RE: virus: Re: Memes and Jello

Mark Hornberger (
Thu, 22 May 1997 02:41:01 -0500 (CDT)

On Wed, 21 May 1997, Gifford, Nate F wrote:

> Mark, thanks for your considerate reply. I was having a bad day yesterday,
> and wanted to make my points about tractors and self-examination ... after
> that I began ranting ... but I did feel better which is all that really
> matters ... right?
> >On Tue, 20 May 1997, Gifford, Nate F wrote:
> >> Mark Hornberger wrote
> >> ... But I think computers *are* just a tool - what is
> >> significant is what we do with them, how we project our creativity or
> >> ability onto the new medium of the internet and whatnot.
> >>
> >> Computers are just a tool in the same sense that the gasoline tractor
> was
> >> just a tool ...
> >> America still hasn't recovered from the tractor <i.e. save the family
> farm
> >> ...>
> >While the advent of the gasoline tractor and other technological
> >conveniences has had negative impacts, I believe that, on balance, we
> have
> >reaped enormous benefits from the advances. I'm not an agriculture
> >specialist, but I would guess that our population could never be fed
> with
> >preindustrial agriculture.
> My point was that some form of "factory farming" is a necessity to feed
> America ... and the Soviet Union in bad years. Small farmers now face the
> bind that the more they produce the less they get paid. It is my
> understanding that a large contributing factor to the dust bowl in the
> thirties was farmer's increasing supply while demand remained steady. The
> allusion I was trying to draw was between the foreclosure of farms in the
> thirties and eighties, and the downsizing of white collar workers in the
> nineties.

I would agree that the tractor was a factor in creating the 'dust bowl,'
but only with the acknowledgement that people abused or overused the lasd
- witness that we have more technology (and tractors) than ever before,
but we don't seem to be plagued with dust-bowls because we have learned
to do what needs to be done. It isn't as simple as being a luddite and
blaming it all on technology.

> Thankyou for your considered reply below ... It sure beats the ad-hominem
> answer I half-expected.
> >In a way, I agree. But I was thinking of the time-honored yet absurd
> >belief that the world was created for our express convenience and use.
> Or
> >our tendency to define justice in a way that serves our interests.
> We are in total agreement here...except that I would argue that the unjust
> anthrocentric individual is only happy raping and stealing. My original
> post had a reference to Ronald Reagan that I took out. I'll leave the
> issue of how temperate and just Reagan was to the historians. My story was
> that my father did not vote in the '86 election because Reagan looked
> better after four years in office. He pointed out how much the office took
> out of earlier presidents ...even Nixon, but was afraid of R.R. because he
> looked as if nothing bothered him. It seems that the more principled a
> president is the harder the office is on them. By definition an executive
> has to be somewhat unprincipled ...

Boy Scouts don't do incredibly well in that office. Carter was principled
and smart, but they ate him alive. Presidents have to negotiate and
mediate between a large number of interest groups, each of whom believes
strongly in its own case and has data to support the agenda its aiming
for. That most of these groups (including the NEA and AARP and that type)
want things they shouldn't have - access to the public purse - only
complicates matters. There is usually no clearly right answer. I for one
wouldn't want the job.
> >From a memetic point of view I'd like to point out that the Republicans
> built Bill Clinton. Would anyone care to agree/disagree with this ... or
> is it obvious?
I wouldn't say they built him, so much as he saw that their platform
struck a chord with the voters, so he just copied all of their rhetoric.
Now he's the anti-big-govt budget-balancer. Presto-chango!
> Can someone help me out with some literature references here? I would
> argue that it is narcissistic intellectual exhibitionism tendencies <two
> beamers and an MBA> that cause them not to feel right....

I admit that $$ won't buy happiness, but I don't think it's inimical to
it, either. If I won the lottery tomorrow, would I suddenly become
miserable and unstable? By 'narcissistic intellectual exhibitionist
tendencies' I meant the allure of paying someone to sit and listen to you
talk about yourself for hours on end, so you can congratulate yourself on
how perceptive and in-touch your are with it all.

But in another way, I agree
> >with you. But most don't even recognize the ramifications of their
> >decisions or beliefs, so it can't really be said that they don't take
> them
> >seriously enough. My favorite example of this is the huge number of
> >Americans who are in love with big government, the nanny state.
> This is definitely a Meme with no basis in fact ... please check out the
> U.S. budget in the World Almanac. Ignoring outlays less than $100 billion
> <can you believe that?> ...
> Total military in '93: $279 billion
> Health Care Finance Admin <medicare> $266 billion
> Social Security <NOT INCLUDED IN
> NATIONAL DEBT> $298 billion
> Interest on the National Debt $298 billion
> Total Outlays $1,408 billion

Now if you can call one and half trillion dollars 'no basis in fact,'
fine, but for me it is soundly tethered to reality.
> They decry 'unequal distribution of the wealth' and sundry other ills
> they
> attribute to capitalism, and propose socialistic alternatives that are
> touted to cure our problems.
> Check out the sources of income:
> Individual taxes: $510 billion
> Corporate taxes $117 billion
> Social Security $428 billion
> Total Revenues: $1,153 billion
> The discrepency between individual tax revenues and corporate tax revenues
> is the source of people's disgust with the tax structure.
I disagree with that. I am disgussted with how much I pay, and more
specifically with how much of what I pay is collected for the sole purpose
of giving to someone else. Taxing corporations is taxing their customers
and the investors. Now the common retort to that is "investors don't make
products - workers do." Fine. So if every GM stockholder dumps their
stock on the market, the value plummets, the compamy slides into
bankruptcy and all -not some, all- of the factories close, who volunteers
to tell the former workers that they don't need the investors to preserve
their jobs?

> > Yet when I point out the history of China,
Russia, Cambodia, etc.,
> trying to illustrate >the dangers of a government that can take and do
> whatever it wants to achieve the >ends that those in power deem necessary,
> they refuse to see the correlation,
> As do I ... Lets talk about Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand.
> Would someone care to comment on the range of mechanisms that a government
> uses to maintain power? The choice between the current American govt. vs.
> A communist dictatorship is a false one. Logical arguements like this are
> symptoms of patholical memes. A pathological meme to me is one that is
> incapable of self-modification.

Incapable of self-modification? I mention China (40 million or so killed
by government), Russia (over 50 million killed under Stalin), Cambodia
(over 40% of the population killed) and in retort you mention some small
countries (with the exception of Canada, which is racing to privatize even
now) that have managed to preserve a bloated welfare state and high taxes
without concentration camps. I did not say it happened *every* time, only
that there was a correlation. How is it people see sinister things in
corporate power, yet consider government our benevolent protectors, when
it is the government that has the army? Show me a corporation that has
done what Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Mussolini, Lenin, Mobutu, Amin have
done. Coporations are out for money and will cut corners if they can, and
for this I do believe in the necessity of a strong, vigilant government,
but one with a limited scope of what its purposes and powers are. Your
meme is that government is a spiffy tool for remaking society in the image
that you believe it should resemble. Government is force, my friend. To
say that government should take from A and give to B is to say that
someone should, by force if necessary, rearrange the world as you see fit,
and to this end you will empower government with as much discretionary
power as is necessary. You categorically deny that this centralization of
power in government hands is something to worry us, saying that China
and Russia, all those slaughtered by well-meaning social reformers just
trying to make a perfect world, are negated because it hasn't happened in
Switzerland or Canada yet. Who has the meme that is inapable of

> >or that empowering government and reducing the sphere of freedom enjoyed
> by
> i>ndividuals can or does lead to a totalitarian state, of whatever degree.
> What freedoms are we talking about here? Freedom is definately a meme
> worth exploring since it seems to me that the U.S. is currently in a state
> where some animals are more equal than others... Freedom itself is not a
> definite term ... I am free to kill myself with tobacco ... but where? I
> am free to practice my religion ... but not sacrifice my children ... much
> less YOUR children. I have the right to bear arms ... but where/when/what
> kind. Ultimately these decisions come down to a non-rational value
> judgement - meme territory. It is in our best interest to have the memes
> affecting the decision to be as responsive to rational argument as
> possible.

Here we part ways. Those who say "Gosh, we don't even know what freedom
really *means*...." are invariably doing so as a segue to a proposition for
more government power and authority. I believe in the Bill of Rights, as
in the common-sense, 'this-is-what-it-obviously-says' version. I believe
in the fairly simple notion that you should be able to do pretty much as
you please, so long as you don't harm someone else in the process. And
while I do love philosophy and a little hair-splitting once in a while, I
don't extend the definition of 'harm' to include secondary or dirivative
effects, such as "Well if you do marijuana you are in a way hurting the
rest of us, because we're deprived of your productivity, plus you're being
a bad example to kids, so we're going to lock you in jail, since you're so
harmful..." or "you owning a gun is harmful to the rest of us, even if
you're not a criminal and have never harmed or threatened someone with a
gun, because even the knowledge that there's a gun around is 'harmful' to
my wife's peace of mind, so we're confiscating your firearm." or "Even
though you're viewing that pornography in the privacy of your own home,
the very presence of such prurient material in our community is harmful to
our children and the entire social fabric, so we're taking you're books
and giving you a citation..." Have you ever read 1984? While you may be
unsure of what freedom is, and feel the need to give government full rein
just in case some injustice or disparity may need to be corrected by our
undoubtedly benevolent keepers/overseers, I know full well what it is. If
you read the writings of the forefathers, you'll find that freedom is a
fairly well-thought-out and popular 'meme'.

> >They decry the inhumanity forced onto workers in capitalist systems by
> >making them mere 'cogs in a machine' while failing, refusing, to compare
> >the quality of life to that of, say, a 17th-century farm worker, who was
> >blessedly safe from capitalism yet had a lifestyle few would envy.
> Is the economic system a zero sum game? If so then how do we distribute
> resources? Who was more miserable: the 17th century farm worker was better
> off than the 19th century factory worker? The beauty of technology is that
> the delta between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor has become much
> less in the first world ... but at what cost to the rest of the world?

How do we 'distribute' resources? So it's 'our' money now? You speak as
if there is no such thing as rightful ownership - that everything should
by right go into the communal pot, to be divided up by the wise, sagacious
government officials. I'm not a socialist, sorry. You may consider
free-market capitalism a 'pathological meme' but it is far superior (IMHO)
than any socialist country I have thus seen or heard about. Granted, the
world would perhaps (!) be a better place if everyone were *voluntarilly*
socialistic, but government-run socialism is not quite voluntary, is it?
Again, it comes down to compulsion.

> > >> I question
> >> how sentient of self-aware we <the species> really are ... on the other
> >> hand, someone pointed out to me that the last episode of Roseanne EVER
> is
> >> going to be on this week, so perhaps we are learning.
> >>
> >Aw, Roseanne wasn't that bad of a show. Not all sitcoms can revolve
> >around the well-to-do, or the svelte.
> When I first saw Roseanne I was impressed with how "real" the show was.
> After awhile I was disgusted with the sanitized version of working-class
> life it portrayed. I haven't seen the show for more than 3 minutes at a
> stretch in the past 8.5 years, but perhaps you share the positive memes you
> see expressed by the show. Do you think that Roseanne is a reasonable
> example of a mother/wife/worker? Is the show a satire like Married With
> Children was?

Yes, I think the show is at least partially satirical, though not to the
extent of Married With Children, which I like much more. I never really
watched Roseanne that much, though when I did I usually got a few laughs
out of it, which is the only point, I think. No, it's not realistic, but
that, too, is the point. If people were happy with reality TV would be
dead. Nice thought, but so would literature and music, and most forms of
art. I'm reading _The Brothers Karamazov_ right now, and while it's
technically fiction, the world would definitely be worse off without books
like this one.

Mark Hornberger