Politics, the real mind virus?
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a gentleman inquiring about the community of social media executives that I work with. The message he sent me was amusing and slightly out of touch with what the organisation he was contacting does. But, it had a component which I've been ruminating upon ever since.
"I am a retired Military SOG Unit. I am an Author of Military books. I am Republican. A supporter of Our Commander in chief. I believe in free speech. My code is simple. It never hurts to be nice to people. But let's face the facts. Being up front and to the point is the only way."
The third and fourth things this man chose to tell a complete stranger about himself had to do with his political affiliations. Now, I don't intend to call out or lampoon some stranger on the internet because he's a bit odd (lord knows I'm more than a bit odd myself). In fact, I think I would probably like him quite a lot if we were to meet in person. Instead, his message prompted me to meditate on the nature of how individuals seem to prioritize politics in their own lives and how the idea that political opinion is even in the top 100 most interesting things about any given person, to me seems utterly wrong headed.
As a nation we seem to have fallen into an intensifying pattern of quasi religious political ideology. In my, admittedly short frame of personal reference it seems that people are increasingly making their political affiliation one of, if not the, primary descriptors about who they are as a person, and how they want the world at large to view them. I find it paradoxically both very common, just turn on CNN, Fox or any other news station at any time of the day or night to see examples, and quite rare in my own one on one experience. As I think through the various communities and groups of which I'm personally a member, I struggle to find any examples of this kind of prioritization of political opinion as a personal descriptor. My experience is probably clouded by my tenancy towards introversion, and the kind of people with whom I do choose to build relationships. But, I still find it improbably unlikely how few examples of the blind political motivation I can find in my own network.
Thinking about the question of modern political ideology and it's parallel to the Dawkinsian view of religion as a meme, or mind virus, prompted a number of questions for me. Wasn't there a time, when Americans classified themselves differently than this? Surely the sentiment behind God, Family, Country is more than an old country music lyric? I passionately disagree with Dawkins views on Christian faith, but how much has that disagreement made me throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water when it comes to the theory of Memetics? Are the types of people I tend to build relationships with unique in the political atheism? And if so why? How can I best evangelize for a certain level of political atheism? Or are the outliers mostly confined to the people we see on TV and are in fact rarely encountered by the average rational person?
I know this is an odd, somewhat disjointed, potentially unintelligible mass of thoughts and questions with no clear conclusion. But, I find the connection between memes and politics thought provoking. With all of the political upheaval I've seen over the last 15 years alone it seems to me that the concept of a mind virus applies to very few subjects as well as it does to politics. So, I think this is the start of my next in depth research obsession, and I'm curious for other peoples opinions, experiences, or books on the subject.