Beware Eumemics

Beware Eumemics

Image of a defaced alphabet reader book

Have you ever wished folks would see things more like the way you do? Of course you have. I know I have. Rosenberg might says this wish was a tragic expression of an unmet need.

In my case, most often it’s related to my need for meaningful connection. I find it that much more difficult to have meaningful connections when I’m not “on the same page” as someone else. And sometimes it’s related to my need for social justice, and seeing people realising more of their innate potential (both of which, most likely, signify deeper unmet needs).

Maybe other folks, when they experience people seeing things differently, also feel some kind of discomfort. Discomfort related to their own particular unmet needs.

I see this discomfort manifest often in the world of Agile adoptions. Where folks who “get” Agile, (or think they do) express their frustration with others who don’t “get it”. The most common form of such expression being something like:

“I wish they could just see things the way I do. We could all be so much more productive / happy / etc. if that were so.”

The Standard Response

We typically try to help others “get onto our page”, through e.g. discussion, argument, persuasion, influencing, “thought leadership” and what have you. Organisations – and society generally – seems tolerant even of coercion and compulsion as means to this end.

“Be reasonable… see things my way.”

~ Anonymous

But whence our arrogance to believe that our way of seeing the world it the “right” way? Or that there is ever even one “right way” of seeing?

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We could just attribute this need – to have other folks see things our way – to human nature, and move on. Or we could take a closer look, and explore some of the implications.

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”

~ George Eliot

I’m not, in this post, going to look at all the implications of influencing, cajoling or coercing others to see things our way. I’m interested today in the question of eumemics.

“Our society tends to regard as a sickness any mode of thought or behaviour that is inconvenient for the system – and this is plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore as good.”

~ Theodore Kaczynski

What’s “eumemics”? The word derives from “eugenics” and “meme“.

Eugenics: the science of improving a population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.

Eumemics: the science(?) of improving a population by controlled alteration of prevailing memes to increase the occurrence of desirable behaviours, assumptions and other such belief-oriented characteristics.

Both of which definitions beg the question: desirable to whom?

We see every day folks who wish that others would see the world their way.

I’m not questioning these folks’ good intentions. Before the 1940s, few questioned the good intentions of the eugenicists. But eugenics now has few supporters.

And I certainly believe that Mankind could benefit from thinking differently.

No, I’m bothered by the implication of the seemingly widespread attitude we might label as “eumemics”.

“The 20th century suffered TWO ideologies that led to genocides. [One was Nazism.] The other one, Marxism, had no use for race, didn’t believe in genes and denied that human nature was a meaningful concept. Clearly, it’s not an emphasis on genes or evolution that is dangerous. It’s the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics [or eumemics] or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.”

~ Steven Pinker

You might like to read the article “Memetic mesmerism and Eumemics” for some more context, and food for thought.

Respect for People

Eumemics seems, to me, fundamentally at odds with the idea of respect for people. Client-centered Therapy, for example, holds that people have all they need within themselves (including, by implication, their own way of seeing things) to find their own answers.

Hence the title of this post. Expanded, this could read:

“Would you like to be on the look out for the tendency to try to direct others towards your own way of seeing things? How do you feel about being alert to the consequences – potentially both negative and positive – of such a tendency?”

I’d be delighted to hear your responses to these questions.

Afterword

It struck me while working on the idea for this post that maybe some folks might interpret the title of this blog – “Think Different” – as some kind of exhortation or attempt to influence. Personally, I see it as rather more of an invitation: “Would you like to consider the implications of thinking differently?”.

– Bob

2 comments
  1. The Negative Space…

    Eumemics has been around forever. The easiest way to prevent people thinking about a meme is to distract them with something else. Religions gets people thinking about God instead of who should be in charge, The sun gets people to think about chests and looks and celebrities instead of who should be in charge.

    We have the technology to vote on every significant issue (i.e. us in charge) but we are distracted so that we use it to decide which singer/dancer/celebrity/model gets chosen instead. It suppresses our voting urge by feeding us non nutritional content.

    I used to want everyone to think like me. Then I realised that those who do not think like me are the ones I learn the most from. Either they have a better (in context) way of looking at things that I need to understand, or I have something to learn to help them learn.

    Often people are happy with their world view. What right do I have to force them to have a better world view. I can present the option to them but it is their choice whether they adopt the idea. In other words, whether they see the value in what I offer.

    A few weeks ago I explained something to a colleague. They called BS on what I said. It lead to a deeper insight on the culture. I was suddenly aware of something that had previously been hidden to me. I now knew how to act where previously I was unaware of a risk.

    Many people are happy being unaware. They are self actualised and learning something new may upset that happiness. Ignorance is bliss is underrated as a concept.

    Big subject, good luck.

  2. Great meaningful post with incisive understanding of the current zeitgeist. The sad part is that this forced conformity is largely invisible to the masses that are being indoctrinated by the subtleties of group think. It doesn’t matter to the social engineers the validity of a position and rather than consider independent thought as instructive or at least informative, it is seen as a threat. Ignore any opposing position despite its validity and isolate and challenge anyone who has a position contrary to the social engineers frame of references, including even the language.

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