Memes

I hate memes. I’ll tell you why.

This election season was the longest one ever. Because of my age and where I am in life right now, it was first one I was aware of and took the time to inform myself about. Having my facebook feed full of election stuff for the duration helped with that, and the memes were a big part of it. At first they were funny, but I came to hate them.

I saw nasty stuff posted by both sides . My bike-riding hippie friends said “Don’t forget to blame Harper for everything, including cancer and the extinction of the Triceratops”. Folks from my old hometown  said “Stop giving our jerbs away to ISIS terrorists from Syria”. I saw a lot of good articles with sources cited and in-depth analysis as well. It all floats past, both sides loudly declaring what’s right.

The Conservatives have one idea of morality and the left-wingers have a different idea. But when you analyze both ideas and break past the rhetoric, they are very similar. No one wants to be pushed around. No one wants what freedom and wealth they already have to be stolen. Everyone wants to stand up for those they perceive as unfairly persecuted. The details of what constitutes “pushing around”, “wealth and freedom” and “unfairly persecuted”  are where the disagreements come from.

I think that starting with some agreement of what moral conduct is, is the beginning of reasoning out practicalities of it.

Practical for an oil company is stripping the land for resources and making a huge profit that lets them hire lots of young tradesmen, who use it to support their families and the economy. Practical for an Indian band is preventing this at all costs. First Nations people don’t benefit from the oil, only from the pristine land.

Free childcare and child tax benefits are practical for families, but that’s effectively a tax on single people. So how do you decide what’s right for the country, when all of these people are in it?

I would suggest to start with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . It was voted in by a majority, and seems to still be a pretty reasonable document.

Anyway, all that aside. The main thing that I’m objecting to isn’t anyone’s Conservative beliefs. It’s when those beliefs get reduced to 140-character tweets or 10 words of text superimposed over a provocative image. All that does is strip the conversation of nuance, reduce two (or more!) complex, and equally valid, points of view to black and white, right or wrong, us vs them. No one has ever changed their mind because of a meme or a tweet or an angry facebook rant and no one ever will. The only possible result is to circlejerk those who agree with you and alienate those who don’t. But the people I disagree with online, who post rude stuff that alienates me, are still my neighbours. They are people I was friends with in real life at some point.

And there’s not two sides. We’re all Canadian. We’ve got to figure out what’s best for the whole country.

What about love?

The following essay was part of an exchange I had recently with a friend. I thought it was worth sharing.

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Click to show more.

My friend:
“I need to express some thoughts? I think so, let’s just keep typing and allow the flow to flow, we’ll see what happens. I did want to express, and I got a chance to express this a little bit today, the idea of marriage in relation to present era. The positive ideal of monogamy seems as if it’s created in hindsight stemming from old standards.

Long ago, the idea of marriage was more for survival than love or lifestyle. Humans paired as a team to work towards a common goal, making the goal much more achievable than doing it yourself. Surviving winters and other forces of nature relied on your partnership to succeed. Building a house takes two people to work most large saws, the duties split amoungst the two resulting in increased progress. The same is said with companies, the more people working together, the greater the chance of success. Modernizing the setting of this idea of monogamy changes it’s value relative to the definition of family. Our difficulty of survival has dramatically decreased with the advent of the industrial age and it’s associated following consumerism. Our ability to fend solely for ourselves has become much more of a common reality, far easier. The need for a partner in order for basic survival is nearly nil in westerized societies. This has a major affect on the perception of gender, and its application.

Before the industrial revolution, connecting a man and woman together would most likely result in offspring, serving multiple survival purposes; 1. the continuation of human race, a sub-conscious and aggressive motivator. 2. Children were essentially Co-workers, once of age, able take over leadership roles and responsibilities to move the family, as a unit, forward in their survival. Leadership duties would slowly transfer entirely to the offspring, taking the role of caretakers of their elders and of their own offspring. A cycle.

Large families were a way of increasing the odds of this cycle, and the success of the unit. Christianity and many others religions take these primal needs and translate them into common sense ground rules for all those participating, generally the mass. Today, has changed, not just in a subtle way of modern conveniences, but rather, the family unit is no more. Work units replace the family unit, work is the current form of survival. The time spent working now, is nearly as great as the amount of time spent before, maintaining survival. Money is now a possession, rather than a tradable representation of a possession. With our lives so enriched with modern medicines, severe commonality of conveniences, the question of our daily survival is a minor thought at best. Our worries mostly stem from personal gain and a resistance to regression of our collected luxuries. The need to rely on a partner for teamwork for survival has been almost entirely eradicated.

Sexuality is obvious affected by these changes. With the obsolescence of the family unit, offspring; children are optional entirely. People now have kids as a lifestyle choice, there’s little worry about needing care in old age. Nursing homes, and other care services have taken this role, nearly deleting the importance of a child and it’s associated education. Monetized are their roles, and increasing our dependence to acquire currency for exchange of services previously rendered by family members. I need money to eat food, acquire shelter, and create an attractive self for prospective employers. The greater my sexiness for an interested company, the greater my survival. The company, the workplace is the new family unit. Long ago a family would spend most of it’s day at home, working, and organizing, preparing for the next day. Growing food, improving and repairing shelter, and building and creating their own luxuries.

Gender seems to disappear with the modern company family lifestyle. Whether you’re able to produce offspring or not doesn’t matter in a politically correct environment, so the need to define gender separation is adjusted. Homosexuality and gender fluidity have the opportunity to flourish when the need to create offspring depletes completely. This is not bad, just a new current state.

In our neo-world, the idea of one company running the global economy, is likely. Much like the survival tactics of a larger family, the more collected persons, the greater the chance of survival. The us, versus them; whether them is a conscious entity like a human, or an unconscious hazard like nature, working together increases the survival of the group dramatically. Make the group bigger. Companies are a series of people, a family. By collecting these families together, the group’s survival rate increases. This huge family unit is the dream of many hippies, but doubles as a great opportunity for large corporations. Interestingly enough, a corporation in western society is legally a person.

A majority of the society agrees, that a business can be a head of a household/a family leader/a person. Legally, corporations are human. Some refer a corporation’s members as slaves, but really, you’re just a family member. However the luxury and benefit of this moment in time, is that you’re able to choose which family you want to participate in, even if you’re not the one to head the company. This is quite a freedom comparatively to bloodline family. A current luxury. You’re not born into, obligated to serve or alone to survive, rather you pick an existing entity that suits your comfort level, and dedicate your time, to help it, help you, survive. Good bye marriage, hello sex for enjoyment and exercise. Good bye gender, connect with those who turn you on no matter barriers. Gone are bloodline ties, build your family globally, pick the people who interact with you best and help each other achieve a goal surrounded by a similar interest.”



My reply:

Hey, I’m sorry for being rude about this one earlier. I stand by what I said though – I find your reasoning too simplistic. I went through it and double checked, and it seems like you forgot to factor in love. I don’t mean that in the squishy sense either, but in the sense that it is a very real and tangible factor, and if you include it in the equation, it throws off all your calculations. I also disagree with the value you place on money.

I don’t put much stock in love as a warm fuzzy feeling or the excitement in your gonads (though they are very nice!), at least not for the purpose of this discussion. Those things are mostly chemical reactions. They come and go of their own accord and you don’t have much control over them, so they don’t really affect the calculation. I mean love as an action, as things that you do and don’t do, or choices that you make.

Humans have the ability to put someone else’s welfare ahead of their own. This is our biggest strength, and what has allowed us to be the dominant species out of all the millions on our little planet. The reason why it’s an advantage is because of the low transactional cost that is possible when you simply give to another person, without a moment’s thought of how, when or whether you will be repaid.

Consider the cost of borrowing money from the bank (using the metaphor of money only because it’s a useful metaphor, not because it has any particular value). To do that, I have to establish a credit history over the course of years, by paying bills regularly (and I can only sign up for very small bill commitments at first, until I establish trust), I have to fill out an application form and maybe go to the bank in person. I have to sign a formal contract, which was drawn up by some very expensive lawyers to protect the bank from me, and details what the bank will grant me and what will happen if I don’t meet my obligations. Then I use my card to buy nerf guns on Amazon or whatever, and I have to jump through several security hoops to ensure that it really is me using the card. And finally I have to pay back the money, or if I fail to, I have to pay interest as well.

Whew! What a pain!

Compared to borrowing money from my dad: “How much do you need? A grand? Ok, I’ll have cash for you next week. No, don’t worry about paying it back. It’s coming out of your inheritance anyway.”

Much lower transaction cost! And this is what makes the family unit more valuable than the corporate unit. Granted some families are better than others (I won the lottery). But there is no corporation on earth that will spare one moment’s thought for your welfare once your relationship becomes too expensive for them – and dollars are the ONLY factor of expense that is counted, despite, in my opinion, being the least valuable of several available forms of currency. (Others being trust, time, affection, personal connections, favors, maybe you can think of others. I don’t count love itself as currency. It’s value is infinite and uncountable.)

The thing that makes family transactions valuable is trust. My family freely puts my welfare ahead of their own, because they trust that I will do the same when it’s my turn. And of course I do, when I have the option. However, being some 40 years younger than my parents and 26 years in debt to them, there is no way I will ever be able to fully repay what I owe them, nor am I expected to try. I simply do my best by paying it forward, to my brother, my cousins, my friends, my own children if I ever have any, and my parents to some smaller extent than what I actually owe. They in turn owe a similar debt to their parents, who are dead and will not collect. The wealth is passed forward and grown from generation to generation, and the previous generation is owed nothing because they already got theirs. Remember, by wealth I am not talking only about money, but the other forms of currency that I mentioned.

It’s hard to grow wealth when you base it around corporations – the trouble is that corps don’t add much value, they simply organize it and try to minimize waste, but they usually don’t succeed. You can see evidence of this with the most wealthy organizations in the world. They are family units – the Buffets, the Kennedies, the people who run Maersk, the surviving royal families. The corporation does get merged with the family, and it does have value, through organization and waste minimizing, like I mentioned. But a corporation on its own is a leech. It optimizes for money at the expense of everything else, even though money has no real value. It destroys the things that humans value much more highly – time, and freedom, joy in your work, good flow, easy interactions.

I don’t require blood ties or marriage to include someone in my definition of family. I have blood ties to people in Manitoba, obviously they’re nothing to me. I do count Shane, Corrie (my best friend, but I don’t think you ever met her), and, like it or not, you, as family members. I see no problem with including the members of your sports league, internet community, or military unit in that circle if it seems right to you, and gender/sexuality are not particularly factors either.

Again, the value comes from frictionless transactions – and I know that this is something you value, based on the way you’ve lived your life, avoiding the use of money whenever possible. Money, in fact, was only invented in the first place to reduce transaction friction between businesses and people, and only succeeded to a limited extent.

In conclusion, money is the least valuable form of currency, and without factoring love into your equation, you can’t draw any meaningful conclusions.

When you can’t get a break

If you’re down on your luck and doing badly, there’s a good chance that it is because you’ve overextended yourself, and taken on responsibilities and commitments that you can’t fulfil.

That’s why people like to lend money to people who already have lots, but hesitate to do anything to help someone who is on the verge of bankruptcy.

If I lend my car to a friend who has her own car (she just left it at a friend’s house or something), I knew that a car is a responsibility she’s familiar with and can handle. But if I lend it to someone who doesn’t own a car because life has dealt them so much misfortune that they can’t afford one,  I’m not really doing them a favour. They need the car because  they’ve committed to something they’re not equipped to do (an invitation they should have turned down, a job in another city, whatever it is), and are overextended.

To give them a resource like a car is essentially giving them another thing to worry about on top of the stuff they already can’t handle, and also enabling them to continue trying to meet their current commitments when it would be better to get rid of them. Obviously you can’t make people make better choices, but you can choose not to be part of making their problems worse – and choose not to put yourself at risk of their bad luck.

Another example is investment. Investing in a small business or startup is quite risky, but potentially very rewarding. You minimize the risk and maximize reward by choosing your investments carefully. Let’s look at two entrepreneurs: one  has two years of living expenses saved up and three other investors who have committed enough cash between them to let the business owner create a prototype and pay sales staff for a year while they try to get traction. If you invest $10,000, they can afford to  build a second prototype.

The second entrepreneur has already exhausted his savings in building a first prototype, but can’t afford to pay sales staff so he’s doing it himself. If you invest $10,000, he can afford to spend another 6 months trying to drum up sales OR pay staff for 3 months OR build a second prototype, but not all three of these things. The second guy is farther along and surely needs the money more, but the first guy is getting my investment.

I won’t speak as to whether any of the choices made by people in these examples are right or honourable, but it’s worth thinking about if you’re ever wondering why you can’t ever get a break. Maybe you’ve overextended yourself. Or maybe it’s something totally different. This is just an idea.

PS. This is the most Ayn Rand-esque thing I’ve ever written and it makes me feel kinda dirty. I stand by it though.