Mind Plagues

cultural contamination (n.): The passage of memes and their sociotypes between cultures, often with associated unrest, due to contact between them.

Attitudes to cultural contamination vary widely across known space. The extreme poles of this are the Voniensa Republic, whose policy is to avoid cultural contamination to the greatest extent possible, to avoid “interfering with the natural development of indigenous cultures”; and the Empire, which considers that any worthwhile, mature culture ought to be robust enough to cope with a few foreign ideas. (And, indeed, where “primitives” and “barbarians” are concerned, often goes out of its way to cause as much cultural contamination as it possibly can.)

It is a truism of memetics that cultural contamination is always bilateral; it is fundamentally impossible to avoid two-way communication of ideas in the course of social contact, and as such each culture involved in contact will always be contaminated by each other culture. Attitudes to this also vary widely, in this case along tripolar lines. These poles are represented by again, the Empire, which not only considers its own culture robust enough to handle foreign ideas, but actively mines cultures it meets for any good ideas it might not have had itself yet; the Theomachy of Galia, whose obsession with theological and ideological purity causes them to avoid foreign ideas at all costs; and the Annik Sodality, which while enjoying foreign ideas from afar, eschews assimilating or any of them lest they offend the imitated or their own sense of disentitlement.

Finally, since this book is one marketed to the cosmopolitan or would-be cosmopolitan Worlds’ traveller, you too, gentle reader, are a vector of cultural contamination.

Try not to let it bother you.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary

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