for our tree-dwelling primate ancestors, when some of them began to go out onto the savannas.  I am not saying all change is good, just for the sake of change, but this meme of pseudo-unity of Iranians, with the most backward elements of Iranian society, on the basis of opposing the West, has done a lot of damage to Iran, especially in the last 20 years.   Just the same way maybe a meme was repeated to be reinforced, by the tapes of Khomeini, that were passed around in Iran, before the Revolution of 1979.

 

Sam Ghandchi

April 11, 2000

 

RELATED ARTICLES
http://www.ghandchi.com/index-Page6.html

 

 

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* The above article is a sequel to the article below.  This one was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on April 11, 2000.

 

 

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