Re: virus: change in the church

some arbitrary entity (
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 07:35:53 -0700

(If this post doesn't come out formatted correctly, don't bother deciphering it; if I receive it messed-up, I'll repost it in legible form soon)

> > Cool. I think some of the most important parts of a manifesto
> > should relate to the ethics page -- rationality is an obvious one,
> > but I think that empathy plays a large role in both memetics and
> > level 3. Linking dogmatism in consciousness/phaith/level 3 is easy.
>, given our principles, how do we convince people to consider
> them - which is the role of a manifesto.

Threats and bribes. Failing that, I think the angle of attack shouldn't make it seem like an attack -- breaking loyalty to major churches' oligopoly on the capitalized Truth is something we have to do, but, as you suggest, people do have to consider our ideas first: anything that might alienate people should be slowly introduced. Take the easy stuff and show how the hard stuff is a consequence of it.

As to what I actually think it should be about, that's tougher, but here goes...there's nowhere I'm sure I'm conflicting with current Virian doctrine, but I'm sure I'm conflicting with it somewhere.

I'd stress the individualism of it, or maybe "heterogeneousness" is the word -- we don't tell you what to think, how to interpret things, or how to live your life. You're a Virian when you call yourself one, and you can take our information and do what you want with it.

Quotes from Emerson and his transcendentalist buddies would be applicable to the individualist parts: "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till." Appropriate emphases on things like "imitation is suicide."

(Excuse my digression, but <frustrated exhalation>. Why'd he have to use sexist-sounding language? I know it wasn't considered sexist then, but it's still a pain now. If we want to avoid discouraging people who don't know he was using the day's language, I guess it's either making a crafty introduction or finding a pool of nice, suitable quotes that most folks will accept today as well. Where's that quotes page?)

I wouldn't go as far as saying the stuff about the actual truth being individual until there's less risk of that being misunderstood; if we start off on that, we'd get a lot of criticism from people thinking we condone every belief in a far more direct sense than is actually true. When approaching the sticky Level 3 stuff I'd emphasize -- assuming this is something most of us can agree on -- that the individuality of truth doesn't mean we can't fight those who think they were born to be psychotic serial killers just because they're working from their own truth, and certainly doesn't mean we can't support our own truths.

> -Virus is a system of thought and action spread memetically. Now that
> you have been exposed to Virus you are a potential vector.

The statement's great, but I don't know if the words form pay copy. Perhaps you see our group's jargon as alluring to outsiders; I'd say it in the vernacular, plain English -- well, just English for now; expansions come later...

> ...and then giving reasons to spread the meme. We've got some
> knowledge about how ideas/memes/virii etc. are spread, and we can
> develop a method for spreading this one out from here. But WHY should
> anyone spread out meme once exposed, what reasons can we give a
> conscious person for distributing Virus?

Same reasons we'd give an unconscious person...practical value to society is a big one. Modern religious structures homogenize everyone's conceptions, and they're doomed to as long as they think that whatever conceptions they hold at the moment should be preserved as the eternal, immutable truth. When we quit that ego trip, we can more readily let our conceptions change as our environment does and be mutated as they're passed on. This is how things have adjusted to change for a long time (since long before the priests and popes proclaimed their interpretation of the Bible to be absolute truth, might I add).

I know some of you don't like the use of a comparison to biological evolution, but the reasons society should be diverse in memes and allow changing ideas are quite analogous to the reasons life needs diversity and mutation.

Back to our regularly scheduled program, though. Most churches homogenize and hold back ideological change. On the other hand, if you go with Virus, you help newer, better ideas eclipse older, less useful ones. Quite important in a time of change, like, say, now.

Also, this one may sound strange, but think about e-mail forwards, which sometimes get treated like the bad side of memetics. Don't think about the virus hoaxes or the free trips to Disney World, but about the ones that prove or disprove themselves -- a joke is clearly verifiable in the sense that it's funny or not. If you don't apply the terms of memetics to it, it's a way for a bunch of people to let the funniest jokes be spread while the others aren't. Having "individual ideologies" (an "anti-ideology," psypher calls it) like Virus does is related to forwarding jokes when you strip away our terms; it's a way for people to let the best ideas survive while the others don't. The ideas of individual ideologies aren't like virus hoaxes, because they prove themselves according to unyielding standards -- survival or death, belief or disbelief. Sometimes the standard doesn't always work out to be what we'd like it to be, but that's mostly a problem we can solve ourselves: if you don't like the ideas coming at you, think a bit longer about what you pass on.

> -note: a manifesto is essentially an item of propaganda,

It is an item of propaganda, not just in essence, but in fact. The word covers much more than people seem to realize: it's any information or disinformation distributed for a cause. ("ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause" is definition 3 in a recent Merriam-Webster)

> it sets forth in certain terms the aims of an organization and compelling
> reasons for accepting those aims. ie. it provides meaning for action. One
> of the basic precepts of Virus (as I understand it) is that the nature of
> meaning is essentially a personal endeavour, no one can GIVE it to you, you
> have to make it.
> what we're offering is a tool [a deliberately constructed structure]
> for arriving at meaning, not meaning itself.

If this sparks any bickering about definitions (hasn't it before?) somebody's missing the point. The underlying point doesn't rest on the fact that Virus can be described using the word "tool," but rather on the fact that it shares some (relevant) characteristics with what people think of when they hear "tool" (besides the band). Accepting a tool isn't a tradeoff, and isn't something you're not sure you want to do; you can use the tool or not as it pleases you, so you want the tool if you can get it. So when we say virus is a tool, that's something we're trying to say about virus: in order to be a Virian, it's not mandatory to do things you don't want to do, et cetera.

> ...we can think of the manifesto as a sales tactic, a sales tactic
> for a tool. Purchase price is attention and thought.

We have to push a little harder than that might make it seem: this kind of attention and thought, which can involve subjecting your most basic assumptions to attack, is something a lot of people are going to be wary about giving. That's not a rational thing, it's a human thing.

> We need to know what kinds of materials are most effective with the tool,
> what sorts of things the tool will allow a person to do that they may have
> been unable to do before, why they need this tool in the first place.
> ...just to restate: I'm not stepping forth to decide on the content
> for this project, that's the prerogative of the group [though I'll
> probably have some input], I'm offering to handle the conversion from
> quasi-academic discourse to populist expression of purpose.


> I'm interested in doing this because I see Virus as an anti-ideology.
> Ideologues claim to have all the answers, we claim that there are no
> answers, only provisional hypotheses [some stronger than others]. I like
> the puzzle of advocating rational doubt as a guideline.

Perhaps to people who know what we mean by it; like Level 3, I wouldn't push it in such a manner that someone might get incorrect ideas about Virus (Virianism?). Most of the members of this list probably aren't religious in the traditional sense, but we aren't pushing atheism, agnosticism, or anything like that on anyone who doesn't want it, though we would like them to give it as fair a trial as any other idea.

some arbitrary entity |

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