Chat with Crystal

“The US military would win more wars if they listened to me, but they dont.”  Crystal’s claim would be considered arrogant if it were coming from almost anyone else, but my old friend and political mentor is almost certainly right in this case.  As a scholar he has studied war extensively, and particularly the pentagons fascination with automated and computerized warfare.   I asked him about the effect of predator drones in recent combat and he explained how they contributed to losing the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  By increasing the civilian casualties and especially in a way that breeds more people to the resistance to the US occupation.  He pointed out that the current military and political doctrine of minimal casualties is also central to the US failing to win wars.  You must take casualties to win. That the US colonial effort in Iraq failed to win the hearts and minds of the people because there was no connection to the people.  And that the British were much better at imperialism through sending in people who spoke the language and lived amongst the people.

Predator Drones at work losing the wars

Far more powerful for me personally was watching Crystal tear apart some of my more cherished intellectual constructs.  Crystal just finished reading Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine, which is one of my favorite books.  C hated it.  It told him nothing he did not know.  He considers it a reductionist distraction which does not give additional explanatory power and often leads us astray in finding the deeper understanding needed to decode real problems.  I tried to advance Blackmore’s thinking that memetic replication proved greater than genetic with the choice by human groups to move from the relatively leisurely hunter gather culture to a back breaking agricultural society.  Crystal posited instead that the growing of crops needed for brewing beer was more likely significant than this battle of ideas.

Crystal attacked the use meme as a term which did not bring anything to the discussion and we especially mocking of the language which had memes “wanting to replicate” since they have no volition.  He is perhaps the person i most enjoy feeling intellectually outflanked by.

Rabbit and Crystal @ Occupy the Banks action Feb 2012 – picture by Bob Thawley

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “Chat with Crystal”

  1. Erik says :

    I have fond memories of Crystal’s short stay in Brno.

  2. Scott Busby says :

    Very thought provoking. I do think that the “meme” concept has value, and does have “volition”. How refreshing, though to have him so easily shake up cherished cobwebs in my mind which I thought were sacred. They might still end out being sacred, but its good to shake them up and see if they still hold true.

  3. paxus says :

    Dearest Scott:

    Crystals case, is pretty compelling. That the reason memetics died (as a science – no chairs, not journals still, etc) is that it did not add enuf to our thinking. And Crystal goes on to attack it as a construct which distracts us from other more useful/predictive studies.

    Paxus in SF

  4. crystal says :

    The talk we had at Chocolate was very helpful to me. Memetics (as a science or even as an analogy) is a locked in system. But human culture, and how ideas are made, spread and thrive between people, is a system where the rules (and even the metarules) can be changed by the participants. Yes, gene propagation has evolved, but not so much and only within extremely constrained parameters. And we can’t change the rules, except in limited ways with genetic engineering.
    A discourse approach allows for the vast messiness of human culture, it explains how talking about discourse changes its rules, and it makes it crystal clear that culture is incredibly plastic, and we have a chance to change it through art, activism, love and hate…but not with any simple formula with mimetic labels that are just a case of misplaced concreteness.
    A better world is necessary, and it will come out of the conversation of human culture. crystal in Santa Cruz

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