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Societal Maladies, How to Recognize and Treat Them, a Hypothesis
It seems clear that society suffers from serious maladies that negatively impact honesty, decency and equitable and fair conflict resolution, especially in the United States. Observations during the past decade strongly imply that the cause of such evolving and expanding maladies can, in large part, be attributed to the creation, distribution and assimilation of a related series of very negative memes and memeplexes (see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memeplex) propagated by and through our entertainment and news media (now in too many cases seemingly not a branch of journalism but rather of propaganda and entertainment) via the quotidian programming we are exposed to on television, the cinema, literature and the media (now including social media). Not exactly an epiphany of course, our grandparents warned their children about the subliminal evils of music and entertainment of which they did not approve (remember Elvis’ hips) but perhaps it’s past time to consider the issue from a new direction.
Some of the memes and memeplexes on which these observations are premised are incidental to the development of entertainment the public demands and craves but more and more often they involve a deliberate effort to manipulate our attitudes, sometimes in the belief that the results will be benign; for example, with reference to feminist and LGBT issues. A good deal of current programming at all levels is almost force-fed, notwithstanding what the public wants, through the tried and true monopolistic practice of limiting choice, especially when coupled with addictive elements. There is a clear difference between turning on a television to see a program one is looking forward to as opposed to turning on the tube to find something to watch, even if it’s the least bad programming available.
Programming that does not respond to public demand is not always, perhaps even not usually, the consequence of poor programming decisions by inept executives. More and more it seems, it is deliberately used to condition us to support violence as the most effective means of conflict resolution, especially on the international stage, and since most programming worldwide originates in the United States, it is almost always supplemented by conditioning designed to create the belief that United States citizens and institutions are always the most exceptional and worthwhile, a concept not different in its premises than the master race concept of the Nazis or the chosen people concept inherent in Zionism.
The memeplexes that result from the foregoing are self-reinforcing and expansionist. Our minds become the tools for their propagation, mutation, expansion and defense, although we don’t understand what is happening, why it’s happening or where it’s leading us. Those who do understand at least some of what’s happening (because they’re the one’s responsible), all too quickly lose control of the process which may then become driven by people who do not understand why it is occurring or even that it is occurring. That is when memeplexes attain independence, become most effective and usually, as in the case of most mutations, become most dangerous.
A tentative conclusion is that what Madison Avenue, Wall Street and Hollywood started has evolved into the fusion of the Deep State, the Mainstream Media and the collective consciousness of the American people turning too many of us into selfish, Rambo wannabes. Something in us that we do not recognize as it is very different than what we imagine we see when we look in our collective mirrors. Because our imagery is a continuously reinforced fictional creation that does not lead to the results we are led to expect, we feel unfairly frustrated by reality which only leads the relevant memeplexes to mutate in more and more extreme directions until we become almost absolutely paranoid. And more and more dangerous to ourselves and to those around us.
Because our feeling of elite American exceptionalism is inherently divisive with respect to all non-Americans, they become more and more alienated from us, although due to the immanent, imminent threat we pose, their reactions are muted in many cases, growing internally without external expression, leading us to delude ourselves more and more. At the same time, as other societies develop more sophisticated media and their own leaders, either subconsciously or deliberately engage in similar action, elitist countercurrents develop with memes and memeplexes acting in wave-like manner, either cancelling or reinforcing competitors and generating more and more pints of divergent interests that require resolution, either peacefully in win-win situations, through domination and subjugation, in win-lose situations, or through violence, which in the long term usually results in lose-lose but short term emotionally satisfactory situations.
Where the forces in play are multipolar, a dynamic situation may evolve which dampens the forces favoring conflict but where the situation becomes unipolar but non assimilative (i.e., where losers are not permitted to join the victorious community as equals), then, as in any pressure cooker situation, the growing imbalance can only be sustained for a finite period of time after which, either the suppressed cultures will unite, usually on a temporary basis on the theory of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and take remedial action, as occurred in the case of the reaction to the threats posed by National Socialism, or nature will plaster us over after we’ve mutually destroyed the human infection; neither option being all that beneficial to us as the deluded dominant elitist culture, although the universe may have a different perception.
What to do?
Hard to tell without significant research although stealing a page from medical biology, perhaps the answer lies in developing antiviruses through generation of opposing memes and memeplexes and hoping that natural selection will prevail in a positive fashion. While the “establishment is very wealthy and very powerful, the public is very numerous and after all, the public itself is the battleground. If the public can be affected enough so that it reaches a critical mass in favor of reality and its own real interests, demonstrable by pointing out how falsely generated expectations continuously fail, then, even if the battle is for one mind and one heart at a time, in the long term success, while not assured, is possible. But it will require a great deal of patience tied to a great deal of energy tied to an ability not to become discouraged when it is slow and not readily apparent.
I believe some of us are already trying to do this using social media but the defensive counter reaction of the now dominant memeplexes can be expected to be virulent, it almost always is and is clearly so now. The fight to make truth and decency relevant and realism rather than delusion prevalent will be extremely difficult and we need to be prepared not only to preach and criticize, but also to listen and evaluate, and to admit to ourselves and to others when we’re wrong. And when we are wrong, to look to constantly improve both our perceptions and our messages.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved