While I posted this today, speaking about the negative impact that memes can have, I should be fair in my reporting and post a meme that will hopefully have a positive impact, or at least get people thinking:
I am coming to believe that there is nothing more powerful, or more potentially dangerous than a meme. I blame the increased polarization and stagnation that our country faces on how memes have been used to hijack the voting booth and civil discourse in this country.
Astroturfing is one of the political mechanisms that utilizes memes to spread ideas that span the spectrum between complete truth to complete fabrication. Moneyed corporate interests create false grassroots movements while the news and media report similar “facts” to insure the flow of advertising dollars. Soon, public opinion shifts towards policy like Obamacare as being some socialist monstrosity and other falsehoods while just a few years before it was the political right pushing for this as the ideal way to handle the healthcare crisis and booming deficit.
These memes to be sticky require a certain formula as outlined in Made to Stick:
If something is packaged in a compelling (sticky) way that makes an emotional connection with someone, it can become their truth, even if it has no basis in reality.
I think this is at the core of why the country has swung center right, while the political parties have become more extreme. The political right is winning the meme war, as their approach is focused simplicity with emotional stories.
This is usually visible if one were to visit a protest held by a right leaning organization or cause followed by one on the left.
The protest held by the right is usually focused on one topic, with clear messaging… ie a Tea Party with signs talking about freedom and down with taxes.
The protest held by the left, ie Iraqi Veterans Against the War will generally have signs about green energy, surveillance, legalizing pot, the dying polar bears, allowing for third parties in the election process, pro-unions, global trade agreements… from a systems standpoint these connections might have truth, but it is not a simple compelling story.
A healthy, independent media and strengthened school system that teaches critical thinking would be an inoculation against the viral misleading memes that have caused our country to become sick. In my own community, Thin Air Radio has done quite a bit of good.
What are the efforts in your community to increase critical thinking in schools and strengthen independent media sources? In what instances have you seen memes used for good? Have you scene memes cause harm?
This was a speech written by the husband a couple years ago. Given some of the anti-military rhetoric I saw spewed yesterday across the interwebs, I thought this might be a nice counterpoint. Cross-posted from my personal blog.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Warriors know that to win, you must know yourself and know your opponent. We get that directly from the war philosopher, Sun Tzu.
The last few days I’ve seen a rise in the call for either further control or a complete ban of guns in the United States in the wake of the tragedy in Aurora. I believe that a lot of what has been called for in gun control (or banning) policy would be a bandaid on the issue.
My daughter learning how to safely shoot a gun with her papa.
I was once deeply acquainted with a survivor of a school shooting that happened right before Columbine, and I remember late night conversations with her and PTSD attacks (as well as media and politician calls on anniversaries). She said that gun control was not the answer, but a deep shift in how we treat one another held the key.
If someone is sick enough to want to kill and maim people, they will find a way. Period.
Not only that, but horrible things happen as a part of life. This is quite true to me right now as I have one loved one in the hospital for a suicide attempt and another in a coma from a long boarding accident… the only way to be “safe” is to lose our liberty, to not live. Some precautions make sense (like registering guns or wearing a helmet when on a long board) but some of what is being called for is not only invasive but scary in how much access the government would be given to our lives and private details.
Lately I’ve been pondering double standards. There seems to be no end to examples of this, but one of the most notable has been what we advocate as good for our pets, but “bad” for us.
It is largely accepted and viewed as normal behavior that we spay and neuter our pets to prevent overpopulation in all but a small subset of the population (I’m looking at you, cocky guy with your unaltered male Pit Bulls. If you are so big on appearances, do us and your dog a favor and check out these). No one looks at someone with a sense of shock when they mention that they spayed or neutered their pet. If anything you get an approving nod and a discount on your pet’s license.
Same goes with euthanizing a sick and/or old pet. “It’s best that you put them out of their misery,” people will say, “they’ve gone to a better place.” If anything, keeping an ill animal alive is looked down upon as not only a waste of money but potential cruelty.
Euthanasia is illegal in all states of the United States. Physician aid-in-dying (PAD), or assisted suicide, is legal in the states of Washington, Oregon, and Montana. I would love to see personal liberty and cultural acceptance of the ability to choose to end my life if I am terminally ill and wish to not suffer, as well as the ability to choose to not reproduce through sterilization. I am not for any sort of government mandates or ridiculous “death panels” or “reproductive panels.” I just want to have access to the same options (without shame or violating the law) that my dogs have.
But if this same pet owner were to say that they wish to be sterilized, or euthanized if they were to get terminally ill, they could become an object of derision and scorn. I know, because I’ve experienced this on both accounts. This is not to say that I am not estactic for my dear friends who are all having babies (as we are at the age where baby making is happening), as I know they are going to make amazing parents and that their children are proof of a positive future; I just have no desire to join them. I’m also finding I’m not alone in this.
In a day and age where there are no protests outside animal control offices for their policy of advocating for the sterilization of animals, it’s a source of cognitive dissonance when people get in an uproar over someone deciding not to reproduce (and avoid potential unplanned for children, reducing the chances of potential abortions). I had mentioned in my previous post how I have a background of belonging to a church that protested outside abortion clinics. Now, I don’t know of anyone who is “pro-abortion” or into recreational abortions. It’s a horrible and gut-wrenching decision for anyone to make, and not one to be made lightly. It’s because of my wish to never again be in that position that I asked after the birth of my daughter to have my tubes tied in 2002.
My doctor refused.
“You are young. You should have more children, they won’t all be like this.” (What I can only assume was referring to my experience giving birth to a child outside of marriage.)
I’ve heard this story often recently, of young men and women who are sure that they don’t wish to have (more) children that are turned away by their doctor and/or chastised by friends and family (married, in committed relationships, or not). Many of these people express a wish to adopt instead of creating their own children, or are like me have such a bad reaction to birth control and are content with the children they already have. Even some have no desire to ever have children. If someone clearly of their own free will has made this choice not to bring any more little people into the world, why is this wrong? They know their hearts and their minds better than we do, and who are we to impose our laws and morality upon someone else?
As a result of this refusal, as I’ve tried to gain control of my heavy and irregular cycles, I’ve been through the birth control gauntlet. Now, after a particularly brutal reaction from an IUD where I gained 80lbs. I was finally granted an ablation this year where my uterine lining was cauterized and no longer functional–rendering me essentially sterile. I’m still trying to get my health back, and this would not have been an issue had my original decision been honored by my doctor. I’m content and happy with my one child, my wishes never changed.
I understand the fallacies in logic of drawing likeness between out pets and ourselves, as pets don’t have a choice in the matter. I just don’t know of a better way to point out a lack of self-determination in citizens in the United States. If anything, I see both of these as being responsible especially when considering diminishing resources and how much of both birth and death is often paid for by the taxpayer.
I would love to hear if you disagree with this, and why.
If you do agree, I would love to hear your stories on this and other areas where you own personal liberty is denied, either through laws or societal mores.