Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When Meme Chords Collide

The Simple Explanation proposes that we are all defined by the memes we believe in. This goes for individuals as well as larger groups, institutions, and cultures. The memes an individual holds onto define one's personality. The memes a group holds define its cultural boundaries--basically, who's in and who's out--based upon the memes shared and endorsed by the group. 

What is a meme? A meme is the smallest unit of information that can be passed from one person to another. Sometimes a meme is extremely simple and unequivocal. A basic emoticon would fall under the simple meme category. There's no mistaking the happy face's meaning.
Memes are commonly grouped in linked sets that the Simple Explanation calls meme chords. A meme chord is always more complicated than a single meme, because it consists of many related memes. Meme chords vary in complexity.

This meme chord is known as the Condescending Wonka meme, wherein the image of actor Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka has come to personify condescension. Why? Because the image presents a facial expression that is easily recognizable and not likely to be misunderstood. Whatever silly lines Wonka says follow an expected pattern of sarcasm designed to put someone in their place. When this meme appears during a discussion thread, everyone "gets it."

Meme chords can be incredibly complex, as is the case with religious meme chords and constitutional meme chords. Religious meme chords are codified in the Holy Book of the religion and taught to all believers. Violations of religious memes are called sins. Governmental meme chords are written as constitutions, laws, and court rulings, and all citizens are expected to learn them and obey. Violations of governmental memes are called crimes. 

Academic meme chords represent the field of study. Accumulation of academic memes is what makes a person "educated." Scientific meme chords, for example, consist of the subject material of each scientific speciality--geology memes, astronomy memes, chemistry memes, and so on--plus the meme chord known as the scientific method that specifies how inquiries are to be handled and what constitutes "proof." Axioms, theorems, and proofs are memes. Violations of scientific and academic memes are considered to be either honest mistakes or academic fraud.

We like people who share the same memes we do. The more memes people have in common, they more they agree with each other, and the more they like and respect the other person. Friends have a lot of memes in common. Co-religionists share the same religious meme chords. Tribal brothers and sisters share tribal memes. Citizens share their nation's meme chords. Sub-cultures share their sub-culture's memes.

Some types of memes are more important than other types, and it's the important memes that matter most. If we agree on the meaning of the meme "justice," we can probably overlook disagreement over the meme of whether the toilet paper should go over or under the roll.

What happens when meme chords collide? What happens when the memes I believe in and hold onto contradict the memes you hold dear? Herein lies the source of all human conflict. The disagreements, the fights, the wars, are all conflicts over incompatible memes. 

Yes, my memes are vastly superior to yours. Does that mean I should kill you? How ridiculous. Yes, my memes are the best, no doubt about it. Does that mean you have to believe every meme I believe or else? How absurd. Yes, but my memes are so much better than your memes. Does that mean you are stupid? Does that mean you are a fraud? Does that mean you just don't get it? Maybe, maybe not. Most of our memes came embedded in larger meme chords handed down by others. Most of us have no idea what meme chords we hold and how we came to hold them. In any case, you can't force someone else to adopt your memes, any more than you can force someone to adopt your gender or your skin color. It is impossible. 

The Simple Explanation suggests that "live and let live" would be a great meta-meme for everyone to adopt. If we could appreciate the fact that each of us has a unique perspective, then perhaps we could allow each other to hold the memes that make the most sense for our lives. This is my meme chord; that is your meme chord. If I don't like your meme chord then I can talk it over with you and see if we can move our meme chords closer to one another in agreement. If neither of us is able or willing to swap memes with the other, then so be it. Either accept the other person, memes and all, or move on. Find someone else who more closely agrees with your memes. There is enough room in this world for each of us to hold our own chords, but only if "live and let live" is an overarching meme.