Meme, Myself, and I
Random stream of consciousness writing
This work has not been edited for spelling or formatting. It was not written originally to be published. It is shared as-is.
Memetics is a form of evolution of ideas. It also works through time and pressure. The first level of memetics we can label as style or faddish. A fad usually lasts a generation or less in the late 20th and early 21st century. They rise, they fall, and they are the literal memetic equivalent of a genetic mutation. They rise and fall like waves. Sometimes a piece sticks, but most of the time the original memes are completely discarded and bare no offspring. When is the last time you wore bell bottom pants? When is the last time you heard Coca-Cola called "the real thing"? Have you even heard of Popeye?
These were fads, and not all fads die. Those which lost their circumstantial relevance die. Atheosophy has terms for why this can happen. Either they did not have enough magnetism, were unable to form a stable body, became polarized, transplanted, extracted, or were superseded. I realize that at this stage, none of you could possibly know what any of these terms mean, as I've yet to explain them. Nevertheless, we know why memes die. But we also know that they don't all die, or at least don't die completely. The ones that survive often evolve. While you may not think of the Internet as the "Information Superhighway", you can recognize the failed attempt at a meme. In an age that didn't understand the Internet, those who did know tried to come up with an analogy by comparing it to a highway. The biggest problem with this was that people took the meme too literally which lead to many pointless questions until most knowledgeable people simply gave up the analogy. It did not clarify the concept in the uneducated mind and annoyed the educated.
But we still speak of "the web". Why is this? What is it about a "web" that a "highway" was unable to achieve? As an Atheosophist, the question fascinates me even as the answer is obvious. People understand webs. They are beautifully complex, yet symmetrical and simple in our mind's eye. In an instant, we understand it. Webs don't have emotional negatives for most people. Highways, on the other hand, are usually a source of displeasure. They are not symmetrical or simple. They are dangerous and unpredictable.
These are not the reasons why either meme succeeded. This is simply an abstraction of why the latter failed miserably. It is what we would label as a bad analogy.
If we look at one of the Abrahamic religions, Christianity, we can see many of the properties that make a meme successful. Christianity is a fully developed and ever evolving meme. It is also one that I know very well having once been a conservative, fundamentalist Pentocostal preacher. I even authored a theological book on the intricacies of the lone topic of the male beard in Christianity. Not light reading to be sure! But there is nothing complicated about Christianity in the least. I have delved into the depths of early major (as opposed to minor) Greek manuscripts, and waxed on such things as the comparisons between the Hebrew and Greek word "shave" or "to mar".
It's rather boring at that level, and probably fewer than 0.1% of Christians could even follow the book even if they were interested. Christianity is not about deep, philosophical dogma. Christianity is about memes. Those who start with a Christian bible as truth and are intelligent will dig deep and make mountains out of mole hills, a wonderful analog meme. The majority couldn't give one hoot about all that!
People are bad. Guilt.
God is good. Awe.
He became a man. Magical, Personal, Familiar.
He died for you. Guilt.
He arose from the dead. Magical, Superhuman.
Believe and you go to heaven. Thrill.
Don't believe and you go to hell. Fear.
Those are the main components. One can speak of beards until they are blue in the face, but these are the major organs of the Christian meme body. All of the "facts", of which very little is actually true if any, don't matter. You can point to all of the contradictions and meanness and just plain stupidity of it all. But the Christian meme body is simple, ingrained, highly magnetic, and stable. Many Christians believe they are practicing the "original Christianity". Pentecosts believe they are doing it 100% the same, as do many others, including Catholics who believe the rites they observe have not changed in 2000 years. Such is the blinding power of blind faith.
But we are not here to debate religion, but to answer the question of why the meme lasted so long. Let's examine some properties in depth, making comparisons to human nature and other memes.
Most people have a high sense of self worth. When we are slighted by another individual, we consider them "bad". On one hand, we wish that everyone treated us with our high regard. They would be "good". When someone we love does something for us, we feel obliged to return the favor. If we do not, or we are incapable, we feel that we are "bad". Notice that while not entirely the case, that the majority of emphasis on the badness of other people is that they have wronged us. But the badness of ourselves is not emphasized on how we have wronged others, as we usually have self created excuses and justifications for our own behavior. No, the badness of ourselves is in not repaying a kindness to another. This is much harder to justify.
This is a simple observation, but one which I learned through experience in the religion. One of the things I did was travel to a county jail and preach about once a month. I used to call it the most fertile preaching ground there ever was. They were truely "hungry" for the "Word of God", I would be likely to say.
But the truth was that when I walked into a jail, it was an ideal situation in which there was no question that I was doing them a favor. Sure, there was some personal guilt there over whatever it was that got them into jail in the first place. But here I was, a man giving them a full hour out of their cells, clothed under the guise of "holiness", doing them a favor, smiling, showing love. Each and every one of the prisoners knew that I was doing something for them that they were completely unable to repay me for. That, more than anything, started the seed of guilt needed to produce the main effect of the meme.
On topic, I would preach to them words that continually magnified the fact of how unworthy people are, how great god was, and all the things that god had also done for them.
Guilt is a powerful tool. It is one learned by children who will act sick when a parent is not giving them enough attention. Guilt inspires the parent to react in a favorable way to the child. Religion is the child playing sick. Look how bad you are, look how good god is, and despite all that... god did all these things for you!
As an Atheosophist, I am truly in awe of, and simultaneously sickened by, the simplicity with which Christianity can manipulate evolved human reaction which most likely evolved to encourage good parenting, believing what our own parents told us, and our desire for paradise and our fear of fire.
More learned theologians would argue about Trinities, use big words like transubstantiation, and go into the minutia of sins. But this is all just dark fog covering the simple truth that at its heart, Abrahamic religion is about guilt, fear, and the ecstasy of being "chosen" by the creator of the entire universe to enjoy paradise.
As I said earlier, it is our own feeling of badness when we cannot repay a debt. This drives some individuals especially to the edge of trying to repay it. Mild forms include all night prayer sessions, crying at an altar begging for a hand to touch them to heal and forgive. Flagellation, or self flogging, is one moderate form. Suicide bombing is a severe form.
Memes are truly powerful.
But has any meme ever transformed the entire human species?
Memes are very selfish. Religious memes often carry with them the idea of what is called moral superiority. Christianity swept over the entire western world. Be believing that those who believed went to heaven and those who did not went to hell, any action could be justified. Memes started the American Revolutionary War of the 18th century C.E.
Before that, Christianity conquered the Roman Empire and transplanted itself over Greek Philosophy and pagan religions. It at once unified far regions beyond political boundaries and inspired some of the greatest art of human history while at the same time burned millions at the stake for heresy, and slaughtered the people's of rival religions.
This is not to demonize Christianity. It is to show that if there does exist a concept of a demon, being an invisible destroying of the minds and lives of people, it is what we call delusion, or falsified memes. Moral superiority is a false meme because morals themselves are relative to every situation. We already spoke of this when whether or not a surgeon should take a day off. Many of these situations have been glossed over by exceptions to the rule, but it is exceptions to the rule that prove that that morality is not a solid unmovable entity, a monolith.
The Christian bible quotes its mythical hero figure as stating as much when he continually points out that it is right to break the law because laws or morals are made for the benefit of humanity, and not that humanity is made for the benefit of laws or morals. I could quote the passages where Jesus explained why he broke the Sabbath at such a rate as to hardly allow anyone to call him a fundamentalist, but I will leave that to those who wish actually care to look them up. I do not care to reference such passages except as a literary point.
But it is rare moments in the Christian bible that I can see into the mind's eye of the writer and see a spark of understanding of the concept of humanism until the author reverts back to whipping and damning people as vipers, snakes, and serpents.
The meme bodies we call Abrahamic religions are akin to some of the most powerful genetic bodies that have survived almost unchanged for millions of years. Biologists have found certain chains of DNA have existed for hundreds of millions of years almost completely preserved and exist across many species simultaneously in plants and animals.
The difference is that memes evolve much more rapidly. Memes do not remain static in a person the way DNA does. A meme can evolve 100 steps within a single person. They mutate, and the human mind and all surrounding human minds select or discard them on a daily basis. They replicate and divide on a scale more closely related to bacteria than to elephants.
Memetics is far less discriminating that genetics. Memes have caused holocausts, famine, war, slavery, and even suicide and mass suicide. And yet, the memes themselves can spread even at the costs of their hosts. A suicidal man can pass his suicidal meme to his followers. If you do not believe this, then simply look at Jesus or a Buddhist monk who pours gasoline over his head and burns himself to death in the middle of a city street.
We can say then that memes in an advanced society can spread, infect, and even kill its hosts so long as it is not so devastating as to collapse the entire society. This is a familiar behaviour. We see it in the lowly, yet deadly, virus.
Memes are then best described as viruses, just hitching a ride with us.
We can use the theory of Richard Dawkins that virii may be a form of break away gene and could be similar to what early life looked like. Similarly, I would postulate that the entire collective memes of humanity is a primordial soup from which life is forming, but has not evolved. It has not yet taken its first steps on dry ground. Religion, being the longest lasting complex meme bodies is merely algae compared with what is possible.
The goal of Atheosophy is to guide memetics out of the primordial soup and teach it how to walk. It is an area totally unknown by either scientist or science fiction writer. I would even propose that the reason we have not yet met an alien is that their memetics have evolved to the point that we don’t look like ants to them; no, we don’t even look like bacteria to them. We are simply a soup of memetical proteins floating around without any coherence or “body” on a scale that they are accustom to.
I think it is time that I explained a few terms. I imagine the glossed over eyes of many readers if I go any further without some definitions.
A meme body is any collection of memes that work cooperatively toward a common end. This is a loose and fast definition of a meme body, but many examples can be illustrated.
A song is a meme body. It can be broken down into recognizable memes that do not consist of the whole. Such segments could be a chorus, solo, or introduction. Any example given may be dated, but one might be Sheryl Crow’s song “All I Wanna Do”. The most well know part of the song is “All I wanna do is have some fun. I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only one.” After hearing the song one time, anyone would be able to sing along with this catchy bit. But even fans of Sheryl Crow would find it difficult to continue singing any other parts of the song unaccompanied were someone to come along and shut off the music player. The meme body is the song, but the most valuable memes that have aided its survival and replication, or popularity in the vernacular, are only bits of the entire body.
Definition to remember: Meme Body
This is especially true with other meme bodies. Note the following:
who lives in the sky,
good is his name.
His house is coming,
His desires are accomplished,
On the ground as it is in the sky.
Now that is a bastardized version of what is known as The Lord’s Prayer. The myth of the meme, a meme itself, is that it was the prayer uttered by Jesus in answer to the question asked by one of his students on the subject of how to pray.
The reason I presented a bastardized version is to demonstrate that successful memes are recognizable even when heavily altered. The actual meme may be a specific cadence or speed of information presented. If the beat of a song is changed from 4/4 time to 3/4 time it may not even be recognizable.
This is the integrity of the meme. Integrity identifies how well a meme can withstand change overtime and still maintain what could be identified as a core attribute. This may change from meme to meme, just as the core attribute can change from gene to gene.
Definition to remember: Meme Integrity
A gene for blue eyes could be said to have, at its core, a shade of blue. But what shade? This question is answered by its context the same way a gene for dark skin is answered by its context. If a person has skin darker than the average caucasian, but lighter than the average african, one might wonder if the person is, to use the more common terms, black or white. In an individual body, we can look to other features for the answer. We can also look to the individuals close relatives to see if their genetic variety points to a definitive answer.
In the answer of blue eyes, the gene for blue eyes has a core attribute of an eye being the color blue so long as it’s shade has not transitioned the point between it and another color, such as green or hazel. For points in between, we can look at the individual the gene belongs to as well as the individuals relatives for clarification.
The same is true of a meme’s core attribute. A meme that has a strong integrity will be able to maintain its core attributes through copying errors and even many direct manipulations such as my bastardization of The Lord’s Prayer.
This leads us to another idea. Can a meme become prolific and spread, or to use the simpler phrase, become more popular, through bastardization? Can error and manipulation of a meme actually reinforce that meme?
The answer is yes. And it is even seen in the world of genes. From long elephant noses to crazy colors seen on the tails of peacocks, error, selection, and exageration of a gene can lead to the prominence, or popularity, of the gene. Peacocks are favored for their bright, colorful tails. Elephants with long nose trunks are favored more than those with short stubby trunks. When this happens in memetics, we call it meme evolution.
Definition to remember: Meme Evolution
Of course, Darwinian "cumulative selection" has eliminated those errors and exaggerations that damaged such genes ability to survive and amplified those errors that improved survivability. And in the case of many these features, we can say that many genes played a role, not a single gene.
The same is true in memes. But unlike genes, memes tend to survive for a short period on their own without specific helper memes. This does not mean that memes are born in a vacuum. Rather, a newly created meme can survive in a specific environment. That environment can be inside a meme body or with no or a very lose meme body. Saying that Jesus had a red headed brother would be to try to create a meme in the Christian meme body. That doesn't mean that it is a member of the body, but is simply in the environment of the body, like a virus that has penetrated the cellular wall. But to say that there is a red headed god named "Big Eddie, God of Poached Eggs" would be to create a meme outside of a supporting meme body. Which one is more likely to survive is the one that is inside a body. This is seen over and over. New ideas arise within meme bodies more than they do completely outside meme bodies.
When looking at a single meme, we must consider the fact that they can be manipulated to make them strong memes on their own. I would postulate that all memes start out in such a progression. At first, a meme is a flash in the pan. To have sticking power, it must have integrity, of course. But beyond that, it also must have this ability to use manipulation, at least in some respects, to its advantage. A gene must manipulate the world around it on its own scale to be successful. The same is true of a meme.
The world for a gene is the physical world. The world for the meme is the mind. This doesn't have to be the fully conscious mind, but it does have to be the mind. A book does not a meme make. A book is not replication. It is the reading of a book that activates and replicates the meme. If you can get nobody to read your book, your meme is genetically comparative to stitching a dead body together and calling it life. But should your book become a best seller, then it is genetically comparative to a newly discovered species of life.
Life is replication. This is true genetically and memetically. What we mean then when we say that a meme must manipulative is to say that it does something that makes it more advantageous to be replicated than its competition.
The main form of manipulation a meme can employ to its own advantage is “meme magnetism”. For a meme to be magnetic, it actually invites its use with other memes, whether those other memes are short or long term memes. The more magnetic a meme is the more it can draw in and link with other memes to form a meme body. This allows the associated memes to work together to keep integrity and fight off death in the same way that a collection of genes work together to survive. Some build a cell wall, some cause cells to replicate, some grow large teeth, some the ability to breath air. The ability of genes to work well with other genes is arguably the most important factor of any gene, because without it, it would have an extremely difficult time replicating. Even a virus must have this ability. For without it, it could kill or makes its host sterile before it is able to be replicated into a new host. Those who study and combat virus outbreaks study these burn out rates to determine what steps they can take to cause an outbreak to burn itself out faster than it can replicate.
HIV, for instance is a very slow acting virus. While it is lethal without treatment, it is not lethal enough to put itself in any real jeopardy of extinction. On the other hand, the flu virus attacks in waves. Eventually, it is successfully fought off faster than it can replicate. It burns through the number of hosts it can infect relatively quickly when compared to HIV. For instance, once infected, it is highly unlikely to catch the same strain of flu virus. Knowing this information, medical science creates vaccines to artificially pre-burn out the likely strain of flu virus in any given year. Flu can then be seen to be highly viral, but have low magnetism.
Those virii and bacteria with the highest magnetism actually live on and in the human body, without which, humans would not be nearly as healthy as they are today. The same is true of bacteria that live in the stomachs of bovine, and break down grasses eaten by the animal.
Therefore, we can determine Meme Magnetism in the same way gene magnetism is determined. In genetics, the highest form of this genetic magnetism is called symbiosis. In primitive symbiosis, two distinct bodies assist each others' survival. In genetics an example of this is fungus farming ants. In memetics an example of this are certain political parties and religious organizations. They are highly magnetic to each other and assist in each others' survival.
In sophisticated symbiosis, the genes comprise a single indistinct body. In genetics an example of this is the genes that make teeth and the genes that make the stomach. In memetics an example of this is a university where the memes for learning and the memes for teaching mutually exist within the same meme body of education and assist the replication of each other. We can test this by reversing the process in these examples. With poor teeth, the genes for the stomach would have a harder time keeping the body it exists alive and therefore replicating. The same is true of a poor stomach. Reducing the number of teachers or students would reduce the level of overall education. If a university lost all of its teachers or all of its students it would indeed find it very hard to survive as a meme body of education. The body is not the physical people participating in the meme just as a human body is not the physical cells participating. In the human body, it is the genes, the DNA copied into every cell. In education, it is the memes, the idea collections inside minds, replicated in every mind. Comparing a mind to a cell isn't very far off, memetically speaking. One mind does not make a meme body just as a book does not make a meme body, and is simply a single celled collection of memes that might replicate or might not.
Definition to remember: Meme Magnetism
Should two or more memes be magnetic to each other in a stable configuration, they may become fused. Unlike a song, a book, or a poem, these memes are not usually created by one person or even in one generation. Some stable configurations can take centuries to occur. Eventually, they may even for a new meme body with several other memes connected through meme magnetism. Later, we will discuss deliberate creation of magnetic memes.
In my own lifetime, I have caught, mutated and discarded several religious memes. Taken on a genetic evolutionary scale, my mind has evolved millions of years from where it started. But on a memetic evolutionary scale, this is not out of the ordinary, though I would venture to say that I've evolved a bit more than the average person who will tend to stick to a single religion for the majority of their life. My mind tends to demagnetize memes. This is a very important skill to learn. It is a level of conscious raising that goes beyond simple intelligence and reaches to a point of realization. By realization, I mean the ability to move upwards and downwards with greater ease in terms of abstraction of thought. Those who are unable to demagnetize memes are unable to dive below the base level of abstraction created by the meme body. The proverbial cellular wall of a meme body becomes impenetrable. It is what truly separates those with blind faith with those who are skeptics.
Definition to remember: Meme Demagnetization
And just as genetic biologists are working to understand genes, memetic scientists are trying to understand memes. The problem I think is that genes are far easier to understand. Genes have a definite structure that changes very slowerly, and the bodies produced by these genes are easy to dissect and understand. Memes move so rapidly that just to keep up with the largest of them is a full time job. One can hardly even keep up with the new interest in Internet Memes, though I find Internet Memes to be rather boring like studying bacteria in a petri dish all day. I am much more interested in the larger animals. But let us explore some of these microscopic memes. While they may be boring, and will almost surely be out of date in a few generations, they allow us to delve deep into why some memes survive and some die.
Religions are an order of meme. If we want to be more exact with our biological comparisons, we would say that something like Pentecostal Christianity is in the kingdom "humanity", phylum "art", class "philosophy", order "religion", family "Abrahamic", genus "Christianity", species "Pentecostal". If you so wish, I can even break that down by breed/race. Have no doubt, there are many methods to classifying and understanding memes, and we are very good at it. For those of you wondering why the very first kingdom is classified as humanity, I may explain that later, but for now it will be too much for most readers to wrap their minds around except those who are memetic scientists to understand. Suffice to say, memes do not replicate exactly like genes, and such labels tend to just get in the way for discussions like this.
One thing that the religious order is not very good at is humor. Institutional memes are generally bad at humor. This is true for religion, government, academia, and scientific memes. Internet memes, on the other hand, take on two main forms, fear and humor. They must. The great majority of them can take on no other form. Here are just a few reasons that they must be humorous. They have short lives. Short lived memes take on the attributes of a virus. A virus must make use of a host mechanism to replicate, and it must do so quickly before the host mechanism finds and destroys the interloper. Simply put, it must be highly contagious and mutable.
One of the most highly contagious forms of meme is humor. The only more highly contagious form is fear. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, spreads faster than fear. One can even trace a straight line from fear to hate to war. But humor plays a close second to fear. There are of course memes spread by the Internet which use neither fear nor humor. But these are rarely short lived memes if they spread at all. I will explain this later, but first, let's examine one of the Internet Memes of humor, and dissect it like a frog.
Because of the Internet, meme creation has taken off at the speed of light, quite literally. Before the Internet, memes were carried strictly through less personal means. DJs to crouds, authors to readers, preachers to congregations, though many memes have always travelled from person to person like chain mail. Some might argue that the Internet is less personal, but it actually makes the meme more personal, more interactive. We are no longer readers, we are commenters. We all have a chance to throw in our 2 cents and actively spread or kill memes at a rate so fast that no human on earth could keep up with it all. A few hundred years ago, if a human subscribed to every newspaper on the planet and listened to the audio of every major speech, that person would still have time in the day to spend on other activities. That person's mind could conceivably, with the exception of books, consume all of the real time mass media generated by the entire world.
But in the age of the Internet, the meme life cycle has been sped up to what may be a practical limit. After all, humanity can only absorb memes at a certain rate. This competition for attention also increases the Darwinian selection process for memes, with weak and low magnetic memes dying quick deaths. It is today completely impossible for any single mind to encapsulate all of the real time mass media generated by the entire world, or even the media generated by a small portion of the world. We Atheosophists have found our ways around this limitation through a method of abstract sampling and extrapolation.
While most others are being crushed by the information singularity, feeling overwhelmed and fatigued trying to track all of the running ants, we have learned to look at the patterns of the ants and how to locate the fulcrum points. But let's digress back to memes themselves and study a few.
Let’s look at an example from the Internet.
All your base are belong to us.
Already, many readers are laughing. Their laughter is probably that even mentioning this meme in a rather straight faced column such as this either degrades the column or elevates the meme far above what it deserves. That is the reason this meme was chosen, because while this is a small and silly meme, it must show a level of power to have such an effect. That is truly exciting for a memeticist. Let's look closer.
This meme spread during the early years of the Internet when users were making the shift from dial up to broadband connections. It had high integrity, because in those days the Internet was still highly dominated by the bleeding edge first adopters who shared a relatively tight culture which easily absorbed the meme. The meme was based on many factors that led to its success.
First, it was based on an older game. The game, Zero Wing, and its history are of little importance to the point of this discussion. It did, however, factor for nostalgia and the genre of gaming. Second, it was based on badly translated dialog. The original game had been in Japanese. This created an entire set of memes from “Someone set us up the bomb,” to What you say?!?", to “For great justice!” This factored into a comedic appeal of the meme, sometimes referred to as "Engrish" (a play on the rolling R sound of the English L by Japanese speakers) also known as Japanese interpretation of the English language. And thirdly, the entire thing was set to a catchy song with strong techno beats that appealed to the audience. The phrase, “All your base are belong to us,” took off above all of the other memes presented from the original presentation.
Two versions of this meme exist. The long hand and the short hand. The long hand being “All your base are belong to us.” The short hand being simply “All your base.”
Indeed, the original presentation was called “All Your Base” or AYB. It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qItugh-fFgg
For the purposes of this, we must not only explore the verbal and written uses of AYB, but also the graphical. Simply adding AYB into a picture immediately inferred a dark comedic undertone. In the presentation, the game character that says the phrase is depicted as a part man, part machine overlord who has arrived to conquer. I, myself, can say that I was among the first to witness the original presentation having been a bleeding edge adopter for most of my life. I did not, however, play the game in question. I do not know the plot or the context. But as we shall see, with strong memes, knowing a backstory or context is often inconsequential.
By adding the phrase to a picture then, it portrays the content of the picture as being a dark overlord or conquering figure, often to comedic effect. This is because the AYB meme (we will use meme and meme body interchangeably) could be considered a super-magnet in terms of magnetism. It can be added to nearly anything boosting both itself and that which it is added to.
For instance, a McDonalds sign has a large yellow M in the shape of arches above a red sign that reads either “Billions and Billions Servered” or “Over A Million Servered” (depending on the age of the estabilishment you are at), and below that, a white billboard with black lettering that is changable to show promotions that the restaraunt is advertising.
Inserting “All your base are belong to us” on the billboard, either in reality or through graphical manipulation software, has comedic fun with the fact that McDonalds is ubiquitous throughout the world. The added words giving the impression of a sinister undertone allowing both components of this new meme pair to boost popularity of each other. Ironically, it is overlooked that one reason that the AYB meme excels in magnetism is that it is highly virus like in that it breaks down the meme integrity of other memes. It uses a humorous form of fear, a very rare one-two punch, to break through a meme body's cell wall, and latch on.
In this example, we can manipulate the words for added effect in an ever escalating “war” of meme magnetism. For instance, the wording could be changed to “All your Macs are belong to us.” In the next iteration, someone may change the word us for the picture of an Apple Computer logo, playing the word “Mac” which is not only a reference to the signature BigMac sandwhich of McDonalds, but also the name of a type of computer produced by Apple.
The wordplay of AYB leads to the ever changing substitutions for the words “base” and “us”. The manipulations are practically infinite. And it can be redrafted to make social, political, and religious statements, usually to the negative effect of its intended target. Some examples:
All your wars are belong to Bush. - An anti-war statement towards President Bush Jr.
All your hate are belong to KKK. - An anti-discrimination statement to known discriminatory group.
All your cancer are belong Marlboro. - An anti-smoking statement.
All your little boys are belong to priests. - An anti-catholic priest statement, using child molestation scandals involving priests as its focus.
What is interesting, though, is that often these changes are largely unnecessary. The meme, when attached to a group, automatically implies the dark nature of the group, and it allows the viewer to create the association in their own mind. This level of interaction encourages two things. First, it encourages the original meme to replicate because it calls a mind to action, not passivity. Second, it encourages mutation rather than trying to fight it off. Often the target of this mutation is a meme body of politics, behavior, or religion that is opposed to mutation. Things that were not magnetic on their own are the target of this super-magnet, and when they come into contact with each other, there is a memetic atomic explosion sending magnetic waves and replication in every direction.
Let's examine this aspect further.
The meme has also shown up on billboard, road sign, prisons, schools, and church signage, though all are usually through graphical manipulation, not actual vandalism. And in almost every case, the AYB meme is intact, with alterations to the target that the meme is applied to.
By these, we can say that AYB not only retains its integrity, but also demonstrates incredible magnetism, able to associate with nearly any meme where there is either a for or against position available or where there is a position of power to be ridiculed.
The other memes that are associated with the AYB meme are also of high integrity. If the word “bomb” is replaced in "Someone set us up the bomb", it can still retain much of its core attribute. But it is not very magnetic. It was surely used, but with relationship to AYB, it was not nearly as successful.
Let's compare this with an older, more stable meme that doesn't carry what we've described as the explosive power of the AYB meme.
Lets look at a long established meme body and break down its pieces into individual memes and smaller groups of memes that could, were they on their own, establish their own meme bodies. In this case, we could almost use the analog of a human body to describe parts of a meme body, but consisting of many memes, as organs to the larger body.
I’ll use Catholicism. The reason is that it is old and has evolutionary battle scars. Many attempts have been made to change it, and we also have a reasonably well documented creation of it as a meme body. Though “body” in this case is not quite correct. Catholicism could be considered an entire community consisting of many bodies.
Within Catholicism, there is a bible. The bible could most exactly be described as a meme body. Each physical or digital copy of the bible is a body. Ironically, this often how the bible refers to itself. Technically, it is the active mental copy of the bible in those whom it has replicated that is where the real meme body resides because that is where it is able to act. But for the sake of making this section clearer, we will refer to to the actual copies as bodies.
We can also note differences between different versions of Christian bibles as different “breeds”. These breeds have compatible memes, but their differences put them into specific categories. As surely as we can tell a german shepard from a doberman, we can tell a King James Version from a Catholic bible.
But it is not breeds we are interested in. We can split apart common elements found in nearly all Christian bibles. Some contain books that others do not, but there is also a large library of books that they share. All Christian bibles contain what are known as the books of “The Four Gospels”. These are the books of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. These could be considered the “organs” of the body of a bible. As organs, they must work “harmoniously” as a preacher would say. In fact, this is one of the defenses made by Christian apologists of the validity of the bible. But armed with the knowledge of memetics, we know it not as harmony (though this is indeed is just as good of a term as ours), but as magnetism.
These books have other meme characteristics that we will discuss later. One of them is to answer the question, “Do memes have the ability to attack and/or repel usurpers?” Such is a type of anti-magnetism. I will give you a hint; the answer is yes. But we will discuss that later.
What we are concerned with are not organs, but individual ideas. As we saw with The Lord’s Prayer, the memes in these books have very high fidelity (to use the genetic term) or integrity (to use the memetic term).
How do we know this? Beyond the fact that these works of literature has lasted for over a dozen centuries, we also know that these memes employ people as carriers, transforming them into very devoted bodies which are specifically trained against rival memes, errors, and for its own propogation.
A religious meme body is unique among meme bodies. Unlike a philosophical, political, economic, or artistic meme body, the religious meme body is not... how shall we put this... a one eyed, octopus with 8 thumbs and 5 sets of teeth. By this, I mean that to call other meme bodies a “body” does not mean that if it were redrawn in genes that it would resemble anything like a real body. Most look like an ugly virus with protrusions and organs slapped on with little more than duct tape.
Religion, on the other hand, is a handsome man or woman when compared to most other meme bodies. In evolutionary terms, it may be algae, but when compared to other existing memes, it is highly advanced. It has a fully developed system for respiration, digestion, procreating, and growing. It even has a life cycle very similar to any other animal you could observe. It can fight wars, protect territory, dominate other gene bodies such as arts and government. It can build itself houses. It can even commit suicide.
As much as we as humanity think we have progressed, do not discount religion as a bygone error of human ignorance. While they may just be a collection of memes, we who are interested in memetics know that to discount it as “fake” is just as dangerous as calling a lion “just a collection of genes”. That it may be, but a lioness will still rip your limbs off and eat them for a snack with its cubs.
Religion is rivalled by the next best evolved meme, which is science, but we are not so foolish as to say that science has gained the prominense of religion meme bodies.
Luckily for us, there is no single religious meme body. In fact, there are at least a half dozen in constant struggle with each other.
So what does this have to do with AYB? Is all we can say is that, “All your meme are belong to religious meme bodies”?
Let us start with what a Christian meme body might consist of. Let’s start our own new denomination. Like any good egomaniac, for that is what you must be if you think you alone have all of the answers to the biggest questions in the universe, I will name it after myself.
We will call it the Church of DeWayne, or COD. For COD to fit inside the species of Christianity, we must give it some particular attributes. To do this, we must have memes. We will not worry about constructing an entire meme body, but simply work with a few examples to make the points clear enough to see.
First and foremost, we must say that COD believes in a single god. This is an easy meme, high integrity, highly magnetic. From this meme, all other memes must attach. Next, we will attach the Jesus meme (technically, this is an entire organ) to the God meme. We can further attach a bible meme. And with this, we conclude what COD looks like.
But wait, how is COD different? I did not tell you what my “bible” meme was specifically. Let’s make our meme statements clear.
COD believes there is a single god (god meme), that Jesus Christ is the son of that god who died on the cross for the sins of mankind (Jesus meme), and that our holy bible contains all the knowledge we need to know (bible meme). That bible consists only of the Book of Mark, the twist!
Now, Mark is enough to confirm all of our other memes. They are all high fidelity, high magnetism. They are also all compatible. What I’ve done here is strip the bible down to a single, and relatively small and rarely quoted part of the bible. But, it is large enough to confirm our other memes.
What can we possibly do with this? Let’s ask the question another way. What if Christianity started with a smaller subset of books? It did. If we go back in Jewish history, from which Christianity arose, it started with a verbal history. From there, book upon book was added. Christians often refer to the “finished” book of Jewish history as the “Old Testament”. What few Christians know is that Jewish writers filled entire libraries, but only a select few made it past Darwinian selection. The same process occurred again with Christian writers. A small number or writings blossomed into thousands. Hundreds of years later, Darwinian selection reduced that number to a handful.
Christianity is thus a result of Darwinian selection on a meme body.
In the Church of DeWayne, for instance, someone might bring in Mathew one day, and we may read it and say, “This sounds very good,” meaning that it seems to be highly magnetic and compatible with our existing book. Over time, we may even come to say, “We will include this writing, along with Mark.”
On the other hand, someone may bring in a book called “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. We may look at it too and say, “This sounds very good.” Over time, we may even include it as well.
Are we surprised by either of these? No. In fact, Rick Warren has created a powerfully magnetic meme body that is compatible with our existing books. The evidence to act as proof is that this best seller has been read more than any other book except the bible by Christians. Purpose Driven Life is a perfect example of memetic manipulation. This does not mean that Warren had any malicious intent. It means that he used the Christian meme body as a planning guide for his own book. I would venture to say for near certainty that he and others scrutinized the book while writing and before publishing that it did not contain any conflicting or non-compatible memes.
Yet, his is a “new work”. Therefore it must differ from pure Christian doctorine if one considers the bible to be the only source of pure christian doctorine. Logic leads us directly to say then that Warren produced a new work that does not directly contradict the bible, but does add his own ideas to the subject. It is only in this sense that we mean manipulation, as “adding ideas”. Other forms of manipulation may include more forms.
The point is, even the meme body of Christianity is susceptible to infiltration by other meme bodies. But that can’t be entirely true, can it? Surely Catholicism would never adopt Rick Warren as official cannon, would they?
Probably not. But in our simplistic example, we were talking about directly changing the collection of holy texts.
But can Catholicism be infiltrated? Manipulated? Distorted? Changed? The tongue in cheek answer is, hell yes!
And it must. Christianity, as with other religions, rely on what is known as a preacher or priest. These individuals are seen as teachers and guides. They self identify as shepperds to a flock of sheep.
And with a few exceptions, none of them refrain from speaking anything except direct readings from their bible. Even those that do refrain from “preaching”, and simply read their bible, they still create buildings, perform rituals, and participate in society as a whole. Every single detail is not written down. There is always room for “interpretation” whether or not they preach.
Memes are not static. They may exist in memory or books or movies. But until they are expressed and experienced, they can’t be said to truely “exist”. Like quantum physics explains particles, they blink in and out of existence.
Every expression is an interpretation, and more than that, every experience is also an interpretation. While a preacher may interpret a passage of a bible, there may be hundreds or even thousands of listeners who not only interpret the passage differently, but interpret what the preacher says differently.
In this case, genetic mutation shines through as a near 1 to 1 example of copy/transmission error, otherwise known as genetic variation, also otherwise known as evolution.
If you are following this logically, you are coming to the conclusion before I must state it. If you are a bit lost, let me clarify. Every time a meme is accessed, it is open to manipulation. If you read a book, your mind will manipulate it, unless you have a perfect photographic memory. Every time you recite a meme, you may manipulate it. Every time you hear a meme, you may hear it wrong, understand it wrong, or simply understand it differently, possibly in light of a context that the speaker isn’t even aware.
In the AYB example, the creator of the game, nor the creator of the original presentation of the meme could have forseen a statement like “All your little boys are belong to priests”.
Now, suppose a Catholic had read that phrase, and rolled their eyes. But let’s say that they hear this, and the next time they go to church the priest recites the passage where Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” A chill may go down that church goer’s back. Everything the priest says from that point on is bathed in a dark light. Every word the priest speaks is scrutinized. The priest might normally be seen as grandfatherly and loving, but to this listener with new context, the meme is manipulated. And now, the words of the priest about how he loves to spending time with the boys in the play yard may raise questions to this person such as, “Why is he really spending so much time with the boys in the play yard? Grown men shouldn’t act in such a manner!”
As with genetics, memetics, and life in general, there is a rule upon which we can always count: things change. The changes with memetics can be just as powerful as genetics, if not more so in many fundamental ways