Saturday, July 29, 2017

The meme machine

 A virus-like exploit of common sense
( .. that had its apotheosis in the 1930's - and since the 1970's in the concatenation of 'plate' and 'tectonics', more recently in 'climate' and 'change' (/'global warming') etc.

Meme.   [1]  A unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. (~ Wikipedia)  [2]  An emergent, virus-like self-replicating piece of 'cultural software' that arises to exploit individual subconsciousness. (~Me.) (Doesn't work on you/you of course, but it does on me/me.)

Shameless name
Nameless shame

"When *I* use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is,"said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."   (Alice through the looking glass ~ Lewis Carrol ) 

A meme is an exploit that works us, more than we work it.  All propagandists, advertisers and merchants of spin know this - that certain words, phrases and images have, by people's common experience, communicative power far beyond their literal meaning. They are the tools by which societal sentiments, attitudes and mores may be sculpted and manipulated because of the way they insinuate our consciousness and neutralise our capacity for independent thinking.  Pithy phrases that come to mean all things to all people are best, especially among people who share a common experience.

Science is not immune from these 'Sultans of Spin'.  How else to explain Nasa's succumbing to the term 'Mountain Building' (228,000 results 20171023) .. and people's zombie-like trusting to "global warming" as 'climate change' rather than the El Nino effect,  and geologists' blinkered acceptance of the irrational 'Plate Tectonics'.

'Continental drift' (which became 'sea-floor spreading'), the 'geological cycle' (/'orogenic cycle' /'Wilson cycle') (which are not particularly different), 'plate collision', 'subduction zones', 'spreading ridges', 'slab pull - ridge push', .. 'crumpling crust', .. all of these are terms beyond rationality, pulling on our reason and reducing it to enervated goo, that has no capacity for independent volition.  

And so "Mountain Building" happened to be coined.  But by whom? 

No-one.  It arose by itself, .. like elm die-back, 'bootlace fungus' (so tough it literally can be used to tie your boots), .. pervading both the soil and the structure of general awareness.   Not even by geological awareness did it arise, .. which to call by any other word (like 'thinking') would be an oxymoron.  

Well, .. wouldn't it?  It just seems obvious that mountains are "built" ['tecton' - Gk; 'build']

Like a virus, memes mutate.  With each transfer from one mind to another they change ever so slightly, morphing to accommodate the experience and knowledge of the colonised victim and creating a will o' the wisp that is impossible to pin down.  Everyone knows what the words *are*, but there is no common agreement about what they exactly mean.  When questioned, only the words themselves are found, turning their inscrutable face to understanding like massive steel doors, omnipotent sentinels guarding the subterranean labyrinth of communication.

And so meaning reduces to jargon and the fog of management-speak, .. never explanation.  

Thus a successful meme becomes personalised to mean different things to different people, .. and the less it has real substance, the more successful it is.  Like that tune that goes round and round in your head it is almost impossible to exorcise. Slogans rule. And indeed that is their purpose, with no mandate other than what people care to place on them, and by massage of mutual proclivities, accept.  

Polyspeak, .. a triumph of government (another 'House that Jack Built'), is used mercilessly and shamelessly.

In Earth science (it would be unfair to call it 'geo-logy') the term 'Plate Tectonics' has become King of these Reprehensibles.  Each of its pillars ('Plate' and 'Tectonics') is entirely without foundation. There *is* no meaningful 'plate' (repeat link).  And there *are* no 'tectonics' in the 'mountainous' sense meant by that term.   'Tectonics' [from late Latin 'tectonicus', and Greek 'tecton' = building'], and its doppelganger 'orogeny' [Greek oros for 'mountain' plus '-geny' /'genesis' for 'creation' or 'origin'] are without substance (as well as foundation).  Plates do not "collide".  Mountains are not "built". =>

 And erosion, which *is* the origin of mountains, is not orogenesis".   

And now these days, just as way back then, when geology borrowed 'mountains' from people and joined it to 'building' (also from people), so the media machine has allowed itself to be colonised by "tectonics shifts" in this, and "tectonic plates" of that,  thus succumbing to the insidious imperative of the meme to seal the reciprocity between science and mythic societal mores, .. e.g., [1]

So who is going to tell everybody that all this 'respectable kudos' (and the reputations that underpin it) is (and let's not mince words) "*bullshit*" (as well as silly).   Who will tell Nasa, that while they might know what both words 'mountain' and 'building' mean, they are dummies for trying to conflate the two?  Or climate changers, who don't know what climate change on Earth means. 
" We talk about climate change in terms of years, decades, and centuries. Scientists study climate to look for trends or cycles of variability, such as the changes in wind patterns, ocean surface temperatures and precipitation over the equatorial Pacific that result in El Niño and La Niña, and also to place cycles or other phenomena into the bigger picture of possible longer term or more permanent climate changes.  (Link)

Scientists are not the arbiters of what climate is, and the evidence for change is in the geological record.  And one-and-a-half degrees in a century-and-a-half in an open-ended fluctuation of four degrees every ten to fifteen years on an arbitrary and unspecified baseline average is meaningless, especially  when El Nino means different things to all climate monitoring stations anyway.  How long,  for example, might it be reasonable to wait to discover that the climate is not changing at all, and that everything is back on track after all.  Where I am the Jackaranda trees and the grape vines seem to be getting the hang of it and are tooling up for their usual annual blossoming - though maybe a bit late. 

This is where memes get heavy, .. spilling over, .. working their creepy woe into other fields till we are given to wonder exactly where this emergent 'fenomina' and 'dna convergence', and the power they exert, all stops.   

Meanwhile, .. (speaking in memes that all women understand) ... 

"You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir," said Alice. "Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called 'Jabberwocky'?'
"Let's hear it," said Humpty Dumpty. "I can explain all the poems that were ever invented -- and a good many that haven't been invented just yet."
This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe." 

... which had Humpty the Dumpty absolutely stumpty, proving yet again that the femenima of the world are a meme all to themselves without help from any Humpty.

  Memes - and the "everybody knows one", ... (and the "mountain building" one in particular) = repeat link = Gormless gobbledegook!   

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