Memetic Heretic

I just had the pleasure of talking with a grad student from University of Toronto. She included me in a survey of “meme makers” regarding media, society and the Internet in a “post 911 world”.

My li’l meme is the “worst president ever” logo.

It’s a little disturbing talking about memes, mainly because the meme-master of the universe has been Karl Rove for the last few years. The key to a meme is to get it repeated so many times people accept it as a defining “wrapper” around whatever cultural, political or business dogma is floating down the river of collective consciousness. The Repugnicans had one for every occasion from “it’s too complicated” which they all repeated to kill the Clinton Health Care plan, to the “FlipFlop” meme for Al Gore or the Swift Boating of John Kerry.

Memes run like wildfire through the conservative community… they dribble through the liberal/progressive community. Free thinkers don’t trend well. Go figure.

For awhile, it seemed the biggest meme about Democrats among Democrats was that they were too disorganized — not “unified” enough to defeat the Repugnicans. That, in fact, is the one thing I like most about Dems. They are free thinking, non-unified debaters. That, ladies and gents, is what democracy is SUPPOSED to be. If everyone just dittos the leadership, that is NOT democracy. Get that meme through your head: unified is NOT democratic.

So some of us decided to take certain weak memes floating out there and amplify them. Not cynically, mind you. I do think history will reflect on the Bush administration as among the worst in history. So, I made a design supporting that, and tweaking the noses of those pickup-driving dudes with the oval “W04” stickers.

To me, the last 10 years should be known as “the great American stupid” (this won’t catch, people won’t admit to stupidity – especially semi-smart people who were caught up in the big stupid). We threw out everything that was creating progress and flushed it, became addicted to fear, and lost our claim to being the greatest nation. Economically, socially, environmentally, we’ve declined. At least a dozen other nations have better economies, better health care, better education, better salaries, better vacations, fewer people in jail, and more respect in the world than the USofA, and that’s just a fact. No matter how often the liars try to create the meme “greatest nation in the world” we just aren’t any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we can come back. But to get there, we have to watch, and learn, and experiment, and yes, spend tax dollars on people, before weapons systems. Let’s start with clean energy/energy independence, and diplomacy. Let’s move on to create universal healthcare. Let’s create open and free curriculum for every subject and every grade, and improve teacher training – it’s for our common good, lets put it in the creative commons. Let’s treat drug addiction as a health care problem, rather than an excuse to lock people away forever. Let’s realize these people are self-medicating. If they didn’t have problems to start with, the drug problem would never have gotten a foothold in their miserable lives. Mental health care has a long way to go, but rapid progress is being made.

Let’s divert the military space budget to peaceful ocean studies. That’s where we can get all the water and power we need, without environmentally disastrous damming and burning and nuking. Let’s disassemble the nuclear bombs and the nuclear power plants and stop manufacturing by the ton the most toxic substance known to man, so we don’t have to find a place to store any more than we already have. Think how long 10,000 years is, folks. That’s a long time to store anything, much less something as lethal as nuclear waste.

Conservatives have labeled environmentalists as crazy, extreme, anti-business. Crush that meme. We all eat: we need healthy food; we all drink: we need clean water; we all breathe: we need clean air. It’s that simple. Companies can make as much money serving these purposes as they do spewing waste — probably more. What’s more, workers won’t be staying home on “spare the air” days taking care of their wheezing kids (10% of children in most cities in America have asthma, and emergency room visits radically increase on bad days). Allergies and asthma are skyrocketing: partly because of our diets, partly because of the amount of toxic materials in our lives, partly because of antibiotic abuse, and partly for reasons no one knows yet. I’ve lost 3 out of the last 5 years of my life to this. If my house hadn’t doubled in value, I’d be bankrupt because of this. Pollution costs us real money, people.

Progress is starting again… I’m hopeful.

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