As the excesses of current civilization break more and more records, to then set new records, some of those records are disturbing and uncanny.
For example: "Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015" (NOAA).
This, among other things, is causing what is becoming irreparable damage to our world's oceans: "Ocean acidification is occurring because the ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When seawater absorbs carbon dioxide, its acidity is increased" (NOAA).
And "it" is causing other increasing dangers to civilization's ability to continue as we have known it (Civilization Is Now On Suicide Watch, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
II. How "It" Got This Way
The governed are governed by a group or groups who have "the say", whether that group, or those groups, are large or are small:
THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.(Propaganda, by Edward L. Bernays, emphasis added). In the end, this group dynamic and concept has not worked out well historically, according to the, at one time, most quoted historian:
Edward L. Bernays
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.
They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons — a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty [now 320] million — who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.
It is the purpose of this book to explain the structure of the mechanism which controls the public mind, and to tell how it is manipulated by the special pleader who seeks to create public acceptance for a particular idea or commodity. It will attempt at the same time to find the due place in the modern democratic scheme for this new propaganda and to suggest its gradually evolving code of ethics and practice.
In other words, a society does not ever die 'from natural causes', but always dies from suicide or murder --- and nearly always from the former, as this chapter has shown."(A Study of History, by Arnold J. Toynbee). Further, according to some observers, this group dynamic we call "governing" is one of the main sources of insanity:
“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” - Friedrich Nietzsche(emphasis added). Destructive government by the elite few is a very ancient dynamic that is somehow perpetuated down through time as we know it.
"If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization——or epochs of it——possibly even the whole of humanity——have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be normal. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized communities. [p. 39]
Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man. They know this——hence arises a great part of their current unrest, their dejection, their mood of apprehension. [p. 40]" - Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, S. Freud, 1929
Individuals eventually die, but group ideas can be, and are, often perpetuated.
To understand how, one tool which social and cultural scientists have conceptualized as a learning aid, is the notion of a meme complex:
A set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship. Religious and political dogmas, social movements, artistic styles, traditions and customs, chain letters, paradigms, languages, etc. are meme-complexes.(Memetic Lexicon, "Meme Complex"). This type of perpetuation is not totally unlike the concept of a "virus" in one computer that can be spontaneously passed on to other computers.
The basic concept, though strange, is that non-organic, non-living (abiotic) entities can be, and are, sometimes perpetuated (The Uncertain Gene, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; Putting A Face On Machine Mutation, 2, 3, 4; On the Origin of the Genes of Viruses, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13).
IV. Don't Get Me Wrong
This is not to say that either a group or an individual is bad or crazy by the mere fact of existing, no not at all, it is to say that groups are more likely to go psychotic than individuals are.
Individuals die out, so they cease to exist as it were, but the memes or ideology that inhabited their cognitive circuitry can be transferred to others in various ways, such as political party dogma, religious dogma, associations, (etc.).
This is done through what is called "infection":
infection(Memetic Lexicon). This dynamic was well understood by our forefathers and foremothers, but less so today IMO.
1. Successful encoding of a meme in the memory of a human being. A memetic infection can be either active or inactive. It is inactive if the host does not feel inclined to transmit the meme to other people. An active infection causes the host to want to infect others. Fanatically active hosts are often membots or memeoids. A person who is exposed to a meme but who does not remember it (consciously or otherwise) is not infected. (A host can indeed be unconsciously infected, and even transmit a meme without conscious awareness of the fact. Many societal norms are transmitted this way.) (GMG)
2. Some memeticists have used `infection' as a synonym for `belief' (i.e. only believers are infected, non-believers are not). However, this usage ignores the fact that people often transmit memes they do not "believe in." Songs, jokes, and fantasies are memes which do not rely on "belief" as an infection strategy.
Any memetic strategy which encourages infection of a host. Jokes encourage infection by being humorous, tunes by evoking various emotions, slogans and catch-phrases by being terse and continuously repeated. Common infection strategies are "Villain vs. victim", "Fear of Death", and "Sense of Community". In a meme-complex, the bait co-meme is often central to the infection strategy. (See replication strategy; mimicry.) (GMG)
V. The Warnings Against Cultural Infections
Being aware of the possibility of catching a disease is not a guarantee that we won't become infected, but it is like a vaccination, in the sense that it can help ward off disease:
"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other [enemy to public liberty].(Letters and other writings of James Madison, pp. 491-492, emphasis added). Notice that "war" spreads ideological germs even though war is not a biological entity.
War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied: and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.
The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both.
No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
Those truths are well established."
War is non-living (abiotic), yet it is an enemy of public liberty, and "it comprises and develops the germ of every other" enemy of public liberty.
War is a "parent," and war assists "all the means of seducing the minds" and "subduing the force of the people."
VI. More Vaccimes
Yes, that abiotic entity ("war") is on the lips of our news sources incessantly, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Which means that we need to pay careful heed to two more "vaccimes" that we were given by the founders:
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison
“Experience has shown that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson
The psychopaths in the days of our forefathers and foremothers infected others.
Those infections are still spreading, and are trying to morph into an epidemic, "even as we speak."
As it turns out, one great failing of our current civilization is that it did not take Freud's or Nietzsche's advice.
Civilization did not form a branch of psychology / psychiatry that diagnoses and treats meme complexes (group dynamics) gone awry.
Study up on the issue and become, or stay, immune (Psychology Today, Medical Daily).
The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.