Mimetic Monday: August 16, 2021
Ted Lasso, the Widening Gyre, Mimetic Politics
The good, the bad, and the mimetically quotable.
Ted Lasso. If you haven't seen the Apple TV show yet, I strongly encourage you to take it for a spin. Ted Lasso, an American football coach who has been hired to coach a European soccer team, is a positively anti-mimetic character who changes everyone around him —but what really amazes me is that anyone in Hollywood would think to make this show at all in the present climate. The making of this show is an example of what I call someone who had a "transcendent desire"—you don't write for the market that exists, you write for the market you want. You have a desire that transcends the existing demand...or at least the demand that has been signaled in the marketplace. Someone at Apple TV did that. They created, or maybe simply exposed, demand from people who want to have their hearts warmed rather than wrenched in the darkness that has become Netflix.
Here's some more easy positive mimesis: tag a friend you think would enjoy Wanting in a social media post (Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram). Tag me and include the hashtag #mimeticdesire. Email or DM your friend's address to me (email@example.com). I'll send a signed, first edition hardcopy of the book to the first two beneficiaries.
The situation on the ground in Afghanistan is gut-wrenching as the news unfolds on TV. I fear that the Taliban will come back even stronger than they were for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they can broadcast images of what they're going to do to dissidents on social media and spread fear and mimetic contagion in a way that they never could between 1996 and 2001. I'll refrain from commenting too much on this now as the situation is rapidly developing, but I expect to see plenty of scapegoats made in the coming days as everyone flees responsibility.
Ben Hunt of Epsilon Theory (one of my favorite blogs to follow) writes poignantly about the general situation in American politics—one that seems to have taken root in many other parts of the world, too. "In politics we have what Yeats called a widening gyre, where a steady stream of extremist candidates, each very attractive to their party base, pulls all voters into a greater and greater state of polarization, leaving a center that does not and cannot hold." This is indicative of what I refer to in Wanting as "reflexivity"—perceptions end up creating a new reality. If nobody thinks that a centrist candidate can win in a political environment, then no centrist ever runs—which ensures that no centrist can ever win. Both sides end up moving to the extreme with no center to hold them accountable. This is not an exhortation to be a centrist; it's an acknowledgment that centrists are an important thing to have in any political system, like a large middle class in the economy, because they help prevent—or at least slow down—an escalation to the extremes.
"Sacrifice is so distant to a contemporary observer that it seems to belong to a prehistory of our social arrangements. But sacrifice has not been eliminated once and for all; it still survives in our postsacrificial societies under many disguises. This book is about politics in our (allegedly) postsacrificial times. It is about a politics that does not suppress the uncanny memories of its sacrificial beginnings. It is therefore sacrifice that protects us from what we want..."
—From the book Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics by Roberto Farneti
Have a beautiful rest of your week.
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