Why is religion such an amazingly successful memeplex? There are many reasons, but let’s just take a quick walk through ways that the memes are “encoded” in our minds, and how they are reinforced.
Think about when you have had to remember something. How do you do it? You probably repeat it to yourself over and over again. Maybe you make up stories or acronyms. Do you study in groups? are you more motivated when there is a test? We know all the traditional mechanisms so let’s explore the basic ingredients for building your own memeplex.
1) Values: This is the payload. It is the fundamental core or message. So pick your example and walk through the rest of this exercise. Pick generosity, family togetherness, solidarity, independence, fitness or whatever value you want.
2) Mythology: This of a story that exemplifies that value. It could be complete fiction, a story that already exists, a movie a book, or you can make up your own story. The religious examples are obvious.
3) Ritual: Pick a regular interval, weekly, annually to regularly remember the values and re-tell the mythology.
4) Social: Community gathering helps keep people on track reaffirming the core value, reminding and analyzing the mythology and participating in the ritual together.
5) Consequence: It doesn’t have to be eternal damnation, but there should be some accountability for missing rituals or forgetting values.
So let’s say that your starting a running club. List the values associated. Get some stories together about cool running people, great achievements. Get together on weekends for your run club and retell these stories. Get a group of people to show up, and look down on people who don’t show up.
Simple right? Well, it’s not just how you encode – it also help is the memeplex affords certain benefits to the people who participate. This means all levels of people. Successful systems have value for all sides including
- empowerment for the downtrodden: People who have less in traditional groups should feel empowered by adopting the core ideology through the use of an independent evaluation system.
- status systems for the middle: Average individuals should also feel empowered and be given a simple system for tracking a measure of progress and be given status for adhering to the basic principles
- control for the top: Meme systems propagate to a greater degree if they can be co-opted by a governing force that benefits from subjugating (or selling something to) the lower levels of the meme holders
Now, it sounds a little silly to apply these principles for just a running club, but think of cult a clique, a commune. Think of an ad campaign or a social movement. There isn’t enough detail here to really delve into these topics so explore your own examples. Think of the most successful religions or political movements in the world and how they maintain these elements – or let me know what you think is missing…