...The fundamental insight triggered by memetic studies
is that a belief may spread without necessarily being true or helping
the human being who holds the belief in any way...
Keith E. Stanovich, The Robot's Rebellion
In early life, we don't have much control over the memes we
unconsciously install. It can take a very long time to uncover
unconscious prejudice or faulty ideas if we've been bombarded with a
lot of junk memes.
What we think of as our values and beliefs - to what extent can these
be completely rationally chosen
? Would it be a lifetime's work
to try to sort out how we form an idea of the kind of person we would
like to be? It seems to me that throughout life it would have to be
an ongoing effort to be aware of all that is coming in, to process
and sort effectively, and to at least occasionally question all of
one's existing ideas, and the structure of or approach to perception,
and the questioning process itself.
Freud called religion a 'mass delusion', but psychiatrists don't
recommend meds for such delusions. For the first thirteen years of my
life, I had no control over the Catholicism meme. One of my reasons
for choosing to live with my father when my parents divorced was
related to this - I would no longer have to go to church if I lived
with my father.
A meme doesn't have to be true for it to have seemingly 'positive'
effects in your life. E.g., the sense of belonging and hope, peace and
protection that can come with religion. Some people have this all
their lives and reach the state of death having led peaceful,
hopeful lives in which they had a sense of belonging.
...God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value
or infective power, in the environment provided by human
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
During my childhood, I did not question the religion I was brought
up with at all. I accepted as a duty that I had to go to church, and
later that I had to go to Sunday school for a while. I didn't really
think about other religions, and I probably assumed that my religion
was the 'right' one. I didn't question the idea of god. I prayed to
1. Please let Babci* (my maternal grandmother who had rheumatoid
arthritis) get better.
2. Please let mom and dad win the lottery so that things will be
3. Please help all the poor and sick people in the world.
4. Please let me be pretty when I grow up.
*We always called her Babci, even when Babcia would have been more
I find it interesting that these were the things I consistently
prayed for. It says something else about memes I might have
unconsciously picked up around the house. I am not sure at what age
I stopped praying, but it may have been around the time my
grandmother died - I was 10, almost 11.
My thinking was affected partly by the idea of a god who saw
everything, and knew about everything we did, or thought, what our
motives were, and this might have affected my unconscious sense of
guilt, and might have had something also to do with my approach to
relationships and to all interactions - Christian ideas about
consistently treating all people as you'd like to be treated, and
trying to understand the circumstances of others. This influence
might have stayed with me all my life.
I went to my First Communion because that was what was done in my
Before I moved in with my father at age 13, there were some
arrangements regarding my Confirmation. My brother and I were both
preparing to be Confirmed. However, I don't think either of us was
ever confirmed. My memory of this is foggy. I vaguely remember that a
priest visited us at home, and that my brother and I might have given
him a bit of a hard time. I also recall that one Sunday at church,
during the sermon, my brother and I raced out of the church, grabbed
our bikes which we knew were in the back of the truck in the church
parking lot, and rode home.
My mother occasionally threatened to send me to a convent. However,
once I moved in with my father I was pretty much done with
Catholicism. I don't know what my father's religious ideas were. He
must have had some, since Christianity-inspired delusions seemed to
affect him when he fractured his skull three years later. For a time
he grappled with delusions, such as: one of my brothers might be the
Second Coming of Christ, the Apocalypse was coming, he himself was
going to play a pivotal role in the whole drama, and would battle the
Around the same time as my father's skull fracturing, there were a
lot of New Age books and ideas in the house.
All we are saying
is give peas a chance...
Arrogant Worms, Carrot Juice is Murder
Some of the ideas were about how we're all connected, how we can
create our futures through our thoughts (we draw people and events to
us through our thinking - 'positive' or 'negative'), how even
vegetables have feelings and can scream, and how there is no such
thing as coincidence. There were books in the house on the tarot,
numerology, and other occult subjects. Also, see: vegetarianism
We were all experiencing a lot of stress at the time, and in all
honesty, I think we found much of what he said at least interesting.
We were all drawn to the idea of psychic phenomena. But the other
important point is that our father had a kind of charisma, or the
kind of leadership abilities which make it possible for others to
accept unusual memes. In normal life, for a very long time it had
been his job to lead or manage others.
His attitudes, unconscious and otherwise, probably had some
effect on how my siblings saw me. At age 21 when I had the idea that
it was necessary for me to try to move far away - such that I
wouldn't feel the pressure of my role in the family - the pressure of
how everyone else saw me - I think I was trying to fight against the
overwhelming or crushing nature of how I was seen, and of low
expectations. I was struggling against memes I didn't know how to
Conventional rules of life didn't apply. We all had our own paths in
life, and death was a natural part of life, and if one of us died, it
was not a bad thing, and perhaps to die young had always been my
'purpose' here on this earth. We were all here to learn, and to find
our own paths.
From our father, I think my siblings absorbed the idea that I had
always been a little 'off', and that although until completeing Grade
10 I had always excelled in school and been responsible, Grade 11 had
been so bad that it now made sense that nothing much was to be
expected of me - it was just my path in life to disengage from life,
and ultimately leave it. This thinking probably was at least partly
why no one tried to intervene when it came to me not going outside,
and our father also passed this thinking on to his girlfriends. From
16 to 23, I spent the vast majority of time not going out, and not
having any social life or ties. At 17 I did go back to school for a
year, and I did have a part-time job (both because I wished to go to
university), but I skipped a lot of school, and it was not easy or
natural for me to go out any more. At age 21 I managed to live on my
own for 6 months, but it was an incredible effort to do even that
I didn't know until I turned 22 that when I was 16 my father and his
psychic friends had agreed that I would kill myself before I was 21.
I realize that professional psychics do not predict actual death -
for ethical reasons - but this was an unusual situation. My father
was considered 'one of them'. I think it is likely that my father had
unconsciously wished for my death as he didn't know what to do about
me or how to help me, and so he had sought out opinions or support
(and memes) that would justify this unconscious wish. He may not
consciously have believed this, but his actions suggested that he had
in a sense given up on me, or that he expected nothing of me
except that I would fulfill the prophecy.
At the same time, on both sides of the family, there was and is a
strongly rooted idea that depression is about weakness. When it came
to life events - it was not that I consciously even recognized any
reason at all to be depressed, despite a long list of personal and
I think that was about memes prevalent in the family - everybody in
the family thought that way, and if you were affected by passing
difficulties, it was only because you were weak, a whiner or
It was not until I was 24 years old that I again began to accept the
idea of depression - at that time during my third hospitalization,
one of my doctors said that it was likely I had been depressed for a
very long time. He said it to my father, which gave it some
At present, memes related to eating disorders, depression, anxiety,
and other psychological disturbances related to stressful life events
have more visibility, and there is more public awareness, but memes
related to flawed character and negative cognitive approaches
presenting as so-called depression or other psychological disorders
are also around. I still struggle with objectivity, and with trying
to get an accurate overview.
In my teens, I refused to perpetuate the idea that I accepted
Catholicism. While my siblings were still crossing themselves at
Christmas dinner out of respect for our grandfather, and so as not to
rock the boat, although I seriously doubt they much accepted
Catholicism themselves - I would not do so.
In 2009, I had contact with family members for the first time in a
very long time. One family member sent me quite a few religious
chain letter type emails. I could not just quietly accept them, or
say nothing. It was necessary to me to ask her not to send me any
more and to state that I was not a Christian. (So, what's with the
It is difficult to try to find a balance between self-assertion and
acceptance of the differences of others. Many memes exist which
reinforce the idea that you are supposed to be quietly tolerant of
family members, non-confrontational. Can I quietly accept or say
nothing about ideas I do not accept? If I think that real
relationships are about being allowed to question the ideas others
hold, how can I be silent?
Books, Movies, TV, Internet, Music, Advertising, etc
Memes are skills, habits, songs, stories or any kind of info
copied from person to person/human consciousness is itself a huge
complex of memes, and the self is a 'benign user illusion'...
Daniel Dennett, from The Oxford Companion to the Mind
In Grade 2 I began to read a lot, and many of the books I read
through the years may have had effects on my thinking that I am not
consciously aware of.
My mother passed on ideas about cultural standards of beauty and
grooming: before I was ten I had memorized all the caloric values of
foods and ideal weights for heights as specified in a booklet she had
given me; she gave me a subscription to Seventeen magazine as a 13th
birthday present; other presents usually consisted of grooming tools
or jewelry; and she made (disapproving) comments about my weight.
Books were an important part of my development, but by the time I
reached my teens I was directionless - I didn't know what to read,
and at this point some guidance probably would have been helpful. It
took me many years to begin to figure out why it was so hard, and
part of it related to me not knowing who I was, or what I liked, and
being too closed in on myself, too shy or too lacking in confidence
to even recognize that I was interested in things my parents
My parents split up for good when I was 9. (There had been a test run
which had lasted a summer three years earlier.) My father at first
went to live in a luxury adult apartment, which he shared with
another man. Their bedrooms and bathrooms contained huge piles of
men's magazines, which represented my first introduction to porn. I
was curious, and spent a lot of time looking at the pictures and
reading articles. On the bookshelves were adult books like The
Joy of Sex
, which I also read.
Through this early education, I came to understand how it was
possible to feel excitement through viewing images, and afterward it
was not possible for me to condemn such behaviour and reactions in
others. At the same time, I saw the models involved as real people,
with real lives, thoughts, feelings and struggles of their own. I
didn't relate to society's dismissal or judgment of those who worked
as erotic models, dancers or sex workers. While I could understand
interest in porn, I would tend to feel alienated from those who could
not see those who participated in it as real people.
The magazines I was introduced to by both father and mother may have
burnt into my brain ideas about sexual attractiveness which I can't
shake off. If I couldn't fit the image, or maintain a reasonable
facsimile, I could have unconsciously felt that I was not entitled
to be wanted, either as a sexual partner, or a mate, which may have
had an impact on my relationship with food and my body.
...There is no such thing as "mere" image. Western
culture is built on perceptual relations...
Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
When I was in my early teens, I did not have constant access to
images of music or movie stars. Radio was still more important than
video. When it came to most of the music I was familiar with, I had
no idea what the musicians looked like. I didn't really start
watching music videos until I was about 18.
While still together, my parents had sometimes thrown parties. I
remember hearing The Beatles, classic 50s rock, Elvis. Popular
music was always on the car radio whenever we had to drive anywhere.
When I moved in with my father at age 13, there was music in the
house even (at 6-7) in the morning: I discovered that my father and
his girlfriend listened to (fairly loud) popular music while
showering/bathing and preparing for work, and I found that it helped
to wake me up for school.
While growing up, in most of the places I lived, we only managed to
get two or three TV stations, and that doesn't mean that reception
was consistent or good. In addition, my mother imposed strict limits
on TV viewing (although occasionally she allowed marathon sessions on
weekends if she was depressed and needed to stay in bed.) I was aware
of appearance, and image, but not to the extent we all are now.
It's now considered more 'normal' and not impolite to discuss famous
women and rate them openly, not just in private conversation among
men or women, but in public forums, on the internet. The
paparazzi try to intrude further into their private lives, such that
they also can be weighed and judged, and imperfections exposed and
ridiculed. This seems to be related to the availability of images -
we are able to look at length and in private, on computer and TV
screens, and do not have to depend on quick impressions. The
anonymity of the internet makes it easier to circulate opinions
without consequences, and the human tendency is as a result to be
more openly judgmental or negative. But it is not just the famous who
are scrutinized. Cameras are everywhere, whether for security, or
built-in to mobile phones. We can scrutinize and judge each other at
length, and the internet is a tool which can be used to bully or
harass. As a result, I think everyone is more aware of appearance
It seems that an important ability in society today is the ability to
market ourselves, or to present an acceptable image. Even if this is
a pared down, environmentally conscious image, we usually have only a
few moments to speak up and plug ourselves, or demonstrate that we
have memes worth sharing or that we endorse socially acceptable
memes, or we will be consigned to an unpopular or 'irrelevant'
category and dismissed.
Do the young today live with an unconscious or conscious feeling of
necessity to be prepared that at any time they may have a camera and
microphone forced on them, such that they must be 'camera-ready', and
calm, and able to speak in the moment, and able to speak coherently?
Is this now one of the prerequisites for being able to 'master one's
...much symbolizing represents only the churning and recombining of
bad or useless memes...
Popular culture and religion are often the culprits here.
Am I churning and recombining 'good' memes in 'bad' ways in this
psychoanalysis, or combining (and tainting) good memes with my own
...Why not use our symbolizing abilities to leverage ourselves into a
reflective evaluation of our presently existing desires?... the
feedback from expressive actions can also help to shape the structure
of goals and desires...
Keith E Stanovich, The Robot's Rebellion
I suppose no feedback in response to my expressive actions can be
seen as a kind of feedback.
Is it easy to evaluate the information we take in, as well as our
desires? Is it possible to choose to be the kind of person we want to
be? If we are drawn to certain memes or activities we'd prefer not to
be drawn to, how do we know for sure that there isn't something
more to learn from what we have judged as 'self-destructive',
negative or irrational that we are just not able to see yet?
...Under the standard view of so-called "rational
man" in economics and decision theory, it is traditionally
assumed that people have stable, underlying preferences for each of
the options presented in a decision situation...
But...There is the unsettling idea latent here that people's
preferences come from the outside (from whoever has the power to
shape the environment and determine how questions are phrased) rather
than internal preferences based in their unique psychologies...
Keith E Stanovich, The Robot's Rebellion
The advertising industry, and music and movie industries that seem
like extensions of the advertising industry, seek to manipulate us to
engage in activities and to procure products and services that are
not 'healthy' for us, but which stimulate unconscious genetic
strategies that were helpful in the distant past. Those who have
conscious awareness of how to manipulate us can make a lot of money
How is a unique psychology formed? No person exists separately from
an environment in which they must interact with others. Whatever is
internal has been affected and developed by the environment to some
extent. If you apply the above quote to the idea of parenting, what
questions does it raise about the development of a child's
preferences? What does it say about the idea of individuality or a
stable sense of self?
What I'm not sure how to articulate is the idea of a kind of
simulataneity. That even if advertisers consciously wish to exploit
the genetic proddings of human beings to buy things they don't really
need by appealing to unconscious drives, and even if they laugh to
themselves about the stupidity of human beings and become cynical,
what if they themselves are unconsciously prodded to provide such
services or products for reasons of which they are unaware? If they
like making a profit, is there any incentive to choose
outwit their selfish genes and contribute to the common good? They
may think they are smarter, and rationally choosing to make a profit,
but what if it is more complicated than that? Maybe it's a step in a
plan for the 'cheater detectors' to again outwit the 'cheaters', for
example. Or maybe the products themselves or services represent
facets of human nature that need to be examined less superficially,
and not dismissed as superficial - exaggeration causes greater focus
and provides potential to identify things we were previously unaware
of. Perhaps products and services arise in response to an unconscious
(collective unconscious) trend, which the service providers only
they are in complete control of manipulating.
...criticism has hugely overestimated the centrality of language to
western culture. It has failed to see the electrifying sign language
Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
Most people recognize a difference between 'real life' and the cult
of personality, but do they really realize to what extent images
affect how they see themselves and others? (Images are themselves
or represent memes.)
...Christianity works least when sex is constantly stimulated from
other directions, as it is now. No transcendental religion can
compete with the spectacular pagan nearness and concreteness of the
carnal-red media. Our eyes and ears are drowned in a sensual
Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
Will the availability of porn have an effect on relationships and the
institution of marriage? It seems that from a young age most men
learn to compartmentalize. Is honesty or intimacy possible when so
many people have to deny or renounce the reality of their behaviour
The female equivalent is supposedly romance novels and romance
movies, where sex fantasies combine with love and commitment.
Romance novels are the highest-selling books for women. Women
are focused on the idea of The One, the myth of romantic love and
Men's and women's fantasy memes perpetuate a state of existence
which requires compartmentalization. They do not cross over into
each other's territory. In any sexual interaction, can men and women
only enjoy the experience if they have a delusional interpretation
of what is occurring? Is sex an activity in which we really are
alone, and lucky if we are able to find suitable projection screens
for our one-sided fantasies?
...we are forced by the extraordinary distribution of
perversions to assume that even the predisposition towards
perversions must not be something rare and special but is part of the
constitution that is considered normal...
Sigmund Freud, The Psychology of Love
Everybody's a pervert. Actually, I had sort of started with that
idea myself, and thought that the problem was not that people with
unusual needs had no
chance, but was a matter of how to find
those with compatible needs. The internet has elaborated on this
principle, but it can still be difficult to know where to look if
your needs are complex, unusual or multi-layered. But at least the
The acceptance principle relates to people's acceptance of the
frame someone with power or authority presents, and evaluation of
outcomes in terms of that frame.
If we accept that anything that causes death is a Bad Thing and that
a rational being will always take steps to avoid death, that seems to
me to be a 'frame' that could be questioned, as we are all going to
die one day, and putting some thought into when and how that will
occur demonstrates rationality. It does not make sense that all
human beings will naturally want to live as long as possible, when
old age (at least at present) pretty much always entails loss of
vigour and eventual self-sufficience - no matter how healthy one has
tried to be.
Also, any activities or habits engaged in which have potentially
harmful effects to the body may be 'preferences we'd prefer not to
prefer', but I think it's difficult to ascertain completely a black
and white or absolute conclusion if you don't take into account the
whole of a person's life and all the possible ways the person can
achieve potential and happiness. A person may rationally decide that
it is a reasonable trade off to maintain a 'bad habit' which is
unhealthy when all the factors in his or her life are weighed when
taking into account their own personality, individuality, what fights
are worth fighting, and what pleasures are worth a certain amount of
It is difficult to say to what extent I am still unconsciously
affected by things I picked up a long time ago and did not question.I
have only given a few examples here as to attempt to describe all
memes I can think of as having an effect would take a very long time.
The rest of my 'psychoanalysis' involves many more memes.
...just as not all genes that can replicate do so successfully, so
some memes are more successful in the meme-pool than others. This is
the analogue of natural selection...
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Many memes are passed on in altered form - meme transmission is
subject to continuous mutation and blending (less copying fidelity).
For example, think of songs - at present it is very popular to
'sample' old songs within new songs, or to create new
versions of old ones.
...It is possible that this appearance of non-particulateness is
illusory, and that the analogy does not break down..
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Basically, the essence
survives, while details change.
It only takes about 3 generations for genetic contributions to be
watered down - but contributions to culture may have more lasting
...If memes in brains are analogous to genes, they must be
self-replicating brain structures, actual patterns of neuronal
wiring-up that reconstitute themselves in one brain after another...
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
We know much less about memes than we do about genes. To me, it seems
like the implications are potentially extremely significant.
...The less alike a couple's genes are, the more variability, the
greater the ability to respond to genetic injury, and the less likely
that defective genes will be inherited...
Deborah Blum, Sex on the Brain - The Biological Differences
Between Men and Women
Is attraction about trying to address genetic flaws?
In my case, I have wondered if attraction has been about trying to
address memetic flaws. From childhood on, did I install a whole lot
of 'junk memes' which I later tried to dismantle/uninstall through
seeking discussion with others? Was I trying to distill some
that I had perceived only in adulterated form? Was I
also trying in my own way to spread certain memes, in part by
challenging 'opposite' ones, or addressing the memetic flaws of
It occurs to me that navel-gazing is another term for meme