Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mimetic Theory - part 2

Shallotpeel asked if advertising, commercialism and capitalism were all part of following the American dream of keeping up with the Joneses.

Of course, they are. The basic question, put in Biblical terms, is why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit? In modern theology, what is the source of evil? Mimetic theory is basically trying to say that evil is the result of envy.

The implementation of it in our lives is much more pervasive. This is imitation in its subtlest form. Spouse abusers are frequently children of spouse abusers. Democrats begat Democrats. Hard working families begat hard working children (sometimes anyway - the author may be excepted). We wouldn't want a flat screen television if we had not seen a flat screen television possessed by someone or advertised by an appealing person.

I wouldn't continue to collect miniature Hallmark Christmas ornaments if it did not bring me compliments or comments - which I translate into love, which is a desirable thing because my Momma told me so. It means that I have something that few other of my acquaintances do - something for which they might envy me. Mimetic theory says that this will make them jealous and so they might either try to steal my ornaments or degrade me in some other way. One way to keep up with the Joneses is to run them off (so goes the theory) - that way, I consider myself to be superior to them.

Seems like a big ego trip to me, but we do undoubtedly desire things because someone else has them. I don't believe all our desires are generated by others' possessions. But, Rene Girard contended that this is the basis of all cultures, and I suspect that he says it is the basis of civilization itself.

Seems to me the painful elaboration of the obvious. Remember, Shallotpeel, when we advertised Arthur Ashe glasses frames? The idea was that, if someone saw the name, they would want to be like Ashe and would buy the frames to make them as good as he was. Logical? Why would someone pay $$$$ for shoes that were named for Michael Jordan? Mimetic theory - imitation of Jordan.

Why do I like the color red? Long ago, did I see someone that I admired wearing red? I know that my desire for independence and being different were generated not only because my home situation made me that way, but this desire also came from seeing the wealthiest woman in town come into the Ben Franklin store in blue jeans, t-top, high heels and a full length fur coat - breezing along, uncaring about what others thought. I admired her a great deal, and so I try to be different and uncaring of what others think about me. So, where does mimetic theory fit in my life? Lots of places, but not so well in others and not at all in some places.

The uniqueness of every human is that which cannot be explained by mimetic theory or by the various combinations of mimetic traits. The theory fails in full explanation for me. But, that's how I've learned to manipulate people - leading them to places they want to be by showing them how they can be like those they admire.

1 comment:

PseudoPiskie said...