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Run your cursor gently over Rowie's ear to 'ear the essay.

Auntie Meme On:2006-12-20 04:58:48

[to the tune of the Irish Washerwoman---sort of]
Oh! O'Flaherty's dead and his brother don't know it
O'Flaherty's dead and his brother don't know it
The trouble it is they're in the same bed
And neither one knows that the other one's dead
Oh! O'Flaherty's dead and ...

and so forth.

This ditty, apart from dealing obliquely with problems of poverty, overcrowding and reduced life expectancy in pre-Celtic-Tiger Ireland , succinctly brings into focus the central problems of existentialism and epistemology---If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? If a man dies in a bed and the observer is also dead...? and so forth. Of course the answer to the first question is pretty obvious: “The tree’s fall causes the conversion of potential energy (stored as the tree grows) into kinetic energy, some of which is in turn converted to vibrations on impact, and some of these are transferred to the air: sound merely being a construct of the brain interpreting these vibrations”. The answer to the second is “Ah!!! What do you mean ‘He's dead’?!!?”

Anyway that little song is well ensconced in my head, but to my shame I have absolutely no idea how it got in there, indeed I thought I might even have made it up myself; that is I thought I was the perpetrator until a recent iChat with Melanie1 during which she happened to mention that she had learned a very similar song, with only the names of the post-mortal changed from that in my version, as a girl scout at girl-scout-camp.

Now I know for a certain fact that I have never even been a girl, let alone a girl scout, and certainly not a girl scout in Texas at a girl-scout-camp so that route into my head is clearly out: and then again, remembering the fact of that rather sinister if apparently random name change (to, one might suppose, protect the guilty until proven innocent) and the far-flungness of its various provenances; this can only mean one thing, that the Defunct O’Flaherty (or Whatever Their Real Name Is) Song must be a meme .

Now I’m sure that I don’t need to tell such with-it, trendy, switched-on absorbers of information as my listeners anything about memes---that you could all probably tell me a thing or two about them! But since I do still have a couple of minutes to fill and, since the guys who run this station really do frown upon dead air---even more than they do listening to me, I’m going to tell you anyway.

The meme is a concept first so-named, and so-derived from the Greek ‘μίμημε’, by the notorious Richard Dawkins in his even more notorious 1974 book ‘The Selfish Gene’.
Dawkins claimed:
that memes are such self-replicating mental entities as tunes, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, techniques for making pots or building arches, annoying advertising jingles that you can’t get out of your head so that out of sheer spite you will never ever buy that product2;
that, further, a meme propagates itself as a unit of cultural evolution and diffusion;
and that, furthest, it is analogous in many ways to the behavior of the unit of genetic information, the gene.

Of course, in spite of its cute gene-inspired and Greek-derived name, one may ask if, apart from being with-it, trendy and switched-on, the meme has any use at all or if it even exists, and even though all this makes the concept of ‘meme’ itself a meme, indeed it makes it a metameme---like metamucil for the mind3; that’s such a long, loong discussion that we won’t visit on the grounds that it’s something that the station-runners might well not prefer several minutes of dead air to--- possibly several minutes every week.
Though, whatever the outcome of its fight for existence may, be you can hardly fail to fall in love with my personal favourite of all the meme-adjacent concepts: the selfish meme--- a meme which continues to get passed on even at the expense of its hosts like a virus or indeed like a selfish gene.

So in conclusion to my little lecture, I now propose that we add the concept of the anti-meme---a thought that, once you are exposed to it, immediately goes right out of your head almost certainly taking large chunks of your consciousness with it.

Cheerio for now
Richard Um... Um...Auhhh...
Oh! O’Flaherty’s dead and his brother ... [fades out]


1 and we definitely don't need to go there and find out why---believe me we don't!

2 Dawkins never actually claimed that last bit about the jingles, but I bet he wished he had.

3 Though with the opposite effect---if you think about it.

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