Upper Fish Creek, Clearwater NF, Idaho
Blog writer’s note — I’ve tried to make this as accessible as possible, but a little review of v-Memes and Spiral levels can’t hurt.
We’re now past New Hampshire in the primary season, and to me, it’s no surprise that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the front-runners. Yeah, I know that lots of folks find The Donald’s inherently racist messages offensive, but it really doesn’t matter. And older women are screaming about the Bernie Bros and sexism — but once again, it doesn’t matter. Why it doesn’t matter isn’t what you likely think — my viewpoint, and the fact that either I’m tolerant of racism or sexism. It doesn’t matter because there are larger forces at work, and one ignores the forces only by being short-sighted. Not because they’re not in play.
First thing, I’m neither racist nor sexist. I think inherent racism and sexism are huge problems in this country, and not just because they affect the classes that are discriminated against. They honestly affect all of us, by creating categorical classification schemes of expected behavior from different demographics. And that little nugget (which is the subject of a post all in itself) is where I’m going to leave things.
Why doesn’t it matter? Because of the two sides of the Spiral — the ‘I’ side, and the ‘We’ side, both frontrunners represent the most evolved v-Meme available to their parties in the race. Donald Trump, like it or not, is clearly a huge Performance/Goal-based ‘I’ v-Meme in a hand-tailored suit. And Sanders is also clearly a messy-haired Communitarian, with flashes of Global Systemic (personal self-awareness) and Global Holistic (transnational boundary responsibilities) brilliance. Both are appealing to the core of all voters in this race, which is down there in the Survival v-Meme, where, quite frankly, time scales are short and anything can happen.
What’s interesting is that both front-runners are appealing to independent relational definition. In Trump’s case, he talks about self-financing his own campaign and not being beholden to anyone except what he perceives as the national interest. Bernie is far more ‘We’ oriented — all his donors are small, and he makes no bones about his desire to break up the banks and the financial community that he says are running our politics.
Both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are stuck on the sidelines of lower v-Meme external definition. Ted Cruz is running on the authority of God, and appealing to evangelicals, who seem to have mixed feelings about his messaging. Hillary Clinton is running on reliability — nothing new from her except her track record of ‘getting things done’ and using the standard Legalistic subdivisions of race and gender in her talk. The Spoken Left — the Old Liberal Legalistic/Classification voices out in the media (Ta-Nehesi Coates and Gloria Steinem comes to mind) may be screaming about the need for the Progressive Left to forfeit agency and demand reparations for African-Americans, and people like Gloria Steinem may also be demanding that young women vote for Hillary because of perceived debt — an Authoritarian argument if there ever was one.
But overall, people are really having none of this — because whatever moral debt may exists, the reality people are struggling with is physical debt — college, housing, health care. And that boots the electorate out of any perceived legalism or absolutistic fairness. They’re down to the Survival v-Meme, where those short timescales, and individual fate mean anything can happen. Epiphanies come fast and furious when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Or getting thrown out of your home. Or even worse — can’t drink the water, as the situation in Flint, Michigan, shows.
All the various warriors for the status quo are perplexed. The media, deeply ensconced in their belief that a.) they’re objective because they ask both sides for their opinion – a lonely sole algorithm if there ever was one, and b.) saddled with a Legalistic classification scheme of the electorate that they’ve fractionated down to the precinct level, can’t even grasp what’s going on. That’s the problem with Absolutistic thinking and the Principle of Reinforcement, which translates into telling yourself over and over you’re right, and then moving toward martyrdom — you start believing you’re objective, and you give up hunting for the real truth. That’s not a very evolutionary strategy.
What’s the outcome? The two frontrunners keep up their simple message. Trump’s is ‘Make America Great Again’ on the surface, but it’s really deeper than that in the Performance v-Meme. “I’m going to make deals,” which translates into “I’m going to negotiate.” And that means multi-solution, Performance-based thinking. Yes, his In-group/Out-group empathetic dynamic is scandalous. Build a wall across the southern border? Please. But none of that matters to his supporters. The Out-group is someone who’s not a U.S. citizen. Who cares about them?
Sanders talks in Communitarian, as well as Guiding Principles codes, about income inequality, health care, and the need to end foreign wars. What does Sanders have going for him? All three of these messages translate down to the Survival v-Meme that so many voters are shrinking back into. Sanders hit even me, policy wonk that I am, with an epiphany, with wealth distribution. He said if all growth in the economy is going to the top 1% of earners, why are we worried about economic growth?
And you don’t need the details, or evolved memetic growth if you’re feeling this kind of pain. This video has been making the rounds since 2012 about wealth inequality that is stunning. Trust that things are even worse now — Pareto efficiency would assure that:
These types of messages, simple on the surface, are sophisticated empathetic ladders. People may not be in the same v-Meme as Sanders. But they’re mostly younger voters, and with that comes the receptivity to both mirroring behavior, as well as much greater neuroplasticity — their minds can more quickly adapt. Couple that with a lack of any resonance with historical boogeymen, like Communism — and Socialism is more quaintly associated more with Amsterdam and marijuana than any monstrous projection of the late Soviet Union. Here’s a flash of insight — virtually all the students in my classes were born after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. They can’t even define Communism.
Selling reliability, as really Clinton and Cruz are doing, with this kind of thinking isn’t going to have broad appeal — and it’s no surprise. Young people can’t get jobs, and being told that they should serve themselves up eight more years of a Clinton or Cruz presidency in a state of un- or under-employment is just nuts. And with an electorate that has already decided at some level to go with independent relational v-Meme definition, changing your message mid-stream is just going to cause more v-Meme conflict. The public has already told those candidates that this is not going to be the way we roll this election. And if Clinton or Cruz change, it’s more v-Meme evidence that they ARE externally defined. Because they’re changing from outside pressure. So it’s damned if they do/damned if they don’t.
The pundit class, with their rigid, status-based hierarchies, are also suffering v-Meme limits in even understanding this. Virtually all, with their stable jobs in either the academy (which is shrinking or hell-bent on collapse), or the various think tanks, from Brookings to Heritage, can’t comprehend that their social structure only allows linear thinking, and incremental change is all that queues up in their minds. They are trapped like bugs in amber in mental models of their own making. The think tank folks’ self awareness is so low aren’t even aware they’re swimming in water filtered and provided by their funders. Rich people on the outside don’t give money to the Brookings Institute or the Heritage Foundation because they want a new opinion, or because they want an open-ended study on a current problem.
They give money to these places because they need a liberal or conservative description that is more sophisticated than the more crude model the purchaser has constructed in their head. It’s the sophistication vs. evolution trade-off discussed here. The current socio -economic system has worked so far because there’s been a.) little understanding of societal evolution and the natural empathetic dynamics discussed on this blog, and b.) because the information channels into the large body politic have been controllable. Think network TV, then cable. Not because it is Fukuyama-inevitable. Even the chattering classes have dispensed with this End of History foolishness.
And the primary information outlet that dominates the world — the Internet — that impossibly complex information heterogenizer, now equipped with personal empathetic information channels, like Facebook — fights this kind of homogenization demanded by the Authoritarian and Legalistic v-Meme classes. Though more fulfilling emotionally empathetic personal connection may be going down, you can still pick more rational empathetic connection with different groups with a mouse click. The one thought I’ve been struggling with is this: does growth of information connection and coherence make us happier? I’m starting to think that it could, but maybe not. The one conclusion I’ve come to is that connection and the synergies generated are inevitable.
What the two political laggards are really screaming about is the lack of attention to lower v-Meme scaffolding. Cruz hollers about Trump’s narcissism, and its lack of politeness. No kidding. Can’t argue there. We could use a little more classiness. But it really doesn’t matter. It’s all about detail, or the lack of a need for it, and Trump has figured out that his supporters are more than happy to leave the details to him. Trump isn’t talking about going out and starting a World War. He’s talking about making deals with people that most of America has no idea who they are. If you looked at the v-Meme spectrum of his core, I’ll bet they are solid Authoritarian-Red and Performance-based Orange. Legalistic v-Meme laws, classifications and details haven’t worked for them anyway.
They just want to know that Trump can’t be bought. And that message Trump repeats over and over again, with incontrovertible evidence. How can you be bought when you have all the toys you need? Does anyone doubt that Trump is in the Mile-High Club? When the Washington Post says Trump’s plane is better than Air Force One, think in the mindset of his supporters, that it’s all about the money. How could anyone more purely represent the interests of this country? He is, in their minds, the incorruptible authority.
Over on the ‘We’ v-Meme side of the Spiral, Clinton’s supporters can’t argue against Sanders’ validity, so they accuse him of never being able to get anything done. Clinton argues her skill in algorithmic process. This is how you step things through the House and Senate. Or the World Bank. Whatever. But since none of the things she wants to get done are things that people think NEED to be done, she’s screwed. No one can remember any of them. What’s mind-boggling is to listen to the journalistic caste talk about how all people’s votes hinge on these little details that they picked up in their news feed. Do these people actually talk to real people? Maybe. But their Legalistic v-Meme circuits guarantee that they can never really listen. It’s that empathy thing.
And then we get back to that ‘changing her mind’ thing. Regardless if African-Americans are hurting more than white folks, everyone’s hurting. The vaunted white male privileged class is dying earlier and earlier. And Native Americans, which have dealt with wretched circumstances longer than anyone, are quick to point to the Flint lead poisoning situation as just business-as-usual on the Res. Naturally, down in the Tribal v-Meme, writers are quick to make In-group/Out-group distinctions as the rationale for the Navajo’s horrible water. But maybe the real reason is that everyone has less time to care. This little snapshot from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show household work hours increasing over 20%. And that’s not adding the increased commute, nor the fact that this data stops at the year 2000. And developed empathy takes time, and information.
This piece, titled Feminists of a Certain Age, by Shasta Willson, lays out the topical discussion that relates to the v-Meme argument as well as I’ve seen it. I’d highly recommend all people on the Liberal side angry with the current situation regarding Clinton’s election to read it. I honestly have no idea how to soothe someone who is mad in their perception that past sacrifices for equal rights aren’t being honored because the Left is refusing to elect a woman President whose main calling card has been a status-based argument — most qualified Woman in the White House — instead of what she actually wants to do. That’s my own Performance-based v-Meme talking.
And it does gripe me when old activists come back to some idea that they’re due something because of their sacrifice. When you’re an activist, you shouldn’t be expecting a payback — because that is just not the way it happens. The reality behind all activism, speaking as an activist myself, is that change happens because at some level the time is right for it to happen. There is a level of luck in all successful campaigns, be they for human rights, environmental rights, or whatnot. Smart, opportunistic individuals have always been part of the driver behind social change, and I know lots of them. But the best realize that they are part of a large story of evolving sentience, and they happen to be the right person in the right time, in the right place, with the right energetics. Trying to change things when the thermodynamics aren’t on your side is next to impossible. You can’t fight the information physics. And all of us are caught up in the larger story of empathetic development on our planet. Deny this at your own peril. We all have a part to play in channeling the river of life on this planet. But never forget you are in a river.
Who will win? I honestly can’t say. There could be a singular event that changes the minds of the electorate — that’s the problem with having nuclear weapons in such numbers. They’re game-changers. And maybe Sanders will die, Trump will collapse, or I’ve overestimated the welling potential behind the forces of empathetic evolution in play. Maybe the reliability of Clinton’s political machine will be what needs to win the day on Super Tuesday. Maybe everyone in the Republican Party will rise up against Trump’s implicit liberal tendencies. Maybe someone like Michael Bloomberg will enter the race and be a better balance of reliability vs. validity. The elections are still ten months off, and every Presidential candidate out there could die — some from old age!
But the forces of empathetic evolution scoff at the long-term prospects of the individual being the critical factor in change. The days of Alexander and Genghis Khan are in the past. A poor election and bad policy propagation will only lead to a larger disruptive jump in our system. Without some redress for income inequality, I honestly don’t see revolution as much as I see civic unrest and street riots. If the candidates that are elected are externally driven, then external drivers will emerge. People in the whole stretch of history have never taken truncated life expectancy sitting down. The pundit and journalist class will thump their chest and tell you that this election is about idealism vs. realism — the first which they eschew in an absolutistic fashion (no wonder no one listens to them!), and the second that they ostensibly embrace — but whose balloon of validity is only a pinprick away from total deflation.
Bill McKibben, the famous global warming/climate change activist, really says it best in this piece. He’s talking about heart, instead of politics. And he’s absolutely right. Change validity first, and then the political system will make the outcome reliable — not the other way around. Redefine the heuristics the society operates under, and that will lead the way to more complex and correct algorithms. That’s the way the real information physics works. And I’m always going to come down on the side of physics.
Takeaway: If anything, v-Meme sophistication ain’t selling this election season. It’s all about evolution. Anything can happen!