Of all the ways people have come up with to avoid thinking, I like memes the most. They are so ridiculously easy to fall into. You see the words, you see the picture and you go “ah ah, that’s so true.” Even when on a minute’s reflection it makes no sense whatsoever.
I think in a way it follows the same pattern that proverbs followed in more ancient cultures. My dad was a great believer in proverbs and some of the ones he would pull out at all times or no time were old enough I later studied them in Latin.
While proverbs were ways not to have to think or short cuts around thinking, they weren’t, by themselves, pernicious. When you think “A dollar saved is a dollar earned” it might give you the strength to avoid buying whatever cute thing just caught your eye, by reminding you how hard it was to earn that dollar. BUT its effect is not bad. It makes you in fact more likely to succeed in life. The same with “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” It might not do any of those things (False advertising for the win) but in the times when it was coined it kept you from going out drinking with the boys till all hours, which at least avoided your getting sickly broke and acting foolish. So it was almost the same thing.
Proverbs are in a way, the encoding of societal wisdom into short cuts to lead people into ways that have worked before.
Memes are similar, but you have to remove societal wisdom and put in “the commanding forces of culture and mass media”.
Look, I’ve posted here before how hard it is to acculturate, and even sometimes when you want to fit in to a new culture, it feels like dying. Humans, by preference, don’t think everything anew. They bring with them mechanisms of habit and tradition and, well, culture. Things are supposed to match what you were taught.
And that’s just the problem. For four generations now, most people were taught Marxist/progressive shibboleths as though they were the revealed truth of the universe. Even teachers who don’t realize that’s what they’re teaching tend to drip through concepts like class struggle and the idea history comes with an arrow pointing at a progressive future, and even the idea of the Government as a benevolent entity that solves all things and fixes all things, from society to science. Of course most of all the educational-industrial complex sells the idea that it’s wonderful, indispensable, and you should definitely give it way more of your money.
The problem is that when people go out into the world, they keep being forced into situations where this isn’t true, and where their nose is rubbed into the fact that what they were taught is nonsense. Some (most perhaps) avoid thinking about it or acculturating by becoming bitter and cynical and deciding the world is irredeemable because it doesn’t match their head-picture. And some fight back with memes.
Memes are perfect for this, because, like proverbs, they have the feeling of revealed truth and therefore stop the discomfort of having to face, you know, real reality which doesn’t match received culture.
Yesterday someone posted a typical one of those. It was something like “People considering homeschooling should ask themselves if they would cut their own hair.”
A minute’s reflection (and five minutes of pointing and laughing) reveals the falacy in that. I don’t know about you but the main reason I have never cut my hair is that I can’t see all around my head, and I’m not good at thinking in three dimmensions and reversed, so a mirror won’t do it. What the heck this has to do with homeschooling YOUR KIDS is beyond me. You could say “people considering learning by themselves should ask themselves if they would cut their own hair” — it still doesn’t make any sense, but I could see where you could say “you have blind spots, which you won’t investigate because you’re uncomfortable” (like the guy posting this, say.) It would sort of make sense, even if not really (since most of us have taught ourselves a considerable amount of the specialized knowledge one needs for one’s job, because no school teaches it. Hint, no, creative writing classes don’t teach you to be a writer.) Or you could say “If you are considering homeschooling, ask yourself if you would cut your kid’s hair.”
Of course the reason he didn’t do that is obvious. This particular “stop thinking” meme was about defending credentialism and people who’ve been “trained” to do this or that being superior to simple parents. But the truth is that every parent has cut his or her kids hair once or twice and many do it all the time. Take for instance when we were really young and broke and couldn’t afford anything but supercuts. Some of those trained professionals aren’t as good as an untrained parent.
The same is true for homeschooling, where kids who are homeschooled, unless they are unschooled, where the results are mixed, are consistently better at… well… school things than our school taught kids. (Yes, I know the canard this is due to parent involvement. This canard is to try to get parents to volunteer more at schools. Let me tell you, no, it’s not true. Yeah, parental involvement like we did it, where we taught the kids at home after school works like homeschooling because DUH we’re teaching the kids, the school isn’t.) This is because our schools have decided to emphasize “fitting in” “obeying” “playing the game” and “not sticking out” over learning. In fact, many elementary school teachers will candidly tell you (particularly if your kid is gifted) that their main job is to “level” the kids so they’re all more or less at the same point before they enter middle school. This explains why they worked so hard at getting both my kids to unlearn reading in first and second grade (didn’t work with the older, almost worked with the younger.)
The meme gets around that, and it is very popular because — even though it takes no time at all to demolish — it stops the pressure to acculturate and makes the person seeing it feel better and like their “truth” trumps reality.
Other memes that are as grating include the one about Jesus being a socialist, because you know, “though shalt take all your money and give to the government who will take some of it and give to the poor, but mostly use it to grow a massive and repressive bureaucracy” said no gospel, ever.
Then there’s the meme about how all whites here are illegal immigrants, a piece of nonsense that doesn’t take in account Neolithic-level civilizations don’t have borders as we understand them, and that if anything the fate of the Amerindian tribes would make us clamp border controls so tight not a mouse would get through. This meme works on the “ahah, you’re also a poopyhead” system that every idiot learned in elementary.
This also explains why the right isn’t as good at memes. We’ve not under terrible pressure to acculturate, because reality by and large accords with things like cause and effect, responsibility for your actions, longer time preference, and the broken nature of man. So we really don’t need pseudo-clever memes that get around thinking and stop us feeling bad.
And it tells you that when you see memes, or an “everybody knows” that was coined after the nineteenth century, you should pause and examine it. Because it’s been produced by a culture afraid of itself, it’s not likely to be a “useful workaround” but a palliative against acculturating to the real world.
In the end, we must all live in the real world. (I just work elsewhere.) Avoiding adapting to it is not a survival strategy.