The MLA essay discusses the anatomy of mind viruses, how they come to be, and what their effect is on the human population. It traces the roots of modern-day memes to the original mind virus: Wetiko. This sample essay was written at the undergraduate level for the Ultius blog.
Mind Viruses and Wetiko
“What a waste it is to lose one’s mind or not to have a mind is very wasteful”-Dan Quayle
Perhaps the greatest horror and loss to be had within this human experience is that of the mind. Mind, the floaty all-encompassing faculty for knowledge, self-experience, and interface with the physical world, although very helpful and intelligent, is itself susceptible to pit-fall and disease in much the same way ecosystems or the human body may be taken down. Such is the case with Mind Viruses and specifically Wetiko, the cannibal psychosis, that consumes modern man’s sense of self which was first observed by indigenous people when settlers landed centuries ago.
Memes are a fast-growing point of culture (yes, those memes from social media) that are increasingly influential upon the social world. As humanity has realized its most incredible technological advances, like internet and computers, the dawn of a new era of information sharing began replete with its own linguistic communication protocol. Rising up from the depths of this sea of information, memes entered into daily life and began to irrevocably change the way people see and experience life (Brodie 7). “A meme is defined as “the basic unit of cultural transmission, or imitation” (Brodie 8). Thus, almost everything can be considered a meme as long as it is transferrable from mind to mind, a communication process that has gone viral with YouTube channels, TV broadcasts, social networking, and other peer to peer and media to audience sharing methods.
Memes come in all shapes and sizes. In 2012, the elite hacker organization ‘Anonymous’ began a direct-action counter measure to subdue and collect information upon financial companies that were fraudulently and illegally handling the U.S. and other country’s monies (Vijayan). The directive, named after the movie ‘Fight-Club’s own anarchistic campaign to restore justice, mainly was for whistle blowers however the DHS warned about what ‘Anonymous’ may be up.
The Philosoraptor is a meme that is used in many other contemplative jests and is one of the more intelligent memes now circulating the web. There’s a Philosoraptor meme which highlights how the DHS’s precautionary measures may actually back fire upon themselves as their agitation showed either the weakness of the Homeland Security and the financial institutions that run the country or the power of Anonymous.
Mind Virus 101
To grasp the strange and slippery nature of the mind-virus, memetics, the study of how ideas are born, rise to supremacy, and eventually die off. Although they arise naturally, Mind Viruses are also being set up artificially in an abundances of situations including political campaign organizations, multilevel marketing companies, word-of-mouth seminar series, and of course internet money making schemes (Brodie, Crisis of Mind).
Evolution supposes that species compete with one another in a process of natural selection, the winners of which have the right to populate and survive. Ideas or memes, according to memetics, have a similar propensity or growth process whereby they too rise to ascendency by winning out over other memes. Memes are imitation behaviors that get passed on again and again until the behavior takes on a life of its own, an actualization process that makes it so that the memes literally carry their own inertia and distinct character (Blackmore 4).
The main crux of mementics is that these meme-ideas are themselves ‘selfish’ meaning that they have the feature of replicator power, something that they use tirelessly to recreate and further themselves (Blackmore 5). Richard Dawkins, the atheist molecular biology, first proposed the idea that the human genome is itself ‘selfish’ in that they are entirely driven only by the need to recreate themselves. In memes, this selfishness leads to advances and new generations of older memes which from one perspective is similar to organic life.
When memes are described in this fashion, the behavior is occasionally likened to that of a parasite as memes are shown to jump from host to host, a survival trait they must exhibit if they are to survive since they do not have an independent life force. The key characteristic of mind viruses is that “a virus of the mind gains a life independent of its creator and evolves quickly to infect as many people as possible” (Brodie, Crisis of the Mind). The antagonism of the mind-virus meme is evident in this and many other interpretations of the mind virus.
Mind Virus in Action
Disease may be considered the absence of ease, a natural condition; it may therefore be hypothesized that mind viruses are not actual things themselves but rather by-products of minds acting out of order, that is their intended purposes. Even so, mind-viruses are sticky and dangerous phenomenon that can proliferate and wreak havoc in ways serious enough to actually treat them as artificial forms of life. Perhaps the simplest case and point for the danger and rise of mind-virus memes is in the political system which has only in the past decade and a half, about the same period of time that the internet has been up and running, delivered the moronic George Bush, elected and reelected president, and Donald Trump, a raving TV-Celebrity.
Characters like George Bush and Donald Trump as national heroes and leaders for the ‘free-world’ show that the minds of the people are not nearly as free as they could or should be given the kind of technological advances that society is now deeply cushioned by. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with either, there is certainly a better solution to leading a nation of millions of the world’s most affluent and educated people. Innumerable satires and basic common sense leads one to conclude that either of these figures is a mockery of the collective intelligence of the people and the stability of the systems used to govern them. The worst Bushism to reveal the sickness of the man and danger of mind-virus proliferation may be “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, neither do we” (George Bush). One must concede upon hearing that George Bush is either insanely dumb or a mastermind at feigning stupid; neither proposition is very right for the leader of the United States.
Also, in a most recent South Park episode, Donald Trump is not so humorously elected president of not only the U.S. but Canada, an occurrence that leads to the creation of a massive stone wall between the Canadian and U.S., something the real figure is seriously proposing for the U.S.-Mexico border. The fact that he was elected does however stir up great angst in the soul of the Canadian people causing many to flee Canada to regroup and get away. It is one of these Canadian’s immigrants who relates the chilling statement that could just as easily be uttered by any U.S. citizen should Donald Trump, a machismo-misogynistic TV celebrity, be elected president.
The refugee re-counts “Nobody really thought he’d ever be president. It was a joke! But we let the Joke go on for too long. He kept gaining momentum. By the time we were ready to say ‘Ok, let’s get serious now, who should really be president,’ he was already being sworn into office. We weren’t paying attention… We weren’t paying attention” (CBC News).
One may seriously consider that the internet and the rise of mind-virus memes had a serious role in bringing these people into stardom and power since they usually contain and thrive on absurd and humorous idea translation and transference.
Wetiko the Ultimate Mind-Virus
Briefly, Wetiko, otherwise known as the ‘dis-ease’ of Western man as identified, and inflicted upon, by countless native tribes is the greedy and out of control 2,000 year old mind-virus that allows for a whole race to feel so entitled as to rape indigenous nations, the resources of their and other’s lands, ruin the purity of the skies with unchecked pollution, and worse (Forbes 2).
According to author Paul Levy, this is a self-destructive mind-virus which may also be termed malignant egophrenia, a disorder of identity wherein the function of the personality is shadowed by identification with it (Levy). This ultimately creates de-humanization and a conditioned existence that increasingly is numbed to a sense of freedom, beauty, and depth for the sake of authoritarian, militarized, and socially dominated holding memes. The result is a loss of creativity, zero originality, little free thought, and a neurotic attachment to behaviors, instruments, and people that thwart rather than propel depth and growth (Levy).
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in a conversation with Native American Chief Mountain Lake of the Taos tribe in New Mexico, Jung receives this shocking reflection:
“See how cruel the whites look, their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are all mad.’ When he asks the Chief why he thinks he is mad, the chief replies “they say they think with their heads”, to which Jung replied, ‘Why of course, where do you think with?’ The Chief Mountain Lake answered ‘We think here’ says Chief Mountain Lake, indicating his heart.” (Jung).
The Wetiko Virus is, a disorder that has exploded with technological ‘advancements’ which give people as much opportunity to squander their light as it does to advance it. The solution to beating Wetiko is to be like Chief Mountain Lake and to think from the heart, the seat of the soul and center of life, rather than the brain, a fledgling evolutionary development in creation compared to the heart’s rhythm drum.
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Memes are selfishly reproducing themselves without consideration for the environment or the value of their contribution. Thus they behave like mind-viruses in that they have no life of their own while parasitically using the thought resources of the human being. Wetiko is civilization’s the Mind-Virus and may only be beat by steady, tender, and affectionate love.
Blackmore, Susan. The Meme Machine. Oup Oxford, 2000. Web. August 5, 2016. https://books.gosogle.com/books?id=YKtjZm4MhiwC&dq=memes+memetics&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Brodie, Richard. Crisis of the Mind. MemeCentral.com, 200. Web. August 4, 2016. http://www.memecentral.com/vmintro.htm.
Brodie, Richard. Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme, 2016. Web. August 4, 2016. http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/donald-trump-canada-president-south-park-1.3244926.
Bush, George. Compiled by Weisberg, Jacob. W.’s Greatest Hits. Slate, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/trumpcast/2016/08/trumpcast_paul_ryan_is_turning_himself_into_a_pretzel_over_donald_trump.html.
Forbes, Jack. Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Exploitation. Seven Stories Press, 2011. Web. August 5, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=l-BrEuAutGwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=wetiko+mind+virus&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwij2vXa6qjOAhUIQSYKHZdKAiQQ6AEIKTAC#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Jung, Carl. Jung in Conversation with a Native American Chief. Jhaines6.wordpress, 2011. Web. August 8, 2016. https://jhaines6.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/jung-in-conversation-with-a-native-american-chief/.
Levy, Paul. The Greatest Epidemic Sickness Known to Humanity. Reality Sandwhich.com, 2011. August 5, 2016. http://realitysandwich.com/75652/greatest_epidemic/
CBC News. South Park has fun with ‘Canada’s President’ Donald Trump. CBC News, 2016. Web. August 5, 2016. http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/donald-trump-canada-president-south-park-1.3244926.
Forbes, Jack. Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Weitiko Disease of Exploitations, Imperialism, and Terrorism.
Vijayan, Jaikumar. DHS warns of planned Anonymous attacks. Computerworld, 2011. Web. August 5, 2016. http://www.computerworld.com/article/2510929/cybercrime-hacking/dhs-warns-of-planned-anonymous-attacks.html.