“Us” versus “Them”


The concept of a memeplex is critical to a more peaceful and cooperative world.  I know that’s a strong statement, but I believe it to be true.

This concept gives us a means to view, from an evolutionary perspective, how and why we have tended to  clump together into groups with highly polarized ideologies. We can start to understand the pull to view the world from a “Us” versus “Them” perspective.  To fully understand how memeplexes work we must examine the psychological elements present in the most powerful and dangerous memeplexes currently in our existence – as well as in our history.

Robert Lifton wrote about ideological totalism.  His work was the key to my decision to leave the cult I was part of.  Many ex-cult members would say the same.  His work remains very important in understanding how to forge toward a world in which totalist memeplexes no longer flourish. A totalist memeplex is self-perpetuating.  The most dangerous features are of a polarizing nature.

As a species, we can no longer afford to be swept up in polarizing memeplexes that convince us, falsely, that there are easy answers to life’s hard questions and that our memeplex’s view is THE ultimate truth.  Life’s hard questions must be examined with reason and scientific process.  This is not possible in a totalistic memeplex.

We must deconstruct totalistic memeplexes to shed light on the glue that binds them and the fuel that gives them power.  Only then can we hope to avoid new memeplexes from being born and evolving into dangerous polarizing monsters.

New converts to existing dangerous memeplexes, such as Islamic extremist groups, are psychologically vulnerable.  They are not “evil people”.  There are reasons, of a psychological nature,which explain how future suicide bombers are sucked into these systems.


To The Best Of Our Knowledge  http://www.ttbook.org   Wisconsin Public Radio/Public Radio International will be doing a show on memes of which I will be a guest, speaking about memeplexes.

Other guests will be: — Susan Blackmore/ “The Meme Machine,” memes and “temes” http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/

— Jonnie Hughes/ “On the Origin of Tepees: The Evolution of Ideas (And Ourselves) http://www.jonniehughes.com/

The show is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday, July 29th.  It will air at other times on other stations.

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