Excerpts from Finding Hope in 2020
First appeared in the Fall 2020 edition of 3rd Act Magazine
by Michael C. Patterson, MINDRAMP Consulting
NOTE ON THE AUTHOR
We're thrilled to have Michael C. Patterson, a specialist on brain health and human behavior, as our guest author today to share his hope for our future.
REASONS FOR HOPE
The human mind is shaped by both biological and cultural evolution. Both can produce minds capable of good and evil. But it is with cultural evolution that I find reasons for hope. Cultural evolution can have a conscience – a moral sense of right and wrong - because it is driven by culture and we create our own culture
WHAT PROPELS CULTURAL EVOLUTION?
Culture evolution is propelled by memes, rather than genes, and human beings can purposely design memes to alter the way minds work.
The glimmer of hope and optimism I find in current events rests in the fact that memes can have a conscience. They can direct the development of the human mind away from bigotry and hate, and toward tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion. When we construct, cultivate and nurture positive memes and behavioral norms, we shape the positive evolution of our minds and the minds of our children.
A newly energized, broad-based civil rights movement has emerged in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks. The protests against bigotry have been incredibly diverse with people embracing the meme that “If anyone is oppressed, we are all oppressed.” The memes generated by the powerful impact of “I Can’t Breathe” and Black Lives Matter resonate across borders and evoke deep echoes of past histories—consider the resonance of “We Shall Overcome” and “I Have a Dream” that continue to inspire us today.
Positive memes, of course, must be more than slogans, more than bold aspirations. They must convert to behavior. I’m optimistic and hopeful in 2020 because I feel that the natural impulse towards social justice, reason, and humanism reflects an emergent reshaping of the human mind. It feels as though we are on track to become a kinder and more compassionate species.
At the same time, I am not so naïve as to think that the evolving goodness of human nature is inevitable. We must continue to create cultural institutions that promote equity and justice. We must use our voting power to rid politics of wannabe dictators and self-centered sycophants. We must infuse our culture with the ethics of inclusiveness and fairness. We must protect and create institutions that treat everyone with dignity, respect, and compassion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR