Hobo Cedar Grove, outside Clarkia, Idaho
“Thunderdome’s simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know you won’t break the rules, because there aren’t any.”
“All our lives hang by a thread. Now we got a man waiting for sentence. But ain’t it the truth: you take your chances with the law, justice is only a roll of the dice. A flip of the coin. A turn… of the Wheel.”
Dr. Dealgood, in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
In the last post, I talked about what happens when one has 2 levels of v-Meme mismatch — the Incomprehension Gap. Larger problems start occurring when instead of just 2 levels, one has 3. I call this gap the Insanity/Barbarism gap, and it occurs up and down the Spiral.
Examples illustrate this better, but I’d argue we have an intuitive sense when this is the case. The first two quotes, from the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, is a classic v-Meme scramble that might be found in a collapsed, post-apocalyptic society. The main premise is the scenario of recovering civilization after a nuclear war, where Max, a former police officer and chief protagonist, has a variety of adventures as we wanders somewhat aimlessly through the post-nuclear landscape. He ends up in Bartertownafter his camel-drawn wagon is stolen, and ends up in trouble.
Thunderdome, the primary site and source of justice in the town, is where any two conflict-oriented protagonists are sent when there is a problem, to battle it out to the death with a variety of weapons strapped to the walls of the dome-shaped cage. In a Survival v-Meme environment, the idea of any higher justice is simply insane. It goes without saying that anyone at a higher level of legalistic nuance would find Thunderdome barbaric. But at a Survival v-Meme level, Thunderdome makes sense. Conflicts are terminated quickly, and entertainment is provided for the locals. What’s not to like?
The Insanity/Barbarism conflict is easily applicable up the Spiral, at any levels most of us are likely to evolve to. An example of the conflict might be seen between a Tribal society with strong taboos, and a Performance/Goal-Based culture or organization. Locally, for example, the Nez Perce Indians have a strong taboo against the presence of an owl in any venue. True Nez Perce are supposed to just go home and take the day off if one is seen in a tree. Imagine how a conflict might play out on a job site for a time-critical project.
The figure below shows some of these examples:
Another great example goes back to the conflict between Communitarians and Authoritarians, and what to do with homeless people. An Authoritarian wants to put them on a bus to the next town. The Communitarian wants to help them, clothe them, house them and educate them. To the Authoritarian, the Communitarian is obviously a kook. What are they doing attempting to help someone at the bottom of the social ladder? To the Communitarian, the Authoritarian is a barbarian. Why can’t they think of anyone but themselves?
Conflict here encompasses multiple knowledge process systems. Authoritarians, by virtue of their externally defined relationships and low empathy, are belief-driven. Time scales are also externally defined, and there is no master scale for recovering a homeless person’s life. Spatial scales are also small — the homeless person, if they weren’t camped out in the Authoritarian’s town, would be someone else’s problem. Out of sight, out of mind. We’re all familiar with the intensity of local rivalries as well. Who cares if those people in the next town over are unhappy? Back in Southern Ohio, where I grew up in an economically depressed region along the Ohio River, we relentlessly made fun of Kentuckians and how stupid we thought they were. Reality doesn’t matter — there was little separating the social evolutionary level of either community along the river.
Contrast that to the data-driven Communitarian. When everyone is different, the implication is that everyone then possesses their own story, their own sentience, and their own humanity. Each case may fit under larger, generic classification (mental illness, substance abuse, past history of child abuse) but a rational empathetic sense necessary for an evolved Communitarian v-Meme is also going to identify individual characteristics that create an independent personhood. Additionally, a more developed sense of responsibility (why would we just send our problem to another community?) and a larger sense of consequence (what would I say to a member of that other community if we just shipped them our problem?) are also going to dominate the Communitarian’s action.
Regardless, the Authoritarian perceives the Communitarian as a kook, and the Communitarian perceives the Authoritarian as a barbarian and an agent of chaos.
Many current political debates occupy this particular v-Meme gap. Social welfare issues, property rights — anything involving a fundamental, egocentric belief vs. a more complex, data-driven landscape ( can we talk about national health care now?) makes this a very difficult chasm to span. And the problem, which will be covered in future blog posts, is the belief-based manipulation by Psychopathic Devolutionary Conflict instigators that even prevents lower v-Meme evolved individuals from recognizing self-interest. This gap, and its manipulation through a variety of interests, is the key element preventing evolutionary progress in the American political system today.