Saturday, May 24, 2014

Comparing a Meme Complex to a Cultural Amygdala

"98% of Reasoning is Subconscious"
In past posts on this blog, discussions have considered the hypothesis of a meme complex (e.g. The Territorial Realm of Toxins of Power).

Similarly. a hypothesis of a cultural amygdala has been advanced (e.g. Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala).

A meme complex is an analytical tool like Freud's ego, id, and superego in the sense of not being associated with physical brain parts such as the lobes, medula oblongata, or amygdala (Wikipedia Human Brain). 

The "cultural amygdala" is a notion of physical brain circuits that attach to and extend from the physical amygdala, but it operates like a meme complex in many ways.

The definition or description of a meme complex should help:
A set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship. Religious and political dogmas, social movements, artistic styles, traditions and customs, chain letters, paradigms, languages, etc. are meme-complexes. Also called an m-plex, or scheme (Hofstadter). Types of co-memes commonly found in a scheme are called the: bait; hook; threat; and vaccime. A successful scheme commonly has certain attributes: wide scope (a paradigm that explains much); opportunity for the carriers to participate and contribute; conviction of its self-evident truth (carries Authority); offers order and a sense of place, helping to stave off the dread of meaninglessness. (Wheelis, quoted by Hofstadter.)
(Memetic Lexicon). One church has memes, ideas, and dogmas that differ from those of another church, yet some of the memes, ideas, and dogmas of both churches can be the same or quite similar.

The differences may be in degree or in kind, depending on which culture, nation, or society the meme complex or church is located.

The meme complex or cultural amygdala of a group of athiests in India is going to vary in degree and in kind with a meme complex or cultural amygdala of Christian Baptists in Mississippi, U.S.A.

Both the concept of a meme complex and the concept of a cultural amygdala invite the notion of a sub-entity such as a sub-meme-complex and a sub-cultural-amygdala.

An example of an overall or super-meme-complex would be "Baptists" while some sub-meme-complexes within it would be "English Baptists," and "American Baptists":
Baptists are individuals who comprise a group of denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers (believer's baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and that it must be done by complete immersion (as opposed to affusion or sprinkling). Other tenets of Baptist churches include soul competency (liberty), salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation. Baptists recognize two ministerial offices, pastors and deacons. Baptist churches are widely considered to be Protestant churches, though some Baptists disavow this identity.

Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship.
(Wikipedia, Baptists, emphasis added). That description or definition includes the adjectives "diverse" and "differ," which applies equally well to political concepts such as "conservative" and "liberal."

The adage "it takes a village to raise a child" could apply, the village being the meme complex or cultural amygdala circuits, the "child" being a meme or circuit.

What is important about this, is that our brains are different as a result of the culture -- that "village" -- in which we grow from childhood into adulthood:
Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business. They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality. They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.
(Alternet - Lakoff). Those two meme complexes joust for power as people within each of those cultures develop different memes and different cultural amygdala circuitry:
Thought is physical. Learning requires a physical brain change: Receptors for neurotransmitters change at the synapses, which changes neural circuitry. Since thinking is the activation of such circuitry, somewhat different thinking re­quires a somewhat different brain. Brains change as you use them-even unconsciously. It's as if your car changed as you drove it, say from a stick shift gradually to an automatic.
(What Orwell Didn't Know, see this also). The sub-entities are like clouds that take on various shapes and changes as the wind blows them along, mixing together at the edges from time to time, bending, morphing, and being reshaped down through history and down through one's lifetime.

I also mentioned similarities among meme complexes and cultural amygdalas, because some of those similarities are areas that deserve major consideration and contemplation:
Even more specifically, we have been looking at the dynamics involved when the citizenry sees the government as a parental figure.

That may sound strange to those who have not read up on it, but according to those who labor in this realm, as professors and social scientists, it is generally understood to be a real cultural phenomenon:
Have you ever noticed how many "family" words are associated with the concept of "nation" in literature, politics, and government?

A quick check of a few relevant metaphors (forefathers, father of the constitution, Uncle Sam, motherland, fatherland, homeland, father of the nation, founding fathers, mother of the nation, family of nations, etc.) makes me want to look at perhaps the key source-metaphor for this notion:
... a common metaphor, shared by conservatives and liberals alike -- the Nation-as-Family metaphor, in which the nation is seen as a family, the government as a parent and the citizens as children ...
(The Nation-as-Family Metaphor). To expand upon this concept a bit, consider these comments:
It’s no accident that our political beliefs are structured by our idealizations of the family. Our earliest experience with being governed is in our families. Our parents “govern” us: They protect us, tell us what we can and cannot do, make sure we have enough money and supplies, educate us, and have us do our part in running the house.

So it is not at all surprising that many nations are metaphorically seen in terms of families: Mother Russia, Mother India, the Fatherland. In America, we have founding fathers, Daughters of the American Revolution, Uncle Sam, and we send our collective sons and daughters to war. In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, the voice of the totalitarian state was called Big Brother.

As George Lakoff discussed at length in his 1996 book, Moral Politics, this metaphorical understanding of the nation-as-family directly informs our political worldview. Directly, but not consciously. As with other aspects of framing, the use of this metaphor lies below the level of consciousness.
(Security: Familyland, Fatherland, or Homeland?). When the government evolves in a direction from left to right, the citizenry will in general also have that tendency.
(Security: Familyland, Fatherland, or Homeland? - 2). Using that metaphor we can think of the nation as the super-cultural-amygdala, super-meme-complex, or village.

That super-entity contains within itself both political diversity (progressive, conservative) and religious diversity (Northern Baptists, Southern Baptists).

Those can be thought of as a sub-meme-complex or sub-cultural-amygdala.

Ideas, feelings, and behaviors of different degrees or kinds are at work in each of those "super-" and "sub-" structural entities.

How does that relate to the toxins of power?

It is instructive to remember that pathogens work as a sub-group within a host:
Quorum sensing is the regulation of gene expression in response to fluctuations in cell-population density. Quorum sensing bacteria produce and release chemical signal molecules called autoinducers that increase in concentration as a function of cell density. The detection of a minimal threshold stimulatory concentration of an autoinducer leads to an alteration in gene expression. Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria use quorum sensing communication circuits to regulate a diverse array of physiological activities. These processes include symbiosis, virulence, competence, conjugation, antibiotic production, motility, sporulation, and biofilm formation. In general, Gram-negative bacteria use acylated homoserine lactones as autoinducers, and Gram-positive bacteria use processed oligo-peptides to communicate. Recent advances in the field indicate that cell-cell communication via autoinducers occurs both within and between bacterial species. Furthermore, there is mounting data suggesting that bacterial autoinducers elicit specific responses from host organisms. Although the nature of the chemical signals, the signal relay mechanisms, and the target genes controlled by bacterial quorum sensing systems differ, in every case the ability to communicate with one another allows bacteria to coordinate the gene expression, and therefore the behavior, of the entire community. Presumably, this process bestows upon bacteria some of the qualities of higher organisms. The evolution of quorum sensing systems in bacteria could, therefore, have been one of the early steps in the development of multicellularity.
(Microbial Hermeneutics). Biological pathogens are ineffective alone, so they must work together via communication to accomplish group tasks.

Meme complexes, cultures, and nations work the same way in the sense of working together via communication.

For toxins of power to generate corruption, the relevant communication system must be corrupted in some way (see e.g. On the Origin of Propaganda).

Those who sit in the seats of power need to be aware of the destructiveness of  deceit and dishonesty, both to themselves and to those they serve, because it robs the group of some degree of an awareness of reality, hence, it injects dementia memes into the relevant meme complex or false circuitry into the cultural amygdala (see e.g. Etiology of Social Dementia).

These concepts are likely to be helpful for implementing the hope that Freud foresaw but could not develop in his own lifetime:
If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization——or epochs of it——possibly even the whole of humanity——have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be normal. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized communities. [p. 39]
Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man. They know this——hence arises a great part of their current unrest, their dejection, their mood of apprehension. [p. 40]
(MOMCOM's Mass Suicide & Murder Pact - 5). Further discussion of this subject matter will continue in future posts (e.g. cf. Comparing a Group-Mind Trance to a Cultural Amygdala). 

George Lakoff: How Brains Think (5:34 "... you can only understand what the neural circuitry in your brain allows you to understand ... you can't understand just anything ...and this particularly is the case in political reasoning ... but it's true in many other things as well ...")