an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.
This is a first and very clumsy stumble across some ideas about Memes I have been kicking about between my ears a while. This is speculative rational philosophy, so you are warned. It will read a good deal more certain than I actually am. I will post in manageable chunks not necessarily after the ideas are full.
When I first heard that these pictures with words attached on the internet are called memes, I thought it was a joke; a misuse of the word at least, and on its first major public reveal to boot. I thought these’posters with slogans’ were several concept levels bellow Meme. That this was just another example of the pop denigration of culture and language under the democratization of Meaning; in real time. Well irritation can produce results–think of the nacre coating of a pearl encasing a parasite. I have developed a deeper appreciation for the internet meme’s potential as conveyor of meme. No other fate would be worthy of Dawkin’s metaphysical concept: Meme.
The Hang in There cat was the first kitsch-pop icon I encountered as a young child. We had one in the house somewhere. I hope it was not my bedroom. Who would burden children with such an abysmal worldview; resignation to perpetual discomfort, hope for what never comes. Year by year growing more anxious and more resigned to the fate that life will always be difficult and we will be ‘hanging in there’ for eternity–that damn cat never falls.
“But it’s just supposed to be a cute little reminder to hang on to hope even when you want to give up, dear.” The kind of thing my grandmother would have said. I always knew those old ladies from that generation had hearts of darkness just bellow the blue tinged hair and the crustless tuna fish and egg salad mini-sandwiches. Advocating this poster was proof. Still, is the Just Hang in There Cat a Meme, or just a meme? Or something else?
The Meme that can be named is not the real meme.
I guess we have to thank Dawkins for something. He may be the avatar of Shiva after all–he has conveyed both the memes of our culture’s spiritual decay, and the very concept of ‘Meme’ that may allow us to defeat our enemies. His destruction is of the Smirking Atheists school in the British tradition of Russel. (Woody Allen the most devoted Semitic disciple.) In the latter he has given us a tool for understanding the means of transmission of ideas and customs and habits in populations. Before, Ideas needed to be understood, even believed, to have effect. Memetics tells us something underlying Ideas has vitality, and is often transmitted without words. And even when passed through words, the essence of any meme is both pre- and sub- linguistic; unconscious, at least to the holder.
This may be more than Dawkins meant by ‘meme’. I may be guilty not of degrading but of elevating the Meme above his intent. But it is no more than psychologists and market developers have known for more than a century. People can be controlled by memes. Influenced certainly, though this is just a soft form of control, especially when the Meme vehicle is unaware they are under its influence. In our trolling expeditions and conflicts with Progs we often wonder what their motives are. We ask, ‘why do they default to race over gender issues?’ when confronted with Rotherham say. A true SJW need not think before they utilize ‘#SafeSpeak’; their responses are unconscious, yet nearly universal in their school. When confronted with our ‘why?’ they become agitated and lash out in anger, because they don’t normally need to put these memetically prompted responses into words. The answer to their at times puzzling norms will be found in the memes and composite memes that comprise their unspoken worldview. For Memes have power; a will of their own. The morally and rationally degenerate are slaves to their own memes. For memes also have emotion attached, and we have the capacity to assent to an ideological system through emotion alone. Give me an S, give me a J, give me a W!
Of course we could try to de-animate the Meme and say it has no meaning or power outside of the people who hold it. But this only enlivens the Meme all the more, giving no distance between one person holding it and the other coming under its influence, least of all the communities of people who hold certain key memetic beliefs. It does not float through the air, except as a visual and auditory medium. In truth they are conveyed person to person never existing outside of a human carrier. So they depend on human bodies to exist, and yet they have an existence as information or meaning that is independent of any particular human expression– they are Platonic.
Perhaps I am getting a bit esoteric; thinking above my pay scale. I am but a labouring man. But this is the Dissident Right bro. We do that here. (Some of us anyway.) In truth, I don’t think we have had such a good tool since the advent of the modern era for understanding why thought exists and how. I am reminded of Paul Churchland’s Matter and Consciousness, which I chaffed against in my studies. It was such a bleak worldview; all belief utterly meaningless, just mater bumping into itself, human beings merely deluded biological machines. Smirking-Atheists’s world view in pure form. An expression of the archmeme Nihilism. And yet his thesis logically followed once the meme of philosophical materialism took hold in his body. This Master Meme is exceedingly potent. It is intolerant of all memes that do not strictly align with it. Churchland’s error, a common one, is to expect that since ideas can be falsified they have no intrinsic worth or efficacy, that the best way to save ourselves form the long past of human fantasy is to negate the category of ‘belief’ altogether. But he was stuck in the old paradigm of material brains holding ideas; a duality that is never bridged, never satisfying the wonder, how mere material bodies can hold speculative notions in the first place, or how these ideas manifest in action. But we live in the Memetic world now. The truth or even the positive utility of memes expressed as ideas has no effect on their will to occupy bodies, nor the strength with which they steer the actions of the holder. Especially if undeveloped spiritually.
Total Bro Alex getting memed hard to make him into a good goy.
I will continue with this seeming tautology, if we were not able to make use of the memes we ingest we would never be able to ingest them. They enter us through use. They are nothing if not actively incorporated into the dynamic set of memes already held. So there is something about our active nature that is fundamentally memetic. The way we move the inflection in our voice our accent. Our very bodies will transform depending on the memes we operate under. Every meme an incarnate entity influencing its host.
Descartes left us in bed stuck in our heads; Nietzsche put us back on our feet.
Take a negative example, Anorexia as a condition of severe memetic enslavement. How does the miserable creature fall under the influence of these toxic memes? The disposition is not passed on directly; not whole. It manifests itself in almost identical form in each sufferer, yet most are not directly imitating any particular example. Somewhere quiet in their bodies coalesces a memetic will that leads to the self-wasting of the host. Many memes have joined, having been gathered over time through media, parental, and societal input, into an intransigent and perpetually pathological response. Of course we must also consider the possibility that the Anorexic have some innate tendencies to run certain memes in just this way; that there is something in their genetic determinations that make them susceptible to just these meme groups dominating their habits of thought and action. We may otherwise find the answer lies in certain memes received early in life, or ones that are of such a governing disposition, that once held, they tend to organize all other memetic inputs under a strict hierarchy. Rejecting the ones that don’t fit and subordinating the ones that can. All forms of obsessive thinking are of this category. In the case of Anorexia, a repeating and dominant script of self-destruction runs through the body and mind of the sufferer. Some of these memes are truthful and others false, that is materially false. There potential is not limited by their truth value. The power is in their ability to convince the holder of their truth to the exclusion of other memes which might urge the possessed toward personal welfare.
In old folkways we said the Anorexic was demon possessed, and we were both materially and spiritually correct. The Anorexic has lost meaningful discourse with their community. They are solipsistic. We think this should imply self possession, but quite the opposite. For though they live in a world of their own they are living under thought memes they have no jurisdiction over. Possessed body and soul to think acting toward their own destruction is the highest good. This provides a fit metaphor for the memetic possession leaders like Merkel are under. In fact all Prog activism in social reform can be seen in this light. In the face of overwhelming evidence that they are bringing more harm than good, even the destruction of the people they were selected to minister to, they continue to function under the memetic spell of Egalitarianism. Yeah the whole witch doctor’s bag of memes a la Karl Marx Et Al.
Sometimes a meme is just a meme
I have long been fascinated by the nature of ideas and their effects. That people are so profoundly directed by what they hold true, even if false. We seem to have a capacity to store propositional information, true or false, and this naturally expresses itself in individual and collective social effort toward what is seen as true. Memetics seems to provide fresh insight into this quandary. For, unlike beliefs, a meme subset really, memes do not need to be assented to in order to influence. This is not to say that each is just an expression of belief, one conscious and the other unconscious, but rather that Meme is the underlying informing reality which at times we attempt to manifest as language, as beliefs. For we will find we are often under the influence of a meme that only later we manage to express in words. This is sometimes an unpleasant exercise.
The feature photo is a still from ‘A Room with a View’. I have not seen the movie since the 80s but remembered the food question mark. Now that’s some uptown boy existential flirting.(I was jealous he took that move before I could think of it.) Remember when we were all in love with Helena Bonham Carter. Secretly at least. The pout was the female mating meme of the New Romantic Era.
Illustrative picture of Helena Bonham Carter for Nick B Steves