Navigating The Culture War: Suggestions & Self-Reflections
We are living through a crisis of meaning and sensemaking. No longer is there a single consensus reality that binds us together. Increasingly people are turning to ideological tribal affiliations to fill the gap. These tribes compete among themselves to impose their own distinct set of values onto the world. As a result, reality is fracturing under the weight of an infinity of warring perspectives. While the crisis grows, our ability to make sense of the world is breaking down and the cultural landscape is becoming ever harder to navigate.
In this essay, I explain how we arrived here and present a set of mental models and behaviours the reader might consider adopting to better navigate the cultural landscape during this moment of crisis. I suggest an increased understanding and application of these concepts could decrease the tendency towards social polarisation. I also tentatively propose that a greater general awareness of these concepts might help raise the collective consciousness to a level more efficient at combating our most pressing existential problems.
In their white paper published in 2018, The Memetic Tribes Of Culture War 2.0, Peter Limberg and Conor Barnes of The Stoa introduced the concept of “memetic tribes“ to define the new ideological agents of the moment.
What is a memetic tribe? To answer this question, we need to combine two concepts. First, humans are innately tribal creatures with a natural tendency to want to be with other people who share their beliefs, values, customs, and behaviours. This cohesion reduces social friction and helps us feel we are a part of something bigger than our individual selves. Second, a “meme” is an element of a culture or system passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, notably via imitation.
Limberg and Barnes put these two concepts together and define a memetic tribe as “a group of agents with a meme complex, or memeplex, that directly or indirectly seeks to impose its distinct map of reality – along with its moral imperatives – on others.”