While one side of the debate likes to characterize it as a war for religious freedom, and the other likes to play off the outrage about 9/11, let’s be real: this is a war of memes.
When our ancestors began to imitate they let loose a new evolutionary process based not on genes but on a second replicator, memes. Genes and memes then coevolved, transforming us into better and better meme machines. – NYT
Genes and ideas cross-influence each other. Genetics, as an encoding of data, can carry on the results of memes. This means that much as our genes war for supremacy over one another, our memes do.
In the case of the “ground zero mosque” (which is 600m from “ground zero”), what’s going on here is a culture war.
One side is saying that they want globalization; that is, they don’t want America to be a land of mostly European-looking people with a culture like Europe. They want anything goes, with all ethnic groups mixed and no common cultural standard except tolerance for others being different.
When you think about it, that’s the best society in which to be if you’re not sure you can live up to a moral standard or so hate the idea of moral standards that you want chaos. The downside of it of course is that it produces an anarchy that in turn will demand a strong state…
But enough of that now. We keep hearing about how some people believe Obama was born in Kenya, might be a Muslim, could be gay, etc. What’s the meme there? That Obama is alien. And is it correct?
Muslim Americans continue to give President Barack Obama the highest job approval rating of any major religious group in the U.S., while Mormons give the president the lowest ratings.
The differences in Obama’s approval ratings across the religious groups included in this analysis have held fairly constant across time, even as Obama’s overall rating has fallen by 15 percentage points between the first half of 2009 and the first seven months of this year. American Muslims — in the news recently with the controversy over proposed plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York City — have given Obama his highest ratings in all three time periods: 86% in the first half of 2009, 83% in the second half of 2009, and 78% so far this year. Mormons have given Obama his lowest ratings across time, dropping from 43% in the first half of 2009 to 24% this year. – Gallup
The crucial data is in that second paragraph is highlighted; Muslims were loving Obama far before this recent ground zero mosque debacle. So while he may not be a Muslim, or born in Kenya, he as a meme represents those who want Muslims and those born in Kenya to have equal importance here in the USA.
The countermemes to this from the right are so far rather defensive, because their job is much harder, trying to articulate the complex idea that it’s best if we have social standards. With social standards, you need less government intervention, and fewer rules, because everyone already knows the rules. Even more, you have a social identity in common, not a political one (“liberty, democracy, equality”). But that requires ethnic near-uniformity, and that we actually have standards, which scares the heck out of people who feel they cannot live up to a social standard or moral standard.
The underconfident sink empires by demanding this kind of anarchy, and then when they think things are going swimmingly, finding out that anarchy means they’re getting the crap kicked out of them — at which point they demand stronger government, stronger law enforcement, and more rules. That in turn converts the society into constant infighting which leads to its collapse.
This memetic war is far from over. If you want the only meme I find meaningful, it is this: I don’t define myself by externalities, therefore I want a stable society — and history shows us that globalization is not the way to that stable society.
Some people feel they need external accomplishments and battles to feel whole. “We were the first to legalize vegetable sodomy!” they say proudly, as if that were true (someone has done it before, undoubtedly) and as if it were important. But I don’t need that externality. In fact, what I want is fewer externalities, so I can focus more on making myself and my family better, stronger and smarter people.