Here’s what I Meme

Memes are poor substitutes for rationale. Take “racist.” I in no way wish to endorse the word, but look how imprecise it is. If one looks on a person of a different race as inferior, is that racist? What if it’s a person of African descent so judging a Native American? What if it’s a Native American so judging an Italian American? One thing remains the same you might agree; it’s an unwarranted and negative assessment. Well, the “inferior” part is generally fairly negative, but inferior in what way? Biologically? In the broad, surviving-life sense? Then of course, the same inferiority would apply to a very old member of the same race, even the same family. Most physical ways of comparing could only apply to an individual, not a race or almost any whole group. Intellectually? Beside being just as limited as physical comparisons, intellect is too slippery to pin down. Just what are we measuring and on what scale and in what units?

Any aspect comparative “value” of a person we try to measure shackles us in two major ways. The first way is that we rarely have a unit of measure, and when we do, we can hardly be sure that such units apply equally to all. Living a long life sounds good, unless it’s spent in a prison, or is otherwise miserable. How could be compare such a life with the short, happy life of a well-loved, active child who dies quickly in an accident? Years are clear measures in time, but not in quality of life. Most often however a “value” has no dimension to measure. At best we only guess that what we are comparing is not “apples to oranges.” The second way we get tangled is that any “value” one might choose to measure is such a small part of the whole of a person. To even successfully evaluate any aspect, is like successfully measuring the durability of one strand of wool fiber in a whole skein of yearn. That’s a real problem.

The worst result of applying memes to someone as a response to a single event, or even a pattern of events is that that person is then painted with the “unwarranted and negative assessment” we agreed was in the meme. Is it no wonder that that person so besmirched might strike back? Then the initial event is unreconciled, the “racist” has probably put up barriers to the “meme-ing” outside influence, and the world is not in a better place. Not much movement there, but maybe a little backward sliding.

So if it does not good, why do people use memes? It probably goes back to the original sentence here: Memes are poor substitutes for rationale. A rationale requires thinking through, connecting dots, ordering points and expressing them articulately. Does stopping and thinking before speaking risks being spoken over? Perhaps. Can one calm down? Can we be fairly sure we’re being accurate and then going on clearly and sensibly? Stopping is probably the best first step, but we can only stop ourselves; others may have no patience with taking time or giving us time to think, to take in the situation and organize our thoughts. Can we just say, stop? Will we lose the moment? Is that so bad? Then if it is, can we come back to it later without the self-defeating pathos of memes?

If we hope to knit a sweater, we can keep throwing out the yarn when we encounter a bad strand. The bad strand is unpleasant, but it can be repositioned, reinforced or just removed. What’s important is the sweater.

About Jay C Ritterson
If I say nothing, it might be that I have nothing to say.

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