Game of Thrones memes

July 31, 2017

I guess “our revels are” not “ended.” Remember, I warned last week I might not quit.

Jane and I watched last week some early episodes of the popular HBO show, Game of Thrones. Jane liked them. We both found it hard to follow the many characters, the complex plots, and the bizarre names.

The shows had lots of sex and violence, but not enough meaty ideas for my tastes. It’s true that violence was common as dirt in the 10,000-year Agricultural Age–Western Medieval Version, the time of this series. As for sex, it’s also true that most of our ancestors in medieval Europe lived long enough to be our ancestors. So they must have had some interest in sex.

The series does not show or imply that many of the long-lasting memes of the Agricultural Age (mental habits and practices of earlier Ages) survive today. I’m the one who has to point this out. Most of these memes from this and earlier Ages are indeed alive, well, and devastating in this Modern Age. For instance…

Game of Thrones makes honor a must. Most of the male characters had oodles of it. Understandingly being popular fiction, the series does not tell you that honor as a holdover meme has a lot to do with inner-city violence today. Black, and poor white, males are very sensitive to slights on their manhood. Disrespect is likely to lead to violence by fist, gun, or riot. In early days of the Modern Age, honor also caused fights. In 1804 it led to a duel between the Vice President of the US and the former US Treasury Secretary. The two fought the gun duel and it led to the premature death of the latter.

Other memes born, nurtured, normal, and fitting for the 10,000-year-long Agricultural Age are vividly brought alive in Game of Thrones. Many of these memes remain active in the Modern Age USA today–in spades in most Muslim countries–where they are no longer normal and don’t fit. For instance…

The depiction, treatment, and abuse of women as wives and mothers, whores, or nuns and queens; old men are okay but old women are not (in this typical HBO show they glorify sexy women, young or middle-aged, but rarely even show old women); constant imperialist wars; violence when Kings or Queens come and go; shortened lives due to sudden death of young from disease, violence, or childbirth; frequent thefts, murders, and street violence.

Then there are the walls, moats, and castles for security and to keep out undesirables; the routine ignoring of real workers–peasants, serfs, and slaves; the giving of excessive honor to warriors; the stress on beauty, youth, and sexual power of women; tolerance of rape; near-pornographic sex and extreme violence in the series presumably for popularity; cheap words and aphorisms presumably for profundity; illiterate nobles who put faith in old books; common use of rituals, prayers, and magic to solve insoluble problems; use of wolves, bears, ravens, and dragons as symbols of fear, power, and magic.

Last but not least, the depiction of merchants as for-profit simpletons, knaves, or worse. Merchants were we crucial to the transition and the benefits, including wealth and old age, of the Modern Age. This demeaning of merchants has lasted into the Modern Age. Actually the truth today is that merchants, sales people, and blue-collar workers and farmers are the most enthusiastic and optimistic supporters of the Modern Age! On the other hand the progressive clergy (see Bill’s Blogs, pp. 74, 78, 103) tend to be the most cynical and pessimistic about the Modern Age.

I realize my historical meme idea doesn’t give a whole lot of help in solving modern problems. But it does explain where they came from. This is a necessary first step, especially for violence, racial, imperialist wars, racial, and women issues.

Oops! I almost forgot. The single most important meme of the series Game of Thrones (more often implied than openly and clearly stated) is the idea that real wealth is land, gold, and slaves. Actually this was true in the Agricultural Age. It was even truer in the preceding 100,000-year Hunting/Gathering Age (where wealth meant good hunting and gathering, and this in turn inevitably led to tribal wars, torture, starvation, and often cannibalism).

So memes themselves are not a fault in Game of Thrones since the series is firmly set in the Agricultural Age. The sex and violence that follow from the wealth meme may account for the popularity of Game of Thrones today. This fact does’t excuse the havoc the Game of Thrones memes bring with them today..

Is it any wonder these over 100,000-year-old habits of mind have lived on into the barely 200-year-old Modern Age? Especially when the wealth meme is not true or even relevant today?

In other words this idea that wealth is land, gold, and slaves (servants in modern terms) is the most basic meme of all previous ages. It leads by deduction to most harmful memes of previous Ages. For instance–if wealth is land, gold, and slaves, then violence, theft, imperialism, demeaning domination of women, radical faith in monotheistic religions, rape, prejudice, segregation, Jim Crow laws, and imperialist wars will inevitably follow!

I admit that my theory is not much help in solving the problems. But I humbly ask, how can we hope to change them if we don’t understand where they came from?

Despite the shortcomings I enjoyed Game of Thrones. I applaud the writers, directors, actors, stagehands, special effects, sets, costumes, and the gorgeous outdoor settings in Iceland, Scotland, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, and Northern Ireland. I also applaud the producers and financial angels. It was risky and very expensive to make this hit.

I’m also green with envy. I hope to duplicate their feat with a similar fictional work using my key ideas on history, philosophy, science, literature, and politics. (Echoes of Ayn Rand?)

I’m gloomy about my chances though. I don’t have the experience or the contacts for producing movies or an HBO series. More important, I don’t much like science fiction. It’s too much like playing tennis without a net. I fear this dislike is my most serious handicap!

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

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