Sick on Phonics

One of my favorite cultural tropes is “X is a virus,” the idea that cultural elements spread like a disease. Most punters on the Internet understand “viral videos” and LOLcat pictures that have usurped the label “meme,” but the philosophical idea of the meme is far more powerful than any cheezeburger loving cat.

I say this because today I’m really feeling language as a virus. Or perhaps language as a whole viral complex. Words come in and label things and/or people. Those labels become shorthand—heuristics for the technically minded amongst you—by which we think about those things and/or people.

Pretty soon you’ve got people taking pride in their labels, even if those labels were originally meant to be a way to dehumanize them in the first place. It is all rather mad, and if one is not inclined to scratch away at the surface of things one might troop along and be perfectly content collecting labels as if they were title belts.

It all leads me back to an old notion I had that the most potent battlefield in the world is the realm of pop culture. That the way in which our global conversation is framed determines what is possible politically, and thus what winds up manifesting as a matter of policy: government, corporate, and even on a personal ethics level.

The tricky part is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to fight on this battlefield in a direct manner. Memes are loaded things, folded in on themselves like proteins. They’re also protean: shapeshifting to survive harsh conditions.

To engage you have to practice a kind of magick: slight of mind, poetry, storytelling, bullshit, sophistry, and the earnest reveal.

Some days I find this terribly exciting, and on the other four days of the week I just want to curl up with Halo and a stack of Batman comics and project my mind into a world that makes more sense than this one.