“Senioritis,” the Fear of Success, and Dawkins’ Memes

The King of Masks
The King of Masks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I turned in my film analysis for Relational Communication Theory today. The film that I used was The King of Masks. Unfortunately, I had to skip work and the class itself in order to finish it. The paper was, at least, well done.

There are some concerns with my Relational Comm class. I began the semester thinking it will be the easiest class to handle. The material is simple enough to understand, but the work is piling on top of me. For instance, I owe the professor three discussion papers and two abstract papers. The discussion papers are on the reading — something that I don’t do until the three or four days before an exam. The abstract papers, unfortunately, I have no excuse. I simply did not want to do them because they were pointless busywork. The reason why the professor assigned them were so we would start the research on our projects. I have already done that, so doing the abstracts serve no other purpose other than wasting my time.

My grade is on the line, and that is what is bothering me. One would think that I would be compelled to do even menial busywork if I was concerned about my grade. So, why procrastinate? Am I truly infected with “senioritis”? I hope not. There is still so much work to do.

My cousin Sheila called me the other night. That was an unexpected surprise. Her life is preoccupied by her sorority and, apparently, that has had a small effect on her grades. Though that may be true, working at a major in which she really isn’t passionate about doesn’t help either. I suggested for the millionth time that she change her major to music.

“I would like to,” she says. “But, how am I going to make any money? You have to be famous to do that.”
“Don’t you want to be famous?” I ask.
“Yes….” She pauses. So, I finish the sentence for her. “But, you don’t think you’ll get famous.”
“Right.”
“You shouldn’t think that.”

But she does, as we all do. We all fear not achieving our goals. Sometimes, that fear is strong enough to keep us from trying. This is my fear of success, and I’m sure others can relate, as well. We are people who seek happiness. Many of us don’t even know what would make us happy. For those lucky ones who know what they want, there are still problems. What do I have to do to reach those goals? What if I don’t know how to do what’s necessary? Those are legitimate fears. They are the very chains which bind so many of us who have goals to achieve.

“You needn’t worry about money,” I say to my cousin, finding those words ring hollow from my mouth. “Remember, you are a part of a Chinese family. You will never be without a place to live or food to eat.” Now, that, I do believe. One aspect of the Chinese culture that I would like to preserve in my family is mutual assistance. There is great security in knowing you have people who will help you when you are down.

There is a problem with that tradition, though. How do I deal with the freeloaders? When I become wealthy, how do I prevent family members from being reckless? Knowing that the family will bail them out, they might behave irresponsibly. This fear is not unfounded. There is precedence. My third family perpetuates this exploitative meme. [A “meme” is analogous to a gene. It is a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene. He defines a meme as “a unit of intellectual or cultural information that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which can pass from mind to mind.”] Back in the day when the sixth family was well-to-do, they agreed to stand in on the title for the house that the third family wanted to buy. In other words, on paper the sixth family owned the house, but in actuality the third family was making the payments.

One day, corporations decided to downsize. My sixth uncle was laid off, and he lost all his fringe benefits. Luckily, they had some money saved, but they were without any healthcare. If any one in his family got seriously ill, they would be in deep trouble. No one in the family has the free cash flow to pay for large medical bills. Needless to say, the sixth family was stressed. He wanted the third family to claim the house so his family did not look wealthier than it really is, but the third family refused. Not only did they refuse, but they had no sympathy for the sixth family’s situation. They did not even attempt to lighten their burden, knowing full well how much the sixth family has helped them in the past.

This is a meme that cannot be replicated. Families are supposed to help each other, but the security of mutual family assistance is threatened when a family that takes advantage of the group is not punished.

There must be a solution?

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