Monday, May 17, 2021


Here are some mimetic moments and thoughts from the week past and the week ahead:

🎈👀👀 Negative Imitation

When the rapper Gucci Mane heard there was a rival rap group with a hit song called “White Tee,” he made an edgier and more hardcore song called “Black Tee”—the other group was a model for him, but he imitated them negatively. The same is true of hipsters. The model that they reject is “popular culture,” not realizing that by rejecting one model they have to adopt another one—and they will become a mirror reflection of the very culture they have rejected.

It’s dangerous to be “anti” anything, whether anti-Trump or anti-vax or anti-mask or anti-anti any of these things. That’s because there is always a deep connection between us and our models—even the ones that we reject.

Have you ever noticed what happens when the major political parties accidentally desire to pass the same or similar legislation? They immediately become skeptical, even horrified. “How could we possibly want the same thing as our enemy? We need to re-think this, lest anyone think we’re like them.” And so begins the never-ending process of mimetic differentiation. One way to think about mimetic desire: it’s about differentiation through imitation.

🙅🏽 The Middle East Conflict

I lived in Jerusalem for the entire summer of 2014 during the last major war between Hamas and Israel. Rockets were exploding over the beach in Tel Aviv while I was on it. It pains me to see the renewed violence in a region in which the lex talionis—an eye for an eye—seems to reign supreme. It’s never really an eye for an eye. It’s 5 or 10 eyes for 1 eye. That’s the way that mimetic violence and aggression always work. They escalate. In the human mind, our violence is always just; it’s always good violence. The other side’s violence is always unjust—bad violence. We’re always just “defending ourselves.” Of course, both sides believe this—so it fuels an escalation in which there is greater and greater internal justification for violence the further it goes.

No human skill seems more important to develop in the coming months and years than the ability de-escalate—whether we’re talking about geo-political conflicts or policing or interpersonal relationships. It’s such a hard skill to learn (and in such short supply) because it’s damn hard to see ourselves as needing to initiate any de-escalation. It can be perceived as weakness. It offends our sense of justice. Today I fear de-escalation is not only an ability that few people have—few even seem to think it’s important. They don’t even want to develop the ability.

True power, and true freedom, is the ability to override those instinctual, mimetic responses and to act differently—not according to the logic of violence. The long history of non-violent resistance is so beautiful because it’s a model of desire. And it, too, can become contagious.

👂👂 Quote

“The effort to leave the beaten paths forces everyone inevitably into the same ditch.” —René Girard


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