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Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Time Event
Something I wrote a while back, but (if you will forgive the postmodern self-referential nature of the comment) it bears repeating:

I have said on many occasions that the belief in "memes" is merely a self-replicating bit of information code, passed from mind to mind through speech, and having no reality other than its ability to replicate itself further.

Grammatically, memes only ever exist in the third or second person, not in the first person. Their or Your deeply-held and cherished beliefs are memes, whereas My deeply-held and cherished beliefs are enlightenment.

This belief in memes is convenient because it excuses a debater finding himself in a position of weakness in an argument from having to address the content of opposing thoughts. By being called a “meme” the opposing thought is merely gratuitously asserted to have no content, and, hence, nothing exists to argue against.

The debater is hence able to make a response, a more or less meaningless series of words, which has the surface appearance of being an answer, and which (to the unwary) creates an impression of being a devastating riposte or counter-argument; which of course is much easier to accomplishing, requiring neither learning, thought, inside, wisdom, training, care, or patience, which might be demanded to achieve the same effect one might enjoy if actually answering the argument.

One gets something for nothing. Fools can look wise, and the uneducated and lazy thinker can rout, or seem to, the educated and rigorous argument of his opposition.

Both the victim of the meme ad hominem and the audience, being under the same pressure to minimize the effort put into thought, and craving the shallow appearance of being thinkers, will remember and repeat the belief in memes, so it becomes part of their thought-pattern, without, of course, ever being taken seriously by any thinkers. And so it spreads. That is the Darwinian selection that allows a belief in memes to continue.

No one really believes in memes, of course. Any honest thinker who actually believed that some or all thought-content was no more than self-replicating lines of words without meaning would doubt his own beliefs first (including the belief that his thought-content was no more than self-replicating lines of word without meaning).

Belief in memes is just a meme.

Please pass this idea along to as many people as you know.
Wright's Writing Corner: Guest Blogger Bernie Mojzes
In a variation on last week's theme, Mr. Mojzes writes of moral ambiguity in storytelling.


My comment: I don't know whether moral ambiguity is good or bad. To me, it is sort of a gray area. Who am I to judge? How are we to know? Or, to get to the point, who are we to judge the issue of how we are to know whether or not moral ambiguity (if it exists) should be judged or not? These are deep and troubling questions that have given such thinkers as Ellsworth Toohey many idle minutes of entertainment and a prolific career.

I know what you are saying -- "Isn't Ellsworth Toohey one of those cardboard-stock characters Ayn Rand made up for her outrageously polemic book ATLAS SHRUGGED?" The answer is a resounding "no!" followed by a lilting laugh and a girlish toss of my locks. Ellsworth Toohey is a stock-cardboard character from Ayn Rand's outrageously polemical THE FOUNTAINHEAD. It is a completely different book! I would laugh with a condescending sneer at Ayn Rand's completely unrealistic and artificial and preposterous characterization of Ellsworth Toohey, except (1) laughing while sneering causes hiccoughs and (2) I know people (a lot of people) who talk and think and act just like Ellsworth Tooehy in real life, and which I think is totally unfair, on the grounds that such pure darkness offends the cherished idea that life is full of gray areas of moral ambiguity!

As always, please send any mash notes, favorable comments, gifts of flowers, or blank checks to my wife, who fights crime under the codename "Lamplighter", and who needs the money, and send your hate mail to Mr. John Scalzi, who does not need more greif, and has no time to fight crime. And while you are at it, why not ask Mr. Scalzi for some favors in your burgeoning writing career? And no, I am not cleared to know his codename.

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