Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Hitler and Germany Versus Bush and America

This is a first draft, I'll probably hack it up and republish it over time...

A common theme across much of the world is that Bush and America has many similarities to Hitler and Hitler's Germany. I think most of the evidence being presented to backup of this theme is extremely weak. A somewhat typical example is an essay at the Common Dreams website. It's an amusing and clever radical reweighting of historical factors and finds a couple of events from before WWII that seem similar to the present time. Anti-war folk point to essays like this to "prove" that Bush is a fascist in the making. Pro-war folk roll their eyes and wonder how anybody could be so ignorant of history to believe that there is any similarity between Nazi Germany and America. I just chuckle to myself.

In my opinion, the similarities of the details between Hitler and Bush and their respective nations are few and far between. However, from the perspective of the projection of ideas, I think Hitler's Germany was quite similar to Bush's America. And both of those have a great deal of similarity to the Romans, the imperial British, and other major powers.

Allow me to explain myself.

Memetics is the study of cultural evolution. A Meme is "a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." Genes are to DNA like memes are to culture. Both genes and memes mutate and combine to form novel combinations.

A Meme Complex (MC) is a group of memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion or ideology (sort of like a chromosome). A culture is then a set of MCs. MCs exist across individuals. In aggregate, the individuals host the MCs. While a MC can exist in only one individual, it's not particularly interesting. It becomes interesting when MCs exists across a population. In this view, MCs utilize their human hosts to cause behaviors and actions across that population. In other words, the MCs are the primary actor, not the individual human thinkers.

Like genes, memes only survive if they are able to propagate to new hosts at a rate faster than existing hosts die or stop hosting them. Like a set of chromosomes in a biological entity, only memes that are part of MCs that are good at propagating survive. MCs that might be potentially good for humanity are immaterial if they are not also good at propagating. Like genes, memes have no consciousness of their own and don't care how much suffering they cause. They only "care" about propagating.

When Homo Sapiens first appeared, MC propagation was closely linked with the population growth of those hosting the MC. If the MC helped a tribe do well in reproduction and survival, the number of people hosting that particular MC increased. While there was some communication between tribes, the effect on MC propagation was probably dwarfed by the effect of population growth and migration of successful tribes.

The invention of trade about 40,000 years ago was the first major change to MC propagation. Not only were goods traded. Ideas were traded as well. The invention of trade is itself a MC which was self propagating. Inventions and cultural adaptations were able to propagate much faster because they were facilitated by inter-tribal interactions whose primary purpose was trade. Inventions like agriculture spread to much of the globe in only a few thousand years. Prior to the invention and adoption of trade, it would have taken much, much longer.

With the inventions and propagation of trade and agriculture, a much higher population and density of that population could be attained. Probably as a result, MCs involving aggressive conquest and empire building became very successful. Examples include Alexander the Great, the Greeks, the Roman Empire, and 1,500 years of European religious and secular wars and empires. Not only did the conquering MC acquire resources to support more rapid reproduction, but the conquered often adopted some or all of the conqueror's MCs. This adoption is easily seen by tracking the propagation of language and dialects throughout the world, since language itself is a significant MC.

The printing press coupled with increasing literacy enabled far more complicated MCs to be supported. The more complicated MCs supported far more complex societies, far high population densities, far more potent cultures, far more effective economies, rapid technological advance, and far more lethal weaponry and military strategies and tactics. At the end of the 20th century, a given MC could have hosts numbering in the billions, with potentially tens of millions being directed to fight and possibly die to support the propagation of the MCs. The individuals would die, but the MCs would live on and even increase their total number of hosts. In some cases, MCs lead to negative population growth (in most of the 1st world), but the total number of hosts increases since the MCs infect new hosts from the 3rd world.

Truth has never been an inherent part of MCs. If lies help a MC to propagate, then there is strong selective pressure for a MC to evolve to incorporate those lies. The printing press and big media prior to the last decade were expensive and therefore centrally controlled by only a relatively few elite people. These elites were able to set and control the debate and thus had huge influence on the propagation of memes. Because of this concentration of power controlling a primary channel of meme propagation, truth increasingly became a victim in order to further the power of the elite's control of their society's MCs.

In the last ten years, with the rapid growth of the Internet and cheap telecommunications, and increasing access to those technological developments, big media is losing its monopoly on controlling MC propagation. At the same time, a rich economy (rich because of effective MCs and luck) is able to use these technologies to project their MCs across the globe.

The American MCs are tremendously aggressive in global propagation. They are in your face, seductive, and subversive. Because they help those who adopt them produce wealth and power, they leave those who don't adopt them relatively worse off. As a result the American MCs are obliterating the rest of the MCs in the world. America has a powerful military and isn't afraid to use it, but the military's influence is inconsequential compared to the rest of America's projection of its MCs. Thus, the American MCs are currently heading rapidly toward global domination.

The WWII German MCs also evolved to attempt global domination. Because communication and media technology were less advanced, the primary channel for MC propagation was military conquest.

In this sense Hitler's Germany and Bush's America are identical. Both have evolved extremely aggressive cultural MCs that tried or are trying to propagate themselves globally, to be hosted by every person on the planet. The German MCs failed and were destroyed (parts still exist, but not the whole mix).

Islamism (as opposed to Islam, the religion) is another group of MCs that has correctly identified the American MCs as an explicit threat. For the Islamism's MCs to survive, those MCs will have to evolve so that they are able to resist the seductive nature of the American MCs. If it's not possible to resist, the Islamism's MCs will have to evolve so that they attempt to destroy the American MCs (perhaps they already have). Unfortunately, it may be that the only realistic way for Islamism's MCs to survive is to destroy the American MCs. That may require the slaughter of tens of millions of Americans and destruction of the West on a vast scale.

The West, in standing up to Hitler 60 years ago, understood that it would require devastating Germany to survive. Islamism's MCs may understand that it requires devastating America to survive. Hitler lost. We may too.

No comments: