Why We Create Terrorism

I am reading Can We Survive Our Origins?: Readings in René Girard’s Theory of Violence and the Sacred (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture). This is the kind of reading I like – serious, solid stuff.

But the kind of reading most people instinctively avoid. He wants to explain how things are – but most people don’t want to be bothered with explanations of anything.

I have an objection to his theory – it overlooks an even more basic fact of life in our times – that the human race is self-destructing – for whatever the reason. He does mention this – but only in passing.

His theory does explain the rise of unrestricted warfare. Which he dates back to the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon. And which continues in our time with the war against extremist Islamists.

Read the Introduction to the book. It will start you thinking – what more can you ask?

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They Want to Want What Everyone Else Wants

This is a fundamental principle of Memetics – everyone imitates everyone else. I recently read a book about this Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard.

This Girard guy was a strange duck, no getting around that – but he pressed on relentlessly with his main point. I had to agree with that – but I thought he missed something that was even more important. Which I have pursued relentlessly in my own writing.

But let me get down to brass tacks – the situation on my little town of Orosi, Costa Rica. When I came here, only three years ago, Orosi was hot. Now it has cooled down considerably. This has been much to my advantage – since Orosi and not been developed – as so many nice places have been. There were people here desperately trying to make Orosi a tourist destination. But, thank heavens, they have failed.

Why? I have no idea – but I do know how it happened. Gringos, for reasons known only to them, have decided that it no longer interests them. They are experts at detecting what other Gringos want – and naturally, they want that too. I haven’t traveled around much recently – but I suspect what they want is property near the beaches on the Pacific Coast, especially in Guanacaste where it is dryer.

It is hot there, but they are able to overlook that – since many of them only live there during the winter.

Memetics in Software Development

This posting is intended for a  limited audience – as the title indicates. I continue to read Memes in Digital Culture – which is focused on the users of software (which are legion, to be sure) – but overlooks the producers of software (a much smaller number) – probably because the author knows little about them.

I do know a little about them – enough to know that copying (memetics) is very important with them. Good Software Designers (formerly called Programmers) are expected to copy code – and to show their expertise by knowing the best code to copy – and by using this code correctly in other areas. This flatters the originators – by making them even more important.

I must also note that this is what goes on at the Developer level. At the Company level – they do their best to grab as much Intellectual Property as they can – and keep other Companies from using it – or, even better – charge them for licensing it.

Capitalism breaks down here – and breaks down drastically. Cooperation in software works better than competition.

Because at the same time entire frameworks (large blocks of code developed for a particular purpose) that can easily be used by others – are clearly the way to go. Entire libraries are written to tell you (or anyone else) how to do this.

The two camps are not talking to each other. The way they act, you would think they lived on different planets.

Sacrificial Thinking

I continue with the thought of René Girard – actually, my thinking as influenced profoundly by him.

We are now urged, almost desperately, to keep smiling as a recent email to me said. We tell each other constantly that everything is all right. When just the opposite it true. Underneath this enforced cheer is the fear that – if we give in to doubt all is lost.

When, in fact, all is lost anyway. As I will explain.

Girard builds in the theory of Memetics – a theory which seems obvious enough to me – but was never accepted – for reasons he makes clear – human society was based on murder.

From time to time, whenever a crisis arose, the people who were thought to have caused that crisis (witches, for example) were murdered (sacrificed). And this process was absolutely essential for society to continue working.

You will no doubt object that, while this may have been true in the past – this is no longer the case now (fortunately).

But you would be wrong. The urge to scapegoat is still very much with us. As 9/11 showed.

America now feels itself threaten by many enemies – external (Mexicans, for example) and internal (which is the reason for all the spying). All of which must be destroyed – one way or the other (perhaps with Drones).

But something even more important has happened, and even more profound. Which Girard does not touch on. Human society has turned against itself. People have become its enemy. The reasons for this are obscure, but it can be easily observed.

No wonder people are scared – and have responded by not being.

This is the situation we now live in. Not a very good situation.

Sacrifice

I am reading Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard. And I am convinced that this is an important book.

I am on the second chapter Sacrifice, Founding Murders, and the Scapegoat Mechanism. Everyone ought to read it – because its logic is so simple. He states the obvious – that sacrifice was fundamental to all human societies. In the Temple in Jerusalem ritual animal sacrifice was performed every single day – by the highest religious authorities. When the Romans finished after their War, there was not one stone left standing on another in the whole city.

The Jews had to flee all directions. All their religiosity didn’t do them much good.

Some of these Jews became Christians, who did not practice animal sacrifice (because Christ had been sacrificed instead) and this has been regarded, rightly, as an improvement. But our innate murderousness merely moved underground – and Christians engaged in Righteous Wars (where the Infidels were slaughtered) as much as anyone else.

Thinkers have always wondered why people were so violent – and Girard provides a simple answer – sacrifice (a violent act in itself) was necessary in order to keep social violence from getting out of control.

Lately, we have been congratulating ourself on the decreased numbers of deaths due to violence – compared to our past (WWI and WWII, for example) when huge numbers died this way. The Cold War was just that – not many people died because of it. The USSR was destroyed – with enormous consequences. But the human population continued to skyrocket.

What was not noticed was the subtle deaths of nearly everyone. People still looked like people, walked like people, talked like people – and so on. But were not thinking and feeling like people. They had become Consumers instead.

Because, I believe, we had all been offered up as willing sacrifices on the altar of Progress.

Individuation and Imitation

The idea of Memes has been rejected by most people because they like to think of themselves as pure beings who have a soul – some kind of pure being that exists outside of their carnal existence. That they acquire at birth, and lives after them when they die.

This is clearly a religious belief – and a very strong one. But a very dangerous belief – because while the soul is a useful in poetry, for example, it should not be taken literally.

To me, the concepts of Individuation (an important contribution of Jung) and Imitation (which is what Memetics is based on) are not contradictory – but complementary. We do most of our learning by imitation (in learning a language, for example) but there is ample room for us to develop our our own character at the same time. Indeed, it this does not happen – we become psychotic – in all kinds of ways.

I refer you to my other posting this morning When our Minds Moved Outside of our Bodies. Which is about the impact of the Computer on us. We have to take this thing seriously – and work at understanding it. The basics of Software Development are not hard to understand. All we have to do is lift the covers and take a peek at it. As the MOOC Human-Computer Interaction does in shocking detail.

The Computer has been used to make Globalization – and to destroy us. All we have to do is realize this – and calmly set to work at repairing some of the damage. Which, however is much easier said than done. People will have to look where they have refused to look before.

And reset some social settings which they have become addicted to.

Becoming Inhuman

What to make of the world? This question obsesses me – and I am happy to report, this is nothing new. People have been wondering about this ever since the Greeks showed us how to think – and then destroyed themselves.

Was this some kind of basic pattern? Some group attains mental and social breakthroughs – and then destroys itself?

A religious explanation would be that God forbade Man – as in the Garden of Eden – to become like him – to know too much. And when Mankind got out of line – destroyed them.

This is not as fanciful an idea as it might sound. I am just starting to read Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard. Which promises to be a long study. He is an advanced thinker of Memetic Theory – which is concerned with human violence – where did it come from?

I have a theory of my own – which is slowly taking shape. It seems to me that when people get too far outside of themselves – when their social functioning is taken over by external forces – such as what we euphemistically call Globalization – bad things happen. People turn against themselves – and destroy themselves – as well as much of the rest of the world.

This is well documented by The Club of Rome. Who has been trying to tell the rest of the world how bad things are. We have gone past the tipping point, they say – and we now have to deal with the consequences. Which will result in a world-wide collapse sometime about 2030.

No one is paying any attention to them.

Because, I think – we are not worried about this. If the world ends – so what! Good riddance to it!

The internal logic of this development is a mystery to me – but perhaps Girand will throw some light on this. Somebody needs to – that’s for sure.