You know how a virus works? It goes into a cell and changes the code so that the cell only produces more virii. In a way the virus steals the cell's identity, making it a part of a viral system.
If you ask me, the worst phase of being sick is when you've been sick for so long you forget what it's like to be well. In a way, you've lost a bit of yourself and become the virus.
People catch and spread memes like viruses. They're contagious, self-replicating little buggers. Like any virus, their goal is to spread themselves, to become a large, healthy, self-sustaining colony. We have to be careful how we handle memes because at a certain point its difficult to tell the difference between when we're using the memes and when the memes are using us.
This is not to say that memes are harmful diseases. But some of them can be if you get infected, infested, obsessed and invested.
One of the most pervasive and prevalent memes in this modern world is the meme called I Am. We live in an overpopulated era, floating in a sea of interchangeable people. In this ocean our biggest life preserver is a sense of individuality - the notion that each and every one of us is unique, distinct. One wants to say "I am not the crowd. I am not the group. I am not just another cog in the machine."
We jump through personal hoops to distinguish ourselves from the others. We customize our identities so as to retain a sense of self, a buoy bobbing in the tide of the collective.
But this ego meme can become a disease. In moderation, it helps us understand ourselves. In excess, we define ourselves. In time, these definitions become rigid, inflexible.
Consider, for example, the "C student". In his attempt to understand himself, he internalizes "I am a C student." Armed with that identity he has no drive to do better. He accepts "who he is". Or consider the average voter. He identifies with a political party and probably agrees with them about many things. The party tells him which sides of any given issues to support - no need to think for oneself there!
It can be a sickness.
The Machine, of course, is programmed to capitalize on this sickness. There are a variety of memes available to customize your identity. What color iPod do you want? Which TV shows are YOUR TV shows? What brand of cologne smells like YOU?
I am not suggesting that people abandon their sense of self. But I do think that people get addicted to self-definition and it leads to inflexibility. That's the Con talking - convincing each individual that she's composed of the ordinary dross we wade through every day.
Well turn down that noise -- when I get off the plane I'm skipping the baggage claim.