[Viewpoint] The mind viruses that affl ict us

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[Viewpoint] The mind viruses that affl ict us

Our brain has ingrained innumerable images that can unleash certain physical and emotional responses without any conscious effort. We instinctively and habitually make judgments and choices. We know at once that the bouncy jingle to which the country’s beloved ice skater Kim Yuna is singing and dancing is an advertisement for air-conditioners. Our fingers automatically reach for the phone when the host of a home shopping channel bids us to hurry because the items are almost sold out.

The stream of visual feeds and ideas stocked up in our subconsciousness does not just stop at affecting individual actions, but also makes us encourage others to agree and join. It is the spillover effect of thoughts and ideas.

Author Richard Brodie described this phenomenon as “the virus of the mind.” It is the work of memes, the invisible genes akin to biological and computer viruses in society that transmit ideas and beliefs from one person or group to another. Memes, through the form of advertisements, influence one’s idea toward a certain product or make one want to replicate the model’s behavior.

The speed of propagation and influence of memes have accelerated due to social networking like Twitter and Facebook. The infatuation with WikiLeaks could be a prime example of this. Once infected, we lose our own sense of free will and judgment.

How does one get infected? Like any virus, it attacks our weakest spot and permeates when our immune system is weak. An ad is a sophisticated psychological work to relax and appeal to the senses. It uses a popular entertainer or creates a catchy jingle so that one repeats it endlessly to numb and pervade the mind.

A recent hit TV drama about a handsome millionaire falling in love with a poor stunt woman through a surreal body exchange enchanted female audiences across the nation. The modern fairy tale compensated for everyday frustrations with real-life hopelessness. The virus made its way into the subconscious void as a result of rejections and disappointments, leaving many in a dreamy zombie state even after the drama ended.

The infection usually preys on insecure minds. Harvard Professor Michael J. Sandel’s open courses featured on a local TV network are gaining popularity not only because of the prestige of his lectures, but also from the enticing yet fundamental topic he addresses — what is justice?

When facing a conundrum, it is best to return to the basics. We can start with the simple question: where did we start going wrong? Simplifying can help empty our overcrowded mind and bring peace. We may not understand every word the lecturer may be saying, but we are happy that some of our frustrations and complaints toward politicians are unleashed through his mouth. And this, too, is the effect of the mind virus.

We may be living under the domination of numerous invisible memes. We may be living under their influence rather than obeying our free will. To regain our self-identity and confidence, we have to build and strengthen our immunity. Otherwise we may continue our lives like zombies under the command of beliefs and ideas enforced by the media and others.

There are countless unidentifiable and undiscovered viruses around us. But we take comfort from the fact that human beings are stronger than animals Foot-and-mouth disease has spread through livestock farms across the nation, leading to the killing of more than 2 million livestock in less than two months and causing 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion) worth of damage to 4,000 farms. The slow response and fears that publicity would hurt meat exports led to the catastrophe. What is more worrisome is that the repercussions will likely to go on for several years, which can devastate our livestock industry. Soil and water contamination resulting from quarantine measures is feared to create additional grave problems later.

But sadly, government officials and politicians are infected with a leadership-deficiency virus, playing the blame game instead of sincerely addressing the issues and coming up with solutions. They must remember it is the voters who can end their political life. And they have just a year left to prove themselves.

*The writer is CEO of UCO Marketing Group.


By Yoo Jae-ha
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