“When people get immersed in a culture with strong new memes, it tends to be a sink-or-swim proposition. Either you change your mind, succumbing to peer pressure and adopting the new memes as your own, or you struggle with the extremely uncomfortable feeling of being surrounded by people who think you’re crazy or inadequate. The fact that you probably think the same about them is little consolation.”
–Richard Brodie, Virus of the mind
According to Wikipedia, “The meme, analogous to a gene, was conceived as a “unit of culture” (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is “hosted” in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself, thereby jumping from mind to mind.” In other words its a catchphrase, a slogan, words with images attach that we spread like lol catz on these inter webs. I love Richard Brodie’s book on memeology, Virus of the Mind tho the implications of this quote has my mind reeling this evening.
There have been several political situations in recent memory that I have felt were at an impasse because at their basis they were competing narratives. Two competing historical stories that were at war with each other. Unfortunately I was mistaken. What was really happening was a battle of the memes that the narratives bred.
Competing narratives can be resolved with critical thought and acceptance that neither side carries the whole truth. However once slogans and catchphrases become part of the armament that two sides carry into battle, there can be no real winner because memes tend to turn off any possibility of critical thought whatsoever. You can recognize the process easily enough. Instead of trying to understand multiple sides of a dispute, people start shouting statistics at each other or slogans or half-truths that everybody knows. As soon as people do this, then they are spreading memes not trying to solve problems. Occasionally one set of memes will overpower or gain more support than the other and that may resolve things but usually a war of memes leads to mutual destruction either quickly or slower. The main problem with memes is that they are forever reproducing themselves and tend to loop where critical thinking tends to be open ended (Thesis, antithesis, synthesis which leads to a new thesis etc..)
We have the ability to decide what memes we expose ourselves to or at least which ones we chose to replicate. Some memes are positive, life and thought affirming. Tho almost always when we start quoting statistics and spreading slogans they replace our thought processes.
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